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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE NEW SHORE (Little Sister Island Book 3) by Caren J. Werlinger. The magic of Little Island is back, stronger than ever #RBRT #LGBT

Hi all:

I bring you a book by an author I discovered thanks to Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team and one that has become a firm favourite. And I love this series, so… how could I resist? I want to live in Little Sister!

The New Shore (Little Sister Island Book 3) by Caren J. Werlinger

The New Shore (Little Sister Island Book 3) by Caren J. Werlinger

Life on Little Sister Island is idyllic. Until it isn’t.

Now that the island will have its own teacher for the first time in decades, Rebecca Ahearn is tasked with making financial arrangements to build a new school room. While on the mainland, she barges straight into her first—and only—love, a woman she hasn’t seen in over forty years. Suddenly, the choices she has made for her life seem empty, and she begins to wonder if it was worth the sacrifice.

For Kathleen Halloran, distance and limited communication have been the keys to maintaining a tolerable relationship with her parents. She’d like to keep it that way, but when her father needs her help to take care of her mother—the woman she knows never loved her—she’s forced to confront the pain and resentment she can’t seem to let go of.

Kathleen’s mate, Molly Cooper, galvanizes the islanders to pitch in and help Kathleen and Rebecca weather the stormy seas ahead. The question is, can wounds that deep ever truly heal? Perhaps the magic of Little Sister Island can do what humans cannot—and make the impossible possible after all.

The New Shore is the third book in the Little Sister Island series.


https://www.amazon.com/Shore-Little-Sister-Island-Book-ebook/dp/B0BCR3YQLV/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Shore-Little-Sister-Island-Book-ebook/dp/B0BCR3YQLV

https://www.amazon.es/Shore-Little-Sister-Island-English-ebook/dp/B0BCR3YQLV/

Author Caren J. Werlinger
Author Caren J. Werlinger

About the author:

Bestselling author Caren Werlinger published her first award-winning novel, Looking Through Windows, in 2008. Since then, she has published seventeen more novels, winning several more awards, including the 2021 Alice B medal. Influenced by a diverse array of authors, including Rumer Godden, J.R.R. Tolkien, Ursula LeGuin, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Willa Cather and the Brontë sisters, Caren writes literary fiction that features the struggles and joys of characters readers can identify with. Her stories cover a wide range of genres: historical fiction, contemporary drama, and fantasy, including the award-winning Dragonmage Saga, a fantasy trilogy set in ancient Ireland. She has lived in Virginia for thirty years where she practices physical therapy, teaches anatomy, and lives with her wife and their canine fur-children.

Check out her blog: http://cjwerlinger.wordpress.com

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for this opportunity.

I only have to tell you that this is the seventh novel I read by Caren Werlinger for you to guess that I like her writing and her stories. This is also the third novel in the Little Island series, and I discovered the author thanks to the first novel in this series, When the Stars Sang, which introduced me to the special world of Little Sister and its inhabitants.

Little Sister is an island only connected to a bigger island —Big Sister, of course— through a ferry that only runs once a month in the winter, although much more often in the summer, with no mobile phone connectivity, which relies mostly on renewable energies for its everyday needs, and where only members of the original families and their descendants can own property and become permanent residents. They are furiously independent and treasure and preserve their traditions, a combination of old Irish (Celtic) customs and those of the original Native American inhabitants. Their ceremonies (and there are many for all kinds of occasions) are described lovingly, as are the lives and adventures of the inhabitants of the island. And those of us who have been following this choral story are always happy to catch up with them again.

One of the things I like best about this series is the fact that the author keeps adding onto the previous stories, and not just coming up with a new set of characters and leaving the old ones to make a small appearance as a secondary characters in somebody else’s book. Although we do not know the ins and outs of the lives of all of the characters of the island in detail, over these three volumes we have got to learn a lot of things about many of the people living there. Among them: the owner of the shop, the owner of the hotel and her husband, the retired teacher, and her sister, as well as the characters who played major parts in the previous two stories, Kathleen and Molly, who met and fell in love in the first book, and the new arrivals on the second novel, Meredith, and her parents, Irene and Roy. We also know Molly’s parents, her brothers, and her aunt, Rebecca, who is the Keeper and librarian (two tasks that go well together), tasked with keeping the records and the story of the community living in Little Sister. And a few more things.

This time we get to learn more details about Rebecca’s past and some more secrets about her role; Kathleen has to face the difficult relationship with her parents, discovers that there is more to her family than she realised, and her connection to the island is put to the test; and Meredith and her parents, who are happy to live in Little Island, are confronted with some unexpected challenges. All of those characters have to face questions about themselves, their identities, and their priorities. How important is life in Little Island and how much are they prepared to sacrifice or give up to continue living there?

I have mentioned the choral and community elements of this series, and that means that there are many themes explored in this book. The close connection of the island with the natural world and the seasons is reflected in the way the story is structured and how it follows a chronological order, with the passing of time and the changes in weather marking and dictating what life is like. Much can happen in a year. We have a variety of ceremonies and events (marriages, bondings), deaths and births, we have new projects coming to fruition, we have health scares, we have secrets uncovered and secrets kept, we have people moving away and others coming back, and although all the characters have their role, the women’s connection to the island and the bonds and mutual support is what keeps the community alive and full of positive energy.

As usual, the writing is gorgeous. There are some beautiful descriptions of the landscape, the weather, and the ceremonies that have something magical about them. The third-person narrative alternates between quite a few of the characters, and that gives more depth and closeness to the story, as we get to understand how the different individuals feel, and also see what the people around them think and what worries them. The changes in perspective are clearly signalled, and each one of the characters is so different in outlook from the rest that it is impossible to get them confused. There are very touching and moving moments, some tough and hurtful ones that would test anybody’s goodness and kindness (because not all the characters are likeable, and some are anything but), some funny events, but also some sad ones. We might agree or disagree with some of the decisions taken, but the author makes sure we get to follow the mental process of the people involved, and we even experience the struggle and doubts they have to face. As is the case in real life, there are no easy answers, and that is one of the things that make us love the island and its people even more because nobody on it is perfect, but they all work hard, help each other, and try to keep their community alive, and these days, that is something most of us can only dream of.

As a warning, I would mention, as I have done in the past, that there are some sex scenes in the book. These are not many, and they are not excessively detailed or over the top (and that is coming from somebody who doesn’t enjoy these kinds of scenes), but I know that is something down to personal taste, so I thought I’d mention it.

On the other hand, those who enjoy diversity in literature will find plenty here. One of the many joys of the book is to see a community steeped in tradition but open to all kinds of roles for all kinds of people, happy to have a woman as a sheriff, to embrace LGBT relationships, to accept behaviours that seem, at the very least, peculiar and eccentric, to welcome with open arms strangers (as long as they don’t try to impose on them or change their way of life) and willing to accept supernatural and magic events without blinking an eye. And those who love dogs (and cats) have some stars to make them smile as well. I so love Blossom!

The ending is as it should be, in my opinion. Life goes on, and we are not left with a cliffhanger, although there are many more stories to tell, and much more to come. If there will be or not, will depend on the author. Fingers crossed!

So, yes, of course, I recommend this novel. Please, make sure to read the other two novels in the series first. If you have, you don’t need to worry if it’s been a while since you read them, though, because there are enough hints and references to previous events to refresh your memory, and I had no difficulty recalling all the relevant information. In fact, after reading a few pages, I felt perfectly at home, as if I was visiting some old friends. And that is what Little Sister and its characters have become for the readers of the series: a refuge, a magical place we can visit when we need a break from our everyday lives, and one where we are all welcome, no matter where we come from or what our issues might be. I enjoyed it enormously, I recommend it to readers of the previous two novels and to anybody who enjoys beautiful language, great characters, a magical setting, and needs a bit of a boost. Don’t ask me which of the three novels is my favourite, because they all make up an organic whole, and one I hope the author will keep adding to.

For those of you who enjoy writing samples, here I leave you a post by the author where she announces the publication of this novel, and she shares the first chapter of it. That will give you a chance to see what you think about her style of writing and to get a taster or the story.

https://cjwerlinger.wordpress.com/2022/08/11/the-new-shore/

Thanks to Rosie and the members of her team for their support, thanks to the author for her wonderful book (and I hope she keeps writing more in this series), and thanks to all of you for reading my reviews, for reading books, and for sharing your opinions with others.  Keep smiling and keep hopeful! ♥

Oh, and before you leave, I promised you last week that I would share a link to the article about the miniatures, and here it is. It is in Catalan, but you can check the pictures. There are a few. 

https://www.el3.cat/noticia/78208/les-cotxeres-de-sants-acullen-la-20a-fira-dartesans-miniaturistes-i-exposicio-de-cases-de-

 

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog INVISIBLE, AS MUSIC by Caren J. Werlinger. Beautiful writing and compelling characters and setting #LGBTromance

Hi all:

I’m sharing today a review of a book I’ve discovered through Rosie’s Book Review Team. It’s the second novel I read by this author, and I don’t think it will be the last.

Invisible as Music by Caren J. Werlinger
Invisible as Music by Caren J. Werlinger

Invisible, As Music by Caren J. Werlinger

Henrietta Cochran has spent nearly forty years dealing with the effects of the polio she contracted in 1945. Her braces and crutches restrict her, define her, but they also give her independence. Almost. She hates that she has become increasingly reliant on a series of live-in companions to help her. For some reason, the companions never seem to want to stay very long. So Henrietta retreats further and further into her art, where her physical limitations don’t matter.
Into her life sails Meryn Fleming: out, outspoken, and fiercely political. She’s young, enthusiastically diving into her first job as a history professor at the local college. When she falls, almost literally, into Henrietta’s path, she seems like a godsend.
Little does Henrietta know that this young woman is about to upend her carefully structured existence. Ryn challenges everything, barging right through the walls Henrietta has built to keep others at a distance.
To Ryn, Henrietta is an enigma: prickly and easily insulted at the slightest suggestion that she can’t do things for herself; a brilliant artist capable of producing the most beautiful paintings; and sometimes, when Henrietta doesn’t realize she’s letting her guard down, a tender and sensitive woman.
With Meryn’s youthful optimism pitted against Henrietta’s jaded acceptance of the world as it is, life will never be the same for either of them.

https://www.amazon.com/Invisible-as-Music-Caren-Werlinger-ebook/dp/B07ZXJQ4WX/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Invisible-as-Music-Caren-Werlinger-ebook/dp/B07ZXJQ4WX/

https://www.amazon.es/Invisible-as-Music-Caren-Werlinger-ebook/dp/B07ZXJQ4WX/

Author Caren J. Werlinger
Author Caren J. Werlinger

About the author:

Bestselling author Caren Werlinger published her first award-winning novel, Looking Through Windows, in 2008. Since then, she has published fourteen more novels, winning several more awards. Influenced by a diverse array of authors, including Rumer Godden, J.R.R. Tolkein, Ursula LeGuin, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Willa Cather and the Brontë sisters, Caren writes literary fiction that features the struggles and joys of characters readers can identify with. Her stories cover a wide range of genres: historical fiction, contemporary drama, and fantasy, including the award-winning Dragonmage Saga, a fantasy trilogy set in ancient Ireland. She has lived in Virginia for nearly thirty years where she practices physical therapy, teaches anatomy and lives with her wife and their canine fur-children.

https://www.amazon.com/Caren-J-Werlinger/e/B002BOI2ZI/

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, check here if you want to get your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for the ARC copy of the book, which I freely chose to review.

This is the second book by this author I read (you can read my review of When the Stars Sang here), and it shares many of the characteristics of the previous one (a great setting, a love story at the centre of the book, a sense of time and place, great characters, both protagonists and secondary, wonderful writing…).

Here we have two characters that seem total opposites at first sight. Meryn, Ryn, a young woman, openly lesbian, newly qualified to teach history, from a large family, gregarious and friendly, dynamic, with strong convictions, and happy to stir things up. Henrietta, on the other hand, contracted polio in the 1940s and has lived with its sequelae ever since, leading a reclusive life, restricted to a small town, with a tiny circle of friends (mostly not deserving of the name), dedicated to her art, and dependant for her everyday life on paid help and living-in companions. Although the book starts in the 1980s, in many ways Henrietta still lives in the fifties. Due to the braces she wears and to her level of disability she has built up a protective shell around herself, and she’s never dared to change anything or explore beyond her self-imposed boundaries.

The story is narrated in the third person, alternating the two main characters’ points of view, and this works very well, as we have the contrast between a total newcomer who finds it difficult to fit into the stuffy and stifling society of the small town and of the Catholic college (where men reign supreme and misbehave without anybody taking them to task) where she works, and an older woman who might not like her lifestyle and those she mixes with if she stops to think about it, but cannot imagine a different life for herself. She fears the pity of others and has never allowed herself to love, after an experience she had as an adolescent prior to her illness. The girl disappeared, and she never heard from her again. That coupled with her conviction that nobody could look at her and feel anything but pity means that she is closed off and does not let anybody in, in case they hurt her.

The author creates two complex characters we get to empathise with and sets them in a recent historical period, but like the best historical fiction, the novel highlights how much some things have changed since, and also how little  other things have truly changed. The gender politics at the college are appalling but not miles away from what still exists today in some places; the prejudice might be less open but is still present (and it takes many forms here: gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, political beliefs…); and as the epilogue reminds us, the parallels with the current political situation (Reagan was in power at the time the story starts and the Democrats lost their campaign, and the book closes after the 2016 election with Trump’s victory) are evident.

Above all that, the novel talks about love: about different kinds of love (religious love, family love, friendship, romantic love…), about acceptance and tolerance of diversity, about letting others in and learning to look with new eyes at ourselves and those around us. Although there are some truly appalling characters, Ryn and Henrietta manage to find a community of friends who make them feel welcome and accept them for who they are. Henrietta’s love for art and painting, and Ryn’s enthusiasm for history and women’s history in particular, their passion and creativity, make them more alike than they realise at first, and although their story is not without complications, and there are sad as well as joyful moments, this is ultimately an inspiring and beautiful read.

This is a novel that explores issues of identity, prejudice, diversity, different definitions of love, and what life (and love) is like for a person with a disability and for those around her. I enjoyed becoming a part of the story and, as was the case with the previous novel by Werlinger, I was sorry to get to the end, and I hope to read more of her stories. Recommended to readers who are looking for LGTB and diverse romances or simply enjoy beautifully written stories that will make them think.

Thanks to the author, to Rosie and her team for their ongoing support, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to spread the word, and to keep smiling!

 

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