Category Archives: Book Recommendations

My Favorite Books Blog Hop: A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh

Welcome to the My Favorite Books Blog Hop! I’m glad you stopped by. Throughout the month of April, we’ll be hearing from bloggers and fellow bibliophiles about a topic we can’t say enough about — books! Old books, new books, fiction, non-fiction, it doesn’t matter. Everyone is encouraged to participate.

Each Tuesday, I’ll be adding a post about a book that I resonated with me in some way. And I can’t wait to hear from all of you.

A few simple rules:

  1. To participate, scroll down to the bottom, add your name to the list, and grab the link provided. Insert that into the blog post you wish to add.
  2. Make sure the list of attendees is added to your blog post.
  3. Be a good hopper and visit other blogs throughout this event. Be a great hopper and add some comments along the way!

I hope everyone enjoys! Happy Hopping!!

A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh

When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.A.A. Milne

As today is the last day for our blog hop, I’d like to get a bit sentimental for a moment and discuss one of my favorite literary works, Winnie the Pooh.

I understand that when most people discuss favorite books, they tend to think of literary giants like Gone With the Wind or Fahrenheit 451. They may expound on the works of Shakespeare, Dickens, or Austen. And, make no mistake, all of these fine classics are deserving of the merit they have received.

Yet, in my humble opinion, there are few written works that can touch a heart so deeply as Winnie the Pooh.

“Some people care too much. I think it's called love.” Winnie the Pooh Click To Tweet

Winnie the Pooh was originally published in 1926, with Now We Are Six following in 1927 and The House at Pooh Corner in 1928. For me, it’s often difficult to separate these stories from one another. They just blend into the Pooh universe. These stories are so wonderfully crafted and offer a rare glimpse of innocence that’s lost in today’s cynical world.

Stop and think about it for a moment. All of the truly important lessons in life can all be learned through the adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

“If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”

“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.”

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”

“I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart for so long. If we’re in each other’s dreams, we can be together all the time.”

For me, these stories remind me of story time when my children were young. I yearn to see their innocent faces once again and hear their cute little giggles. That time passed far too quickly and before I knew it, I woke up with teenagers.

Pooh takes me back and for a moment I’m holding my little ones in my arms again.

That’s why Pooh is my favorite silly ol’ bear.  And the older I get, the more wisdom I find within his adventures.

I’m not anticipating grandchildren anytime within the near future. I think I still have many more years before I face that adventure. But I know that my future grandchildren will sit in my lap as we travel to the Hundred Acre Wood and experience the world of Winnie the Pooh together.

And that will be the greatest adventure of all!

Blessings to all of you and Happy Reading!

(Jennifer B. Duffey is the author of two novels and a collection of short stories. To download a free copy of her latest novel, The Face in the Mirror, click here.)

Meet Award Winning Author Nancy Blanton

Today I’m featuring a guest post by Florida author Nancy Blanton, whose award-winning historical novels are set primarily in 17th century Ireland. her latest book, The Prince of Glencurragh, has won three awards since its July 2016 publication, and is a finalist for two others. She chose the setting not only because of an Irish heritage, but also because it’s a period not heavily covered in fiction. For Nancy, it’s not just a passion, it’s a strategy. She explains why in the following interview.

First of all, what made you choose to write historical fiction?

It is what I love to read. I like to learn as I read, and I feel my time is well-spent. Recently I posted a blog about my favorite book, the first historical novel I read: Gone with the Wind. I learned so much from that book about America’s Civil War and its aftermath. I was both fascinated and hooked. Many writers avoid historical fiction because it requires so much research, but for me that’s the best part. It’s a treasure hunt to discover details most people have never seen or heard before, that will bring history to life.

Why did you pick 17th century Ireland?

My father emphasized our Irish heritage when I was growing up. We heard the music, sang the songs, wore the green, marched in the parade—all that. Our family toured Ireland when I was 15, and he sent me to Ireland for a summer study during my junior year in college. That I would want to write about it seems only natural. But when I started researching, I realized books about the 16th and 18th centuries were prominent, but not so much the 17th. A study for the Historical Novel Society found that the 17th century ranks 7th among time periods readers are most likely to choose when buying a book. This surprised me because it’s an exciting time of sweeping change, when the Irish clan system is overtaken by the English plantation system, when Cromwell led his bloody march. I saw a niche for myself, and made it my mission to illuminate this period.

Most novels set out to explore a question. What question did you have in mind when writing The Prince of Glencurragh?

In 17th century Ireland, many hopes and dreams were destroyed as the English took control of the island. So I was asking, “Is it possible to reclaim a dream once it is lost to the mists of memory?” The book is about a young Irishman facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles in a quest to realize his father’s dream of a castle and estate called Glencurragh.

The premise is interesting to me on two levels. First, everyone has awakened from a dream so beautiful they want to hold onto it, but the longer they are awake the faster it recedes. And second, many of us have seen the sacrifices our parents made and then tried to live their dream for them, only to realize later in life that it doesn’t satisfy. And dreams are sometimes fulfilled in ways we had not expected.

What is setting for this story?

It takes place in southwest Ireland, primarily County Cork, in 1634. As the English plantation system spreads across the province of Munster, lands that have been in clan ownership for centuries now are given to English soldiers as rewards for service. Even castles, once both the bounty and protection of the strongest clans, now have fallen against the power of the siege and cannon.

Faolán Burke will try almost anything to make his father’s castle a reality, including abducting an heiress to elevate his station and his income. But the heiress has a mind of her own, and they are drawn into the crossfire between the most powerful noblemen in Ireland—each with his own agenda.

What themes does the book address?

In many ways, this book is about friendship, the relationship between best friends from childhood. The story is narrated by Faolan’s best friend Aengus O’Daly. I have some very deep and lasting friendships of this kind, and those relationships informed this story in ways I didn’t even realize until the end. I am deeply grateful to my friends for that.

This story is also about hope. In great difficulty, when you have no power to change a circumstance that gives you pain, hope is what we rely on to get through, and it is the most human part of us.

What will readers find most appealing about this book?

This book captivates readers right away because it is fast-paced and rich with interesting historical detail. The 17th century is rife with conflict, disaster, invention and change.

The story also is relevant because it focuses on issues we still face today, such as oppression of ethnic groups and women, the struggle for survival and the struggle to achieve one’s dream. It is also a very personal struggle that most of us can relate to. Faolán is tested, just as anyone is who aspires to a goal. You want this thing, and it seems the mountain grows suddenly higher, the road more rugged, forcing you to show just how much you’re willing to fight for what you want.

Does the protagonist achieve his father’s vision for the Castle Glencurragh?

Without revealing the ending, I will say that Faolán adapts. The end is hopeful, as should be any story that deals with dreams.

The Prince of Glencurragh is available in e-book, soft cover and hard cover on, and from other online booksellers.

(Jennifer B. Duffey is the author of two novels and a collection of short stories. To download a free copy of her latest novel, The Face in the Mirror, click here.)

My Favorite Books Blog Hop – Maeve Binchy’s Light a Penny Candle

Welcome to the My Favorite Books Blog Hop! I’m glad you stopped by. Throughout the month of April, we’ll be hearing from bloggers and fellow bibliophiles about a topic we can’t say enough about — books! Old books, new books, fiction, non-fiction, it doesn’t matter. Everyone is encouraged to participate.

Each Tuesday, I’ll be adding a post about a book that I resonated with me in some way. And I can’t wait to hear from all of you.

A few simple rules:

  1. To participate, scroll down to the bottom, add your name to the list, and grab the link provided. Insert that into the blog post you wish to add.
  2. Make sure the list of attendees is added to your blog post.
  3. Be a good hopper and visit other blogs throughout this event. Be a great hopper and add some comments along the way!

I hope everyone enjoys! Happy Hopping!!

Maeve Binchy’s Light a Penny Candle

They looked at each other for a long time — probably only seconds, but that can be a long time….Maeve Binchy

This week, I’d like to introduce you to Maeve Binchy’s first novel, Light a Penny Candle. Some critics have called it her finest work, although I’d personally say for me it’s a tie with The Glass Lake and Circle of Friends, both of which I enjoy immensely.

Originally published in 1982, the novel takes readers on the journey of two young girls who are forced together thanks to the perils of WWII. Elizabeth White is as timid as it is possible to be. She is totally unprepared for the rough and tumble O’Connor clan and their fiery red-headed daughter, Aisling. Although they are the same age, they are polar opposites in every sense of the word. And yet, the bond that they form is unshakable.

I was born well after WWII ended, but have always had a soft spot for that period of history. This work deftly allows the reader to experience some of the tragedies of war from a unique and often underrepresented point of view, the Irish who hoped to remain neutral during that time.

I’ve often commented on my love of Binchy novels. She is one of my favorite authors. Her command of character development is unrivaled in my humble opinion. There is a realness to the people she writes. You know them. You can see them. They become your friends. These two wonderful characters are no exception.

Through the course of the work, we get to see these two girls grow and mature into confident, determined women. That may be the reason I enjoy this book so much, it’s utterly relatable in almost every aspect. These women suffer the heartbreaks of love, face difficult family circumstances, and struggle to balance work with personal responsibilities. There are tears intermingled with laughter and adventure fraught with painful consequences.

In short, it’s just like real life.

And honestly, like so many other Binchy novels, I didn’t want their story to end. I wanted to see what happened next, what was the next great adventure these two went on together.

I once heard an interview that Binchy gave were she stated that her writing was great to relax with and take to the beach. I believe that’s true. I wouldn’t consider it the hallmark of great literature. And I don’t believe she set out to write such a novel.

What I would consider her novel to be is an in depth snapshot of human nature with all its flaws, insecurities, hopes, and dreams. And that may be the finest aspect of a great storyteller.

Until next week,

Happy Reading!

(Jennifer B. Duffey is the author of two novels and a collection of short stories. To download a free copy of her latest novel, The Face in the Mirror, click here.)

My Favorite Book Blog Hop: Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth

Welcome to the My Favorite Books Blog Hop! I’m glad you stopped by. Throughout the month of April, we’ll be hearing from bloggers and fellow bibliophiles about a topic we can’t say enough about — books! Old books, new books, fiction, non-fiction, it doesn’t matter. Everyone is encouraged to participate.

Each Tuesday, I’ll be adding a post about a book that I resonated with me in some way. And I can’t wait to hear from all of you.

A few simple rules:

  1. To participate, scroll down to the bottom, add your name to the list, and grab the link provided. Insert that into the blog post you wish to add.
  2. Make sure the list of attendees is added to your blog post.
  3. Be a good hopper and visit other blogs throughout this event. Be a great hopper and add some comments along the way!

I hope everyone enjoys! Happy Hopping!!

Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth

And roots, if they are to bear fruits, must be kept well in the soil of the land.Pearl Buck

In last week’s blog hop post, my friend Andrea Patten asked, “How many times have you picked up a book and fallen in love simply because it was exactly what you needed at the time?” Well, that got me thinking about some of the books that have fallen into my life at precisely the right moment.

One such book is Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth. It was during a particularly difficult period in my life. I was eating lunch with a friend and she began to tell me about a book she had just finished reading. She looked at me and said, “You’ll love it.”

She was right.

I had never ventured into  Buck’s novels before. A novel about China seemed unfathomable to a simple country girl from rural Georgia. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Buck’s novel takes us on a journey of a poor Chinese farmer, Wang Lung and his wife O-lan. Society looks down on Wang because he has nothing but through hard work and gritty determination, he is able to become prosperous. With each successful crop, he is able to buy more land from those who no longer wish to farm. Eventually, those who looked down on him come to see him as an equal, if not a superior.

But he also faces struggles along the way. There is drought and famine, temptation and corruption. We see a good, pious farmer fall victim to the trappings of wealth and opportunity. We see a family lose and try to regain its spiritual foundation.

In many ways, this novel helped shine a light on some issues that I had been facing. Not that I’d ever experienced precisely the same events that unfolded in the book, but his experience had mirrored some of my own difficulties in life. I had grown up on a farm and had a deep rooted appreciation for the land and those who work it. I had been determined to make something of myself in my youth. I had worked hard and had created a successful business. And I had watched everything I worked for disappear when that business failed during the last recession.

I had lived through my own personal famine and was emerging on the other side when I read this book.

I can’t say what impact this novel would have had on me if I’d read it at any other time. There’s no way to know if it would have held the same influence. I’m sure I would have appreciated the work, as it is an amazing literary read. Yet I’m also sure that the overall impact would have been different.

This book was originally published in 1931 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction the following year. A movie followed in 1937 starring Paul Muni and Luise Rainer. The movie is entertaining but it’s not on par with the classics like Gone With the Wind or Casablanca. And it is nowhere close to the book.

After all, you shouldn’t judge a book by the movie.

I’d highly recommend taking a journey to historical China through Buck’s novel. Whether you’re facing difficulty or not, this book has immense wealth to offer the reader.

Happy Reading!

(Jennifer B. Duffey is the author of two novels and a collection of short stories. To download a free copy of her latest novel, The Face in the Mirror, click here.)

My Favorite Books Blog Hop: George Orwell’s 1984

Welcome to the My Favorite Books Blog Hop! I’m glad you stopped by. Throughout the month of April, we’ll be hearing from bloggers and fellow bibliophiles about a topic we can’t say enough about — books! Old books, new books, fiction, non-fiction, it doesn’t matter. Everyone is encouraged to participate.

Each Tuesday, I’ll be adding a post about a book that I resonated with me in some way. And I can’t wait to hear from all of you.

A few simple rules:

  1. To participate, scroll down to the bottom, add your name to the list, and grab the link provided. Insert that into the blog post you wish to add.
  2. Make sure the list of attendees is added to your blog post.
  3. Be a good hopper and visit other blogs throughout this event. Be a great hopper and add some comments along the way!

I hope everyone enjoys! Happy Hopping!!

George Orwell’s 1984

His eyes re-focused on the page. He discovered that while he sat helplessly musing he had also been writing, as though by automatic action. And it was no longer the same cramped, awkward handwriting as before. His pen had slid voluptuously over the smooth paper, printing in large neat capitals – DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER over and over again, filling half a page.George Orwell

Those of you familiar with George Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece may recognize that today, April 4th, is the anniversary of the date Winston Smith wrote those fateful words, DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER. Published in 1949, Orwell takes readers on a journey through the terrors of Oceania, It’s a totalitarian regime so immersed in tyranny that all forms of individualism and independent thought are punishable acts of treason against the state.

Big Brother is everywhere, on every street corner, lurking around every bend in the road, watching you in your home, monitoring your every movement. Children are taught to watch and report wayward parents. Workers turn on one another. Beauty only exists where Big Brother will allow it.

I’ve read this book several times and even though I know the ending, this book terrifies me like no other. For weeks afterward, I’m a paranoid wreck, watching for the ever present eye of Big Brother.

It’s not hard to see the similarities in today’s society. There are cameras on every street corner, in the parking lots, at the grocery store, and even in the fast food restaurant you visit. Just like in Oceania. (Except they didn’t have a Big Mac to look forward to.) We carry with us in our pockets a GPS tracker in the form of a cell phone that can pinpoint our exact location within a few feet. In Oceania, Big Brother always knew where you were at every moment of the day. In Winston’s home there was a giant screen on the wall that not only would play state sponsored programming but would watch and listen in on private conversations. Today, smart TVs have cameras that can be hacked by anyone in the world for an instant feed into your living room while you watch television.

It’s not just the technology that has changed, it’s also the language we speak. In Oceania, they only used Newspeak as a form of communication in order to eradicate the traditions of the English language. Everything was stripped to the lowest common literary denominator with no room for subtle nuances that can greatly alter the meaning of a written work. If you’ve ever received a text message from a teenager, you’ve witnessed the modern day equivalent.

In reality, do I think we’ve fully entered into the realm of Oceania where Big Brother is everywhere? No. But it’s hard not to admit that we’ve sashayed right up to the edge and established residence there.

When it was first published, it was met with mixed reviews. Some declared it original and suspenseful while others called it “gloomy vaticination.” Yet the overall cultural impact is impossible to deny. Even today we talk about Big Brother to denote uncomfortable government overreach. Words such as Thought Police and doublespeak can be directly linked to Orwell’s work. References to the book have found their way into Super Bowl ads (Apple’s 1984 ad was less than well received), pop music (David Bowe’s 1974 album Diamond Dogs and The Jam’s 1977 album This Is the Modern World), and in political debates to this day. Furthermore, it frequently ranks highly on the top 100 lists of most influential modern books.

1984 is not what I’d consider a light read. It’s not one I’d take along for a relaxing day at the beach. But then again, not all books should fit into that category. Some novels are meant to challenge the way we see the world around us. Orwell’s book does that like none other. And once read, it will stay with the reader forever.

Happy Reading!


Meet Janetta Fudge-Messmer

Good morning!

I’d like to take a moment and introduce you to my friend, Janetta Fudge-Messmer. I met Janetta during the Amelia Island Book Festival and quickly found out that she is a lady who loves to make people laugh. Over the course of the day, we shared countless stories about childhood and unusual names (believe it or not, she was almost named Pickle instead of Fudge!) and everything in between. I’m delighted to take this opportunity to introduce her to my readers and I hope you’ll take a few moments to get to know her and her characters.

Happy Reading!

HI EVERYONE! Let me introduce myself. I’m Janetta Fudge Messmer and I’m an author of two Christian comedies (Early Birds and Southbound Birds). I also have a historical romance, Chords of Love, which is the book I’d love to share with you today.

Abigail Jane Thompson is sassy and certain she’s not singing. Anywhere. Imagine her delight when she spies the Central City Opera House in total ruin. Noah Presley, owner of Presley Mercantile, has a plan to restore the once-celebrated building. Fate throws Abigail and Noah together. Will they see beyond their differences, or will their love end on a sour note?

Everyone in the writing world tell writers we MUST make our characters memorable. From the first page of Chords of Love, Abigail tends toward sassiness. No one, including Abby, knows what will come out of her mouth as you will see in the excerpt below:

“Daughter, is there something you want to tell me?” Papa slowed his horse to a stop next to her.

Abigail had to tell him the latest or she’d burst at the seams. Without a moment’s hesitation she said, “Papa, we’ve only lived here a little more than a month, but what I heard Mama say to the owner of Presley Mercantile yesterday is sure to twist the ends of your moustache.”

Papa turned in his saddle. “What did she say this time?”

Abigail cleared her throat and sat higher in her side-saddle. “Now, remember, Papa, I’m quoting Mama. She said, ‘Mr. Noah Presley, I despise this dirty, desolate town of yours.’”

Her father’s eyes twinkled as he glanced sideways at her. Abby knew she’d gotten away with a little sassiness on their riding excursion, but when they returned to Central City, one of his stern looks would shush her right up.

“Oh, how I love that woman.” Papa chuckled, then his expression grew more stern. “But tell me she really didn’t say those things.” He stroked Dancer’s neck. His horse stayed steady on the rocky path leading out of the little mining town.

“Yes, and there’s more, Papa. You’d better hold tight to the reins for this one.” Abigail did the same, as if she needed to get ready, too. “Mama also told Mr. Presley, ‘You people can’t even keep your opera house running. It’s simply disgraceful.’”

As you can see, Abigail’s a tad feisty. What would you say your personality type is? Funny? Bossy? Introvert? Extrovert? For those of you who have never taken a personality test – I highly recommend it. It’s lots of fun.

Now it’s time to learn a bit about me. My dream from an early age was to write. With pen in hand, and now a computer on my lap, words come forth on the page. Truly, writing has been a love of mine from an early age.

Abigail Thompson, on the other hand, had to deal with her mother’s dream. She wanted her daughter to sing on the stage of the Central City Opera House. Abigail felt more suited for praising the Lord in song on her outings in the mountains of Colorado. Her new home.

Here’s another reminder that Abby’s a little high spirited:

Go ahead and laugh, Papa, you aren’t the one she expects to sing in front of everyone—if and when the opera house is refurbished.

A shiver ran down Abigail’s spine and continued clear down to her toes when the subject of her singing came into the conversation. She agreed to practice, but getting on the stage? Never. Falling flat on her face years ago had cured Abby from ever attempting a performance again.

Her parent’s encouragement didn’t alleviate her fears either. She’d told them, “I love you both with all my heart, and don’t mean any disrespect, but God Himself will have to carry me on the stage if He wants me to sing on it.”

DREAMS! We all have them. What are some of yours and have you accomplished any? Or hope to in the future?

Another snippet I’d like to share is an encounter between my main characters: Abigail Thompson and Noah Presley. When they bump into each other at the mercantile, more than sparks fly.

“Mr. Presley, excuse me.”

Noah’s jabbering came to a halt when he heard the female voice. Seconds later, something tapped him on the bottom of his boot. When he lay on his stomach to fill the lower shelves, he didn’t realize his size 12 feet stuck out from under the curtain between the back room and the front of the mercantile. He scrambled to stand up and flung open the divider and said, “May I help y—”

Miss Abigail Thompson stood smack dab in front of him, her nose a mere two inches from his chest. The only thing Noah could see of the new arrival was the top of her flowered bonnet and some blond curls peeking out from underneath the wide brim.  

He stepped back after he recovered from almost knocking the attractive girl flat on her behind. Abigail did the same, then tilted her head to look up at him.

“Yes, Mr. Presley, you can help me.” She scooted away from him and headed in the opposite direction. “I need you to reach something for me, if you please?”

Noah let her lead the way and could only imagine he resembled a dutiful pup following after his master. But in this instance, he made sure he walked far enough behind her that he didn’t step on the hem of her ruffled skirt.

He also couldn’t help but notice anytime Abigail entered the mercantile, her presence turned his mind to mush. His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth, and what came out didn’t resemble words in the King’s English.

“Mr. Presley, ah, Mama’s in need of some, ah, let me see. There it is.” Abigail pointed up at the next to the top shelf at a row of kerosene bottles. “The hurricane lamps she unwrapped today need oil.”

Noah nodded and stepped up on the ladder to retrieve the merchandise. He wondered why it had taken her mother so long to unpack her lamps. Night had fallen more than once since their arrival. If he’d known, he’d have taken some to them the day he went to call.

He reached his long arms up as high as they would go, but he still couldn’t reach the bottles. Noah needed to talk to Adam about his placement of certain items. Top shelves. A location which required a ladder.

Help me, Jesus!

Taking another step up meant he would venture into uncharted territory…

Noah was about to take a step out of where he felt comfortable. Think of time you’ve stepped out of your comfort zone. Did you survive? I’d say you did, if you’re reading this, and you’re happy you did.

And as a writer, stepping out takes courage, gumption…and it takes an IDEA. In my case, Chords of Love came to me when a dear friend and I brainstormed about a story set in the 1800s. Of course, my love of Colorado inspired the setting. Visualize someone twisting my arm (wink, wink) when research called me to Central City, Colorado.

Those who know me, know I’m lying. I moved to Colorado in my early 20s and spent over twenty-five years in Boulder and surrounding areas. And loved every minute. If you’ve never visited, make it a point to go. GOD OF ALL CREATION LIVES THERE.

Hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know Abigail and Noah. Now I’m off to finish my next installment in the Early Birds series. You’ll never guess – it’s set in Estes Park, Colorado, and the female part of the Early Birds are visiting and they’re having quite a time. This novella holds more laughs than a monkey at a banana farm (you’ll have to read it to understand – )

All my books are available on Amazon:







Gift of the Blarney – Famous Irish Authors

Kiss me, I’m Irish!

Well, sort of. I married into a family of Irish descent. That counts, right? (We won’t worry about that divorce today. I mean, everybody’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!)

Admittedly, the vast majority of my family tree comes straight from jolly ol’ England. We’ve found records of our forefathers who were ship builders in Southern England before immigrating to the colonies. There’s even a mention of a great uncle who chose poorly in the War of the Roses. The jury’s still out on his actual ties to the family. For 364 days of the year, I consider myself somewhat of an Anglophile, albeit not as deeply immersed as some.

But, today, like so many other American’s, I’m a bit Irish and I find myself trying to greet everyone with a pathetic imitation of an Irish accent and wearing a bit of green to celebrate the Emerald Isle.

I can honestly say that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve fallen more in love with Ireland than I was in my youth. Not because I’ve been there, although that is on the bucket list, but because of the wonderful Irish writers that I’ve had the pleasure to read over the years. Through each work, I’ve been able to travel to Ireland without leaving the comfort of my home and venture down the streets of Dublin, going to university, and visiting the small country villages along the way.

And so, instead of dwelling on the insane amount of Genius that will be consumed today or commenting on the pounds of dye used to change the river in Chicago green, I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the famous Irish authors and some of the works they’ve contributed to our literary fabric.

  1. Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) Considered by many to be one of the most influential novelists and playwrights of the last century. Was elected Saoi of Aosdana in the Irish Association of Writers. Notable works include Molloy, First Love, and Waiting for Godot.
  2. Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) Perhaps one of the most flamboyant of all Irish writers, Wilde is best known for his philosophy of aestheticism, or art for art’s sake. For much of his career, he believed and practiced a writing style that exemplified beauty of the word without searching for deeper meaning. Notable works include The Portrait of Dorian Gray, The Importance of Being Earnest, and An Ideal Husband.
  3. George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) A playwright whose influence can still be felt today, Shaw wrote over 60 plays, received the Nobel Prize for Literature, and won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. He specialized in combining contemporary satire with historical allegory. Notable works include Pygmalion, Saint Joan, and On the Rocks.
  4. Maeve Binchy (1939-2012) One of the most widely recognized Irish writers of modern times, Binchy wrote about human nature and small town Ireland like few others could do. With vivid and detailed character descriptions, Binchy captivated her audience. At the time of her death, her books had sold over 40 million copies and had been translated into 37 different languages. Notable works include Tara Road, The Glass Lake, and Circle of Friends.
  5. Frank Delaney (1942-2017) Noted novelist and journalist, Delaney was known for his epic works. His works Ireland and his non-fiction work Simple Courage: The Story of Peril on the Sea both earned him the distinction of New York Times Best Seller. Other notable works include James Joyce’s Odyssey and Tipperary.
  6. Bram Stoker (1847-1912) Best known for his dark romantic work Dracula, Stoker spent much of his adult career as the business manager for the Lyceum Theatre in London. Although he authored other works, none would ever compete with the success of his most famous novel. Other works include The Snake’s Pass, The Mystery of the Sea, and Miss Betty.
  7. James Joyce (1882-1941) His masterpiece Ulysses is considered by many to be one of the finest pieces of literature of the 20th Century. As a novelist, poet, and short story writer, he was best known for his contributions to the modernist avant-garde movement. Other notable works include Finnegan’s Wake, Dubliners, and A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man.
  8. Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) Known as the foremost prose satirist of the English Language, Swift’s writing is often delivered in a deadpan, ironic manner and is still popular today. Notable works include Gulliver’s Travels, A Modern Proposal, and Drapier’s Letters.
  9. Liam O’Flaherty (1896-1984) Credited as a major figure in the Irish literary renaissance, O’Flaherty was a known socialist and dabbled briefly in politics with his family. He became a founding member of the Communist party in Ireland and is to reported to have laid siege to the Ambassador Cinema in Dublin for four days. Notable works include The Informer, Return of the Brute, and Thy Neighbour’s Wife.
  10. W.B. Yeats (1865-1939) A symbolist poet, Yeats is often considered one of the pillars of modern poetry. He mastered traditional form rather than working with free verse. In addition to his literary career, Yeats was a noted Irish nationalist and served as an Irish senator for two terms. Notable works include The Heart of Spring, A Prayer for My Daughter, and When You Are Old.

Of course, this is in no way a complete list of noted Irish writers. There are far too many to include here. Yet, I hope that you will join me in visiting the Emerald Isle through the written word. As always,

Happy Reading!



Banned Book Week

1289926514-Mark TwainMany people may not be aware that this is Banned Book Week. And yes, there needs to be an entire week devoted to this. In fact, there could actually be an entire month devoted to this topic.

Book banning isn’t a new concept. The Qin Dynasty in China banned Confucian writings as early as 221 BC. Writings by Descartes, Copernicus, Pascal, and Galileo were all banned during their lifetime because they thwarted modern ideology of the day. King Charles IX of France would only allow books to be printed that had won the approval of crown. By the 1700s, the practice began to fall out of favor although most governments still kept a close eye on the books circulated within their realm. By the early 1800s, many European countries had begun enacting laws that allowed for freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

You would think with such a long history of fighting for the freedom of information that book banning would be a thing of the past.

Unfortunately, it is not!

Even today, thousands of books are banned by governments at the local, state, and federal levels throughout the world. Many of these are in dictatorships where one would expect regimes to limit information. China, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan dot that list en masse.

But, no one is immune to book banning. Even here in the United States, the home of the free, book banning is still in place. Usually this is done at the local level by well meaning officials who are desperately trying to prevent children and citizens from overwhelmingly harmful influences. Some would argue it’s our duty to keep things such as pornography, overt sexual conduct, and violence away from small children.

I totally get that argument and I am in favor of the age appropriate discussion about books. I personally don’t want to see 50 Shades of Grey in an elementary school library. Heck, I don’t think it belongs in a high school library, but that’s because I personally feel it has no literary value whatsoever. (That’s another discussion for another day!) The same argument could be made for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. It also has extremely graphic sexual content and explicit violence but I have no problem with that book being in a high school library. It’s an amazing book series that delves deeply into government corruption, abuse, and psychological illness. I would not let my 15 year old daughter read it, but I would have let her read it at the age of 17 if she had wanted to. I felt she was old enough and mature enough at the time to handle the subject matter. (For those of you who are against violence, explicit sexual content, and foul language, DO NOT read either series!!)

My personal feelings about those two books aside, if a local school board deemed them as too mature for students under the age of 18, I would have no problem with their decision.

However, book banning is something far more insidious. Book banning seeks to actively limit the information available to the populous in the hopes of controlling the morality and ideas of a group of people. It is an endeavor to inject a culture with one’s own personal beliefs regardless of will of the people. It is not about protection. It is about control. And control is maintained through limitation.

I could spend days discussing this topic and listing all the books that have been banned for one reason or another. The list is that long. Instead, I’ve chosen to discuss my top five. Here are 5 of my personal favorite banned books.:

  1. The Harry Potter Series —  In addition to earning the title as the highest grossing literary phenomenon EVER, JK Rowling’s series about a group of young wizards attending the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry have also earned the dubious title of most banned books in the United States. This is primarily because those who have never read the books are concerned that young minds will be drawn into the occult world of witchcraft. As a fan of the series, I know nothing could be further from the truth. Christian themes run rampant throughout these books. And while magic does play a key role in almost every scene, JK Rowling’s books are adamant that it is the choices we make that determine our outcome, not the talents we are given. (By the way, I’ve tried to apparate. It doesn’t work!)
  2. Huckleberry Finn & Tom Sawyer — Two of Mark Twain’s most famous works were routinely banned during his lifetime and continue to be banned in various regions today. Librarians of Twain’s day felt both books offered low grade morality, vulgarity, and poor examples for young people. Although Twain himself saw the commercial value in such a recommendation at the time, I’m sure he would have never imagined the modern day sensitivities becoming so tender as to require a softer, gentler telling of his fabled tales. Such was the case several years when some of the more offensive words were eliminated from both works. Do yourself a favor and find an unedited, unabridged version. You won’t regret taking a ride down the ol’ muddy river.
  3. Call of the Wild by Jack London — I was truly surprised to find this classic on any banned book list. This is an amazing work about a man and his dog fighting against the rugged Alaskan wilderness. Unfortunately, it’s not the tender, lovable dog story everyone wants to read. It was seen as too dark and violent for younger eyes. As I said earlier, I can understand helping younger readers find age appropriate books to help stir their imagination and I’ll support a parent’s right to do that. But this book invites the reader into adventures and perils unknown in today’s world. It’s timeless in its utter grasp of human fortitude. It’s easily London’s best novel. Quite simply, it’s a must read.
  4. 1984 & Animal Farm — Yep! George Orwell’s classics were banned in the Soviet Union and North Korea. Personally, I love both of these books. 1984 still scares the stuffing out of me every time I read it. Not because it was designed to be a horror story, but rather because so many instances within that work have now come to pass. Big Brother watches us from every street corner. Texting and political correctness are indeed forms of Newspeak. The parallels are uncanny and frightening. Personally, I believe everyone should read these works.
  5. Where the Wild Things Are — Honestly, I can’t even believe this work was ever seen as anything other that an amazing children’s book, but it too has been banned. Apparently, the violent overtones of monsters were too much for some parents and librarians. This completely baffles me.

Other famously banned books throughout the world:

  1. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
  2. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  3. Beloved – Toni Morrison
  4. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee – Dee Brown
  5. The Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
  6. Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
  7. For Whom the Bell Tolls — Earnest Hemingway
  8.  Gone With the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
  9. The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
  10. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  11. Moby Dick – Herman Melville
  12. The Red Badge of Courage – Stephen Crane
  13. The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
  14. A Streetcar Named Desire – Tennessee Williams
  15. Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
  16. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
  17. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
  18. Junie B. Jones (series) – Barbara Park
  19. Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank
  20. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

And the list could go on for pages.

So during this week long event, I encourage you, dear reader, to exercise your right to read books thought to be too dangerous for others. Broaden your mind with a banned book or simply relive the adventures you’ve already enjoyed. For each time you exercise your right to read, you are thwarting the Thought Police. You are saying, “I will not conform to the ideals of others. I will think for myself.”

Be bold. Be brave. Rebel against those who would seek to limit your ideas. Read a banned book!

Happy Reading and Down with Big Brother!

RIP Maeve

Today marks four years since the world lost Maeve Binchy. She was one of my favorite writers. I loved picking up one of her novels and delving into the lives of her characters. She could flesh out the minute details of everyday life in a way that was fascinating and totally related to everything I was going through.

In many ways, she provided the greatest inspiration to my writing. She didn’t write characters, she wrote real people. You could see them, hear them, and feel the joy or pain they were going through. It’s a quality I try to emulate. I want my readers to see my characters in as much detail as we can see hers.

With each book, I was transported to the Emerald Isle. I’ve been to the small town Catholic masses and attended the University College of Dublin. I’ve laughed a lot and cried a little along the way. All these adventures without the expense of a plane ticket, lodging, and food. You see, a good writer has the ability to transport the reader into new worlds.

And Maeve was a immensely gifted writer.

I miss not having the opportunity to read about the new adventures of her characters. I miss walking into a book store and picking up her latest novel. I miss the friends I found on the pages of her books.

If you’ve never taken the opportunity to explore her Dublin, I would highly recommend the journey. Personally, I’d start with some of her early works like Light a Penny Candle or The Glass Lake, both personal favorites of mine. From there, you may want to venture to a more modern day Dublin with Quentins, Evening Class, and Tara Road. And don’t miss out on the coming of age classic, Circle of Friends.

RIP Maeve. You’re still missed by legions of devoted readers.