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Book Blitz: The Bird That Sang in Colour – Grace Mattioli

TheBirdThatSang copy

Congratulations to author Grace Mattioli on the release of her novel The Bird that Sang in Color!

Today I have an excerpt for you to read and a chance to win a copy of the book!

BirdColour 1The Bird that Sang in Color

Publication Date: January 17, 2021 (Today 🎉)

Genre: Literary Fiction

Part family drama and part self-actualization story, this is about Donna Greco, who in her teens, subscribes to a conventional view of success in life and pushes her freewheeling, artistic brother, Vincent to do the same. However, he remains single, childless, and subsists in cramped apartments. She harbors guilt for her supposed failure to ensure his happiness until she discovers a book of sketches he made of his life, which allows her to see his internal joy and prompts her own journey of living authentically.

Thought-provoking, humorous, and filled with unforgettable characters, this book invites readers to ponder what pictures they will have of themselves by the end of their lives.

“Beautifully rendered, hugely moving, brilliant,” Lidia Yucknavitch.

“a refreshing family portrait about interpersonal evolution…presented with affection, humor, and insight…an inspiring slice of life blend of philosophy, psychology, and transformation that draws readers into a warm story and examines the wellsprings of creative force and future legacies…evocative, uplifting,” Midwest Book Review.

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Excerpt

the golden garden bird of peace were the words painted on the wall in Vincent’s room. I thought Dad would have painted over them because he couldn’t stand all that “hippie crap.” Beside the words hung a bunch of paintings he made. He painted trees, mountains, rivers, flowers, and people with real-life expressions that made them more than just pictures. They were alive, and they told stories.

Some of his paintings were abstract, my favorite being one that looked like a kaleidoscope with no beginning and no end and colors that bounced off the canvas like a beautiful neon sign sparkling against a black sky. I could stare at it all day. I went between staring at it and the album cover before me—Let It Be by the Beatles. Vincent sat by the record player, dressed in his usual Levi’s, T-shirt, and Converse high-tops, bent towards the revolving album, listening intently, his head of black curly hair moving back and forth, his right foot tapping the hardwood floor, keeping rhythm to the Fab Four.

Finally, he turned his head away from the stereo and said to me, “I can’t believe this is it.” His face was serious and gloomy, and I didn’t know what he was talking about, but I pretended that I did because I’d never let my cool down around Vincent. It was because of him that I knew so much about rock and roll, which made me pretty sure that I was the coolest eighth-grade girl in the whole town and possibly in the whole state of New Jersey.

“I know,” I said seriously.

“I mean, I just never thought the Beatles would break up.” He shook his head with disappointment. 

“So, this is their last album, then?”

“Well, yeah,” he said, like I should have known better.

“Hey, check this out, Donna.” With the speed of a light switch flicking on, he turned into an entirely different person, no longer sad and gloomy but light and happy. He showed me a drawing he made of an old lady sitting on a chair with half of her body missing, and it looked as if the missing half was on the other side of an invisible door. She wore a mysterious smile as if she knew some extraordinary truth.

“Where’s the other half of her body?” I said.

“I don’t know,” he said, grinning. “You tell me.”

“Wow.” I sat there, trying to wrap my head around this while listening to the song playing. Just as I was about to figure something out about the picture, and just as I was really getting into the song, he took the needle off, turned the album over, and put the needle on the first song on the other side, a tendency he had that bothered the hell out of our brother, Carmen.

He scratched his head and looked up, his eyes penetrating the ceiling, deep in thought. He resembled Mom with his olive skin, Roman nose, and black curls, and was the only one of us who got her curly hair. The rest of us had straight hair. Mine was super long—to the bottom of my back—and I wore it parted in the middle and was certain that I was wearing it that way long before it was the style.

Vincent was also taller than the rest of us at over six feet. Dad said he took after his own dad in stature. I never knew Grandpa Tucci because he died before I was born, but I was told he was called Lanky because he was tall and skinny. I was pretty thin myself and had a bottomless pit. People would say that all my eating would catch up with me one day, but that never stopped me from eating ice cream every day after school. Breyers butter almond was my favorite.

Vincent listened to the music with pure attention, like there was nothing else in the world as George sang I, me, mine, I, me, mine, I, me, mine. He was probably trying to figure out what the song was about or how he could play it on his guitar. His acoustic guitar sat in the corner of his room. He had the smallest room in the house, but it seemed like the biggest because it was its own self-contained universe. I felt like I could be on the other side of the world without ever leaving his room.

His paintings and drawings covered the walls. A bunch of leather-bound cases of albums colored red and black and bone sat on the floor between a stereo and a wooden desk with piles of books and sketchbooks on top. Comic books, pens, and paintbrushes were scattered on the floor like seashells on the sand.

I shared a room with my younger sister, Nancy, and she insisted on having the room be as pink as possible. She was the youngest, so she always got her way. On top of making our room a sickening pink paradise, she had a doll collection with faces that really creeped me out, and she started pushing over my beloved books on our shelves to make room for her dolls. A doll named Lucinda with blond hair and a blue satin dress was shoved up against two of my favorites—Animal Farm and To Kill a Mockingbird.

“Check this out, Donna,” Vincent said, emerging from his music-listening trance. He took a skinny metal whistle out of a plastic case. “Got it at the music store in town.”

“Neat. Some kind of flute?” I said.

“A pennywhistle.” He had a big smile that stretched from one side of his face to the other. “Or sometimes called a tin whistle.”

“I wish I could play an instrument,” I said. “Just one.” I was the only one in our family that didn’t play an instrument. Mom wanted me to learn ballet instead because she said I had a dancer’s body. I liked it all right and stayed with it until my teacher put me on toe, and the wooden shoes imprisoned my feet and made them ache hours after class ended.

“Have it.”

“Really?!”

“Sure.” He started fishing in one of his desk drawers for something.

“Thanks Vincent.” No response. He just kept on with his searching. I looked at the tin instrument wondering how I’d learn to play it, when he poked his head up and gave me an instructional songbook for it. I went through it seeing musical notation for simple songs like “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” It was all new territory for me, but I knew I could learn it and thought I could go anywhere from there. I saw myself playing with Vincent as he strummed the guitar, playing on the street for money, playing in a small orchestra of other penny whistlers. Just then, Mom called out from the kitchen.

“Dinner’s ready!” I didn’t care that my fantasy was interrupted because I was starving.  Vincent was always up for eating and was the biggest eater I knew. He seemed especially hungry because he was walking to the kitchen really fast. Even when he walked fast, he looked cool. He walked with a bounce in his step, his head bobbing back and forth like he was keeping beat to a song that only he could hear. I tried to walk like him once, but I ended up looking like some kind of uncoordinated monkey. I walked like Dad who moved fast and forward-leaning, like he was continually running late for something.  

The kitchen smelled of garlic and fish. It was Friday, and Mom always cooked fish on Fridays. A big flat bowl with hand-painted flowers was filled with spaghetti, calamari and gravy, which was what we called tomato sauce in our house. My older sister, Gloria was setting the large wooden table that sat in the center of the kitchen. She wore her hair tucked neatly behind her ears and a black-and-tan argyle vest that fit snug on her shapely body. Her face had the usual serious, troubled look on it like something was wrong. Anthony—the oldest in the family—was away at college, and Nancy was at a sleepover, so the table was set for only six.

Mom was at the sink, getting a salad together. Above the sink was a long window that looked out onto our backyard, its ledge covered with little ladybug statues, which Mom loved because they meant good luck. She wore a red-and-white apron over a straight skirt and boots and took long, swift strides around the kitchen. Watching her get dinner together was like watching a performance. She’d put on her apron instead of a costume. The music played: the chopping of vegetables, the clanging of metal spoons against pots and the sweet sound of pouring. She’d dance around, gathering ingredients, sautéing, stirring, occasionally turning towards us—the audience—to say something or laugh with us so that we’d feel a part of the show. She presented her perfect meals like works of art, displaying them on the table, and we’d applaud by eating—grabbing, twirling, chewing—until we couldn’t fit anymore in.

 Dad was opening up one of his bottles of homemade wine. I had a sip once, and it went down my throat like an angry snake. He leaned on the table like he needed it to support him with his eyes half-shut and his black-and-gray hair falling forward in his face. In his tiredness, he didn’t speak, but even when he was quiet, he was loud, and whenever he walked into a room, everybody knew it, even if he didn’t say a word. 

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About the Author

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Grace Mattioli is the author of two novels–Olive Branches Don’t Grow On Trees and Discovery of an Eagle, and a book of short stories, The Brightness Index. Her forthcoming novel, The Bird that Sang in Color, will be released January 17, 2021.

Her fiction is filled with unforgettable characters, artful prose, humor, and insight about what it takes to be truly happy.  She strongly believes that if people were happier, the world would be a better place.

She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and her cats. She worked as a librarian for over twenty years and has had various other job titles, including jewelry designer, food cart owner, shopkeeper, book seller, substitute teacher, art school model, natural grocery store clerk, short order cook, food server, street vendor, barista, and a giant Twinkie!

She has been writing creatively since she was a child and has participated in various writing workshops and classes. Her favorite book is Alice in Wonderland. Her favorite author is Flannery O’Connor. Her favorite line of literature comes from James Joyce’s novella, The Dead:  “Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.”

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To win a copy of The Bird that Sang in Color in your format of choice, click the link below!

Note: The giveaway will run from today until January 20th!

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blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Through the Waters and the Wild – Greg Fields*

“I was hungry, seeing myself starving for want of something I could not define. I sought it constantly, sought it at every turn, searched every face I met for hints of it, looked everywhere I could conceive. I lost time trying to slake this unquenchable thirst, trying to satisfy an endlessly burning hunger. But in the end I knew precisely what I had been after all along. It is the folly of the young, part of their particular curse, to be so unaware, to be blind as well as hungry. To be in exile from themselves and not know they are away.”

Haunted by lost loves and limping through a lifeless career, Conor Finnegan’s discontent mirrors the restlessness of his grandfather Liam, caught as a young man in the crossfire of the Irish Civil War. Drawing from Liam’s wisdom and courage, Conor seeks to reinvent his character and reclaim passions made numb by neglect and loss.

Through the Waters and the Wild addresses the timeless questions, “Where shall I go now? What shall I do?”

Q&A with Greg Fields

Author of Through the Waters and the Wild

Question: Congratulations on your new novel, Through the Waters and the Wild! Tell us what the book is about.

Greg Fields: Coursing through several decades, Through the Waters and the Wild spans the farmlands of Ireland, the Irish Civil War, the corridors of power in Washington, DC, and the interior landscapes against which we all seek to craft identity and meaning. With well-drawn, complex characters, a strong narrative arc, and a poetic sense of place, Through the Waters and the Wild not only takes readers on an epic journey, but addresses the timeless questions, “Where shall I go now? What shall I do?”

Q: Through the Waters and the Wild picks up where your last book, Arc of the Comet, left off but can also work as a stand-alone. Why did you decide to return to Conor’s story and what will fans of your first novel be most excited by?

Fields: Conor’s story was nowhere near closure at the end of Arc of the Comet. That was, in fact, the point of it, that there are no final, neat, tidy resolutions and that we all need to continue defining who and what we are. It made sense to carry Conor’s journey forward and to explore how he reacted to the losses he experienced. He’s a different person now – bruised, more cautious, less given to the passions and spontaneity that marked his earlier years. He’s become more like the rest of us.

Q: What made you decide to feature the Irish culture and Ireland prominently in your books?

Fields: I believe that there’s no such thing as complete fiction. Much of Conor Finnegan’s career as described in the book reflects my own experiences, especially his experiences overseas in international development. My grandfather emigrated from Ireland, as did Liam Finnegan, but Liam’s story is not my grandfather’s. Still, I was inspired by the courage of leaving everything behind, the conscious choice to abandon the only world one has ever known.

Q: Exile and redemption are some of the recurring themes in the novel. But what do you hope readers take away most from your writing?

Fields: Most of my writing revolves around the central questions that I believe each of us must constantly ask ourselves. I would hope readers would come away with at least a recognition of those questions in their own context. But what matters, and what’s subtly stressed throughout both novels, is that the answers to these questions are not nearly as important as the asking of them. When we fail to ask ourselves those questions, we cease to be truly alive.

Q: You once had a memorable and fateful encounter with a big literary inspiration of yours, Pat Conroy, who quickly became a fan of your words after you recited a few lines for him. What was it about the meeting that inspired you to become a writer yourself?

Fields: I had written fiction for years, but the demands of a career always pushed that pursuit to the corner. A chance meeting with Pat Conroy as I was developing Arc of the Comet changed all that. Pat saw something in my writing that I did not know was there, and from that point I committed myself to giving every chance to prove the possibility that I might actually be a writer.

My wife, knowing how I loved Conroy’s work, surprised me with tickets to one of his talks and the VIP reception afterward. Knowing absolutely no one at the reception, I headed to the hors d’oeuvres table. Pat approached me from behind, put his hand on my shoulder and said, “We’ve not met. I’m Pat Conroy.” Something intuitive there, and we ended up talking one-on-one for nearly 20 minutes while the other guests circled around and glared at me. Pat was gracious, and we learned that we shared the same birthday, the same literary influences, and the same jump shot on the basketball court. He asked me to recite some of my work, and I was able to do so, after which he got quite serious and said that he wanted to read what I had. We corresponded, and Pat Conroy made me a writer. I’ve told this story many times, in greater detail, as an homage to my generation’s brightest literary life, and a man I came to love.

Q: What’s next for you? Will you be writing another book around Conor’s story?

Fields: I’m working on the next novel. I can’t completely abandon Finnegan, but I think his story has run his course. He’ll make a few cameo appearances in a narrative centering on fresh characters. But the questions, the themes, will be similar to what’s come before, even though they’ll be pursued through different eyes.

Greg Fields is the author of Arc of the Comet, a lyrical, evocative examination of promise, potential and loss, published by Koehler Books in October 2017. Arc of the Comet explores universal themes in a precise, lyrical style inspired by the work of Niall Williams, Colm Toibin and the best of Pat Conroy, who had offered a jacket quote for the book shortly before his death. The book has been nominated for the Cabell First Novelist Award, the Sue Kaufman First Fiction Prize and the Kindle Book of the Year in Literary Fiction. He is also the co-author with Maya Ajmera of Invisible Children: Reimagining International Development from the Grassroots. He has won recognition for his written work in presenting the plight of marginalized young people through his tenure at the Global Fund for Children, and has had articles published in the Harvard International Review, as well as numerous periodicals, including The Washington Post and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. His short nonfiction has appeared in The Door Is A Jar and Gettysburg Review literary reviews. Greg holds degrees from Rutgers College and the University of Notre Dame. He lives with his wife Lynn and their son Michael in Manassas, Virginia. For more information, please visit www.gregfields.net or connect with him on Instagram and Facebook.

Giveaway: Win a copy of the book over on Twitter

My thoughts:

This is a lyrical, thoughtful book, stepping from the slightly adrift in his own life Conor back into the past and the life of his grandfather, Liam, as a young man in rural Ireland during the 1920s, a time of uprisings and conflict.

Drawn into the fight for independence, Liam loses the woman he loves and then has to head out West, across the Atlantic to Chicago, where he remains.

His life story inspires Conor to make some changes in his own and pursue a different way of thinking and search for the things he really wants in his career and in his love life.

This is a powerful and moving book, the Liam section especially, and encourages the reader to think about their own life and happiness. Beautifully written and tenderly constructed, it lingers in your mind long after the final page.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Strange Book of Jacob Boyce – Tom Gillespie*

A spiralling obsession. A missing wife. A terrifying secret. Will he find her before it’s too late?

When Dr Jacob Boyce’s wife goes missing, the police put it down to a simple marital dispute. Jacob, however, fears something darker. Following her trail to Spain, he becomes convinced that Ella’s disappearance is tied to a mysterious painting whose hidden geometric and numerical riddles he’s been obsessively trying to solve for months. Obscure, hallucinogenic clues, and bizarre, larger-than-life characters, guide an increasingly unhinged Jacob through a nightmarish Spanish landscape to an art forger’s studio in Madrid, where he comes face-to-face with a centuries-old horror, and the terrifying, mind-bending, truth about his wife.

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About the Author

Tom Gillespie grew up in a small town just outside Glasgow. After completing a Masters in English at Glasgow University, he spent the next ten years pursuing a musical career as a singer/songwriter, playing, recording and touring the UK and Europe with his band. He now lives in Bath with his wife, daughter and hyper-neurotic cat, where he works at the university as an English lecturer. Tom writes long and short stories. His stories have appeared in many magazines, journals and e-zines. He is co-author of Glass Work Humans-an anthology of stories and poems, published by Valley Press.

Website

My thoughts:

This was a strange book indeed. I got very confused at one point over what was real and what was all in Jacob’s mind. There’s a woozy, disorientating feel to parts of the novel, reflecting the things Jacob is experiencing.

I’m also not 100% sure what happened to Ella or whether she was ever in Spain, this is a book that maybe needs more than one reading to fully understand all the allusions and illusions.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.