Friday, September 16, 2016


Today, I’d like to introduce you to Ottawa author and artist, Catina Noble. The first time I met Catina, she was taking a memoir writing course through the National Capital Region Canadian Authors Association. I was running the workshop. There were a dozen seasoned and new writers in the group, but Catina stood out as one who would blossom in the years to follow. And she did. With some poems and short stories published, her biggest undertaking, her memoir, “I’m Glad I didn’t Kill Myself” (, was released earlier in 2016. She is just releasing her first collection of short stories, “Vacancy in the Food Court”, an intellectually sensitive collection of random notations on the fragility, unpredictability and strangeness of life. Here’s what Catina has to say about her writing, her art and her life as a creative person.

EJHO: Tell us about yourself, Catina. What really started your writing career?

CN: Over the years, I had sent in a poem or two to try and get it published but wasn’t really getting anywhere. At that time, I was volunteering for a community newspaper Riverview Park Review, writing articles about different events taking place. I started getting serious about my writing in April 2013 when I was notified by Chicken Soup for the Soul that my short story Moving Forward was going to be included in the 20 th Anniversary: Readers Choice Edition coming out in June of that year. Once I held that book in my hands, things changed for me. I felt as if I had been validated. If I got published once, perhaps it could happen again. Maybe I would get more stories or poems published, maybe someone else would enjoy my words. Within a month or two of the Chicken Soup publication, I also published my first chapbook of poetry titled Pussyfoot through The Ontario Poetry Society, of which I am still a proud member.

EJHO: Catina, you write stories about a deep inner self, almost spiritual stories, how did this come about?

 CN: I have a fair bit of life experience, considering my age. That’s how my stories come about, through threads weaved from my own adventures.

EJHO: Why personal/reflective stories?

CN: During an interview, a reporter once described my work as ‘raw’ and I believe that word is appropriate. I want readers to take away something from my stories. I want readers to know they are not alone; we are all just human. We make mistakes; we get rejected; we have embarrassing moments; we have pee-your-pants funny moments, but no matter what, perhaps we just want to know that we do matter.

EJHO: What made you write this story? Do you believe it will be helpful for others who might be suicidal?

CN: I had wanted to write my story for years, over a decade, but just couldn’t seem to get past the first few pages. A couple months ago, I woke up earlier then usual and started pulling out all my old journals. I tag the outside of all my journals so I know what year they are from. I pulled out all the journals that were tagged 1993, 1994 or 1995, ages 15-17 years. I started going through them and over the next few weeks I just kept going and going until it was finished. I do believe it [my story] is helpful to others on different levels, for people that suffer from depression and anxiety, people having trouble fitting in, low self-esteem and so on.

EJHO: You are also a visual artist, tell me something about your art. Does your art heal, console? Or is it a means to relieve the tension of life?

CN: My art encompasses all three of these. However I generally use art mostly to relieve stress from my life. I am a single parent of four children between the ages of 15 and 20 years old. Plus we have 3 cats and a dog.

EJHO: Tell me something about your collection of short stories, “Vacancy in the Food Court”. These are deeply insightful stories and I see the artist in you coming through your written word.

CN: This is a collection of 13 stories. They are all very different because they don’t abide by a theme, but stand on their own.

EJHO: I think there’s a metaphor reference in the title, can you enlighten us.

CN: One day I was sipping on tea in a food court inside a mall while writing in my journal. The couple sitting beside me at a table on the left got up and walked away. I thought: this table is now vacant, but soon it will be occupied, just like so many other things in life. That is how I came up with the title for this collection.

EJHO: Why is writing so important to you?

CN: Writing is important to me for few reasons. On a personal level, looking back through my journals, I can see how far I have come. In a way, keeping a journal is like having a good friend around. There are always a couple of ideas floating around and after awhile, if I don’t write them down, more and more ideas add themselves on until I can’t seem to concentrate until I write a few down.

EJHO: What makes this particular genre you are involved in so special?

CN: Not everyone likes reading novels. Some people prefer nuggets of words (a.k.a short stories) instead. I like writing short stories because my characters don’t have as much time to compete and it’s easier to try new things inside the scope of a short story.

EJHO: Do you keep a diary? If the answer is yes, does it help with your writing and how? If the answer is no, why not?

CN: I have kept a journal since I was 15 years old and still do. I find it does help me with my writing on different levels. Along with personal anecdotes, I also jot down different ideas for stories, or key words from an experience that just happened.

EJHO: You use the written word in your visual art. What is it about the written language that is so important to your creative output?

CN: I like using the written word in my art because it keeps it simple and I think it is also a good way of tying my love for writing and art together.

EJHO: What inspires your writing and your stories?

CN: Every day little things inspire my writing and stories. For example, I was walking over a bridge carrying groceries when I suddenly spotted a bunch of crows gathered in a parking lot. From this I wrote “Counting Crows”.

EJHO: What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?

CN: I think the hardest thing about writing is to remember it is a process, not every single story or book, you write is going to be your best piece. I spend way too much valuable time criticizing my writing when I should be just actually writing.

EJHO: What would you say is the easiest aspect of writing?

CN: For me the easiest part of writing is right after I get an idea. I take a few minutes to jot down notes, experiences and feelings that I might use later on.

EJHO: Do you have a favourite story amongst all that you’ve published. Why this one?

CN: I don’t believe I have written my favourite story yet but I do like “Counting Crows” and “Gently Used.” I like “Counting Crows” because the story (after spotting the scene in the parking lot with the crows) just seemed to unfold by itself. I like “Gently Used” because it’s different kind of story.

EJHO: In the age of increasing technological advances in the methods of entertainment, where do you feel your books fit? Do you believe that the growing number of non-readers is a threat to the book industry? Are you concerned?

CN: I believe there is still room for my books. I don’t mind reading books on different devices but my favourite is reading from an actual book. I love the weight of the book in my hands, the sound of the pages turning, using a book mark and seeing it move forward. I do believe the growing number of technological advances and non-readers are a concern. It seems inevitable that eventually print books as we know it will become extinct. I hope that doesn’t happen during my life time.

EJHO: Thank you Catina, for sharing your insights on the art of writing as well as art itself.

Catina Noble, Author & Mixed Media Artist

“You ever get the feeling that everyone is laughing and somehow you know they are laughing at you? I hate that feeling and I seem to get it often and what everybody doesn’t understand is that it hurts deep down inside. It hurts a lot. Just when you think you are balanced WHAM it hits you like a ton of bricks.” – Excerpt from I’M GLAD I DIDN’T KILL MYSELF by Catina Noble (Published by Crowe Creations)

Amazon link to order

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Intensity of Life in a Short Story .... and more.....

Life can be complicated. In fact, it can be obtuse, obscure and very difficult to define. That is, if you really want to define it. Life in its barest bones, its pure unadulterated form, can be earth shattering and very confusing. But life can also be very beautiful, sublime and even consoling.


There is a wide range of emotions in Catina Noble’s collection of short stories, “Vacancy at the Food Court”. From the opaque void of the unknown to the unrefined, raw state of mere existence, Catina explores the complicated aspects of life. In fact, even the title suggests that there is a void, an emptiness in a place, a food court, where one would not expect to be alone.  

Like Alice Munro, Catina has develops an entire epic complexity that one would expect in a novel, in the few short pages of a short story. While simple images, like an empty table in a food court or a couple of chattering crows in an empty parking lot, might inspire the author with a story idea, it’s her ability to interrelate aspects of memory and reality to the point of creating undeniable tension that brings her stories alive. Her stories are subtle, seemingly trivial, but also pure and, at time, rather abstract. An intense read. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Gerlinda's Story is Starting to Be Noticed

An amazing and insightful review:

Gerlinda is another artistic attempt by Emily-Jane Hills Orford, when we talk about imaginative literature. A novel that talks about a girl’s troublesome life, Gerlinda hits all the right notes of being an emotional rollercoaster of feelings, sufferings and hope. What can be said about Emily-Jane Hill Orford when her exceptional writing speaks for itself? The award-winning woman has her name on many bestsellers like F-Stop: Life in Pictures, The Whistling Bishop and To be a Duke that are themselves a testament of her genius work of art.
Ever since a little girl, Gerlinda was made to carry the weight of her whole family on her shoulders. Having a drunken and abusive man as a father, a former Nazi, who loved to leave marks on her body in the form of bruises and cuts, every inch of Gerlinda’s body depicted a painful story. Surrounded by a negligent mother and siblings she often had to take care of, she always played the role of a buffer between them and her father whenever things turned bad. If only there was some place she could elope and forget about her home, but no. The school was even worse than home. Baring the brunt of bullying, Gerlinda never felt welcomed. Despite being a misfit, mocked and taunted by insults at her school for bearing the dirtiest of clothes, Gerlinda still didn’t let anything bring her spirits down. She excelled at her class and home which made others hate her even more. If only she hadn’t decided to join the swimming team and met the kind stranger who was later going to change her life, Gerlinda too would have lived the life of an everyday poor woman, slapped hard by the cruelty of life.
Stories that will make you feel all the emotions at once; love, courage hatred, poverty, struggles, bullying, domestic abuse and other social evils, Emily-Jane’s Gerlinda beautifully portrays it all. With Gerlinda, the author has tried to voice the silent cries of kids affected by all such issues that have a devastating effect on their lives.
Truly an inspiring read that will leave the readers in tears and feel sorry for Gerlinda and all the other kids who are going through this.

To Be A Duke Continues to Impress Readers

Some pretty serious writing created this book. Read the latest review:

It is authors like Emily-Jane Hills who bring into the limelight issues that affect each and every one of us on levels they can’t even begin to categorize. Being an award-winning author with books like F-Stop: A life in Pictures and The Whistling Bishop, To Be A Duke is a story that needs to be heard. Written from a dog’s perspective, To Be a Duke is a one of its kind tale that tries to look at animal cruelty and the harmful effects it has.
The book narrates an endearing narrative of a little puppy, Duke, who was separated from his mother at a very young age. Describing perfectly what it means to have lost a loved one, Duke was given up for adoption. However, as they say, not all new homes are welcoming. After going through a series of abuses at the hands of cruel owners, he finally found a home and people he fell in love with. From the moment his new owners patted him on the back and welcomed him in their warm and caring embrace, Duke knew he had found his final home. By living with these people, Duke felt loved and appreciated. They applauded him for talents he was never appreciated for before. Soon, Duke is being trained for many competitions, many of which he wins, all thanks to the support and love of his new family. During the narrative, readers are also introduced to Misty, the owner’s previous dog, who died fighting cancer at the age of 13 years.
What Emily-Jane has tried to portray through her beautifully-scripted story is that animals too, like us humans, deserve to be treated with love, kindness and compassion. Like humans, they too feel and sense the behavior around them and therefore, shouldn’t be abused under any circumstances, neither physically nor emotionally.
Written in a very conversational prose, the simplicity of the story is what makes it a truly delightful read. You may think this is not your cup of tea, but believe us, once you get stated, it will be hard to put down.
An inspirational work of fiction that deserves all the praise in the world, To Be a Duke is a heartwarming treat of congenial literature.


Very Serious Writing

Read the interview and learn my thoughts and writing processes:

Thursday, August 11, 2016

More reviews to ponder

This is a book of abuse, plain and simple, but it is far from being a plain and simple book. The human psyche is represented in black and white, but on cannot say that the book is black and white. There are countless angles, emotions, etc. Those who read this book may get much more than they bargained for in the way of feelings, memories, etc. Be prepared for anything.
Gerlinda is a girl caught in a web of anger, bullying and physical abuse. Her mother is in full blown denial, making it impossible for Gerlinda’s younger siblings to avoid the rage from an anger-filled father.
Gerlinda’s father grew up in WWII Germany. As a young boy, he was indoctrinated into Hitler’s Youth gangs and became a victim of the times. His victimization carried into adulthood due to the lack of assistance in adjusting to the real world, hence, victim to abuser, the cycle continues.
Because of his past, it is hard to hate the father, but there doesn’t seem to be any sense of responsibility on his part towards his wife and children. Or a willingness to learn and grow from past experiences, so one cannot help but to feel negative feelings towards him.
His rage had not outlets except his children, especially Gerlinda who feels protective towards her siblings. She throws herself in front of them, thus taking the hardest kicks and punches.
His wife’s way of coping was to hide behind a high wall of denial, thus thrusting even more grief upon the children.
Gerlinda’s life is further complicated by constant bullying at school by both girls and boys, but you have to marvel at her survival skills. There is a solution to just about every problem, even though some solutions are illegal, like shoplifting.
There is nothing positive or negative about the ending, which pretty much echoes what I originally stated. Neither black and white nor plain and simple.
I commend the author for writing a book so rich in the truth.
Reviewed by Donna Wolf, compassionate bibliophile

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Edisto Mysteries: A Conversation With Award-Winning Mystery Author, C. Hope Clark


Welcome to Beyond the Ordinary’s Stories of Amazing People. And today’s blog features a very amazing mystery writer from South Carolina. She’s definitely beyond the ordinary. Welcome C. Hope Clark.

People in the writing business know the name C. Hope Clark. She has created, edited and maintained for many years the award winning site,, a weekly newsletter that reaches over 40,000 authors, publishers, professors and more. Writing is but one of her many passions. Mysteries and dachshunds are another.
Where does a mystery writer find fuel for his/her plots? Perhaps she just comes by it naturally. A former Federal Agent, Clark performed administrative investigations. She met her husband, a thirty-year veteran of Federal Law Enforcement, while investigating a bribery within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  

Writing itself requires talent, dedication and the ingenuity for plotting the course and creating decisively realistic characters. Writing mysteries is a complex maze of intersecting occurrences, plots that follow clues, constructive thinking and much more, all without losing either the reader’s interest or the reader’s comprehension of the buildup of clues and ideas that lead to the resolution. Let’s hear what Hope has to say about writing and about mysteries.

EJHO: Tell us about yourself, Hope. What really started your writing career?

CHC: Like the cliché, I've enjoyed writing as long as I can remember. I associated good writing with intellect and writing a handy tool in becoming respected. As a shy individual, writing could speak for me. I was the one in school who loved the essay questions, because those could always get me extra credit.

As for the career, it was long and convoluted. I wrote for the federal government within the confines of various titles - loan officer, administrative director. Finally, I decided to return to writing for me, like I did when I was younger. And especially after I was offered a bribe within the federal government, I turned to mystery storytelling. However, after two years, I could not sell the novel, so I turned to freelancing, hoping to one day improve my novel writing abilities and build a following. I set a three-year plan to freelance for a living, and took an early retirement at age 46. Four years later, I returned to the novel, joined a critique group, entered contests, sought agents, then finally landed a contract. It was not easy, by any means, but it was a daily process that I was determined to master. So...the failed mystery made me start, and the platform of ultimately turned me back to writing mystery. And I learned that all that freelancing in between made me a much better writer. I'm a firm believer in writing daily. I'm proof it works.

EJHO: What or who inspired you as a writer, particularly as a mystery writer?

CHC: Pari Noskin Taichert was a small mystery author I met once who convinced me it was time to pull out the novel again and give it another go. The international critique group that I joined kept me on task, and I never would have become the writer I am today without them. As for one writer and style? I don't like to stick to one or two. I love to find authors who write great mystery or suspense material. I love learning from those who have gone before me. I learn from reading more than anything else.

EJHO: Why mysteries? Were you an avid mystery reader with a compelling drive to create your own mysterious plots?

CHC: I love reading mysteries. I love mental challenges, and I so respect great street smarts. I took the MENSA test just to see if I could pass it . . . and I did. But I was offered a bribe once when working for the federal government, and I participated in that investigation. After that, I was hooked on crime and problem solving. I became an administrative investigator and got to work on a few cases with the badge-and-gun-toting agents several times . . . even married one of the agents. Guess you can call it the groupie in me.

EJHO: What research is involved in writing mysteries, your mysteries in particular?

CHC: Any story requires research to be smart. My stories are rural and along the South Carolina Lowcountry, i.e., the beach. In my mysteries, I've had to research weather patterns, tide tables, wildlife, flora, food, firearms, shot patterns, clothing, dialects, foreign languages, and agricultural practices. You have to get facts correct. Since I set my stories in real places, the facts have to be right. And since I use law enforcement, the practices and tools in that arena must be credible. I visited Edisto Beach in March and rented a charter to study tide, dolphins, and creeks feeding the bay. Research can be quite fun.

EJHO: “Echoes of Edisto” is the third book in the Edisto mystery series? Why Edisto? What is so special to you about this place?

CHC: Edisto is a secluded beach, constantly fighting the intrusion of franchises, neon, and motels. You rent a house. You enjoy the beach. There isn't noise. Lights must be out by dark so the sea turtles aren't confused. They issue tickets to golf carts. The restaurants are mom and pop. In other words, developers have been kept away, and a beach visit means slowing down and enjoying the surf. Definitely not a party place. It's an hour south of Charleston, and you don't go by it . . . you have to be going to it because there's only one long highway 174 to take you there. I've visited that beach since a teen, and it is my second home. If I didn't already live on a lake in South Carolina, and have family nearby, I'd move to Edisto. But having a place so untouched by crime, so rich in nature and history, just beckoned me to bring a broken character there to heal....only for crime to follow her. The juxtaposition of the character's messy life and the calm of a setting where people forgot their problems, made for the perfect conflict.

EJHO: How much of yourself is hidden in the characters of your books, particularly your Edisto books?

CHC: I don't see a lot of me in Callie . . . maybe a little bit. This is my second series, and I had to fight to differentiate this character from Slade in the first series. Now....there's a lot of me in Slade which is probably why there is so little of me in Callie. But I use a healthy dose of real people in all my stories. They just aren't able to see themselves. Except for Sophie in the Edisto books. She's real and knows it.

EJHO: What challenges did you face in writing a good mystery? What particular challenges did you face in writing “Echoes of Edisto”?

CHC: Writing a mystery is slow going for me. I want the characters to be three-dimensional and I want the setting to be as much of a character as the people, so I'm forever seeking new ways of depicting that setting. One particular challenge in “Echoes of Edisto” was deciding who dies, frankly. I went one way, then another, settling on a choice I never would have guessed when I finished book two, “Edisto Jinx”. But sometimes you have to take a chance to make the next book in a series better than the last. I also cut the word count on this book a little bit, so the twists had to be tighter with more impact. And I had to take characters that the reader thought they knew from books one and two, and find new sides to them all.

One funny thing is that Callie gets sick in this story, and I had a chest cold while writing it. Throughout that book, as Callie got sicker, I did, too. It was like she got in my head. And I cried writing several of these chapters like I have never done before.

EJHO: As founder and editor of, you are always sharing your expertise and wisdom on the complicated and challenging business of writing and publishing. Perhaps you could share with us the greatest lesson you’ve learned about writing so far.

CHC: I have learned that writing has to be a diligent, steady endeavor. Not something we start and stop. If I had taken weeks or months off, I would not be at this juncture in my profession. And with each word, particularly each published word, we improve. Doesn't matter which genre or if we're freelancing or novel writing, but being sporadic with the effort only holds back a writer's talent and ultimately their future. There is no waiting until you feel like writing. You show up to work each day and do it whether you feel like it or not.

EJHO: With all the advice you’ve shared with writers over the years, what do you think would constitute an important attribute to remaining sane as a writer? Or do writers really want to remain sane, if such a condition even exists?

CHC: I remain sane by remaining busy writing, submitting and marketing. If I sit around, I think too hard about why this or that isn't working. There's a lot of competition out there, and a lot of noise. If you quit paying attention to moving forward, and start watching those around you, or catching up to you, comparing your success with theirs, comparing their book with yours, you'll just trip and fall behind and drive yourself stupid. Worst of all, you'll second guess yourself. I don't think about sanity. I also don't think about the magic of being a so-called writer. It's a job I've chosen, and I just keep doing it to the best of my ability. Some will like my work and others will not. That's okay. I'll care more about those who do. There are enough other authors for the others to find and latch a hold of.

EJHO: How do you construct your mystery plot? Do you start writing at the beginning or work your way from the middle out?

CHC: I start where the story begins, at the beginning. I'm extremely linear in my writing, plus I want to learn the story as it evolves, because I get bored otherwise. I am the protagonist, solving the mystery. I outline three chapters, then write them. Then I outline another three chapters, then write them. Sometimes the outlines turn into two or five chapters, but that's okay. I now understand more about plot and character arcs, and I have mental ideas on where in the story things need to have taken place. My knowledge of that came from simply reading good books, frankly. Not a class. Writers need always need to be reading work that makes them better. I'm not a big fan of reading a lot outside my genre.

EJHO: What inspires your writing and your stories?

CHC: Setting and character. I want never-ending tension. I want characters that readers feel they know. I want readers to want to travel the roads in the story in an attempt to find where the climax happens (**yes, people have done this). Bottom line, improving my writing motivates me, and readers thrill me. But inspiration? My husband and I love spinning mysteries, solving them on television. I like the good guy being smart and the bad guy getting his comeuppance. I simply like a good tale, and I want to be one of those writers who can write a memorable one.

EJHO: Do you have a favorite story amongst all that you’ve published. Why this one?

CHC: My favorite is usually the one most recently published . . . until I write another. I've poured heart and soul into each and every one, so each has a personality and a history that means something to me. Like the cliché, a momma cannot name a favorite child.

EJHO: In the age of increasing technological advances in the methods of entertainment, where do you feel books fit? Do you believe that the growing number of non-readers is a threat to the book industry? Are you concerned?

CHC: Nope, not concerned at all. There will be enough readers to read my material in my lifetime to make me feel fulfilled. Again, why worry about that when I cannot do anything about it? Why try to make myself crazy? A waste of time. But we also forget that Amazon ballooned the number of readers out there, making reading easier. We might be reading more on phones sometimes, we might read in holographic images downstream, but I don't care how we do it. I still believe that readers like being alone with words, hidden away. Videos and movies don't quite do that. There's a deeper mental involvement reading a story.

EJHO: Will your readers be gifted with another Edisto mystery in the near future? Or do you have new mystery series in the works?

CHC: I am working on “Adrift on Edisto” as we speak. I'd like to do another Carolina Slade, giving that series its number 4. Plus, I do have another series in the works, with the protagonist named Kennedy Rose. There aren't enough hours in the day, honestly. So many ideas. 2017 will mean less travel and more writing for me. I'm not getting any younger, and there are so many stories to tell.

Thank you Hope for sharing your insights on writing and writing mysteries in particular. “There are so many stories to tell.” You’re so right about that. I’m sure I speak for all your fans when I say that we can’t wait to read all those stories you plan to tell. Happy writing!



Saturday, August 6, 2016

A Thrilling Read

The Edisto Police Department has its share of personalities, the clash of which elicits emotions ranging from humor to outrage. The Department even has their first ever female Chief of Police, Callie Jean Morgan. She’s new to the Department, but not so new to the area where she grew up. She was known in Edisto; at least, her family was known. It may be a small, beach-front community, but the political undercurrents run deep and Callie comes with a lot of history – family history as well as career history. It all makes for an interesting, indeed intriguing plot to unravel. And then one of her own dies while on duty! Was it an accident? Or, was it murder? And who, really, was the intended target? The death of a police officer from her Department, so soon after her taking on the post as Police Chief, does nothing for Callie’s opponents. It only intensifies the chaos as the powers that be in Edisto set to destroy her career. Add to the mix, an annoying reporter who seems to be everywhere Callie turns.

It’s hard to imagine such a quiet, peaceful beach community as a setting for so much intrigue, murder and mayhem. Author, C. Hope Clark, is the master of mystery and suspense. In a previous life, the author was a federal administrative investigator and her obvious talent in creating a compelling mystery and solving the crime is evident in her writing. Her complex plots, interspersed with obscure and sometimes intricately convoluted red herrings, make her stories on par with some of the best mystery writers, particularly Agatha Christie.

Clark’s main character, Callie, is the ideal of the persistent investigator herself. She sparkles with energy, compassion and a compelling sense of what’s right and wrong. Added to her complex nature, the tragedies of her past that continue to haunt her, Callie’s complicated family situation deepens her character. After all, one can’t hold a position of power, even as the police chief, without having to face a number of controversial adversaries.

This mystery is full of plots within plots that are all interconnected. Complicated by twists and turns that make the reader believe the mystery to be unsolvable, the story does reach an unsettling resolution, but a resolution nonetheless. For, what would a life in law enforcement be without the tragedies that scar the process?

A powerful and exciting mystery on many levels. Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford, award-winning author of “To Be a Duke” and “Gerlinda”.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Another Amazing Interview



One of my older books get a fresh new review. If you haven't already read it, perhaps you should!
Reviewed by Raanan Geberer for Readers' Favorite

As Winter by Emily-Jane Hills Orford begins, it’s the early 1980s in Halifax, Canada. Young Joseph Alan Tomah -- part Jewish, part Christian and part Native American -- is full of resentment. His parents have been killed in a car crash, he’s living with his aunt, and he has to deal with a neighborhood bully who calls him an “Injun.” Then one day, his aunt shows him some valuable cellos that his grandfather, a famous violin maker and repairer, had showcased in his shop in pre-war Paris and that had been sent across the Atlantic with his mother, then a child, near the beginning of World War II. Joseph starts taking lessons and becomes a prodigy. Then, however, someone breaks into the house and vandalizes the cellos. Soon people around Joseph start dying, one by one. What does the unknown perpetrator want? Does he want the cellos, the gold that the family had smuggled to the New World along with the cellos – or something even worse?
It’s obvious from Winter, which is part of the Four Seasons series (appropriately, Joseph adapts the fourth concerto, Winter, from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons for cello) that Emily-Jane Hills Orford has a great love, and understanding of, classical music and the world of stringed instruments. She also knows a lot about the customs and beliefs of both traditional Judaism and the Mi’kmaw, the tribe of which Joseph’s father was a member. The suspense really moves things along; we don’t know who the villain is or what his motives are until the book is nearing its end. Winter is also very well written. All in all, it combines three genres – historical, musical and mystery – and does so very well.

So Many Amazing Stories

Reviewed by Maria Beltran for Readers' Favorite
Amazingly Extra-Ordinary Women, written by Emily-Jane Hills Orford, is a non-fiction book that pays tribute to some of the most amazing women in history. Unfolding with tales of the early years of noted map draftswoman Phyllis Isobella (Grosz) Pearsall, artist Georgia O’Keeffe, and Benedictine nun Hildegard von Bingen, it goes on to talk about women pioneers like Shaaw Tláa, Marie Curie, Louisa Sarah Collins, and Kate Carmack. Part three of the book touches on the lives of some of the most influential women teachers like Jane Anne (Downer) Hills, Agnes Gützlaff, and Frances Hawkins. Then we learn about women who made their mark as caregivers and mothers that includes Saint Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine I, Lydia Maria Child, Anna Marie Jarvis, and
Elizabeth Harpham. In Part five, we meet women who made their mark as politicians and civil right activists like Brigitte Kwan, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Rachel Carson. The last part is a tribute to creative women in history like Anne, Duchess of Brittany, Edith Watson, Clara Schumann, and Margery Kempe.
In her book Amazingly Extra-Ordinary Women, Emily-Jane Hills Orford honors the countless women who have made a difference in the lives of others. Throughout history, there have been millions of women all over the world who have done so and in millions of different ways so that writing this book must have been a dilemma for the author. Ms. Orford, however, found a beautiful solution out of this conundrum by simply identifying the fields where these women made their marks and zeroing in on the personalities that must have made the most unforgettable impression on her.
The result is a book that is an easy, informative and enjoyable read. Although this is not a voluminous book, it surprisingly offers a wealth of information about extraordinary women in history and it is one that we are not likely to forget. This is because the author presents her subjects in such a way that we get to know these amazingly extraordinary women as real people and not just as footnotes in history.