Book Review Not a Blueprint, It’s the Shoe Prints that Matter Nine Norstrom

Not a Blueprint, It's the Shoe Prints that Matter: A Journey Through Toxic RelationshipsNot a Blueprint, It’s the Shoe Prints that Matter: A Journey Through Toxic Relationships by Nina Norstrom
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Not A Blueprint, It’s the Shoe Prints that Matter: A Journey Through Toxic Relationships, is a memoir of Nina Norstrom. In the author’s note, she broadly defines that a toxic relationship can be with people, alcohol, disease, and our internal emotions to mention a few. The memoir provides an overview of Nina’s life journey, beginning in her childhood growing in a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic father who abuses her mother. The author’s daughter, China, is born out of wedlock as a result of a liaison with a married man. Although she continues seeking relationships with males so China can have a father figurehead, these relationships don’t work out. The one driving force that motivates the author to overcome obstacles is to provide for her daughter as best she can. The heart of this memoir is Nina’s unconditional love for her daughter who must battle cancer as a young woman.

Author Norstrom tells a heartfelt story with a straight-forward, relatable voice. After each chapter, she provides insight into what lessons she has learned from each experience. Although she doesn’t always make the wisest decisions, her heart is in the right place as she struggles to learn the lessons from her journey through life. A bonus from her memoir is a list of support groups that can help people through times of grief.

I recommend this memoir to readers who are looking for insight on how to overcome toxic relationships by following the footprints of this author as her trial unfolds in this story.

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Book Review ‘Til Death Do Us Part” by Jan Sikes

'Til Death Do Us Part‘Til Death Do Us Part by Jan Sikes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Til Death do us Part,” by Jan Sikes is a heartfelt story based on the author’s life and her soul mate and husband during their later years together. This is the last book in the series spanning their lifetimes together. The forward gives an overview of the previous books which I had not read but helped to orient me on what happened beforehand. Thus, I could read this final book as a stand-alone novel.

The story follows the story of Luke and Darlina Stone in the last decade of their marriage after they’ve already overcome many hardships since he was released from jail . Although Luke Stone has significant health problems, he’s given another chance to rediscover his passion for country music after being interviewed by a magazine. Again inspired to write music and to perform, he introduces and shares his passion with Darlina. Both he and she write music and perform together as his health declines over the years. Luke grasps each moment of happiness and adapts to his health challenges by focusing on his creative energy with his wife at his side. This is an inspirational love story of two people who are devoted to each other and find meaning in every aspect of their lives. The quote that resonates in my mind at the end is: “When I pass from this life you’ll hear two sounds. You’ll hear a train whistle blowing and you’ll hear an owl hooting.”

Jan Sikes has written a story that touches the human spirit. Although some creative liberties have been taken, the novel is based on the author’s real events which you can easily relate to. It is a story about not giving up but following your dreams and remaining true to those you love. It struck every emotional chord as I read it because it spoke to the heart.

I highly recommend this book to readers who love poignant, realistic stories that inspire you to live your life to the fullest.

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AUTHOR INTERVIEW KAREN INGALLS

Introduction

It my pleasure to introduce Karen Ingalls, an award-winning author. I became interested in her as an author when her book, Davida, won the the 2017 New Apple Summer E-Book Awards: HISTORICAL FICTION. I was particularly intrigued with the image of Davida on the book cover and wanted to find out who she was. I further became acquainted with Karen when I was invited to join RWISA: Rave Writers – International Society of Authors, of which she is a distinguished member.

Karen Ingalls, Award-winning Author

Below is Karen Ingalls’ biography, author interview, and contact information. Be sure to check out her website and learn more about her as an author and her passion for health issues.

Biography

Karen Ingalls is an award-winning author of three published books, author of numerous articles on health, cancer, and wellness, and a public speaker. She is a retired RN, human behavior, and cancer survivor who writes about social issues, health topics, and historical topics. Her philosophy is to outshine any challenge; to grow and learn from it.

Author Interview

Would you provide an overview of books you have published?

My first published book, Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir is about my journey with ovarian cancer. It emphasizes how anyone can adopt healthy ways to deal with any serious health challenge with such things as good nutrition, relaxation/imagery, and meditation/deep prayer, positive thinking, humor to name just a few.

Novy’s Son: The Selfish Genius is a novel about my father who was very intelligent, but lacked the ability to socialize except with women he was attracted to. He challenged social mores, all religious beliefs, and most educational rules and regulations. He did not know how to be a good and faithful husband, nor father, or grandfather.

My second novel is titled Davida: Model & Mistress of Augustus Saint-Gaudens. He was America’s premier sculptor in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s and though married, he fell in love with his model, Davida. This is the story of their 25-year love affair, birth of one child, their unconditional love, and his art.

What inspired you to write the biography, Davida, of your great-grandmother, Albertina Hultgren, who was the mistress of the American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens.

I was inspired to write Davida for the following reasons: one, they are my great-grandparents; two, no one ever talked about my grandfather’s heritage because of his shame of being a bastard; and three, after my grandfather died, I wanted to erase the bastard label and bring dignity and honor to his parent’s love affair.

Book Cover of Davida

How much research was involved in writing Davida? How did you go ABOUT researching the background for Davida?

There are many published books about Augustus Saint-Gaudens so it was relatively easy to do research about his art and who he was as a person. I have been to the Augustus Saint-Gaudens Historical Site two times in Cornish, New Hampshire. At one visit my father, sister, and I met with then the curator, John Dryfought. I have kept in correspondence with the current curator, Dr. Henry Duffy. We were also interviewed by Kathryn Greenthal, who was the curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Unfortunately, there is very little known about my great-grandmother, who changed her name to Davida Johnson Clark. She was born in Sweden and came to the U.S. as a young girl with her mother. Her birth name was either Albertina Hultgren or Hallgren. A cousin by marriage who lives in Sweden researched churches and official government sites in hopes of substantiating her birth name, date, and place. However, nothing definitive was found. Therefore, I created Davida’s childhood, her parents, beliefs, personality, and how she lived and died. I know she talked to me at times while I was asleep or deep in thought while writing. It was a spiritual experience.

Is there any sub-character in Davida that is your favorite? Explain why.

The sub-character is Uncle Louis Saint-Gaudens, who was an artist in his own right but struggled with depression and alcoholism. He was grateful for the financial, career, and health-wise help Augustus gave him. He loved my grandfather, who was named for him and he was more of a father to him than Augustus was. He had a sense of humor and a favorite story is him sitting on the top of the water tower causing quite a scandal.

How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?

I was surprised, embarrassed, or shocked by some behaviors of the main character in Novy’s Son. I loved and knew my father about as well as anyone, but he said and did some outlandish things. He was a unique person I never understood until I read Robert Bly’s book Iron John. That is when I decided to write Novy’s Son knowing that there are many men who did not learn how to be fathers from their fathers, so the cycle continued. Perhaps all of these men have searched for happiness and self-worth through unhealthy and immoral actions.

Have you received reactions/feedback to your work that has surprised you? In what way?

I have received wonderful reviews on all three books, and I have been honored with several awards. Those people who have received support, reassurance, information, and hope from Outshine is the most meaningful award or recognition I could ever wish for.

Many women didn’t like the main character in Novy’s Son which is a normal reaction and means I accomplished what I intended. I was surprised by one review by an author who stated in a private message that he refused to finish this same book because the Kindle version was completely messed up. I offered to send a paperback copy, which he refused so his 3-star review remains though he wrote in his review: “Since my preferred genre is usually thrillers or suspense, the nature of this character portrait didn’t really grab me. However, the book is well written, and if this style of book is your cup of tea, you may find it to be a satisfying read.”

I have read many books that are not my preferred genre, but I gave a review based on how well it was written, edited, flowed, and the strength of the characters and plot.

What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?

I consider someone a friend who is honest, has a sense of humor, and is a good listener. I am blessed to have many friends who are always there for me.

What simple pleasure makes you smile?

One of my simple pleasures is playing games. I sometimes joke that I was born with a deck of cards in my hands. I find board and card games are great ways to socialize, keep your mind alert, and just have good old-fashioned fun.

What makes you laugh?

I love to laugh! When I am recovering from cancer surgeries or treatments, I surround myself with positive people and funny shows or movies. My favorite comedians are Carol Burnett, Lucille Ball, Laurel & Hardy, Ray Romano, Bill Murray, and Chevy Chase. Laughter lifts the most sorrowful mood, erases or eases fear, builds the immune system, and lowers blood pressure. Laughter is the best medicine. When I was a kid and went to the circus, the clowns were my favorite. My husband and sister make me laugh with their jokes or funny sayings.


You can contact Karen Ingalls and learn more about her books at:

Amazon Author Page

Website/Blog

Twitter

Facebook

LinkedIn

Goodreads

Smashwords

Instragram

YouTube for Davida

 

Book Review Davida by Karen Ingalls

Davida: Model & Mistress of Augustus Saint-GaudensDavida: Model & Mistress of Augustus Saint-Gaudens by Karen Ingalls
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Davida by Karen Ingalls is a beautifully written love story based on the real-life model and mistress of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, a 19th century sculptor. As a young girl, Albertina Hultgren immigrates to the United States after the tragic death of her father, a woodsman. She misses her father’s fanciful stories about visiting the forests to gain insight from mystical creatures.

After adjusting to her new life in Hoboken, New Jersey, Albertina makes life-long friends and learns to speak English. At a Christmas party, where her mother and aunt have prepared the meal, she captures the attention of Augustus Saint-Gaudens. He impetuously lifts her chin and exclaims she has exquisite beauty and would like to do a sketch of her someday. Her mother reluctantly allows Albertina to pose in his studio after he convinces her that his intentions are honorable. As he creates his art, using Albertina as a model who is publicly known as Davida, they fall deeply in love and she becomes his mistress. She accepts the terms of their relationship, knowing the liaison could create a scandal that could jeopardize his career in a Victorian society. This is ultimately a love story about a woman who gives her unconditional devotion to an acclaimed sculptor and shares his passion for his artwork, regardless of her hardships and the stigma of giving birth to their son out of wedlock.

Author Ingalls’ prose is as eloquent as the artistry she projects in the story. Davida is depicted as the epitome of the Greek goddess, Diana, who finds solace and strength from nature to reach into her inner soul and to find her true self. The love story comes across as almost mythical because Davida sacrifices almost everything to make sure Augustus achieves the pinnacle of his true passion to create masterpieces. Davida is a heartfelt story that fills you with both joy and tears. The paperback is beautifully formatted and reflects the artistry in the story.

For those who believe in true love, Davida is a must read by Karen Ingalls, the only surviving great-grandchild from the union of Davida and Augustus. She fills in the minimal facts about their union with her own imagination of how a Swedish immigrant becomes the true love and mistress of an acclaimed artist.

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Interview Anne Frandi-Coory

Anne Frandi-Coory, Author of Whatever Happened to Ishtar?

Introduction to Anne Frandi-Coory

It was my pleasure to interview Anne Frandi-Coory. She is the Australian author of the moving memoir: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ISHTAR?

The memoir is about Anne’s quest for coming to terms with her traumatic childhood when she lived in a Catholic orphanage and later in her father’s family household. This is also a fascinating journey of Anne’s Italian and Lebanese heritages which provide insight into generations of defeated mothers.

I was first intrigued with the title because Ishtar is a goddess revered for many qualities in ancient civilizations. This book touched my heart as it addressed universal issues that impact women today.

Read my review of WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ISHTAR (5 of 5 stars) on APOLLO’S RAVEN:  http://www.linneatanner.com/blog/3614-2/

Book Cover: Whatever Happened to Ishtar_Cover_Anne Frandi-Coory_Ishtar


Interview with Anne Frandi-Coory

What was the defining moment that inspired you to write your memoir?

Anne:

There was no defining moment as such; more a series of events over a long period of time. The continued feedback from my extended Lebanese family that I was ‘backward’ – a label I overheard often throughout my childhood had always left me feeling devastated and depressed. I desperately wanted people to know that I was intelligent, that childhood emotional and psychological trauma didn’t equate to ‘backward’. I tried many times, as a young mother, to communicate with my Lebanese family, but I could barely utter a word, while they continually talked down to me.

On another level, I found it difficult to talk about my childhood, and as a result my children didn’t know anything about my life, or that of my parents. I wanted them to be proud of me. I felt I didn’t have a past, a family history, and I wanted them to have one.

What was the inspiration for the title of your unique book title, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ISHTAR?

Anne:

I was brought up as a strict Catholic as were most of my Lebanese and Italian relatives and ancestors. I discovered during my research that the women in my family tree suffered terribly at the hands of their men and the Church…too many children, too much abuse and the constant praying that in reality achieved nothing. My extensive reading about ancient goddesses like Ishtar informed me that women were once worshipped for their fertility, but weren’t solely defined by it. Ishtar occupied the highest position in the Babylonian pantheon; she was the favourite goddess of the Babylonians. She was the goddess of fertility, justice, healing and war. However, once the three patriarchal religions of Islam, Judaism and Christianity rampaged across humanity that changed forever. Christian women were then expected to emulate Immaculate Mary, mother of God, an impossible task. In the Catholic system, females had two vocational choices; become a mother (married of course) or a nun! Disastrously, my mother became both.

Statue of Ishtar

Statue of Ishtar

Was there any aspect of your Catholic upbringing that still deeply impacts you today?

Anne:

Yes. Fear and hypocrisy. I was so terrorised by stories of the devil and the tortures of hell all through my childhood while incarcerated in Catholic institutions, that most nights I experienced the most horrific nightmares that left me with a racing heart that seemed to shake my whole body. I sometimes imagined I could see the devil watching me in a corner of the room, so my reaction was to hide under my blankets praying that God would save me. The adrenaline rush prevented me from sleeping. I am still afraid of the dark, and although I no longer believe in the devil or hell, I suffer severe panic attacks if my fragile feelings of security and well-being are undermined in any way. Deep down, I have this feeling that at any time, everything I have will be taken from me, including my family.

The belief that anyone who was a good practicing Catholic was automatically a virtual saint, came crashing down around me when I discovered, as a teenager, that they were human like everyone else and just as capable of committing ‘sins’! I remember being utterly devastated but from that moment, slowly over time, my belief in God fizzled out and died. I am now an atheist.

What would you consider some of your most enlightening moments in your research that helped you come to terms with your childhood?

Anne:

I was explaining to a psychologist that I believed I had paid for my mother’s sins. He was silent for a few moments, and then said: “That’s a very interesting choice of words”. We talked about why I believed my mother had sinned. After a couple more sessions, he said to me “Do you think it possible that your Catholic upbringing may have done more harm than the abuse you suffered at the hands of your family?”

All through my research, I kept thinking about the psychologist’s words, and as a result, I wrote a very different book.

I had come to realise that my mother wasn’t a sinner, and that the story of my childhood was merely a tiny inset in a very large picture. That’s why, although I began writing my memoir, I ended up writing an extensive family history spanning generations and countries. That in general, life favoured males over females. With the change in perspective also came acceptance of my traumatic childhood.

Was there a woman in your ancestral history who most sparked your interest and why?

Anne:

Probably Italia Frandi, my great aunt. She died long before I was born, but I was given a recorded interview with her daughter, in which she talks about Italia’s life and achievements. Italia suffered many tragedies in her life but she never let that prevent her from becoming an astute business woman who wasn’t afraid to stand up to the Catholic Church or a legal system that favoured men.

Based on your experience, what advice would you give young women today?

Anne:

Three pieces of advice:

Feel the fear, and do it anyway. I know that’s a well-worn cliché, but I know it’s the best way to combat fear. I would still be hiding behind locked doors if I hadn’t ignored my fears and taken the plunge into unknown waters. It made me more courageous each time I achieved a goal.

If people make you feel uncomfortable or unhappy, move on. Listen to what your senses are telling you. Life is too short and there is so much you can achieve in your lifetime if you travel without negativity weighing you down. I believe this philosophy has kept me physically safe and mentally healthy. 

Always strive to be financially independent…It will empower you to be in control of your life.

Do you plan to write any further books based on the research you’ve done on your Lebanese and Italian heritages?

No, but I have written a series of poems, short stories in themselves, about aspects of my childhood, cultural and family history. I have painted an image for each poem, or attached a photograph. I have also written a few ancestral short stories. I am planning to publish these in a book sometime within the next year, once I complete the series.

Biography Anne Frandi-Coory

Anne Frandi-Coory was abandoned by her Italian mother when she was ten months old and placed in the care of the Catholic Sisters of mercy in Dunedin, by her Lebanese father. All through her childhood, Anne’s Lebanese extended family, and her strict Catholic upbringing, influenced her to believe that her life of abuse and gross neglect was  because she was “paying for my mother’s sins”. Anne married very young and had four children. After they had left home, Anne decided to research her family history  to try and understand the reasons why there were so many defeated mothers in her family tree. Over a period of fifteen years, she traveled across the globe, sourcedoriginal documents and interviewed many  family members, both Lebanese and Italian. Most of the  women were devout Catholics, forced to marry brutal and uneducated men and subsequently gave birth to too many children. Seemingly, the women’s sole reason for living was to breed, pray to God for help, attend Mass regularly, and hope that the after- life would reward them for their ‘goodness’. Catholic girls had one other choice for a vocation and that was to become a nun. This had not always been females’ lot in life. Ishtar, the pagan goddess of fertility, love and war, empowered females to emulate her prowess for thousands of years. But patriarchal Christianity usurped Ishtar with its Virgin Mary, and females were stigmatised as whore or venerated as virgin/mother.

Anne Frandi-Coory now lives in Melbourne, Australia with her partner. She works from her home studio as a painter, poet and short story writer. She intends to publish a book of her works.


Further Information:

Order WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ISHTAR?:

Author Website Autographed Memoir: http://frandi.wordpress.com/buy-a-signed-copy-of-whatever-happened-to-ishtar-directly-from-the-author/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Whatever-Happened-Ishtar-Anne-Frandi-Coory/dp/1921642955

Customer Reviews: 

https://frandi.wordpress.com/category/latest-book-reviews-for-whatever-happened-to-ishtar/

Follow Anne Frandi-Coory:

Website:  https://frandi.wordpress.com/

Twitter:         https://twitter.com/afcoory

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Frandini/

Book Review: Whatever Happened to Ishtar?

Whatever Happened to Ishtar?Whatever Happened to Ishtar? Anne Frandi-Coory
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I follow Anne Frandi-Coory and signed up to receive notifications from her website frandi.wordpress.com to learn more about her Lebanese and Italian heritage. My curiosity aroused, I ordered  a signed copy of her memoir directly from her site and was deeply moved by it. Below is my book review.

GOODREADS BOOK REVIEW

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ISHTAR? (Australian author Anne Frandi-Coory) is a beautifully written and haunting memoir of a woman who finds herself by exploring her family’s heritage that contributed to her growing up without the love and nurture of a mother she most desperately wanted. What first attracted me to this book was the title, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ISHTAR? The Ancient Sumerian Mother Goddess Ishtar celebrates love, fertility, and sexuality. This title haunted me as I read the memoir because Anne’s mother, like many woman of her generation and previous generations, was harshly judged for her sexuality and had limited options to treat her mental illness and to fulfill her potential. The first part of the memoir is Anne’s account of her childhood while the second part provides a historical account of her Lebanese (father’s side) and Italian heritage (mother’s side).

Anne was institutionalized at the Mercy Orphanage of the Poor at South Dunedin in her early childhood. At the time, her father could not adequately care for Anne after he divorced her mother for infidelity. At the age of eight, Anne was removed from the orphanage and introduced to the real world under the care of her father’s family. However, they shamed Anne and associated her with her mentally ill mother they considered a whore. This part of the memoir is gut-wrenching and haunting because Anne had to overcome loneliness and self-doubt to find her full potential after marrying, having four children, and finding her life partner after a divorce.

However, what is most fascinating is the rich heritage and ancestral genealogy of both her father and mother to understand what nineteenth century immigrants to Australia faced. With no access to birth control, women faced multiple pregnancies or secretly resorted to self-induced abortions with crude knitting needles. The historical accounts that Anne researched help explain why her father and her mother were compelled to make their choices. I recommend this memoir because the story will stay in your memory as it covers universal issues of female sexuality, women’s roles and options, mental illness, and society’s harsh judgment that has defeated mothers for generations.

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