QUEEN SUGAR A Novel
By Natalie Baszile
A heartfelt story of family ties and the complex nature of race relations in the deep-South, frame award-winning author Natalie Baszile’s debut novel, QUEEN SUGAR, now out in paperback.
Charley Bordelon and her 11 year old daughter, Micah, are starting a new chapter in their lives. Recently widowed, Charley has inherited a sugar cane plantation in Louisiana from her father, who has also just died, and leaving the rough neighborhood in Los Angeles that they’ve called home, the pair heads south, towards a life which frightens and excites Charley and just plain annoys her daughter. Charley’s father’s will stipulates that she must either farm the land or lose it, and, determined to make a go of it, she moves in with Miss Honey, her paternal grandmother, and throws herself headlong into a new and un-imagined life.
Things get off to a rocky start as the challenges of cane farming are even more daunting than Charley could have foreseen; she and Micah are constantly at odds and the strain of race-relations and unspoken demons of decades gone by begin to rear their ugly heads, which makes Charley question her life and everything in it. Meanwhile, Ralph Angel, Charley’s dis-inherited and troubled older brother blows into town with his young son Blue in tow, and despite the objections of everyone in Miss Honey’s extended family, they move into her house, causing the already impossible heat of the summer to nearly suffocate them all. But Charley has the strength of ten women and despite the odds that threaten to ruin her and everything she holds dear, unexpected blessings in the form of two shrewd cane farmers she will partner up with, and another who will set her heart to dancing, keep her spirits alive and her head above water, while she tries to find her way in a strange new world while struggling against impossible odds.
This novel is so beautifully written that, at times, it made me ache with delight. Baszile paints an extraordinarily evocative picture of life in Louisiana and the complexities of family, faith and fortune which can turn on a dime. From word one I was carried away by the author’s altogether original style and penchant for developing flesh and blood characters from the gossamer of her imagination, that veritably leap from the page. What more can I say? You’ve got to read this book.
UNABROW Misadventures Of A Late Bloomer
By Una Lamarche
In this life, some of us are born beauty queens, blessed with perfectly proportional features, a mane of thick, shiny hair and a body that never stops. And then, there are the rest of us; gangly and insecure, often sporting one or more physical “defect” that we eventually learn to celebrate, but continue to ridicule. Thus is the case with Una Lamarche, the girl who was born with one big, fuzzy eyebrow extending nearly from ear-to-ear, who regales us with stories of how she dealt with it and the many misadventures of her late-blooming life, in her new memoir, UNABROW.
This tell-all reflection of Lamarche’s life leaves no stone unturned when it comes to exposing the physical and emotional foibles that have made her the woman she is today. Beginning her tale with, of course, the Unibrow, she traces the ancestry of this giant swath of hair back centuries and across International boundaries. And what do we learn from this escape into hairy history? Not only was the Unibrow once thought to be a sign of distinction and beauty but even today, in some spots around the globe, it’s a “sign of virginity and a large dowry of goats.”
These and other fun facts are packed into essay after essay that reflects this well-examined life, as we follow Ms. Lamarche down the rabbit hole of her imagination and into the world of one of the quirkiest women around. We learn why we should never attempt to cut our own bangs and why it’s a bad idea to take a scissors to an old pair of jeans and deem them as wearable fashion. From her odyssey through awkward, sporadic almost-sexual experiences to her reasons for keeping her husband at bay after giving birth to their son, no topic is too personal for this gal. Her shame button has been overtaken by the open hand of honesty and this keeps you turning the pages in marvel and wonder.
The fact that Una Lamarche is a kick-ass writer and, hands down, one of the funniest raconteurs around makes this not only an enjoyable read but one you’ll want to share with everyone you know. You can read even more of her work by visiting her blog, The Sassy Curmudgeon.
THE ANXIETY TOOLKIT
By Alice Boyes, PhD
Anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the United States which means that a lot of us need some guidance on how to handle this all-too-common affliction. But luckily for us, Alice Boyes has come to our rescue with her wonderful new book, THE ANXIETY TOOLKIT which gives us practical advice and everyday tips on how to live with anxiety and thrive.
Boyes refers to the five most common types of anxiety which can affect us, such as excessively hesitating before taking action, ruminating and worrying, paralyzing perfectionism, fear of feedback and criticism, and avoidance, as “anxiety traps” and she sets-out to help us understand which of these “traps”, if not all of them, affect each of us individually. She then outlines tips and tricks we can use in order to recognize these modes and shift our thoughts accordingly.
The book is divided into three parts. Part One lays the groundwork for us, so we can understand our anxiety and how it works. Part Two deals with specific types of anxiety and the tools we’ll need in order to deal with them, and Part Three covers ways in which we’ll move forward with what we’ve learned, and helps us understand how to troubleshoot when a particular kind of anxiety arises. In each chapter, we are asked to take a brief quiz in order to personalize the solutions we seek. Later in the book, we are given practical tools such as weekly self-check-ins and mindful-meditation techniques which will keep us on track, allowing us to control our anxiety triggers before they have the chance to control us. One of the great things about this book is that you can pick and choose which section works for you at the time you need it, making this an actual “toolkit” that can help you repair what ails you.
Boyes style is not only conversational and warm, but her practical advice is so simple and straightforward that you feel as if it’s coming from your best friend. A great resource to keep on hand, this lithe and lovely little tome is a real winner.
THE SNOW GLOBE A Novel
By Judith Kinghorn
If you’re a fan of Downton Abby then you will love the latest novel from author Judith Kinghorn, THE SNOW GLOBE, a story of love, loyalty and the tests of family fidelity, set in post-World War I England.
Daisy Forbes is excited. It’s almost Christmas, 1926, and Eden Hall, the estate where she has spent her entire 19 years, is preparing for the holiday, under the guidance of her sure-handed mother Mabel. Daisy is thrilled because her father, Howard, a man she worships, will be coming home from London where he spends most of his time, and she can’t wait to be with him. Things are beginning to change for Daisy, who is on the brink of womanhood and wondering what life has in store. For one thing, her life-long friendship with Stephen Jessop, their cook’s son, has begun to change. He’s always been like a big brother but now, things are taking a turn for the romantic and she hasn’t the slightest idea what to do about it.
No sooner does Howard come home than Daisy discovers he’s been having a long-term affair, and this awful truth devastates her. Her mother, who has suspected the infidelity, takes matters into her own hands, inviting Howard’s mistress and grown son to spend Christmas at Eden Hall, along with Daisy’s sisters, Iris and Lily, and Lily’s husband Miles, as well as Ben, an associate of her father’s who’s interested in making Daisy his wife. Over the course of the holiday, no one at Eden Hall is left unchanged and in one evening, alone, Daisy experiences her first kiss with one man, receives a declaration of love from another and a marriage proposal from a third.
As the New Year approaches, Daisy decides to move to London with Iris who owns a dress shop and spends most of her time dancing and drinking at fashionable nightclubs. And there, Daisy begins to understand what life is really all about and how love, even with an unexpected partner, can change the way you see yourself and the lives of those around you.
A wonderful read, this is one you won’t want to miss. Kinghorn has a knack for storytelling and her characters are so real and evocative they practically leap off the page and into your lap. If you’re a fan, you’ll love this book, and if you’re not, it’s high time you were.