Book Review: Confessions of A Reformed Southern Belle: A Poet’s Collection of Love, Loss and Renewal By Tosha Michelle via @tdmiller820917

A lovely review of my first book of poetry. I’m so unworthy but deeply moved by Tracy’s kindness. My poetry at the time was still evolving. Please check out Tracy’s blog NGE and follow.

TheNerdyGirlExpress

Solitude is both a blessing and a curse for a poet. With the Muse often the only companion, a poet is forced to confront those overwhelming emotions prowling around the brain. While there may be some trepidation dealing with these emotions, such honesty can be insightful and refreshing. To remove the bandages covering one’s emotional scars is the first step towards healing.

Tosha Michelle is an emotionally accessible poet. Her verse puts a mirror up against the soul. In her writing, we see the joy, the sorrow, the love, the loss, the hope.

The renewal.

Confessions of A Reformed Southern Belle: A Poet’s Reflection of Love, Lost and Renewal, is a stellar poetic gem. The book provides rhythmic perfection, imagery as well the journey towards one’s roots with the comfort that nostalgia offers.

She shows us the beautiful melancholy of lovers whose destinies might take different paths but whose hearts…

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THE RAVEN by Sylvain Reynard (A Review) When Nevermore becomes Once More.

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The Raven.  Synopsis.

“Raven Wood spends her days at Florence’s Uffizi Gallery restoring fine works of Renaissance art. But an innocent walk home after an evening with friends changes her life forever. When she intervenes in the senseless beating of a homeless man, his attackers turn on her, dragging her into an alley. Raven is only semi-conscious when their assault is interrupted by a cacophony of growls followed by her attacker’s screams. Mercifully, she blacks out, but not before catching a glimpse of a shadowy figure who whispers to her…

Cassita vulneratus.

When Raven awakes, she is inexplicably changed. She returns to the Uffizi, but no one recognizes her, and more disturbingly, she discovers that she’s been absent an entire week. With no recollection of the events leading up to her disappearance, Raven also learns that her absence coincides with one of the largest robberies in Uffizi history – the theft of a set of priceless Botticelli illustrations. When the baffled police force identifies her as its prime suspect, Raven is desperate to clear her name. She seeks out one of Florence’s wealthiest and elusive men in an attempt to uncover the truth about her disappearance. Their encounter leads Raven to a dark underworld whose inhabitants kill to keep their secrets.

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Review 

Once in a great while a book comes along that you can’t put down. Sylvain Reynard’s The Raven is one of those books. I fell in like with Reynard’s literary prowess with his Gabriel’s Inferno trilogy; after reading The Raven, I can say I am head over heels, crazy, twerking in the street Miley style, Tom Cruise chair-jumping, forget that bass, Meghan Trainor is sure to be all about this novel, IN LOVE with this man’s prose. He has my undying book devotion until pen doth us part. The Raven is everything you could want in a good read: intelligent, witty, thrilling, sexy and hard to let go of. It’s the type of book you’ll spend all night reading and not feel guilty about it in the morning. You’l l even want to take it home to Mom. It’s hard to express how much I love this novel, but I will try.

Let’s dish about the heroine of the book, shall we? Raven Wood is strong, feisty, determined, witty and real. She has overcome adversaries with grace and lives a life of purpose. This woman knows how to make the proverbial lemonade out of lemons. She compassionate and brave, to use the vernacular, she is a total bad ass. In a book age where the romance genre is inundated with wimpy, subservient, spineless, superficial women, Raven is a breath of fresh girl power air. I love her.

Of course you can’t have a heroine without a hero, or in The Prince’s case antihero. He is very much an alpha, Byronic male but atypical in his otherworldly abilities. At first glance he seems mercurial, but underneath beats a tender but tormented heart. Still, he is a force to be reckoned with, but Raven is up to the task. Together, they are a formidable match. The chemistry between the two leaps off the pages.

Reynard, in signature style throws in literary, cultural, historic, art and aesthetic references. There’s a strong Machiavellian theme throughout the book and a huge nod to Cupid and Psyche. He’ll also have you clamoring to catch the next flight to Florence, Italy. The Florence Tourist Board owes him a commission. You’ll feel like you are taking the Renaissance Walk and touring the Uffizi Gallery. You’ll gain a new appreciation for the rich history of Florentine art. There are even analyses of a few of the great artworks of the Renaissance, deftly explaining them in terms of the religion and politics of the time.

Reynard took some creative risks with this novel and did it in an audaciously ambitious way. The dividends pay off. His style is terse but lyrical, bold and edgy Gritty and visceral. His voice is original and commanding. The novel manages the delightful tricks of being harrowing and romantic, suspenseful and intellectual. He effortlessly weaves in themes of justice, mercy, loss, hope, love, redemption and good old-fashioned fortitude of character. The Raven is a fearless and flawless read by a remarkable author.

Excerpt from The Raven 

In the distance, the Prince could hear voices and muffled sounds.

He approached silently, almost floating across the floor.

Desperate groans and the rustling of fabric filled his ears, along with the twin sounds of rapidly beating hearts. He could smell their scents, the aromas heightened due to their sexual arousal.

He growled in reaction.

The corridor was shrouded in darkness but the Prince could see that the professor had his wife up against a window between two statues, her legs wrapped around his waist.

Her voice was breathy as she spoke, but the Prince tuned out her words, moving closer so he could catch a glimpse of her lovely face.

At the sight of it, flushed with passion, his old heart quickened and he felt the stirrings of arousal.

It was not his custom to observe rather than participate. But on this occasion, he decided to make an exception. Careful to remain in the darkness, he moved to the wall opposite the couple.

The woman squirmed in her lover’s arms, her high heels catching on his tuxedo jacket. Her fingers flew to his neck, undoing his bow tie and tossing it carelessly to the floor.

She unbuttoned his shirt, and her mouth moved to his chest, as murmurs of pleasure escaped his lips.

The Prince felt more than desire as he watched the woman’s eager movements. He caught a glimpse of her exquisite mouth and the toss of her long hair that would no doubt feel like silk between his fingers.

She lifted her head to smile at the man who held her close and he could see love in her eyes.

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​The Raven – Book One of The Florentine Series 2/3/15

BN
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-raven-sylvain-reynard/1119619658?ean=9780425266496

Amazon

Amazon Canada

iTunes
https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-raven/id888019240?mt=11

Ask Me Anything.

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Disclaimer: I am a book elitist. You know one of those obnoxious folks who always thinks the novel is better than the movie. When my friend Allison Burnett decided to turn his coming of age book Undiscovered Gyrl (2009) into a film, I was skeptical.  Could he really stay true to his artistic vision? Would the film live up to the book? And more importantly would this die hard Undiscovered Gyrl fanatic like it.   Guess what? It does and I do.   “Ask Me Anything” is flawless, captivating and poignant. It is every bit as gripping as the novel, no one, not even, Ms. Book Snob herself can accuse Allison of betraying his beloved novel by butchering it when it goes Hollywood.  I’m not ready to turn down my nose just yet though. In fairness, Allison wrote, produced and directed the film. He had full creative control.  In other words, he made his own book and did a darn fine job of it. I was one of the fortunate ones that got to prescreen this extraordinary film and trust me this is a not to be missed.

The story centers on Katie Kampenfel played masterfully and heartbreakingly by Britt Robertson. Robertson gives an empathy generating performance.  Katie is a beautiful, spirited, witty and troubled young woman who has just graduated high school. She decides to take a year off before attending college. She begins her sabbatical by getting a job at a local bookstore working for Glenn Warburg (Martin Sheen). Bored with her college aged boyfriend Rory (Max Carver) she sets her sights on 32-year-old film professor, Dan played by Justin Long.

When she starts an anonymous blog, we get a voyeuristic look into her life and inner most thoughts which are uncensored, hilarious, and gut-wrenching. Things quickly take a dark turn when we learn of Katie’s troubling past with her alcoholic father, played by the rugged Robert Patrick. As the film progresses a dark secret from her childhood comes to light, Dan stops talking her calls, and she finds herself drawn into another toxic relationship with an older man played by Christen Slater.

The movie just like the book will leave you breathless, disturbed, and, dare I say, changed. The acting is exquisite, the cinematography is flawless, and the writing is superb. You will fall in love with Katie and be drawn into the haunting and stirring agonies, the unwonder years-desires, sex, self-destructive behaviors, the the insatiable longing to be loved.   You may even see a little of yourself in Katie. “Ask Me Anything” will resonant and linger long after the closing credits.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the other star of this film, the soundtrack featuring original music by undiscovered female artists all under the age of 21.

The film is set to be release on Dec 19th.

Watch the trailer here.

The Weight Of Words-(The be all, end all of books)

The Weight of Words, by Georgina Guthrie, is a delight for lovers of the Bard and romantic fiction. Aubrey Price is a University of Toronto student finishing up her last semester of her undergraduate degree, and striving to graduate with distinction. She is very down to earth and spirited, and works part-time for the Dean of College to make ends meet. Aubrey’s world is shaken up when she encounters the dean’s son, Daniel Grant; a handsome and complex man. There is an instant and palpable attraction. There is one slight problem; Daniel is her TA in her Shakespearean studies course. The university has a rigid anti-fraternizing policy. To further complicate matters, Daniel already has a black mark on his record. What does a woman do when the only man she wants is out of reach? What does a man do when the only woman he desires is off limits?

The Weight of Words is a must-read and a wonderful debut for Georgina Guthrie. It may sound trite, but I was hooked from the first sentence. And the book has yet to let go; even after reading the final page. While The Weight of Words has elicited comparisons to Sylvain Reynard’s brilliant trilogy, Gabriel’s Inferno, make no mistake, Guthrie has an idiosyncratic voice that is distinctly her own. I fell in love with Aubrey and Daniel, and you will too. Audrey is, quite literally, a contradiction in terms. One moment she might be throwing out words like dude, deets, or the occasional F-bomb. The next she is reciting Shakespeare with ease. Guthrie has a knack for channeling the way college students talk, as well as an extensive knowledge of the Bard. In Aubrey, she has created a brilliant, witty, feisty to the core, fiercely independent, young woman. How can you not love that? As for Daniel, move over Mr. Darcy. Gabriel, get thee behind. You gentlemen have some new swooning competition. Daniel is handsome, worldly, a bit of a brooder, but equally as sharp and witty as Aubrey. The chemistry between the two leaps off the pages (Holy, hotness, moly).

The book provides all the passion, angst, humor and sexual tension that any lover of romantic fiction could want. The cast of characters is hilarious and lively. A particular favorite of mine is Penny (Daniel’s brother’s English fiancée). She is ballsy, has no filter, and will leave you in stitches. She’ll teach you some colorful colloquialisms too- cheeky git that she is.

Guthrie also presents Shakespeare in a fun and entertaining way. The reader can’t help but feel the author’s love and appreciation for the Bard. If ole Shakey were alive today, Guthrie’s novel would surely make him even more smitten with the “weight of words”. Who knows, perhaps he had a prophetic vision of her book when he was writing Sonnet 18 😉 Could his beloved have been a novel? Okay, maybe not. But let’s go with it, shall we? I leave you with the Bard words and encourage you to purchase The Weight of Words. Georgina Guthrie is a masterful storyteller with an observant eye, a witty writer that will make you laugh out loud, and an author with a finely tuned sense of emotion and romance. I can’t wait for the next installment in the ongoing romantic adventures and hardships of Daniel and Aubrey.

SONNET 18
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st;
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

You can find Georgina Guthrie on the web at:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Georgina-Guthrie/133334970209975
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19139026-the-weight-of-words

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This is not a review…this is atonement

“The path to paradise begins in hell.” ― Dante Alighieri

Disclaimer –I went into the Gabriel’s Inferno trilogy with a few preconceived notions. The main one being “this started out of Twilight fan fiction, it’s sure to be lacking in depth and substance.” I should have known better. My grandmother always taught me: never judge a book by its fan fiction roots.

But I digress. I decided to give the novels a read because I was intrigued to see how the author integrated Dante’s The Divine Comedy into his work. Turns out he did so masterfully. But I just was not ready to admit that the story got to me. I even wrote a somewhat disparaging review of Gabriel’s Inferno on my blog. I never write negative reviews, which is telling.

As an aside, in effort to find my way out of reviewer’s limbo, that blog is now gone with the proverbial wind.

I thought I was fighting the good literary fight. But in truth, I was only waging war with my stubborn bookish self. Now after having read books two and three, I have to be honest. This trilogy charmed its way into my heart, breaking down all my preconceived notions. I’m crazy for this series and having a serious case of reviewer remorse. I must atone to the Literary Gods and set things right as I strive to find my way to The Mount of Joy.

Ok. Here goes. I was wrong! People, this doesn’t happen often; unless you consider often a heck of a lot. I misjudged Sylvain Reynard. The man, whoever he may be, is a master storyteller. His deft use language, his passion for literature and the arts come alive on the pages. His characterization of Gabriel and Julianne, the empathy he feels for them, is achingly beautiful. Not only did they come alive on the page. so did Dante and Beatrice. He masterfully wove one of the greatest literary works of the Western World into a modern day tale. He crafted a story that kept this cynic coming back for more. The story of the professor and Julianne is chock full of tasteful eroticism, purpose and intensity; a story of romantic love- but also love itself, its power, its limitations, and its consequences. The themes of forgiveness and redemption should strike a chord with us all.

I grew to love Gabriel and Julianne and all their quirks and fragility. At first I despised them, especially Julianne. I found her too docile, her wild eye innocence grated. There were times when I wanted to shake her. In truth her character hit very close to home — too close. I remember being the naive waif scared of my own shadow. However, I should have known that just like I blossomed and came into my own, so too would Julianne.

Sylvain Reynard, how could I have ever doubted you? Your style is dazzling. Your literary voice is haunting. You have created an original love story that will not soon be forgotten. Which brings us to the final installment of the series, Gabriel’s Redemption.

Gabriel’s Redemption is by far my favorite of the three novels. I didn’t want it to end. I’m truly going to miss these characters. In the final installment, we find our beloved hero and heroine settling into wedded bliss. However, as Shakespeare will attest: “the course of true love never runs smooth”. This is certainly the case with  Gabriel and Julia. Their course is littered with ghosts from the past, jumping out and shouting “boo” at every corner. Then there are those pesky demons that reside in the mind, tempting and tormenting. On top of that, they have those normal issues that newlyweds must go through: learning to cohabit with another human being, debating if and when to start a family, etc.

Can Gabriel and Julianne put to rest the ghost from Christmas past? Will Satan get thee behind? Will a baby make three? Is museum’s sex all it’s cracked up to be? Does true love really conquer all? You’ll just have to read and find out.

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“She was so Southern that she cried tears that came straight from the Mississippi, and she always smelled faintly of cottonwood and peaches.”
― Sarah Addison Allen, Garden Spells