Safekeeping by Jessamyn Hope

Of the many elements that come together in a great novel, we count on the characters to drive the story, to elicit emotions inspiring pity, fear, empathy, and above all love.

In Safekeeping, author Hope delivers. This is not your typical, building a kibbutz story. Rather it is a coming together of a diverse lot of people during the dying days of kibbutz life.

Nothing will be the same as Ziva remembers from her days of founding the kibbutz. Nor will everyone find what they are seeking, but then, isn’t that “real” life? Despite the lack of a “happily ever after ending,” the tale comes to its proper conclusion and there is satisfaction in that.

Safekeeping: A Novel by [Hope, Jessamyn]


It’s 1994 and Adam, a drug addict from New York City, arrives at a kibbutz in Israel with a medieval sapphire brooch. To redress a past crime, he must give the priceless heirloom to a woman his grandfather loved when he was a Holocaust refugee on the kibbutz fifty years earlier. But first, he has to track this mystery woman down—a task that proves more complicated than expected.

On the kibbutz Adam joins other lost souls: Ulya, the ambitious and beautiful Soviet émigrée; Farid, the lovelorn Palestinian farmhand; Claudette, the French Canadian Catholic with OCD; Ofir, the Israeli teenager wounded in a bus bombing; and Ziva, the old Socialist Zionist firebrand who founded the kibbutz. Driven together by love, hostility, hope, and fear, their fates become forever entangled as they each get one last shot at redemption.

In the middle of that fateful summer glows the magnificent brooch with its perilous history spanning three continents and seven centuries. With insight and beauty, Safekeeping tackles that most human of questions: How can we expect to find meaning and happiness when we know that nothing lasts?


Is this what it takes for bookstores to survive?

I walk in expecting to see books.

Is this what it takes for bookstores to survive?

Instead I find blankets,

Is this what it takes for bookstores to survive?

and serving dishes. Yes, I’m going to read while my guests visit.

Is this what it takes for bookstores to survive?

and this little guy which I was tempted to buy. After all it had a built in screw driver.

Is this what it takes for bookstores to survive?

I passed by more dishes, ornaments, toss cushions, purses, greeting cards and paper products ( which made some sense in a book store), skin care products and then spotted diapers and wipes. Who can read with a baby in the house?

Is this what it takes for bookstores to survive?

Well maybe if you plunk them into one of these….

Is this what it takes for bookstores to survive?

Yes, there were books too. I made it to the till with my choices and ran into these counters.

Is this what it takes for bookstores to survive?

Oh, and let’s not bypass these for that baby.

Is this what it takes for bookstores to survive?

And these for ourselves on a cold winter’s night.

Is this what it takes for bookstores to survive?


As a kid living somewhere in the vast Canadian prairies, I sang, along with my friends, nasty little ditties about Mussolini, and knew that lots of Italians lived in New York, that the Godfather ruled the mobs in the US—everyone read Puzo’s books and watched the movies—and that something called The Red Brigadescaused havoc for a time.

Then, a few years ago, I stumbled across a little book called Clash of Civilizations over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio by Amara Lakhous. (2006).


A satire told with sympathy for the international cast of Italians and the immigrants who want the good life of Europe but grieve for what they have lost—family, identity, home…

In this book, Lakhous highlights the danger of language barriers.

Lakhous uses the character Parviz, to make his point. Parviz, talking about his landlady notes: “She calls me guagliò, it means ‘fuck’ in Neapolitan. At least, that’s what a lot of Neapolitans I’ve worked with have told me.” In fact, guagliòmeans, at least literally, “boy.” He always answers her with a simple “merci”.

The landlady’s response is telling:

“That good-for-nothing is rude when I call him guagliò! I don’t know his name, and in Naples that’s what we say, but he answers with a nasty word in his language. I don’t remember exactly the word he always says, maybe mersa or mersis! Anyway, the point is, this word means ‘shit’ in Albanian and is used as an insult. What makes me even more suspicious is the fact that he’s tried over and over again to convince me that he comes from a country that isn’t Albania.”

In fact, Parviz is Iranian.

We also glimpse the conflicts that arise from grievances between Italians, between Italians and immigrants, and between immigrants and immigrants. Many of these stem from stereotyping:

“Everyone knows that Sardinians are famous for kidnapping.”

“”I’m not embarrassed to say, I wouldn’t trust a Neapolitan, even if he was San Gennaro!”

“Why can’t the police be strict with immigrants who are criminals? Why should the honest ones who sweat for a piece of bread suffer!”

I waited impatiently for Lakhous’ next book, Divorce Islamic Style (2010), to be translated – it was published in 2012.

AMARA LAKHOUS: SHINING A LIGHT ON IMMIGRANTSHere the focus is on Muslim immigrants, delving into the personality of a few characters, providing a greater insight into Muslim thought and beliefs and the struggle of immigrants to reconcile their convictions with their new lives in Italy.

One solution is to congregate in a “ghetto” where they live together with like-minded people, but even that doesn’t solve all their problems.

Issa, who shares a two-room apartment with eleven other immigrants, bitterly notes:

“There is a hierarchy based on native country; the eight Egyptians feel that they are the true landlords. Maybe they’ve been infected with that shitty virus that strikes all majorities, always and everywhere: screw the minorities.”

Lakhous tells us that Sofia, an Egyptian immigrant with a wonderful daughter and a lousy husband, is both Muslim and inquisitive. Having heard a good deal about the sloe-eyed virgin females awaiting male Muslim martyrs in paradise, she ponders issues such as “the billion-euro question” that many will not ask:

“What does a Muslim woman get if she has the good fortune to set foot in Paradise?”

We also see that what an immigrant deals with in adjusting to this “good life” they sought with such hope goes well beyond the job hunt and language learning.Sofia complains of how she is perceived:

“I was always arm in arm with a crowd of ghost companions. Their names? Jihad, holy war, suicide bomber, September 11th, terrorism, attacks, Iraq, Afghanistan, Twin Towers, bombs, March 11th, Al Qaeda, Taliban.”

In the end there is no real resolution for Sofia.

AMARA LAKHOUS: SHINING A LIGHT ON IMMIGRANTSAnd finally, I was able to get a copy of Dispute Over a Very Italian Piglet (2014), in English.

Europa editions, the publisher that has brought Amara Lakhous to America, gives this description on the book’s jacket. First the setting:

“It’s October 2006. In a few months, Romania will join the European Union. Meanwhile, the northern Italian town of Turin has been rocked by a series of crimes involving Albanians and Romanians. Is this the latest eruption of a clan feud dating back centuries, or is the trouble incited by local organized crime syndicates who routinely ‘infect’ neighborhoods and then ‘cleanse’ them in order to earn big on property developments?”

Next the plot and the main character:

“Enzo Laganà, born in Turin to Southern Italian parents, is a journalist with a wry sense of humor who is determined to get to the bottom of this crime wave. But before he can do so, he has to settle a thorny issue concerning Gino, a small pig belonging to his Nigerian neighbor, Joseph. Who brought the pig to the neighborhood mosque? And for heaven’s sake, why?”

Here, our protagonist, the journalist Enzo Laganà,  manipulates the press with stories that are pure fabrication, “fake news” at its best.


Some things are similar to Canada of course. We, too, have our internal problems, our French/English conflict for one, which flares up from time to time—Quebec threatens to separate—and then it dies down.

We also have immigration issues. During the late 70s and early 80s I lived and worked in a suburb that was home to 76 different ethnic groups, 46 of which were represented in our student- body. We saw firsthand some of the conflicts, but only the mere tip of the iceberg was revealed to us. I would constantly hear things like:

“Mrs. Jones, I’ll apologize to you, but a Vietnamese never apologizes to a Chinese.”

“Mrs. Jones, my mom says I can’t bring Nguyet to my house, but we’re friends. Why is she being like that? What can I do?”

A hierarchy among the immigrants we did not see. As Canadians, how could we?

Reading Lakhous led me to draw certain conclusions.

In my mind, Canada is too young to have the intensity of internal conflicts that occur in Italy. Those come from a long history that allow grievances to fester and grow over time to become, “Everyone knows Sardinians are famous for kidnapping.”

I also believe that the effect of immigration on any country is partially dependent on size. Italy is about 301,340 sq km, while Canada is 9,984,670 sq km, making Canada 33 times bigger. Thousands of people entering a country as geographically large as Canada are less likely to have as profound an impact as seems to happen in Italy.

By 2014, when Lakhous wrote and published Dispute over a Very Italian Piglet, he had become much harsher. I take this to mean that, with the influx of refugees recently, the sheer numbers seeking safety and prosperity in Italy, tensions are running high.

AMARA LAKHOUS: SHINING A LIGHT ON IMMIGRANTSLakhous also critiques the political establishment. He throws around names that mean nothing to me—of politicians and the mafia— but their actions and behaviors sound alarmingly like Trump and his ilk.

If corruption runs rampant in Lakhous’ Italy, if the ties between politicians and the mafia are as blatant as he says, is that any different than the American president and senators who cozy up with the NRA? Or corruption in any other country?

Ultimately, what Lakhous gifts us with are understandings and truths that hit home no matter who you are or where you are in the world.

Now, please excuse me while buy and read The Prank of the Good Little Virgin of Via Ormea (2016). Described on its jacket as a “farcical whodunit”, I know it will be far more than that.

Why is there a baobab tree on the cover of my book?



Why is there a baobab tree on the cover of my book?

See a baobab tree and you’re instantly intrigued. How can something grow and survive with its roots in the air? Not only do they survive, they are instrumental in the survival of humans providing food, medicine, shelter, and material to make cloth, ropes, baskets….

The baobabs in Mali fascinated me and it was logical to have a boabab play a role in the parts of the story set in West Africa.

Searching for a picture to use on the cover led me to: the fony baobab tree in Madagascar estimated to be over 1000 years old. (photo by David Thyberg)

Why is there a baobab tree on the cover of my book?

and this: A hollow 3000 year-old baobab in Zimbabwe (photo Christophe Poudras) which can house up to 40 people.

Why is there a baobab tree on the cover of my book?

and this: Avenue of the Baobabs – western Madagascar (photo Dani-Jeske)

Why is there a baobab tree on the cover of my book?

and my favorite: In Mali.

Why is there a baobab tree on the cover of my book?

To learn more about these amazing survivors in the harshest of conditions click here. 

And to see what happens under that baobab on the cover of my book go to my website.




The Josephine B. Trilogy by [Gulland, Sandra]

What is it about some books that demand our time, that demand we read and read until we can’t keep our eyes open any longer?

I read a broad variety of genres, enjoy many writing styles, the works of authors from many countries and, because the books I read are so varied, I’ve never found a definitive answer.

Whatever the magic, whatever the lure of this book or that, I feel compelled to make suggestions and recommendations to fellow readers.

The Josephine B Trilogy, written exclusively in diary entry format, is high on my list of must reads. The entries, sometimes curt, reveal an intriguing woman as well as a fascinating look at Napoleon–one of history’s greatest.

Of her trilogy, which took her 10 years to write, Gulland says, “In fact, Josephine did not keep a journal. I think if she had, I would have had a hard time writing a fictional journal for her. Most every biographer and historian portrays Josephine in a negative light. My own research — and consultations with historians — led me to different conclusions.”

For more information: Click here


Smash all the Windows

Smash all the Windows by Jane Davis

For the first time in my reading life, I finished a book, turned back to page one and started reading it again. The story and characters so compelling, the story telling so complex, complete, and often subtle—I simply couldn’t just move on to another book.

But the more urgent need for the immediate reread came from the emotions evoked.

Tragedies happen all the time. People are killed—floods, fires, airplane crashes, auto accidents, tsunamis….

They happen far away to people we don’t know. We, on the other hand, are tucked away in our safe little corner of the world, cocooned by family and friends, smug in our security, subconsciously believing “that will never happen to us.”

Focusing on a few of the individuals connected to a Tube accident in London blamed on the dead, Davis shows the harshness of the impact on the families of the dead and the burden of sorrow they carry that lasts forever. Davis shakes us out of our complacency and rightly so.

What inspired the novel?

Davis says: The novel began with outrage. I was infuriated by the press’s reaction to the outcome of the second Hillsborough inquest. For those who don’t know about Hillsborough, a crush occurred during the 1989 FA Cup semi-final, killing 96 fans. A single lie was told about the cause of the disaster: In that moment, Liverpool fans became scapegoats.” Read more HERE 

Smash all the Windows

It has taken conviction to right the wrongs.

It will take courage to learn how to live again.

‘An all-round triumph.’ John Hudspith

For the families of the victims of the St Botolph and Old Billingsgate disaster, the undoing of a miscarriage of justice should be a cause for rejoicing. For more than thirteen years, the search for truth has eaten up everything. Marriages, families, health, careers and finances.

Finally, the coroner has ruled that the crowd did not contribute to their own deaths. Finally, now that lies have been unravelled and hypocrisies exposed, they can all get back to their lives.

If only it were that simple.

Tapping into the issues of the day, Davis delivers a highly charged work of fiction, a compelling testament to the human condition and the healing power of art. Written with immediacy, style and an overwhelming sense of empathy, Smash all the Windows will be enjoyed by readers of How to Paint a Dead Man by Sarah Hall and How to be Both by Ali Smith.

If you do read Smash all the Windows, I’d love to hear what you think of it.

Books, books, and more books.

News of the World: A Novel by [Jiles, Paulette]

What is the easiest thing for an author to talk about? 

Books of course.

Like most authors, I’m an avid reader and can’t imagine a day with out reading. Evening is the best time for me–when the day’s to-do list has been completed (or as much of it as possible), when the household  chores are done, dinner eaten, dishes washed and restored to their rightful place in the cupboard.

Now, horizontal on the sofa, I read while my husband watches TV. How so, you ask? I was a teacher for many years. I know how to shut out extraneous noise.

What is the easiest thing for an author to do after reading a book?

Tell everyone they know to read it too.

In the spirit of that sharing (no, not being bossy at all), I offer you a couple of books to consider.

News of the World by Paulette Jiles – I loved it so much, I’m rereading it.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, an aging itinerant news reader agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa back to her people in this exquisitely rendered, morally complex, multilayered novel of historical fiction from the author of Enemy Women that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.

In the wake of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings from newspapers to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.

In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.

Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forming a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.

Arriving in San Antonio, the reunion is neither happy nor welcome. The captain must hand Johanna over to an aunt and uncle she does not remember—strangers who regard her as an unwanted burden. A respectable man, Captain Kidd is faced with a terrible choice: abandon the girl to her fate or become—in the eyes of the law—a kidnapper himself.


Mudbound by Hillary Jordan – the characters are still with me and I will reread this book too, but I will not go to see the movie.

In Jordan’s prize-winning debut, prejudice takes many forms, both subtle and brutal. It is 1946, and city-bred Laura McAllan is trying to raise her children on her husband’s Mississippi Delta farm—a place she finds foreign and frightening. In the midst of the family’s struggles, two young men return from the war to work the land. Jamie McAllan, Laura’s brother-in-law, is everything her husband is not—charming, handsome, and haunted by his memories of combat. Ronsel Jackson, eldest son of the black sharecroppers who live on the McAllan farm, has come home with the shine of a war hero. But no matter his bravery in defense of his country, he is still considered less than a man in the Jim Crow South. It is the unlikely friendship of these brothers-in-arms that drives this powerful novel to its inexorable conclusion.

If you do read or have read either of these, I’d love to hear from you.

The thrill of finding a new (to me) author – Jane Davis

Scrolling through my Paperwhite recently, I happened on An Unknown Woman by Jane Davis and, intrigued by the sample, decided to buy it.

“Where has this writer been hiding?” was my first thought as I read. Only later did I realize she’s written several books. I’ve since read her I Stopped Time and have added more of her work to my e-reader.

And now this:

Jane Davis Launches ‘Unpredictable’ Eighth Novel


Fans of Davis’s fiction have stopped trying to predict where she’ll take her writing next. Since winning the Daily Mail First Novel Award in 2008, she’s become known for writing about big subjects and giving her characters almost impossible moral dilemmas. She’s said in the past that what interests her is how people behave under pressure, because it reveals so much about them. And as the tagline of Smash all of the Windows suggests, her new offering is no exception.

When life steals everything you love, is anger the only answer?

Says Davis, “This book started life as my reaction to the outcome of the second inquest about the Hillsborough football stadium disaster, when the ruling that had laid the blame at the feet of football fans was overturned. The expectation was that now justice had been delivered, the families could ‘get on with their lives’. My question was, What lives?

In creating my fictional disaster, I combined two of my fears – travelling in rush hour by Tube, and escalators – plus a fall I suffered on my way to a book-reading in Covent Garden. I was overloaded, having just finished a day’s work in the city. I was carrying my laptop bag, my briefcase, plus I had a suitcase full of books in tow. The escalator that I normally use was out of order and we were diverted to one that was much steeper and faster. I pushed my suitcase in front of me and it literally dragged me down head first. Fortunately, there was no one directly in front of me, but things could have ended very differently.”

Jane spent her twenties and the first part of her thirties chasing promotions at work, but when she achieved what she’d set out to do, she discovered that it wasn’t what she had wanted after all. It was then that she turned to writing. Her debut, Half-truths and White Lies, won the Daily Mail First Novel Award. Seven further novels, which straddle contemporary, historical, literary and women’s fiction genres, have earned her comparisons to Kate Atkinson and Maggie O’Farrell. An Unknown Woman, was Writing Magazine’s Self-Published Book of the Year 2016.

Smash all the Windows

Genre: Modern and Contemporary Fiction (FA), Literary, General fiction

‘A dazzling high wire walk through interwoven strands balanced so carefully you know you’ll never fall.’ Dan Holloway, novelist, poet and spoken word artist

‘Just fricking perfect. An all-round triumph.’ John Hudspith

‘This is an astounding read. I was completely captivated.’ Liz Carr


It has taken conviction to right the wrongs.

It will take courage to learn how to live again.

For the families of the victims of the St Botolph and Old Billingsgate disaster, the undoing of a miscarriage of justice should be a cause for rejoicing. For more than thirteen years, the search for truth has eaten up everything. Marriages, families, health, careers and finances.

Finally, the coroner has ruled that the crowd did not contribute to their own deaths. Finally, now that lies have been unravelled and hypocrisies exposed, they can all get back to their lives.

If only it were that simple.

Smash all the Windows will be released on 12 April, but you can pre-order it now for the special price of 99p/99c (Price increases to £1.99 on 12 March. Price on publication will be £3.99). The Universal Link is


From 13 February to 10 March, US readers can also enter a Goodreads Giveaway for a chance to win one of 100 eBooks.




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Now that the festivities are behind us, we’re ready to while away the evenings with a good book so head over to your favorite online bookstore and load up your ereader with these.

Ready to Read?

For a little Mystery, join Brittany: Her dream was to go to university. Instead she’s working in a nursing home hunting a killer. (When the Sun was Mine)

Mystery and adventure are yours when you embark on a wild trek across the Sahara as Sidu tries to escape his fate: The old lady is dead, but she could still destroy him. (Whispers Under the Baobab)

to learn more about Brittany, old lady Flo, and Sidu:  click HERE

Or, if Science Fiction is more to your liking, check out the Em and Yves series.

Book One: Em –  Gifted with superpowers she can’t refuse, her life spirals out of control.

Book Two: Jaz –  She’s crazy to build her life on childhood visions, but …

Book Three: Abby – Controlled by an Alien, Abby must decide if he’s real before she loses her sanity.

Book Four: Emily – Inexplicably drawn to the man stalking her, she knows she needs help.

to learn more about the alien who has taken over their lives click HERE

And click HERE  for a bit of humor in Mali to Mexico and Points In Between