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Being an avid, life-long fan of classical music and having studied the violin in my later years, I jumped at the opportunity to review this ambitious work put together by internationally renowned guitarist Steven Hancoff.

Hancoff 3CDBach, Casals and the Six Suites for ’Cello, a project that took Hancoff eight years to complete, is a fascinating, immersive multimedia extravaganza that combines music, history and art, a gem for classical music enthusiasts.

The ebook has four volumes:

VOLUME 1: THE LIFE OF J. SEBASTIAN BACH

VOLUME 2: THE LEGACY OF J. SEBASTIAN BACH

VOLUME 3: PABLO CASALS AND THE SIX SUITES FOR CELLO SOLO

VOLUME 4: FROM TRAGEDY TO TRANSCENDENCE

Volume 1 is all about Bach’s life; volume 2 is about Bach’s death and the following 80 years of total obscurity until his music was discovered by Felix Mendelssohn; volume 3 focuses on Pablo Casals, his heroic life, and how serendipity brought him to Bach’s music; finally, volume 4 consists almost entirely on nine videos about the mystery and greatness of Bach, and how he didn’t allow his personal tragedy to define his music. Over one thousand illustrations grace the pages of the volumes, including three hundred works of contemporary art. There’s also a scholarly bibliography.

The four-volume ebook is available on iTunes and is accompanied separately by a 3-CD set recording of Hancoff’s acoustic guitar transcription of the suites. Readers may listen to samples here.

Like some other famous creative artists in history, Bach led a harsh life, losing his siblings and parents by the time he was ten, then having to work for years in an environment that didn’t support his music talents. He was even thrown into jail at some point. He never recovered from the death of his wife, whom he loved dearly. It was in times of deep pain and hardship that he created his sublime masterpieces, Six Violin Sonatas and Partitas for Violin Solo and then his Six Suites for ’Cello Solo.

The cello suites are a testament to the tragedy in his life, to all the pain and sorrow, but also to his determination and transcendence—a gift to his then gone beloved wife. Particularly interesting and surprising is how Bach’s prodigious music almost fell to oblivion if not for the efforts of Felix Mendelssohn’s great aunt, and how Pablo Casals discovered the suites in a little shop in Barcelona and how he studied them for over a decade before performing them in public.

Steven Hancoff’s passion and reverence for Bach and his music resonate throughout and shine through the pages of these volumes. He’s done an admirable job presenting “the miracle of Bach,” as Casals once put it. Moreover, his transcriptions of the suites in acoustic guitar are a pleasure to listen to: serene, bitter-sweet at times, filled with emotional power and depth, always sublimely beautiful.

Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for ’Cello is a feast to the senses, a testament to the greatness of Bach and comes highly recommended from this reviewer.

Useful links:

Listen to a samples Steven Hancoff’s transcription of the six suites here:http://www.stevenhancoff.com/music.html

Watch Hancoff’s various videos on the subject: http://www.stevenhancoff.com/videos.html

Connect with Hancoff on Facebook and Twitter @StevenHancoff.

My review was originally published in Blogcritics.

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Living with HeartTitle: 
Living with Heart
Author: L. Reynolds Andiric
Publisher: iUniverse
Pages: 266
Genre: Biography
Format: Ebook

Purchase at AMAZON

Reflections from the heart: intimate and provocative

An eclectic assortment of sensitive, reflective, and occasionally spiritual short stories relates the experiences of an adventurous seeker and world traveler. Never a mere spectator of life, but always fully participating, L. Reynolds Andiric relays stories of intimate connections with nature and family as well as memorable exchanges with individuals randomly encountered along life’s way. Each tale conveys an insightful experience that broadened not only the author’s understanding of earth’s creatures—animal as well as human—but served to alter how the world is viewed.

These accounts implore the reader to also appreciate and preserve the natural world and to cherish, honor, and respect all of humanity, regardless of our differences.

Poignant, humorous, contemplative—sometimes a bit tense, these adventures will leave you wondering, What will be next?

amazon

A medical laboratory scientist, L. Reynolds Andiric has had a long career in medical laboratory management. She is a world traveler with a love of people and nature and has an astute and sensitive connection to all beings.

She currently lives in St. Augustine, Florida, and works as a technical consultant with the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) as part of the PEPFAR Project. She also owns LabCare & Assoc., a clinical laboratory consulting company.

L is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

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Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Amazon Gift Certificate or Paypal Cash.
  • This giveaway begins October 6 and ends on October 17.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on Monday, October 20.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!

ENTER TO WIN!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Book description:

Jackie O: On the Couch is the story of Jackie Kennedy Onassis as she might have written it.

This is not just another biography. For the first time, Jackie O: On the Couch highlights Jackie’s life from her own perspective, as imagined by author Dr. Alma Bond, a psychoanalyst and long-time student of Jackie lore.

The facts are all historically correct, as are the ideas, the Washington intrigue and politics, and the examination of the role of women in society and in the White House. Jackie speaks of her need to record her story truthfully–to replace the hodgepodge of lies published during her lifetime. Speaking as an older woman, she ponders how her points of view have changed from those she held when she was young.

The book delves into her childhood and explores how and why Jackie became the person she was. It also explores the Kennedys, and how John F. Kennedy’s background affected his marriage. Jackie’s deep love for Jack, his early inattentiveness, their difficulties together, his outrageous womanizing, happy times at the White House, and the tragedy of his assassination-all are viewed through Jackie’s eyes.

Jackie writes of her need for Aristotle Onassis, debunking the notion that she married him purely for his money, and traces the joyful early years of the marriage through to its dramatic collapse and Ari’s difficult death.

A different Jackie emerges into the world of publishing. Her new persona allows her to establish her very best relationship with the stout and adoring Maurice Tempelsman, until non-Hodgkins lymphoma takes her life in 1994, at age 64.

Jackie O: On the Couch is a unique exploration of the life and loves of a great historical figure. Jackie Kennedy Onassis deeply prized her privacy and, as a result, she was both revered and mysterious. In this book, much of the mystery is shed as Jackie finally emerges as a fully fleshed-out, three-dimensional person-a true human being, with enormous strengths and shortcomings, who all of us can now understand and appreciate, perhaps for the first time.

My thoughts…

I have never understood the fascination people have with Jackie Kennedy. Other that she once was our First Lady, I never liked her or found her particularly special. However, I have read books by the same author in the past and I’ve enjoyed them. Her biographical novel, Camille Claude, A Novel, was beautifully crafted and executed. In any case, this is why I decided to give this book a try.

Another thing I should point out is that, while the book seems well researched, I’m not an expert on the subject so I have no way of knowing if the facts are correct.

This psycho-biography written in first person is part of a series published by Bancroft Press. While I found the book well written and the personal details of Jackie and the people–friends and family–who affected her life interesting and in some cases even fascinating, the voice of Jackie is matter of fact, detached, and even robotic. I’m not sure what the author’s intention was but if she wanted Jackie to come across as a cold, arrogant and totally unlikable character, she succeeded with flying colors. There’s no warmth in the prose, no redeeming quality in Jackie. In fact, she appears in the book even worse than what I had pictured her like.

I found myself skimming over whole sections just to get to the ending sooner. But again, people who are familiar with the life of Jackie might be a better judge of character. I really wanted to like this book but couldn’t. If you want to read a great book by this author, I highly recommend Camille Claude, A Novel instead.

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Set in Atlanta and the Ohio farm region before, during and after World War II, First Love, Last Dance is the touching, heart-warming true story of Elise and Peter, a couple who first fell deeply in love in their late teens/early twenties but weren’t able to reunite until their late seventies. It’s refreshing to read about such real life stories.

Told from the point of view of Elise’s daughter Nancy Rossman, this memoir begins in Atlanta in the late 30s and spans several decades all the way to the present.

Elise is a beautiful Southern girl from an upper-class upbringing. At the young age of 19, she meets Peter, the man who sweeps her off her feet. They fall in love. Unfortunately, Elise’s controlling, domineering and old fashioned mother has other plans for her daughter. Believing that Peter isn’t the right match for Elise, she does her best to influence her daughter’s decision until, tragically, she succeeds. Instead of marrying Peter, Elise marries a Navy pilot who, though handsome and smart, isn’t the right person for her. As a young bride, Elise’s life changes radically: her new husband takes her to rural Ohio to work on a farm. Elise is soon torn with bittersweet feelings of frustration and, at times, unhappiness. Then something happens… Each year on her birthday, Elise receives a mystery call from the South… Could it be her long lost love?

Though I’m not a big fan of memoirs, I must say I enjoyed reading this one. Written with special attention to detail, First Love, Last Dance is a celebration of love that will warm readers’ hearts. It is also a celebration of hope and second chances. True-love story lovers will relish the hope and optimism in it, while fans of Southern writing will take pleasure in the historical aspect of the setting and characters. The family dynamics in the story are interesting, too, portraying values and traditions particular to the South and the Ohio rural regions. Above all, this is the story of one strong woman, Elise, a woman who never gave up on a memory and a promise.

The author wrote the memoir as a gift and tribute to her mother Elise. What a wonderful gift to offer a mother! If you’re a fan of true love stories, you must pick this one up. This book will also make a lovely gift on Valentine’s Day.

About the author: Nancy Rossman has been a storyteller her entire life. Following a twenty-nine year career as a commercial real estate broker, Nancy turned to her first love of writing. Over the past eleven years she has studied with such notables as Alan Furst, Dorothy Allison, Abigail Thomas and Ann Hood. First Love, Last Dance is her first book. It is a memoir about hope and second chances.

Related links:

Website
Amazon
Preview this book on CNN and NBC

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Paula Meseroll is a public relations professional and award-winning freelance writer/editor/columnist whose work has appeared in newspapers and magazines, including Syracuse University Magazine, UB Today, Central New Yorker Magazine, and All Kids Considered. A summa cum laude graduate of Marywood University with a degree in communication arts/public relations, Meseroll is director of marketing and communications at Syracuse University. She’s here today to talk about Flossie Turner Lewis and their new book, Little Hot Mama.

Q: How did you first learn about Flossie Turner Lewis?

A: I met Flossie at the Laubach Literacy/Literacy Volunteers of America national conference held in San Diego in 2002. Flossie had won the National Award For Excellence as the Outstanding Student of the Year and as the editor of Laubach Literacy’s newsletter, LitScape, I had the chance to interview her. As a long-time reporter and freelance writer, I know a good story when I hear one and Flossie’s had everything—family conflict, the glamour of show business, a woman’s struggle to make a life for herself and her children on her own while being unable to read or write. I also saw her hold a room full of people spellbound as she gave her award acceptance speech, telling of her life in show business and her struggle with illiteracy. She is, in a word, amazing.

Q: For those readers who aren’t familiar with her name, please tell us who Flossie Turner Lewis is.

A: Flossie Turner Lewis began delighting audiences with songs and dances in 1935, when she was just two years old. Known by her stage name “Little Hot Mama,” she was the child of black show business stars Hot Papa and Dolly Turner. Flossie, along with her sister LuLu B. and brother Junior, traveled with their parents and performed as the Turner Family Revue. Her own show business career lasted for more than 40 years. She performed on the carnival and chitlin circuits, in speakeasies and minstrel shows, and in the swank nightclubs of Miami’s Overtown where the Turner Family shared venues with other black entertainment greats of the day. From the Deep South to Miami, Puerto Rico, and Los Angeles, Flossie lived her life as a performer, a mother, an eyewitness to racial discrimination and turmoil, and a woman who could not read or write—until she decided to learn how at the age of 65. She is now almost 78, has earned an honorary high school diploma, is the most requested speaker for the United Way in Fayetteville, North Carolina, has lobbied Congress and state legislatures on behalf of literacy organizations, and is much in demand as a commencement speaker.

Q: How did Little Hot Mama, your book co-written with Flossie Turner Lewis come about?

A: At the literacy conference, we exchanged business cards and I told Flossie if she wanted to work together to write her memoir, I would be happy to do so. When the conference was over, I went back home to Syracuse and got busy with other projects. Several months later, I found her card in a desk drawer and decided to give her a call. She told me other writers had offered to work with her to tell her story. She said she had to pray about me to see if I was the one she should work with and she’d let me know. A few days later, she called me back and said the answer was yes.

Q: Who’s your target audience?

A: Flossie’s story is interesting on so many levels that practically anyone would find it a great read. Literacy students, tutors, people interested in African American, black entertainment, and women’s history would all be especially enthralled.

Q: What would you like readers to get out of the book?

A: Most of all, I would like people to be entertained. That is the basis of everything Flossie did in her show business life—for the Turner Family, despite poverty, hunger, and her father’s gambling addiction, the show really did have to go on. I hope readers will be as deeply moved as I am by her story.

Q: What makes this woman’s story so special?

A: Flossie’s story is the inspiring tale of one woman’s struggle to make a successful life for herself and her children, despite the roadblocks of racism and illiteracy. Her first-person accounts of life on the minstrel show and chitlin circuit are a part of American history that perhaps no other living person can tell.
Flossie is an astoundingly strong woman who refused to be defeated by circumstance. She met everything life threw at her and overcame it all. The book has moments of intense pain and anguish—such as Flossie’s experience of being a poor, black single mother with a brain-damaged child, as well as the night when Flossie’s beloved mother died in her arms. But there are also parts where readers will literally laugh out loud—many of the hilarious plot shows that the Turner Family was famous for are described in detail. There are 35 pages of photos of Flossie, her family, and the entertainers they worked with.

Q: Tell us about the actual writing process of this book. What was it like working with Flossie?

A: Since Flossie lives in North Carolina and I live in upstate New York, we did all of our interviews by phone. Some nights we spoke for a few minutes, other times for hours. We laughed and cried together as she dredged up memories she’d submerged for decades—to get the details, I asked about many things she didn’t want to think about because the memories were too painful. Flossie likes to say that I know more about her than she does. Her recollections are intensely vivid—her family became so real to me that I actually dreamed about them at night. I have literally hundreds of hours of taped interviews which were made over the course of more than a year. During that time, we became more than collaborators. We are very good friends. Then came the hard part—organizing Flossie’s sometimes chaotic life into a readable manuscript and writing her story.

Q: What was the most challenging part of writing this book?

A: Flossie and I could not be more different—she’s African American, I’m white. I’ve been reading since before I started kindergarten, words were just jumbles to her until she was in her late 60s. I graduated from college with highest honors; Flossie’s schooling was practically non-existent most of her life. There were times I had to research what she told me—names, dates, places—because she didn’t know how to spell them. Her life was so vastly different than mine that I literally had to submerge my own personality to write in Flossie’s voice. In that, I think I was successful—more than one person who has read the book has asked me if I am African American because I had the words and usage so right.

Q: Where is the book available?

A: Little Hot Mama: The Flossie Turner Lewis Story is available on Amazon.com as a Kindle e-book. It is also available as an e-book to libraries to purchase for unlimited lending to patrons.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers?

A: Flossie and I, our literary agent, Leticia Gómez, and our publisher, Stay Thirsty Media, have joined together to donate 50 cents from the sale of every digital copy of our book to The Flossie Turner Lewis Literacy Fund at ProLiteracy to support the most worthy cause of adult literacy.

Read more about Flossie Turner Lewis and “Little Hot Mama”:

http://www.prx.org/pieces/54066-lil-hot-mama-flossie-turner-lewis
http://www.syr.edu/news/articles/2010/flossie-turner-lewis-09-10.html
http://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/al_focus/photos/little-hot-mama
http://www.thenewshouse.com/story/indomitable-spirit-little-hot-mama

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