Children of a Good War French Letters by Jack Woodville London plus Author Interview #frenchletters #review #interview


Four decades after World War II, 1986 is a year of terrorist hijackings, of personal computers and CD players, of AIDS and Miami Vice. It also is a year in which a beloved doctor falls to his death, a Pan Am pilot is shot while trying to foil the takeover of Pan Am flight 73, and when four bitter French widows use their medicines as bets to play poker in their retirement home while a lonely nun observes her vows of silence in an Irish convent. And it is the year when a cache of faded letters is discovered in a cellar, causing Frank Hastings to realize that he is not who he believed he is, and to go in search of his mother.

Best Novel of the Year — Military Writers Society of America, Finalist

Best Novel of the South — Willie Morris, Finalist

Best Novel with a Romantic Element — Dear Author, Finalist


Dr. Hastings has fallen (or jumped) to his death off a bridge over the interstate. He leaves behind a world of secrets and two grown sons, Peter and Frank. These two men are not on the best of terms. As a matter of fact, Peter calls Frank a bastard at Dr. Hastings funeral. As the family cleans out Dr. Hastings things, they find many drawings and letters. This just leads to more mystery and hard feelings.

This story is a bit long and round about with many characters and intricacies. It definitely could have been shortened. However, it is well written and the characters are true to life. I enjoyed Frank. He is the best. When he discovers a secret pertaining to who he is…GAME CHANGER! I love books which carry a twist from the past. This tale has that plus many more. The mysteries and the flashbacks to WWII and Vietnam are very intriguing.

This book is the third in a series. I had no idea till I finished this read. I have not read the other two. This did not affect my opinion about this book at all. This is a stand alone read.

Don’t miss this intricate and wonderful family drama!

About the Author

Jack Woodville London studied the craft of fiction at the Academy of Fiction, St. Céré, France and at Oxford University. He was the first Author of the Year of the Military Writers Society of America.

His French Letters novels are widely praised for their portrayal of America in the 1940s, both at home and in the Second World War, and as Americans evolved from the experience of that war into the consumer society of the baby boom generation. Children of a Good War is the third book in that series. The first book, Virginia’s War, was a Finalist for Best Novel of the South and the Dear Author ‘Novel with a Romantic Element’ contest. The second volume, Engaged in War, won the silver medal for general fiction at the London Book Festival, among other awards.

His craft book, A Novel Approach, a short and light-hearted work on the conventions of writing, is designed to help writers who are setting out on the path to write their first book. A Novel Approach won the E-Lit Gold Medal for non-fiction in 2015. Jack also is the author of several published articles on the craft of writing and on early 20th century history.

His work in progress is Shades of the Deep Blue Sea, a mystery-adventure novel about two sailors and a girl, set on a Pacific island World War II.

Jack lives in Austin, Texas.





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Interview with the Author

1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? Or what first inspired you to write?

8th grade. I was enrolled in a ‘Ready Writing’ competition and won a prize of some kind for a story about someone very like me who somehow fixed up a wrecked sports car, then had lots of adventures in places whose names I misspelled. I was taken by the craft of writing when I read a number of books in which the word choices the authors made were extraordinary. Examples were the romance poem ‘The Eve of St. Agnes’ and ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ (“The hound? The hound did nothing.” “Exactly.”)

2. Where/When do you best like to write?

In my study. I write best in the mornings when I’m alone.

3. Do you have any interesting writing habits or superstitions?

Probably not. I believe that when working on fiction, you should attempt 1000 words a day. I also believe that you should begin by reading what you wrote yesterday, edit and revise it, then move on to a fresh 1000 words. Repeat tomorrow.

4. When you are struggling to write/have writer’s block, what are some ways that help you find your creative muse again?

I dig out one of several novels that just light my fires. Larry McMurtry teaches creative writing with every sentence. I read almost anything by Evelyn Waugh or Anthony Powell. John Lanchester and Hilary Mantel are creative and inspiring.

5. What do you think makes a good story?

A flawed protagonist, a conflict, a solution, then disaster.

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Paris Echo by Sebastian Faulks #review #partner


A story of resistance, complicity, and an unlikely, transformative friendship, set in Paris, from internationally bestselling novelist Sebastian Faulks.

American historian Hannah intends to immerse herself in World War II research in Paris, wary of paying much attention to the city where a youthful misadventure once left her dejected. But a chance encounter with Tariq, a Moroccan teenager whose visions of the City of Lights as a world of opportunity and rebirth starkly contrast with her own, disrupts her plan.

Hannah agrees to take Tariq in as a lodger, forming an unexpected connection with the young man. Yet as Tariq begins to assimilate into the country he risked his life to enter, he realizes that its dark past and current ills are far more complicated than he’d anticipated. And Hannah, diving deeper into her work on women’s lives in Nazi-occupied Paris, uncovers a shocking piece of history that threatens to dismantle her core beliefs. Soon they each must question which sacrifices are worth their happiness and what, if anything, the tumultuous past century can teach them about the future.

From the sweltering streets of Tangier to deep beneath Paris via the Metro, from the affecting recorded accounts of women in German-occupied France and into the future through our hopes for these characters, Paris Echo offers a tough and poignant story of injustices and dreams.


Hannah has moved to Paris to do some research on WWII. Paris has not been very kind to her in the past. She takes in Tariq, totally by accident. Tariq is a refugee determined to make it in Paris. Hannah and Tariq become strange friends but it works for them. Their connection is unique and enjoyable.

I love the matter of fact tone of this author. There is no sugar-coating, no over-dramatizing. It just is. However, the story is filled with mundane, everyday activities. This I could do without. It also repeats itself in several places. But, I could not stop reading. I enjoyed the characters and their struggles. Especially Hannah. She discovers something during her research and it totally knocks her for a loop! This is a game changer in this story.

I enjoy historical remembrance stories. This book did not have as many as I like, but it made up for it in historical references. I learned a lot in this read about the struggles many women had during the occupation of France. Not sure I have every really given that much thought. I love it when an author gives me a different insight.

I received this novel from Henry Holt for a honest review.

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Night of Miracles by Elizabeth Berg


The feel-good book of the year: a delightful novel of friendship, community, and the way small acts of kindness can change your life, by the bestselling author of The Story of Arthur Truluv

Lucille Howard is getting on in years, but she stays busy. Thanks to the inspiration of her dearly departed friend Arthur Truluv, she has begun to teach baking classes, sharing the secrets to her delicious classic Southern yellow cake, the perfect pinwheel cookies, and other sweet essentials. Her classes have become so popular that she’s hired Iris, a new resident of Mason, Missouri, as an assistant. Iris doesn’t know how to bake but she needs to keep her mind off a big decision she sorely regrets.

When a new family moves in next door and tragedy strikes, Lucille begins to look out for Lincoln, their son. Lincoln’s parents aren’t the only ones in town facing hard choices and uncertain futures. In these difficult times, the residents of Mason come together and find the true power of community—just when they need it the most.

“Elizabeth Berg’s characters jump right off the page and into your heart” said Fannie Flagg about The Story of Arthur Truluv. The same could be said about Night of Miracles, a heartwarming novel that reminds us that the people we come to love are often the ones we don’t expect.

Advance praise for Night of Miracles

“Elizabeth Berg is a master storyteller and one of my personal favorites. Night of Miracles is full of charming, entertaining characters that tug at the heart.”—Debbie Macomber, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“The thing about an Elizabeth Berg novel is, it’ll always make you feel hopeful. True to form, Night of Miracles is wise and funny, not shying away from life’s troubles but spotlighting the shining small miracles and pleasures of ordinary days. And, of course, there are delicious cakes.”—Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us


Lucille is aging gracefully. She teaches baking classes and she bakes caramel cakes for the local diner. She has touched many lives in her small town of Mason, Missouri. Her classes have begun to overflow so she hires an assistant, Iris. Iris becomes more than an assistant. She becomes a great friend. Then, there is the family next door. Lucille helps with their little boy, Link. And we can’t forget about Monica and Tiny. Will they find what they are looking for?

Every character in this story grabs you and plucks at your heart strings. If you read The Story of Arthur Truluv you have not forgotten how enriching it is! This novel is right up there with it! This is such a sweet and kind story about love, family, friendship and basically…life!

There are quite a few characters in this read. My favorites are Lucille and Link. Their relationship just twisted me in knots. I think it is because Link needs a friend now more than ever. Lucille knows this and she is there when Link needs her the most!

This is one of the sweetest reads of the whole year. And if you are not careful, it will make you shed a tear or two!

I received this novel from Random House for a honest review.

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The Girl from Berlin by Ronald H. Balson #historicalfiction #review #WWII #fiction


In the newest novel from internationally-bestselling author Ronald. H. Balson, Liam and Catherine come to the aid of an old friend and are drawn into a property dispute in Tuscany that unearths long-buried secrets

An old friend calls Catherine Lockhart and Liam Taggart to his famous Italian restaurant to enlist their help. His aunt is being evicted from her home in the Tuscan hills by a powerful corporation claiming they own the deeds, even though she can produce her own set of deeds to her land. Catherine and Liam’s only clue is a bound handwritten manuscript, entirely in German, and hidden in its pages is a story long-forgotten…

Ada Baumgarten was born in Berlin in 1918, at the end of the war. The daughter of an accomplished first-chair violinist in the prestigious Berlin Philharmonic, and herself a violin prodigy, Ada’s life was full of the rich culture of Berlin’s interwar society. She formed a deep attachment to her childhood friend Kurt, but they were torn apart by the growing unrest as her Jewish family came under suspicion. As the tides of history turned, it was her extraordinary talent that would carry her through an unraveling society turned to war, and make her a target even as it saved her, allowing her to move to Bologna—though Italy was not the haven her family had hoped, and further heartache awaited.

What became of Ada? How is she connected to the conflicting land deeds of a small Italian villa? As they dig through the layers of lies, corruption, and human evil, Catherine and Liam uncover an unfinished story of heart, redemption, and hope—the ending of which is yet to be written.

Don’t miss Liam and Catherine’s lastest adventures in The Girl from Berlin!


Liam and Catherine have been asked to travel to Italy to help a good friend’s aunt. She is about to lose her home through mysterious circumstances. Liam and Catherine have to unravel years of strange paperwork and unknown adversaries dating back to WWII.

I read a lot of WWII books. It is one of my favorite time periods. This one is unique and I learned a good bit. I knew about Jews deeding their property to neighbors and friends but, I really had no idea about all the difficulties surrounding returning the property to the rightful owner. I don’t think I have ever read a book which dealt with this dilemma in such historical detail.

This is really a stand alone book. I did not realize it was part of a series till I began writing this review. I definitely need to see what Liam and Catherine have been up to before!

The mystery surrounding Ada is captivating. The way the author flashes back really keeps the reader glued to this tale. This is such a history rich and enlightening novel. Don’t miss this one!

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Secrets and Lies by Louise Ashton – Book Spotlight


Amy went to the drawer and reached in and took out a photo album. She proceeded to open it and took out a photo. Tears welled up in her eyes. She then put the photo back in the photo album, and put it back in the drawer. Amy then, went back to the laptop and, with hands shaking, began to reply to the message.

Amy and Oliver have a fractured relationship.

They both have secrets, and don’t like having to lie. Are their secrets bad?

Will any of their secrets come out of the woodwork? If so, will the secrets ruin their relationship?


“Don’t you walk out on me!” Amy screamed at Oliver.

Oliver turned round and faced Amy.

“Why not? What excuse have you got this time, so that you can make me stay and talk?”, Oliver replied, with a quizzical look in his eyes.

“Really? Oliver, you have done things that have betrayed me!”, Amy began to say.

“Seriously, I don’t think so!” Oliver replied.

“Don’t lie! What about Mary?”, Amy shouted back.

“What about her? I told you that she and I had a year-long relationship after we broke up the first time round”, Oliver explained.

“What? So you think there’s nothing more to add about your relationship with Mary?”, Amy asked Oliver.

“I can’t talk about her now!” Oliver replied and turned back round to face the front door and opened it.

“What the hell is wrong with you, Oliver! Why can’t you be honest with me and tell me about your flesh and blood! Your own children!” Amy blurted out, as she couldn’t take the lies any more.

Oliver froze for a split second, and then closed the front door. Oliver turned himself back around and faced Amy again.


Amazon website link for Secrets and Lies paperback: website link for Secrets and Lies Kindle pre-order:

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Inside the Chinese Wine Industry: The Past, Present, and Future of Wine in China by Loren Mayshark – BOOK SPOTLIGHT

Inside the Chinese Wine Industry: The Past, Present, and Future of Wine in China

By Loren Mayshark

Genre: Nonfiction

Book Description

The wine business is one of the world’s most fascinating industries and China is considered the rising star. A hidden secret, the Chinese wine industry continues to grow at an amazing pace and is projected to soon enter the top five producing nations, supplanting long established countries such as Australia. Inside the Chinese Wine Industry: The Past, Present, and Future of Wine in China takes you through the growing Chinese wine scene.

Wine has had a meteoric rise in China over the past two decades. The nation is projected to become the second most valuable market for wine in the world by 2020. One recent study concluded that 96% of young Chinese adults consider wine their alcoholic drink of choice. Not only does Inside the Chinese Wine Industry explore current expansion and business models, it journeys back to the past to see where it all began.

There are more than seven hundred wineries in China today. Although it’s bit of an oversimplification, the vast majority of the wineries fit into one of two categories: the larger established producers who churn out mostly plonk to meet the growing demand for inexpensive wine and the newer wineries that try to cater to the tastes of the wealthy Chinese with money to spend on luxury goods like fine wine. In the words of wine guru Karen MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible, “The cheap wines from the very large producers have mostly verged on dismal.” However, this should not be considered a blanket statement regarding every wine from large producers. Also, she has positive reflections regarding the level of wine produced by “cutting-edge wineries” which she finds “far better.” How good are they? MacNeil asserts: “Some of these wines are so good they could easily pass for a California or Bordeaux wine in a blind tasting.”

About the Author

Loren Mayshark studied Chinese art, religion, philosophy, and history while earning a B.A. in history from Manhattanville College in New York.  After graduation, he attended The Gotham Writers Workshop and the prestigious New York Writers Workshop. He has written about the Chinese wine industry for The Jovial Journey and Sublime China.

After college, he supported his itinerant lifestyle by working dozens of jobs, including golf caddy, travel writer, construction worker, fireworks salesman, substitute teacher, and vineyard laborer. Predominantly his jobs have been in the restaurant industry. He cut his teeth as a server, maître d’, and bartender at San Francisco’s historic Fisherman’s Grotto #9, the original restaurant on the Fisherman’s Wharf. While working with a colorful crew of primarily Mexican and Chinese co-workers.

He spent much of his young adult life exploring the wine industry from Sonoma Valley to the North Fork of Long Island, immersing himself in vineyards and learning valuable lessons. He has traveled extensively in South America, Europe, and Asia.  He presently splits his time between Western New York and Sweden.

His first book, Death: An Exploration, won the 2016 Beverly Hills Book Award in the category of Death and Dying and was a finalist for book of the year in the 2016 Foreword INDIES Awards in the category of Grief/Grieving (Adult Nonfiction). Inside the Chinese Wine Industry is his third book.

For more information visit his website:

Keep up with him on Twitter: @LorenMayshark

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Author Website Book page:


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Few things signal civilization and sophistication more than enjoying a fine wine with an excellent meal. It may be asserted that China is the world’s oldest continuous civilization. One of the features of its culture is that Chinese cuisine serves up superb meals. Until recently, however, fine wines have been absent there, at least wine made from the noble grape.

In many ways, we live in a golden age for wine. The wine world has many exciting new wrinkles from fancy new mobile applications to devices that allow us to extract a glass of wine from a bottle and then return it to the cellar to rest for a couple of years without changing the character of the wine. With all the current trends and innovations, it is the best time to enjoy wine. This is certainly a special age, in the words of renowned wine critic Jancis Robinson: “The irony is that just as the difference in price between the best and worst wines is greater than it has ever been, the difference in quality is narrower than ever before.” Perhaps one of the most pervasive reasons for this truism, which Robinson so eloquently captured, is the globalization of the wine industry. One cannot fully understand the global wine industry of today without developing a deeper understanding of its largest and fastest growing player: China.

Though starting relatively late historically with grape wine production and consumption, China has been catching up quickly. China’s role in the global wine industry continues to grow at an astonishing pace. Wine consumption in China doubled between 2008 and 2013 when China became the fifth largest consumer of wine in the world. At the end of 2013, China became the world’s largest market for red wine, and China is projected to become the second most valuable market for wine in the world by 2020 (behind the U.S.), which will have a profound impact on various aspects of the global wine industry. These are significant statistics for anyone who has a serious interest in the global wine industry.

To feed the rapidly rising consumption, the domestic production in China has also increased at an amazing rate. China now has more than seven hundred vineyards, compared to 240 in 1995. As of 2018, China is projected to have the second largest area of wine grapes planted in the world and to be the seventh largest producer of wine.

While wine has deep roots in Western culture, China has a rich history of wine production which dates back to millennia before Christ. However, it must be stressed that this tradition is almost exclusively rice wine. The production and mass consumption of grape wine is a recent phenomenon in China. A 2015 poll found that 96 percent of young adults in China select wine as their favored alcoholic beverage. This book examines the development of the Chinese wine industry in a historical context and explains how the Chinese grape wine industry has exploded in the last two decades. We will explore the fascination with European Grapes in China and the explosion of the import and consumption of Vitis vinifera (the most important wine-grape species in the world) in China and the historical precedent for that. We will attempt to answer burning questions such as: What changed to make China wine-crazy? How can a tourist enjoy unique wine experiences in China? Why is mass wine production and consumption a modern phenomenon? Why are there not a lot of Chinese wines exported to the United States and Europe?

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Junkie Love by Joe Clifford

Peanut was not too happy to have her photo taken!


From the cow fields of Connecticut to the streets of San Francisco, Joe Clifford’s Junkie Love traverses the lost highways of America, down the rocky roads of mental illness to the dead ends of addiction. Based on Clifford’s own harrowing experience with drugs as a rock ’n’ roll wannabe in the 1990s, the book draws on the best of Kerouac & the Beats, injecting a heavy dose of pulp fiction as it threads a rollicking narrative through a doomed love triangle, lit up by the many strange characters he meets along the way. Part road story, part resurrection tale, Junkie Love finds a way to laugh in one’s darkest hour, while never abandoning its heart in search of a home.


When Joe Clifford fell into drugs, he fell hard and fast and he just kept falling. Plus, he took several people along with him for the ride.

I learned a lot in this book and I am a pharmacist. You would think I would already know some of this stuff. But, I don’t think I have ever read about anyone being as desperate to get high they shoot up mouse droppings. Or, the lengths “junkies” go through to find a vein. Very eye opening for me (apparently I am sheltered!)

Joe is strong willed, in other words, stubborn! This tenacity is what gets him into this mess and this is also what gets him out. He had to be this way to come to terms with his situation.

This is a quick read but, it is also an enlightening one. I have read a few “junkie” memoirs in my day. However, I do not believe any have been as honest and as open this one is. I just wanted to jerk him bald headed!

I received a copy of this memoir from the author for a honest review. PLUS HE SIGNED IT!

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