Archive for December, 2020

From the pen of talented historical novelist Joan Schweighardt comes another well-crafted, meticulously researched story about family, community, immigration, oppression, the environment, and having to face the consequences of one’s actions.

It’s 1928 and the Great Depression is looming around the corner when two impoverish but talented mixed-raced—Amerindian and European—Brazilian immigrant cousins travel to NYC to find a better life and fulfill their dreams. Estela, a singer of arias and a product of the Teatro Amazonas during the time of the rubber boom, has a beautiful voice and dreams of becoming a famous opera singer; Jojo is a fisherman and a gifted artist. As a start, Estela is offered a seamstress position at the Metropolitan Opera House while Jojo is offered a scholarship at an art school. Will they achieve their dreams against all obstacles? If yes, at what price?

River Aria is the third installment in this author’s series and is focused on the next generation of the family featured in the first book. There is so much I enjoyed about this novel! The worlds of art and music in 1920s NYC come together engrossingly. The multifaceted, original characters—you don’t often read stories about indigenous people from Brazil—and their struggles to find purpose and meaning in a complex, ruthless city that is a character all on its own, kept me riveted. Parentage and identity are big themes with both Estela and Jojo as they struggle with their origins and how it affects their lives. Having read other books by Schweighardt, I’ve become familiar with her literary prose. She always strives for depth, and she pays great attention to detail.

The author visited the rainforest, as well as Manaus, the Amazon, and Rio Negro as part of her research, and considering the authentic feel of the plot and characters, I’m not surprised. In spite of this, however, the writing doesn’t get too heavy-handed, which is sometimes a problem in this type of book. I particularly recommend River Aria to historical fiction fans who have a special interest in the rubber boom that took place in Brazil in the early 1900s and how it affected the fishing villages and the indigenous people living there.

Find out more at www.joanschweighardt.com

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The Inspiration Behind The Shade Under the Mango Tree

By Evy Journey

 Do you have trouble throwing stuff? I do—those no longer of current importance but that meant something to me in the past. These are what I found in a couple of garaged boxes I

opened one weekend.

Mostly, they were loose sheets of paper, a few of them wide, printed, holey-edged computer paper used on mainframe computers. On them were hurried scribblings of certain things that happened, and how I reacted to them. Things that made me angry, sad  or unusually happy. There was also a tiny notebook half-filled with my musings about life, lyrics of a couple of songs, and a few passages from poetry—all written or collected when I was a teen-ager.

A few weeks later, seeking inspiration for a new novel, I thought: Why not an epistolary novel?

What is an epistolary novel? If you’re a Jane Austen fan and have read Lady Susan, you’d be familiar with it. It’s a narrative device seldom used nowadays. In the past, it consisted of letters, as in Lady Susan, written in Ms. Austen’s juvenile years. Now it can use journals or—in our tech-driven society—emails or text messages.

A more recent epistolary novel is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, published in 2008. I read it as part of my research into this literary form while writing The Shade Under the Mango Tree. I also watched the 2018 film (on Netflix) that was based, not too faithfully, on the book.

Some snippets from the nearly-forgotten writings in my garage found their way into my novel. For instance, the heroine’s Grandma didn’t wear perfume but tucked fragrant flowers into her bun. My grandmother did that. The heroine, in her teenage years, wondered why she was here on earth. I obsessed about existential questions when I was seventeen. The poetry quoted in the book were directly lifted from the collection in the little notebook.

Those scribbles from my past were often cathartic. I didn’t realize this benefit until a few years ago when I wrote a blog post about how writing can heal you. I used to evaluate mental health programs and was aware of writing therapy. But until I did that blog post, I didn’t realize how cathartic those scribbles had been for me, as well.

The healing potential of writing is a theme woven into  my novel. From the heroine’s journal started when she was fifteen to the memoir she intends to work on to help make sense of what she went through.

About the Author

Evy Journey, SPR (Self Publishing Review) Independent Woman Author awardee, is a writer, a wannabe artist, and a flâneuse who, wishes she lives in Paris where people have perfected the art of aimless roaming. Armed with a Ph.D., she used to research and help develop mental health programs.

She’s a writer because beautiful prose seduces her and existential angst continues to plague her despite such preoccupations having gone out of fashion. She takes occasional refuge by invoking the spirit of Jane Austen to spin tales of love, loss, and finding one’s way—stories into which she weaves mystery or intrigue.



About the Book

After two heartbreaking losses, Luna wants adventure. Something and somewhere very different from the affluent, sheltered home in California and Hawaii where she grew up. An adventure in which she can also make some difference. She ends up in place where she gets more than she bargained for.

Lucien, a worldly, well-traveled young architect, finds a stranger’s journal at a café. He has qualms and pangs of guilt about reading it. But they don’t stop him. His decision to go on reading changes his life.

Months later, they meet at a bookstore where Luna works and which Lucien frequents. Fascinated by his stories and his adventurous spirit, Luna volunteers for the Peace Corps. Assigned to Cambodia, she lives with a family whose parents are survivors of the Khmer Rouge genocide forty years earlier. What she goes through in a rural rice-growing village defies anything she could have imagined. Will she leave this world unscathed?


Amazon https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08KFMR9SG

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