Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ten Questions from Tara: Interview With Jassy De Jong


Drowning
Tara: Welcome. You’re here to promote Drowning, an erotic romance. Tell me, please, what was the inspiration behind this story? How did it come to you?

Readers, here's the blurb real quick:

Sensuous but stifled New York City photographer Erin Mitchell thinks going to South Africa on assignment will be the perfect getaway.

But when a flash flood washes away Erin’s vehicle and she is stranded at a luxury safari lodge, Erin’s romantic working vacation takes an interesting turn. She awakens from her near-drowning and meets her rescuer, Nicholas―hot and brilliant, successful and caring―not at all like her abusive husband. At Leopard Rock in the steamy South African heat, Erin faces the toughest choices of her life.

Nicholas is ripped, he's smart and he's "no strings attached." To give in, or not to give in drowns Erin’s senses as she struggles with two impossible goals: ignore the exquisite physical charms of her host, and conceal every last detail whenever her controlling husband calls. On the other side, Nicholas faces impossible choices of his own, as the bon-vivant playboy may just possibly collide with feelings more powerful than lust.

Erotic. Exotic. Wild. Drowning sizzles in the African heat as one woman is stretched to the breaking point by the strength of her vows and the intensity of her seething primal desires.



Jassy: The inspiration was really thinking what would happen, in fictional terms, if an immovable object met an irresistible force. My heroine, Erin, is put into an impossible situation. Newly married and determined to make the relationship with her difficult husband work, she is beginning to realize the extent of his jealous and abusive tendencies. When a flooded river leaves her stranded on a gorgeous estate in the South African bushveld, she meets the estate owner, handsome rogue Nicholas de Lanoy, who is determined to seduce her. Until the bridge can be repaired, Erin sets herself two goals – to resist Nicholas’s charms, and to conceal her situation from her husband. Naturally, she fails at both…

Tara: We focus a lot on heroines here on Book Babe. Tell me what makes your heroine strong.

Jassy: My heroine discovers her inner strength when she becomes aware of the abusive situation she finds herself in, and summons up the courage to follow her heart and leave her husband.

Tara: Do you see any of yourself in her?

Jassy: Writing romances is an emotional journey for me, and I shared a lot of Erin’s emotions, from falling head-over-heels in lust and in love with a handsome stranger, to being afraid of the man I married, to striving to make the best decision about my future while in a very difficult place.

Tara: Was there any particular part of this story that was the hardest for you to write? Tell me why.

Jassy: The beginning of Drowning was the hardest. I knew exactly what happened in the story but I actually started a chapter ahead, and left the very first chapter until last.

Tara: What kind of research did you do when you penned this novel? Did anything surprising come up in your search?

Jassy: Luckily, living in South Africa, I had the opportunity to visit the Kruger Park and the beautiful Lowveld – an amazing trip, and all in the name of research. The wildness of the area, the incredible climate, the wealth of wildlife, the beauty of the surroundings all helped me to paint a picture for international readers who might never have a chance to visit the area.

Tara: What would you like readers to gain from reading your book? Is there a strong moral? Do you hope they will laugh, learn something about a particular subject/person, ponder a point?

Jassy: The book presents the heroine, and the reader, with a moral dilemma. Do you remain faithful to marriage vows when they are leading you into a dark place of abuse? Or do you acknowledge you have made a mistake and turn your back on them? These difficult decisions are pivotal to the plot of Drowning.

Tara: That's a pretty unique and brave subject to tackle. I like it. 

Your book takes place in the South African bushveld. If I were a tourist, what would you recommend I see in this country?

Jassy: If you had a week to spend in South Africa, I would advise a couple of days in scenic Cape Town and the Cape Winelands, before abandoning the city for a game viewing safari in one of our wildlife reserves.
Tara: Moving on to personal things...if you could time travel to absolute any time and place in history, where and when would you go and what is it that draws you to this time period? What would you do whilst there?

Jassy: I’d love to go back to a time long past, and visit an early civilization such as the ancient Mayans, to see what their day to day life was really like, what their beliefs were, and how advanced they were.

Tara: That's the first time anyone has answered with that. That's actually an interesting I never contemplated.

What’s the one thing you hope to accomplish before you die? Your main goal?

Jassy: I don’t have one main goal, but lots of goals in many different directions – career, writing, sporting, personal... I think half the fun in life lies in the thrill of working towards, and achieving goals, so it is important to have many goals, some big, some smaller.


Tara: I’m a dog mom, so I always ask this. Do you have pets? If so, tell me about them and do provide pictures.

Jassy: I have two cats, both adopted rescues, one of whom is permanently stationed on my desk during working hours.

Tara: He looks as though he's blogging for you!

Thanks, Jassy, for joining us today. Good luck with your book.

***

Jassy de Jong lives in the countryside outside Johannesburg, South Africa, and shares her life with her wonderful partner Dion, two horses and two cats, one of whom is permanently stationed on her writing desk during office hours. She enjoys traveling, cooking, cycling, and competes in dressage on her Thoroughbred, Msasa Magic. Jassy was thirty-five years old before she met her soul-mate, and while kissing a few frogs along the way (who stayed frogs), she learned a lot about life, love and relationships. She adores writing about the incredible experience of falling in love, and believes that everybody deserves a happy ending... especially her heroines.

Buy the book on Barnes & Noble or:

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Poet's Wife by Rebecca Stonehill Takes Us On a Journey Through Spain's Turbulent Times

The Poet's Wife"You are a human being and so is the peasant from the countryside and so is the monk from the monastery and so is the right-wing politician. We may not agree with certain people but nothing, nothing whatsoever, justifies harming them."

There is nothing more confusing than Spain's civil war. Even the most interesting of novels chronicling it have left me feeling slightly bewildered. So I love how this author has managed to lay it out for us, simply, in a way in which the facts will always be in my mind. The story of Spain's hardships is told through three women. First, the poet's wife, Luisa. She shows us Spain before the war, when young girls spoke to potential suitors through gates and parents had a firm say in who their daughters married. While her time is strict, it's not as strict as it later becomes. With a chaperone, she's allowed to go to poetry readings. As a married women, she's allowed to walk the countryside and visit the gitanos. There is music and dancing. People are allowed to have opinions...and meet with those with like minds.

But then the war comes. Luisa continues her story and yet we also see the war through Isabel's--her daughter--eyes. Isabel is my favorite. She flourishes from a follower into a leader with a mind of her own. She's a nurse. She shuns traditions, yet stays in a strict, dictatorship country for her mother's sake. Later, despite the risks, she helps people to die, providing them comfort in their last moments. Through her eyes we see the Republic fall to Fascists and how people must adjust. Through both her and her mother's narratives, we experience the suffering of war: death, fear, secrets, helping others.

And then Paloma, Isabel's daughter, makes an appearance. Here is where I have a quibble. Paloma shows us the post-war Spain, a time when husbands and wives cannot even hold hands in public. When men sit on one side and women on the other. When the church and a dictator rule all. When music and dancing is forbidden.

But I didn't like her and she shows up so late in the story, I couldn't really know her anyway. I'd have preferred the story just stick to Isabel and Luisa.

But I love how this book not only shows us the history of Spain, but also how the women evolved and changed with it. And most of all I appreciate being reminded that we are all human.

The writing is very good, though the tense seems to change at times and it's jarring. There were also typos but this is a digital arc from Netgalley.

I would read this author again.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Island at War Shows What the British Channel Islands Endured During German Occupation

I went through a range of emotions whilst watching this 6-hour TV series on Netflix. Shame, sympathy, shock, elation. I shook my head, cheered, gasped, cursed people's stupidity, nodded...

The show follows 3 different families and a handful of German soldiers. Though a fictional island, it's based on the happenings during the real Channel Islands' invasion. Due to its low population, England has abandoned it, rid it of all military occupation, and left it for the German clutches. It's too close to France...

Normally I'm all about the women, be it a book or a movie, but this time I was taken more with the men in this show. Wilf, the police officer who finds himself tested repeatedly. He must protect his family, maintain his dignity when the Germans seem too eager to bring him down, and he visibly battles with what he feels is wrong and right. He toes the line very carefully between outright disobedience and doing as he's told. He does this in such a manner that I was cheering for him even when he was "taken down a few pegs".  He manages to do his job while at the same time, making it clear where he stands: with the island.


The Senator. At first I found him cowardly, but in the end, I loved how he tells the people, "We must must keep our humanity." I also loved how he fought for his wife. I didn't expect that.

And there's another man, he seems bad at first; he's playing both sides, but in the end it's not necessarily what goes in his pockets. Though fond of money, without his special "powers" he wouldn't be able to help the local spy. It becomes very clear where his real loyalties lie. Artfully done.

I did not like any of the women, and that's a big flaw. The producers/directors/whoever really did us wrong in this one. While I admired the Jew for hiding in plain sight, at the same time I disliked her socializing with a German soldier. While she kept spurning his advances, at the same time, why did she go out with him at all? And the two sisters, declaring these Germans were merely human too....singing and dancing and kissing them after they executed a man. I'm afraid I didn't care for the young pilot and his declaring "You're stupid." There's a mother whose staunch refusal to serve Germans in her store evaporated into a business requiring her to meet a German in his room and profiting off her own people...and more that I shan't mention. The only remotely admirable woman is Wilf's wife.

Regardless, I became very wrapped up in all their lives. There are plenty of touching moments of rebellion too, such as when the town stands in silence, facing German rifles, to honor the executed man. And of course, there's the story of war, a reminder that it's not glamorous, that it's brutal and cruel, and in the end, there are no true victors. I don't appreciate being left hanging as to the complete outcome of these people's lives though. The war wasn't over when the series ended. If you aren't going to make a second season, at least wrap everything up the first time. Grrrr!


Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Reading Radar

What hit the wishlist/radar these last two weeks?

The Gods of Tango: A novelSpotted on Edelweiss and right up my alley...The Gods of Tango: A novel by Carolina De Robertis.

From one of the leading lights of contemporary Latin American literature—a lush, lyrical, deeply moving story of a young woman whose passion for the early sounds of tango becomes a force of profound and unexpected change.

February 1913: seventeen-year-old Leda, carrying only a small trunk and her father’s cherished violin, leaves her Italian village for a new home, and a new husband, in Argentina. Arriving in Buenos Aires, she discovers that he has been killed, but she remains: living in a tenement, without friends or family, on the brink of destitution. Still, she is seduced by the music that underscores life in the city: tango, born from lower-class immigrant voices, now the illicit, scandalous dance of brothels and cabarets. Leda eventually acts on a long-held desire to master the violin, knowing that she can never play in public as a woman. She cuts off her hair, binds her breasts, and becomes “Dante,” a young man who joins a troupe of tango musicians bent on conquering the salons of high society. Now, gradually, the lines between Leda and Dante begin to blur, and feelings that she has long kept suppressed reveal themselves, jeopardizing not only her musical career, but her life.

Richly evocative of place and time, its prose suffused with the rhythms of the tango, its narrative at once resonant and gripping, this is De Robertis’s most accomplished novel yet.

***

Cattle KateSpotted on Shelf Awareness. I dunno how in the heck I missed it on Netgalley. I'm so disappointed that I did... This one hit the wishlist for sure: Cattle Kate by Jana Bommersbach. It has four of my absolute favorite ingredients: historical, mystery, woman who really existed, strong woman.

Ella Watson is the only woman to be lynched in the nation as a cattle rustler. She and her husband were hanged on July 20, 1889, by prominent cattlemen. History portrays the lynching as a case of “range land justice,” with “Cattle Kate” tarred as both a notorious rustler and a filthy whore. Is this sordid story true?

It was all a lie. She wasn't a rustler. She wasn't a whore. She was a 28-year-old immigrant homesteader murdered by her rich and powerful Wyoming cattle-baron neighbors who wanted the land and its precious water rights she’d refused to sell. She was never called “Cattle Kate” until she was dead and they needed an excuse to cover up their crime.

Some people knew the truth from the start. Their voices were drowned out by the all-powerful Wyoming Stock Growers Association. And those who dared speak out—including the eye witnesses to the hangings—either disappeared or mysteriously died. There was no one left to testify against the vigilantes when the case eventually came to trial, so it was dismissed. Her six killers walked away scot-free.

Dozens of books, movies, too, spread her ugly legacy. Now, on the 125th anniversary of her murder, Ella comes alive again in the novel Cattle Kate to tell her heartbreaking story, one central to the western experience.

***

Blue Moon RisesSpotted on Amazon while doing my monthly women in aviation search, Blue Moon Rises by Betty Halstead Moss hit the radar. I believe it's about a woman who joins the ATA.

BLUE MOON RISES is the second in a series of stories set in East Texas in the 1930s and 40s. It continues the story of the Hamilton women. Julia Marie, the fifth generation, bears the physical resemblance and unique characteristics of her ancestors. However, her ambitions and life goals are very different. Julie loses her heart at a young age to a young, ambitious Texas Ranger who is dedicated to his career. WWII interrupts life in the early forties and charts the course of the nation's youth. Chris and Julie face formidable choices and unimagined challenges as they journey through the war years. Laced with adventure and unconditional love, their story is sometimes sad, sometimes joyous, but always exciting and unpredictable.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Away With The Fairies: The Phryne Fisher Novel In Which Fairies Are Outclassed By Pirates



I am in my late fifties and I’m still saying that I want to be Phryne Fisher when I grow up.  She’s elegant, sexy, witty, generous, courageous, loyal to those she cares about, will help any woman in trouble and oh yes she’s a private investigator who solves mysteries. Since I am such a fan of this character created by Kerry Greenwood, it’s downright odd that I’ve never blogged about a Phryne Fisher mystery.  Well, that’s about to change.

                                             
 
I recently finished Away With The Fairies.  If you are a reader who despises fairies, I would like to reassure you that there is little on the subject of fairies in this book.  The murder victim was an author and artist who was obsessed with them, but the fairies weren’t available for an investigation.

 So Phryne decided to become a fashion columnist at the magazine where the victim worked, Women’s Choice.  She’s an excellent fashion columnist, by the way.  I loved her advice about buying a wardrobe on a budget.  Yet I liked the editor even more.  She reminded me of Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown.  Her motto was “any woman can”, not just exceptional women.  Any woman can achieve her dreams.  Her magazine was speaking to the “flappers” of 1920’s Australia who wanted to hear that message since they were already living it. 

Yet the murder investigation is upstaged by another plotline involving pirates. Phryne’s favorite lover, Lin Chung, had gone to China on a silk buying expedition, but hadn’t returned.  It turns out that he’s being held by South China Sea Pirates.  One of the most notorious was the pirate queen, Lai Choi San.  For more information about her, you should consult the Wikipedia article about her that I’ve linked above.

Phryne is not the sort of woman who would sit around and do nothing while someone she cares about is in danger.  Once she figures out what she needs to do, she takes action and it’s a far more daring adventure than the Phryne Fisher novel I read previous to this one called Dead Man’s Chest which contained no actual pirates.  This novel increased its coolness factor even further by including Phryne's women's club which is called The Adventuresses.

I consider Away With The Fairies one of the best Phryne Fisher novels I’ve read so far.    It had suspense, romance,heroism and feminism which are all characteristics I like to see in any novel.

                                              

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Thorn In My Pocket: The Family Context of Temple Grandin



What most readers who pick up a memoir by the mother of Temple Grandin want to know is: how did she do it?  How did she parent Temple so successfully that she realized her potential against such tremendous odds?  I wanted to know the answer to that question too, but I also believed that the woman who gave birth to Temple Grandin must also be pretty awesome .  I was convinced that Eustacia Cutler’s own life story would be of value, and it turned out that I was right.

                                           


                                                     

First, it’s important to realize that when Temple was born the psychiatric establishment believed that autism was a kind of schizophrenia.  I think that schizophrenia is a catch all diagnosis that has all the characteristics of the legendary Chimera, a monster with a lion’s head, a goat’s body and a serpent’s tail.  It’s a completely nebulous concept.  We now know that autism is an alternate form of brain organization, but in the late 1940’s children like Temple were just thrown away by their parents, and placed in institutions where they received no education whatsoever because no one believed that they were educable.

Eustacia Cutler always believed in her daughter’s abilities.  When Temple still couldn’t read as she was about to enter third grade, her mother came to the conclusion that Temple had been bored by elementary school readers.  So she started reading her The Wizard of Oz and then handed her the book saying “Here, you try.”  Temple had to learn how to read to find out what happened next. 

She also wasn’t only Temple’s mother.   Eustacia Cutler was a singer, an actress, a maker of documentaries and when her husband decided to try to prove her an unfit mother, she became a divorced woman in 1962 with custody of all four of her children.  Due to Temple’s urging, she later became a speaker and writer on autism. 

Unfortunately, the research that Cutler did on autism was based on the false premise that autism manifests the same way in all individuals with autism.   Over time, we have learned that there are variations in autism.  Temple’s book, The Autistic Brain, taught me about this diversity among autists.   Yet when Eustacia Cutler wrote A Thorn in My Pocket, she apparently believed that all individuals with autism were like her daughter. 

This misperception of the nature of autism led to an extremely contentious online imbroglio that occurred last year.   My perception of the situation is that Cutler was attempting to explain a few cases of adult autistic men being arrested for viewing child pornography.  Her piece took a sensationalistic approach that offended a great many people, and was based on the outdated ideas I discussed in the paragraph above.  For a more insightful and knowledgeable essay dealing with autistic men and child pornography, please read this post on the Psychology Today blog  by autistic writer,  John Elder Robison.

So the value of this book isn’t in what it tells us about autism. Its value is historical. It tells us about the social context in which Temple Grandin grew up.  We learn about Temple’s upbringing, her family and heritage.

 I was very interested in finding out that Eustacia Cutler’s father, John Coleman Purves, was part of a team that invented the flux valve which generates the heading information that is used in auto pilots on airplanes.  Cutler points out that her father was a visualizer like Temple.

I was also interested in Cutler’s feminist grandmother, Clara Temple Leonard.  When the governor of Massachusetts wanted to remove her from the Massachusetts State Board of Health, Lunacy and Charity on the grounds that a woman was not a person, Clara Temple Leonard sued for the right to be called a person and won.   Her descendant, Temple Grandin, also established her right to be called a person.

I found A Thorn In My Pocket to be very compelling reading. If you are interested in Temple Grandin and the influences that shaped her life, you may be just as fascinated by it.