Monday, January 9, 2017

New Release!!! Let's Go To MARS!



Join Carole P. Roman when she blasts off to colonize the planet Mars, in the newest book of her informative series. Learn about how life would be living on the Red Planet. Travel to Olympus Mons, the largest volcano in the solar system. Look into the sky and watch Phobos and Deimos, Mars' two moons. Discover what you would wear, and how the seasons change. See Mars through the eyes of an adventurous youngster like you and understand what life is like in a trip of a lifetime. Don't forget to look at the other books in the series so that you can be an armchair traveler.

Buy it HERE

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Game of Queens Review

 



Detailed and wonderfully written book celebrating powerful queens of Western Europe. Starting with Isabella of Spain and ending with Elizabeth. Gristwood writes of the various women from England, the The Netherlands, Spain, Hungary, and France and how they impacted history. Isabella of Spain broke the mold as a warrior queen, setting the precedent of a woman taking control of her country as well as standing beside her troops in battle. With each new personality, Gristwood shows how they influenced the next generation of queens in training. Isabella's fierce ability to govern and defend her country set the example for her own daughter Katherine of Aragon to act as regent in Henry's absence and defeat the Scots at Flodden. Similarly, the author compares Margaret Tudor role in Scotland as well as Anne of France's impact of the girls she mentored. The author moves through time, describing the dynamics of Marguerite of Savoy's relationship with both her brother Francis I and her mother Louise of Savoy. Each new era brings a widening influence affecting women across Europe, the older queens tutoring the younger girls in their future roles. Interestingly, she writes that Anne Boleyn's failure and ultimate downfall may have been the result of her not being an actual princess, her common roots leaving her unprepared the navigate the dangerous shoals of palace politics. She asserts that Boleyn was so caught up in the idea of courtly love, she had no understanding of when to stop and perhaps protect herself. She shows the differences of a political savvy Marguerite of Navarre played with her brother, the king when he forced an undesirable marriage on her daughter. Marguerite understood the dangerous dance of when to push and when to retreat, unlike Anne who did not. Mary of Hungary, Catherine de Medici, Elizabeth 1, Mary of Guise, Mary of Scotland, are a few of the ruling queens mentions, the times created women who learned how to steer the world, shaping bloodlines as well as borders with quiet strength. They changed what they believed in with passionate dedication proving leadership did not belong solely in a kings hands.
Interesting, at times riveting, this is a fascinating glimpse into a world that is too often overshadowed by the achievements of kings rather than the women who surrounded and influenced them.

Happy Reading!
Carole P. Roman

Now Available On Kindle!


Buy It HERE

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Mirth Defects




Mirth Defects by Clint Forgy is one of those books that reminds me of Forrest Gump's famous box of chocolates: "You never know what you're gonna get."

Hysterically rich and with a vivid voice, Forgy writes a story of JD Ferguson, a young boy growing up in middle America in the early 70's, born in a small town in Iowa.
Forgy begins his novel with JD's birth. He arrives with the clarity and sarcastic wit of an old soul, entering this world as if he's ready for action, and indeed he is. This is the story of JD's life and how his world evolves; the highs and lows, the rites of passage that bring him to manhood.

This is no boring accounting. It's fun, lush and complex, laced with humor, and filled with soft memories of riding bikes up and down a street in the hazy twilight. JD has it all. The agony of a boy's kindergarten crush, first kisses and the tender passion of young love. The story is rich, as real life as it can get, astoundingly insightful and side-splittingly funny.

Forgy is a brilliant author with the rare skill of growing JD's voice from boy to man. His delightful sense of humor and flair for dangerous pranks left me breathlessly reading, wondering how JD and his cohorts would escape unscathed. The cast of characters includes JD's younger brother Bob, his best friend Gasser, and the lovely Lana.

Roadapple Ridge is a town of possessed of fodder, ripe for Forgy's pen. JD and his cohorts leap from scrape to scrape, with JD's sharp mind constantly outsmarting the locals. At times, it reads like those old Keystone Cops silent movies. The only sounds were my chuckles. It's a special book that makes you laugh, even better when it makes your eyes sting, and Mirth Defects has the distinct honor of doing both.

Forgy is a wonderful writer, stepping forward to give a voice to the twilight of the twentieth century. Dinner was eaten with your parents, you rode your bike until the stars were out, and you went steady instead of hooking up. Despite his rough and tumble ways, JD has a sweetness. While he may court trouble, he knows when to do the right thing. Better than that, he knows when to say it. He tells his girlfriend, "If you think you're ten foot tall then you are," letting us know he has become a man. When his grandfather dies unexpectedly, JD says, "I'm trying to hear him breathe one more time." That line undid me, voicing true grief in a way that says it all.

Near the end, JD laments,"You can't always get what you want but sometimes you get what you need." Mirth Defects manages to do both, giving the reader everything they want as well as what they need.


Happy Reading!
Carole P. Roman

Friday, December 30, 2016

2016's Best Books

It's the end of the year and I have enjoyed a wide variety of books. I decided to pick the best and highlight them in a list.

The Indies

Mirth Defects
Clint Forgy
My absolute favorite book of the year. J.D. Ferguson is a hard drinking, hard loving kind of guy and this book tells his back story. Funny, irreverent and sometimes tender, it entertained from start to finish. 


My Children's Legacy 
Clementine Rhodes
Interesting biography about an 'ordinary woman" who decided to record her life for her children. I couldn't put this slice of American down. Fascinating insight into the everyday life of a girl brought up in rural Texas. Reminded me a bit of The Glass Castle.


Old Pops' Last Beer
Dwayne Fry
Great little short story about a beer dive and the people who drink there. Short and lyrical, I raced through it wanted to learn more about his fully developed characters.

The Seduction of Granny
Clint Forgy
The continuation of my favorite rascal, J. D. Ferguson. This is the backstory to his eight marriages and how he finally snagged the one that got away. Don't let this fantastic read get away from you either.

Austism: A Noah City Short Story
Dwayne Fry
A family comes to life in the short story, their hopes, dreams and insecurities so accurately portrayed. Fry creates an entire world in a few short pages that will suck you in and not let go.


Oldies but Goodies


The entire Harry Potter Series
J.K. Rowling

Read this every night from February to September with my oldest grandson.  I never expected to enjoy it as much as he did and will admit I cried a bit when we closed the last book. Enchanting, captivating and much deeper if you look, Rowling is a master storyteller that created a creditable world from the fantastical idea of a school for wizards.
.
Roots The Saga of an American Family
Alex Haley
My brother listened to it on audio and told me how much he was enjoying the story of Haley's ancestors. I loved it as well. Compelling and sometimes brutal, it was a fascinating history of Haley's family. I especially loved Kunte Kinte's boyhood in Africa. Unforgettable.

Histories

Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville :A True Romance

Amy Licence
Nobody writes history like Amy Licence. She weaves a beautiful story about the courtship and marriage of Edward of York and the beautiful Elizabeth Woodville. A deeply wonderful way to read history.

Game of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe
Sarah Gristwood

A smorgasbord of powerful women from the sixteenth-century who shaped the world. Take a trip through Europe and watch the world develop thought the smart women who knew how to influence the right people.

The Vatican Princess:A Novel of Lucrezia Borgia
C.W. Gortner

Very human treatment about the Borgia family, author Gortner detangles the complex history of both the Vatican and Italy to explain the impact of this notorious family. Fraught with intrigue, dirty politics, and incest, The Vatican Princess offers an insiders look as to Gortner perceptions of the Borgias and the reign of terror




Popular fiction

The Forgetting Time
Sharon Guskin
Compelling and well-written story about a four year old boy who can inexplicably recall a former life. Janie Zimmerman is a single mother trying t raise her difficult son. Unputdownable.

The Widow
Fiona Barton
Excellent book, way more believable than Gone Girl about a woman stuck in a situation leaving the reader to wonder if she was the victim or architect of her nightmare.
Hanging Mary- A Novel
Susan Higginbottom

The back story to Mary Surrat, the woman convicted and hanged as John Wilkes Booths  accomplice in the assignation of Lincoln. Higginbothom fills in the ghosty outlines giving them human substance. I never gave Mary more than a passing thought as a scheming villain when I read about her in history. Susan Higginbottom's Mary becomes another hapless victim swept up in the war that rent families as well as the country.

Happy Reading!
Carole P. Roman

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Letter From A Friend

I want to share this with my friends. This was written by playwright and friend Marty Casella

To My Family and Friends -

It’s been difficult to write a holiday message this year. With the sulfurous election, the seemingly endless terrorist activities and some hard-hitting tragedies for close friends, life seems not only dark but mean. Mean as in the Dickensian sense of the word. That is… tough, harsh and larded with an underlying nastiness that is hard to shake. But Christmas, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice and other seasonal celebrations are, as always, about light, hope and belief in a better future. As my wonderful mom Shirley often says: “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” With that in mind, here are some photos and thoughts about a seemingly faraway dawn, and how we must, as a society, always have hope.

I took the photos above on my recent trip to Spain. (for those of you who love the play NOISES OFF – “He ain’t home. He’s in Spine!”). They were taken in a recently rediscovered, thousand-year-old synagogue in Barcelona. This synagogue was lost for centuries post-1492, when Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand deported most of the Jews and Muslims in Spain. Many of those Jews ended up in the New World, in Brazil particularly, and later came to the U.S.; that’s another story for another Hanukkah. The magical, tiny, two-room stone synagogue six feet under the surface of modern day Barcelona was located after years of research, using tax records from the Middle Ages. Amazingly, the address on those records matched an address still in use, below a current structure which houses shops and a warehouse. Inside the first room, there is a glass floor which lets you look down onto Roman ruins, which were found under the synagogue. In the second room are many items, including old silver serving plates, silver Torah readers (each with a tiny silver finger attached to it) and, in its own glass display case, the synagogue’s ancient Torah. Which was found a few years ago in a bazaar in Tunisia. And then there was this stitched portrait of a menorah.There’s both solemnity and joy in this glorious creation. What a beautiful reminder it is that even during the darkest times, Hanukkah candles will be lit again and again. What a Hanukkah miracle that Barcelona synagogue is. Rediscovered and brought back to life years after vengeful and anti-Semitic Spanish royals thought they’d crushed it forever.

 These photos are from the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, at dusk, just as the stars and the moon were appearing. The moon and stars were a longtime religious symbol to the Muslim Moors who conquered Spain in the eighth century, and ruled it until 1492. I learned a lot about the Moors in Spain. Probably the most famous Moor that most of us know is Shakespeare’s OTHELLO, a love-struck black general whose jealous lieutenant Iago drives Othello into a murderous rage. The Moors, who were of Arab and Berber descent, came from North Africa. They brought to Spain stunning architecture, including much glorious tile work scattered across the Iberian Peninsula. Two of the loveliest Moorish buildings in the world are the Alcazar in Sevilla, and the enchanting Alhambra in Granada. Granada, by the way, is the Spanish word for pomegranate. Hence the non-alcoholic, sticky red bar syrup known as grenadine. Both stunning structures, which are nearly 1000 years old, include palaces, forts, gardens and endless fountains. The Moors, being Muslims, celebrated many Eids - holidays - ranging from Mohammed’s birth (which took place in early December) to the Arabic New Year. When Spain was united and the Catholic Royal Family banished Muslims, many of the customs the Moors left behind were continued.  Much of their gorgeous architecture also remains.
Speaking of Catholics, families and architecture, here are three photos from the most famous Catholic church in Spain.
 
They’re from Antonin Gaudi’s jaw-dropping Familia Sagrada Cathedral in Barcelona. Construction is still going on after over 100 years. It’s a huge, rough place of worship and wonder, done in the Moderniste style of the early 20th century.  It was also the most crowded tourist site we visited in Spain. To paraphrase a well-known prose writer, I loved it but I didn’t like it. It reminded me of a gigantic Texas mega-church crossed with a surreal Mall of the Americas. I know it’s the masterpiece of a genius, but when I visited another nearby church in Barcelona, a simple stone chapel built in the 14th century, it felt more contemplative and far more spiritual than all of Gaudi’s smoke and mirrors. Familia Sagrada isn’t finished yet; maybe I’ll like it more next time.

The one thing I did whole-heartedly adore though was the western entrance to the church, which is known simply as The Nativity Door. Included there are The Three Wise Men aka The Magi aka The Three Kings. In the above photo, they kneel reverently before the newborn King, parump-pum-pum-pum. They wear cool, butch, medieval clothing in which they look like lost Crusaders. The Three Kings technically didn’t get to the Christ Child until Epiphany, which is on January 6th, but they are an important part of the Nativity, which is what Christmas is really all about, right? One last thing about the Wise Men: their Gifts to Baby Jesus. Gold is what you give a King. Frankincense is used to perfume the air around a King. And in a prescient nod toward the Christ Child’s future, myrrh is used to embalm a King. These Three Wise Guys were really wise.
 
To the many people who don’t celebrate a winter religious holiday, but still like to honor The Longest Night Of The Year, or The Winter Solstice or The Day When The Light Begins To Return, I say huzzah! Celebrations of every kind are always good! And what better what to celebrate the coldest, dreariest months of the year than with chocolate? At the end of my travels, I visited longtime family friends in Brussels, Belgium. We stayed about fifteen minutes from Waterloo, where Napoleon was finally beaten by the English, who had joined forces with other European armies. The battlefield is haunting and ghostly. That battle site is also where we get the expression “to meet one’s Waterloo.” Which is when an enemy - or anyone in general who is a sadistic, war-mongering, egomaniacal autocrat like Napoleon - is finally beaten for good. That expression is also the title of an Abba song. To meet one’s Waterloo. Keep that in mind. Don’t you love words? Anyway. Chocolate. 

In Belgium, and much of Europe, they celebrate December 6th as St. Nicholas Day. Every chocolate shop in town – there are many, many, many chocolate shops in Brussels – is filled with delicious, mouth-watering chocolate versions of St .Nick.  Some are the size of your thumb and some are three feet tall. Who was Saint Nicholas besides a precursor (and the basis for) Sinterklaas and/or Santa Claus? He was born in 270 in Patara, which was part of the Roman Empire.  He was known as Nikolaos the Wonderworker, and was legendary for secret gift-giving. You can see where that led to. Nikolaos… Saint Nicholas… Sinterklaas… Santa Claus. St. Nick is famous for bringing back to life three children who had been killed by a mad butcher and whose bodies – now brining in a barrel – would soon be eaten. Superhero St. Nicholas saw through the barrel, opened it and resurrected the kids. He is also celebrated for saving three orphaned sisters from prostitution by secretly throwing bags of gold through their open window so they could pay their bills and remain chaste. In one version, St. Nick dropped bags of gold down their chimney. Because of these stories, Nicholas became the patron saint of children. He is often portrayed, even when he is made of chocolate, as sheltering rescued children under his cape.


In closing, I must say as I put this missive together, I began to see a pattern in the stories. How saviors, saints, heroes, and wise men and women come to the rescue of the poor and downtrodden of society, especially when tyrants and mad men seem to rule the day. It’s why we light Hanukkah candles. It’s why we have the light from the moon and stars to guide us. It’s why we adorn Christmas trees with lights. Because light is always stronger than darkness. Good is always stronger than evil, and the acts performed by evil people. Just think of that synagogue in Barcelona. Shut down by hate-filled, bigoted, fundamentalists. Lost for hundreds of years. Then rediscovered by men and women of faith. Think of St. Nicholas saving abused children from murder and misogyny. Think of the Moorish palaces, whose beautiful tile walls have outlasted the destruction wrought by short-sighted, ignorant kings and queens.

Don’t curse the darkness. Turn on a light. Be a rescuer. Be a hero. Do good. 
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Good Solstice, a Fine Birthday of Mohammed and a Glorious New Year.
Best and much love,
Marty


Happy Holidays to all of my friends- Carole P. Roman