Guest Post by Ethel Rohan – plus my review

Welcome to Ethel Rohan, author of THE WEIGHT OF HIM. I asked Ethel to tell us about the inspiration for her first novel. Thank you, Ethel, for sharing with us!

the-weight-of-him

I’ve always claimed my stories are inspired by character. First, the who of the story comes to me—a person, or sometimes even an animal or object. Then location, where the story takes place. Next, I set about filling in other essential details like what happens, and when, and how, and most importantly why. Recently, though, I’ve realized it’s more precise to say that my stories are sparked by startling moments.

Like the time a young man who had his leg amputated said the phantom pain made the limb “seem more there than it ever was.” From that seed, I went on to write the title story of my first book, Cut Through the Bone. Surgery that uncovered a dog’s hair deep inside the meat of my cousin’s ankle ignited another story, as did a neighbor’s vignette about how beekeeping brought him and his teenage son closer together.

ethel-rohan-author-photo_credit-to-justin-yeeFor my first novel, The Weight of Him, the startling moment was a snatch of conversation I overheard in a pub in Ireland—the grief might just kill her before the weight does. I couldn’t get those words out of my mind. What if, I wondered, grief or weight don’t kill this stranger, but instead drive her to do something remarkable. As with my other stories, once I fix on the startling spark the main character appears almost instantly. Immediately, I had a vivid picture in my mind of an anguished Irish man: Big Billy Brennan.

Why do certain moments startle me into storytelling, and countless others don’t? I suppose the moments that inspire me are those that most appeal to my imagination, my hopes and dreams, my fear and anger. I think that’s true of all artists: We create from that which pulls at us. The Weight of Him was very much inspired by, and centers on, the things that lift me and the things that drag me down.


About the author:

Ethel Rohan is the author of two story collections, Goodnight Nobody and Cut Through the Bone, the former longlisted for The Edge Hill Prize and the latter longlisted for The Story Prize. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, World Literature Today, GUERNICA Magazine, Tin House Online,The Rumpus, and many more. Born and raised in Ireland, she lives in San Francisco.


St. Martin’s Press 2/14/2017
Pre-Order Now at AmazonIndiebound & Barnes & NobleThank you!
Website: www.ethelrohan.com

Twitter: @ethelrohan


Praise for THE WEIGHT OF HIM:

“Rohan [is] one of those rare, courageous writers who dare to take on the ‘ordinary’ and show just how extraordinary it really is.” —John Banville, Man Booker prize-winning author of The Sea

“Poignant and inspiring…When you’re finished, you’ll want to go for a long, grateful walk.” —Eowyn Ivey, author of The Snow Child

“Involving, terrifying and ultimately quite beautiful.” —Tom Barbash, author of Stay Up With Me


  • the-weight-of-himTitle:  The Weight of Him
  • Author:  Ethel Rohan
  • Pages:  336
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Published:  February 2017 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  At four hundred pounds, Billy Brennan can always count on food. From his earliest memories, he has loved food’s colors, textures and tastes. The way flavors go off in his mouth. How food keeps his mind still and his bad feelings quiet. Food has always made everything better, until the day Billy’s beloved son Michael takes his own life.

Billy determines to make a difference in Michael’s memory and undertakes a public weight-loss campaign, to raise money for suicide prevention—his first step in an ambitious plan to save himself, and to save others. However, Billy’s dramatic crusade appalls his family, who want to simply try to go on.

Despite his crushing detractors, Billy gains welcome allies: his community-at-large; a co-worker who lost his father to suicide; a filmmaker with his own dubious agenda; and a secret, miniature kingdom that Billy populates with the sub-quality dolls and soldiers he rescues from disposal at the local toy factory where he works. But it is only if Billy can confront the truth of his pain, suffering, and the brokenness around him, that he and others will be able to realize the full rescue and change they need.

Set in rural, contemporary Ireland, Ethel Rohan’s The Weight of Him is an unforgettable, big-hearted novel about loss and reliance that moves from tragedy to recrimination to what can be achieved when we take the stand of our lives.  (publisher)

My take:  Billy Brennan is everyman. He may not feel that way though. For most of his life he’s hidden behind his weight hoping to avoid notice, to blend in. People just saw Big Billy – they didn’t look past his bulk. He grew up knowing he was a disappointment to the people who should have been most proud of him. He found acceptance and solace in food. Sure he found reasons to lose weight in the past but it always came back. After the suicide of his first-born son Billy needs to find a reason to go on. And he needs to find the reason his son took his own life.

I was impressed with how Ethel Rohan portrayed the grieving family. Each one moved through phases at their own pace and experienced guilt, blame, anger and utter sadness. Billy was easy to cheer on as his journey gathered steam. At the same time, his family’s reactions were completely understandable. They had no idea how Billy’s changes would impact their lives. I just wanted to hug them all and let them know things would eventually get better. The Weight of Him is a novel that ultimately left me feeling hopeful. It’s an emotional read and one I can recommend.


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Ten Beach Road by Wendy Wax

Title:  Ten Beach Road

Author:  Wendy Wax

Genre:  Fiction

About:  Three women, strangers to each other, receive the news that their life savings is gone. Their trusted financial advisors invested their money in what turned out to be a Ponzi scheme and the person who stole their money is nowhere to be found. But all is not lost. The women find that each owns a third of a dilapidated beachfront mansion. They meet in Florida to rehab the place and put it on the market.

My thoughts:  Ten Beach Road is the story of how three women lose everything and against all odds hope to land on their feet emotionally, financially and with their self-respect intact.

Madeline’s nest is empty and she’s ready to enjoy life with her husband. The shocking financial news is just a drop in the bucket compared to what he tells her.

Avery, a well-known tv personality, is used to people leaving her but she’s worked hard for her money and now that she’s lost that too – well, it’s almost too much.

Nicole, a successful matchmaker, grew up in abject poverty. She and her brother vowed they’d never be poor again but she finds herself back at square one.

All three have secrets they don’t want the others to know. Some of the secrets are people who start to show up at the mansion and add a lot to the story. Situations arise that show the women at their best and worst.

Given the timely topic I thought Ten Beach Road was an interesting and entertaining look at how three people handle themselves at a time of great financial loss. As serious as that sounds, I looked forward to reading more of the book each time I picked it up. Wendy Wax tells a good story!

Recommend?  Yes, throw it in the beach bag and lather up with the sunscreen because you won’t want to stop reading.

Source:  Joan Schulhafer Publishing & Media Consulting

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Giveaway of one finished copy (courtesy of the publicist!)

Open to US residents

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The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton

Back of the book: A rural idyll: that’s what Catherine is seeking when she sells her house in England and moves to a tiny hamlet in the Cévennes mountains. With her divorce in the past and her children grown, she is free to make a new start, and her dream is to set up in business as a seamstress. But this is a harsh and lonely place when you’re no longer just here on holiday. There is French bureaucracy to contend with, not to mention the mountain weather, and the reserve of her neighbors, including the intriguing Patrick Castagnol. And that’s before the arrival of Catherine’s sister, Bryony.

My thoughts: The Tapestry of Love is a novel about a woman whose life is changing.  Forty-nine and divorced for several years, Catherine leaves England and buys a small home in the mountains of France.  She hopes to to start a sewing business.  Her fluency in the French language makes settling near a small town much easier. Catherine may know the language but she has a lot to learn about the ins and outs of business in France. Not to worry. Her younger sister Bryony is a lawyer and offers to help when she visits.  That visit throws off Catherine’s new-found friendship with her neighbor Patrick.  She’s used to stepping back and letting Bryony be the center of attention and this time is no different.

I think one of the reasons I liked this book so much is because I identified with Catherine on a few levels.  She deals with the pull of family in England and at one point is called back home.  She gathers with relatives and starts to question if she should go back to France.

I liked Thornton’s characters and the setting.  It was easy to grow fond of the older couple down the road from Catherine’s house.  The Tapestry of Love is a deceptively quiet novel about independence and the realization that it’s never too late to go for one’s dreams.  I wasn’t sure I’d have time to read this novel when Ms. Thornton offered to send a review copy so I almost declined.  I’m glad I didn’t because I really enjoyed it.

What I Thought I Knew: A Memoir by Alice Eve Cohen

Title: What I Thought I Knew

Author: Alice Eve Cohen

Genre: Memoir

About: (Back of the book) Alice Cohen was happy for the first time in years.  After a difficult divorce, she had a new love in her life, she was raising a beloved adopted daughter, and her career was blossoming.  Then, she started experiencing mysterious symptoms.  After months of tests, X-rays, and inconclusive diagnoses, Alice was sent for an emergency CAT scan that revealed the truth:  she was six months pregnant.

Descriptive Words: Medical diagnosis mistakes; Memoir.

Thoughts: This slim memoir is informational as well as inspirational.  Ms. Cohen’s story is shocking and she seems to hold nothing back.  Told with honesty and humor, the matter-of-fact style makes reading about the difficulties in this part of her life easier than one might expect – although there was one instance that was extremely hard for me to read.

I liked the occasional use of a list, a re-cap of sorts, that seems to remind the author as well as the reader what has happened to that point.  It’s a clever device.

The author is fortunate to have loved ones (older daughter and husband) who raised the bar when it comes to patience and unconditional love and support.  They are truly special.

I can only hope that what happened to Ms. Cohen doesn’t occur often.  However, I have a feeling it does so her book serves as a cautionary tale to everyone with the lesson being: trust your gut instinct.  If what you’re being told doesn’t feel/sound right, keep seeking answers.

Source: Penguin Books via BookSparks PR

Recommend? Yes, to fans of memoirs.

Rating: 4/5 stars


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About the author:
Alice Eve Cohen is a solo theatre artist, playwright, and memoirist. Her memoir, What I Thought I Knew (Viking, 2009) won the Elle’s Lettres 2009 Grand Prix for Nonfiction. She has written for Nickelodeon, PBS, and CBS. Her plays have been presented at theatres throughout the country, and she has toured her solo theatre works internationally. Her writing about arts in education has been published in nine languages. The recipient of fellowships and grants from the New York State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, she holds a BA from Princeton University and an MFA from The New School. She teaches at The New School in New York City.

Alice Eve Cohen is on Facebook and Twitter.

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GIVEAWAY

I’d like to pass my gently-read copy to one of my readers.  If you’re interested please click here for details.

 

5 Ingredient Fix by Claire Robinson – Weekend Cooking

at Beth Fish Reads

 

From the book blurb: Claire Robinson – host of Food Network’s 5 Ingredient Fix – is here to help you get dinner on the table with minimal fuss and just a few great ingredients.

With everyone struggling to streamline and budget, Claire’s recipes make preparing delicious meals a snap.  Showing you how to choose the right ingredients along with a little culinary know-how is her specialty.  According to Claire, cooking doesn’t have to be complicated to be impressive:  Simplifying the process with fewer ingredients saves time, frustration, and, ultimately, money.

My thoughts: When I first saw the title of this beautiful cookbook I thought it seemed like a good one for me.  5 Ingredient Fix covers all meals as well as cocktails and various dinner courses.  The author imparts her philosophy of cooking with fewer ingredients and also lists which basics every kitchen warrior should own. There is a section titled Menu Ideas For Memorable Meals which groups recipes from the book into meals.

The photography is gorgeous and made me want to try several recipes. I must say that some of the ingredients are not staples I would normally find in my pantry or refrigerator so preparation is key.  After browsing the recipes I decided to make:

 

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Basil Butter

1 large spaghetti squash (about 4 pounds)

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

8 large basil leaves, sliced

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese plus more for serving

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Preheat the oven to 375°

Halve the squash through the stem and remove the seeds.  Season with salt and pepper and roast cut side up on baking sheet until completely soft, about 1 hour. Let cool slightly and, with a fork, shred the squash flesh from the shell and transfer to a serving dish.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse the pine nuts and basil to a paste.  Add the butter and cheese and pulse to combine; season with salt and pepper.

Serve the squash warm with soft butter on the side to dollop on each serving.

 

 

Tim and I agreed that it’s a tasty side dish.  I think the star of the recipe is the Basil Butter.  The combination of the basil, pine nuts and cheese is wonderfully flavorful. Some of the ingredients are on the expensive side – I had no idea about the price of pine nuts!  Despite the cost, I would definitely make this recipe again.

 

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Claire Robinson is the host of Food Network’s 5 Ingredient Fix and Food Network Challenge.  She cites her French-speaking grandmother as a major influence on her love for food.  Claire graduated from the French Culinary Institute, is an accomplished private chef, and has worked on culinary production teams for several cooking series, including Food Network’s Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Review copy from Hachette Book Group

Somewhere Along The Way by Jodi Thomas – review and giveaway

Title: Somewhere Along The Way

Author: Jodi Thomas

Genre: Fiction

About: (Book blurb) In the two years since she claimed Harmony, Texas, as her home, eighteen-year-old Reagan Truman has found herself drawn to others who have made their way there, too. Gabe Leary, for instance, whose plan to hide out in Harmony is dashed when he becomes the town hero. Then there’s Liz Matheson: Vulnerable and fresh out of law school, Liz has never been needed by anyone—until an unsettling encounter with Gabe changes everything. And there’s Liz’s brother, volunteer fire chief Hank Matheson, who’s starting to wonder where the town’s sheriff, Alex McAllen, will ever set the date to marry him.

As for Reagan, who’s been shaped by the loneliness she’s know most of her life, she’s finally found a place she belongs—and doesn’t want anything to get in her way. But when her life is put in jeopardy and the whole town comes together to save her, she’ll discover that trusting the love that’s come into our hearts is the greatest gift of all…

Thoughts: Jodi Thomas takes us back to the small Texas town of Harmony. Three families established Harmony in the 1880s: the Trumans, Mathesons and the McAllens.  Jeremiah and his “long lost” niece Reagan are all that’s left of the Trumans.  Uncle Jeremiah is getting on in years and his health is not the best. Reagan is almost 18 and can’t wait to be finished with high school.  She and her beau Noah have decided to just be friends but that’s not as easy as it should be. Rea gets more than she bargained for when she fills in for a downtrodden waitress at the local diner.

Liz Matheson is trying to prove to everyone that she can make it on her own – as a new lawyer and as a young woman.  Gabe Leary just wants to be left alone, to not be found.  For some reason the two of them can’t leave each other alone.

Fire chief Hank Matheson is still waiting for sheriff Alex McAllen to marry him.  She seems happy with the way things are between them until she realizes that things could change.

One of my favorite characters from the first book is Tyler Wright, the funeral home director.  His heartache is palpable as he writes a daily email to the woman he can’t forget but also knows better than to expect a reply.

There are many more characters in this latest Harmony novel.  Some we met in the first book and some are new.  Jodi Thomas fills her books with characters I think about long after turning the last page.  They are well-drawn, regular people with everyday problems (well, most of them anyway).  I love the dialogue which is honest, funny, and emotional but never corny or unbelievable. There is suspense, drama, and romance.  All make for a good story that ended way before I was ready for it to be over.

Source: Jodi Thomas

Recommend: Yes, to fans of Jodi Thomas, the Harmony Series, a good story. Although you could read this novel without reading the first book, I recommend you read Welcome To Harmony and then Somewhere Along The Way.

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Jodi Thomas sent one copy of Somewhere Along The Way

for a giveaway.  Open to US residents.

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A Cedar Key Christmas by Terri DuLong

Title: A Cedar Key Christmas (from Holiday Magic)

Author: Terri DuLong

Genre: Fiction

About: (Goodreads synopsis) Single mom Josie Sullivan is proud of her young daughter, Orli, for helping local fisherman Mr. Al restore his crumbling home. And when Mr. Al’s nephew, Ben, pays a visit, Josie realizes just how much Christmas magic one good deed can bring.

Descriptive Words: Feel good Christmas season story

Thoughts: When one of Cedar Key’s senior citizens faces losing his home and being placed in a nursing home he finds out he has more friends than he realized.  Led by one eleven year old girl (Orli) and her mother, Josie, the good people of the small Florida island community pull together to help Mr. Al.  They need to convince his nephew Ben that Mr. Al is capable of living on his own. First, Josie needs to lose the chip on her shoulder that keeps getting in the way of her relationships – including the one with Ben.

Terri DuLong’s sweet Christmas season novella introduces characters and brings back old friends from previous Cedar Key novels.  I enjoyed them all and hope to read more about Josie and Ben in a future Cedar Key novel.

Source: Kensington Books, Terri DuLong

Recommend? Yes, to fans of the series as well as Christmas/holiday fiction.  It’s part of Holiday Magic which also contains novellas by Fern Michaels, Cathy Lamb and Mary Carter.  I plan to read the rest of the collection in December.