Excerpt: Lyla and Bel’s 4th of July

The Best Place – the story of two women who grew up in Marquette’s Holy Family Orphanage and their lifelong friendship.

So on the Fourth of July, Bel comes over for breakfast, and I have to admit she tries really hard. I tell her when she gets there that I’m making scrambled eggs, but she says, “No, that ain’t festive enough for the Fourth of July.” Then she sticks in a video of this silly musical called 1776 that has that bad film look like most of those movies made in the ’60s and ’70s. And it seems like it’s all about Thomas Jefferson’s sex life from what little bit of it I actually pay attention to—and she tells me just to sit there and have my coffee and enjoy myself while she makes pancakes. So I says, “Okay,” to make her happy, and I drink two cups of coffee and pretend to watch half the movie, and I’m just about ready to keel over from hunger when she finally tells me she’s done.

So I drag myself out of the chair and go over to the table and I think, “What the hell did she bake a cake for?” Only, it’s not a cake. It’s a stack of pancakes, and she’s covered the top one in strawberry and blueberry jam and whipping cream so it looks all red, white, and blue, and then she’s got a little American flag on a toothpick attached to it. “I wanted to put in a sparkler,” she says, “but I was afraid it would set off the fire alarm, and I didn’t think we’d use a whole box of them—they don’t sell them separately,” she says.

“It’s pretty, Bel,” I says, “but I don’t like whipping cream, you know.”

“That’s okay. I’ll eat the top one—oh, I forgot the candle I bought to replace the sparkler.”

And then she grabs two giant birthday candles off the cupboard of the numbers “7” and “6.” They’re the same ones she used for my birthday cake last year.

“What’s that for?” I asks.

“It’s America’s birthday today,” she says. “It’s the Spirit of ’76. Don’t you remember that from history class?”

I remember birthday cakes have candles to represent a person’s age, not the year they were born, but I s’pose she couldn’t do the math to figure it out—two hundred and…and…twenty-nine it would be—2005 minus 1776.

“Let’s eat,” I says, but first I have to use the bathroom from drinking all that coffee while I waited.

I go in the bathroom and sit down, and can’t help laughing to myself about the pancakes covered in jam with “76” sticking out of them. That’d be one to take a picture of if my Kodak disc camera hadn’t broken. I haven’t bought a new one—those new digital things are just too expensive as far as I’m concerned. And I don’t have a computer to read them on.

Well, we have a nice breakfast. I eat far more pancakes than I normally would, but Bel says we need to eat extra to keep up our strength for walking to the parade. It’s on Washington Street, just two blocks from Snowberry, but whatever.

After breakfast, I wash up the dishes while she watches the rest of 1776. For the rest of the day, I’ll hear her humming that song about Jefferson playing the violin.

“We can watch Yankee Doodle Dandy tonight, Lyla,” she says.

“Great,” I think, but I just says, “Okay.” Maybe I’ll be lucky and fall asleep by then.

“While we wait for the fireworks,” she says.

I’d forgotten about the fireworks, but I can see them great where they shoot them off over the old ore dock right from my window. It’s one of the few advantages of living high up in a skyscraper—well, at least the closest thing to a skyscraper that Marquette’s got.

When it’s time for the parade, we . . . (Read the rest of this section here.)

The Best Place by Tyler R. Tichelaar

974510_10151663791848201_608006594_n COVERWhat do King Arthur, Lyla Hopewell, and Marquette, MI have in common?  (Answer to follow)

Lyla Hopewell is full of spunk, spitfire, and is as tough as they come.  Sometimes growing up in an orphanage will do that to someone.  And, sometimes, when the pain is really deep, from let’s say . . . losing your family, that spunk and spitfire can burn inward until there is nothing left but empty bitterness.  Lyla’s journey to finding herself and learning the mysteries of her past is a long one.  People think that when you reach a certain age that you can no longer learn anything.  Lyla can tell you a different story because she doesn’t stop learning in 2005 when she is 77-years-old.  That whole year blossoms into something beautiful from one single, quiet closed-up life.  And, all the time that Lyla is learning to live her best friend Bel is experiencing her own difficult times, and this sets a bit of a small wedge between the life-long friends.

Now, I can’t tell you what happens between the girls because I’ve still got about 40 more pages to read.  I didn’t want to spoil the ending for anyone and I knew I might just do that—so I stopped short.

What I can tell you is the character development in this story is excellent.  Each person has strong definitive lines that are kept within in their own personality traits.  And, I don’t understand how the author can live inside a little girl’s head, go through the pain that this woman went through for 77 years, and then little by little as that magical year of 2005 passes by, all the bitterness starts to melt away, and she finally realizes what her life has meant and what wonderful possibilities she has in front of her.  How can someone who is absolutely crazy about King Arthur, and Marquette, MI possibly know what goes on in the life of an old woman?  Wait!  I forgot . . . it’s not one old woman–I forgot Lyla’s friend, Bel.  Not only that, but he absolutely nails the personality of the snippy, smart aleck 14 year old, and the 25 to 35 year old who is in love with the son of Lyla’s one-and-only pitiful romance from year’s past.

Now, no one gets murdered in this book, there’s no bloodshed to speak of, and really no violence going on—well . . . there would have been if Lyla could have gotten her hands on that little smart aleck, Josie.  She sure tried hard enough to catch her—and, for a 77 year old woman she sure gave that little girl a good chase.  So, if you don’t mind missing all the gory stuff and would just like to cuddle up with a really good story—then, this is your book.  Look at it this way–anyone who can write about King Arthur and Marquette, MI and still write a really great book about a woman’s life has got to be a very well-rounded, talented author.

Thank you Tyler Tichelaar for this lovely copy of your book “The Best Place,” and for the opportunity to give you my honest opinion of what I read.  I can’t wait for what you have in store for us next time.

 ♥  Read an excerpt from Tyler’s book. . . .

THE BEST PLACE–AT AMAZON

  • File Size: 738 KB
  • Print Length: 465 pages
  • Publisher: Marquette Fiction; 1 edition (June 10, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00DFKMUHS

Spirit of the North by Tyler Tichelaar

1291646_10151663792218201_1120710923_n SPIRITIt’s time for bed and I’ve been reading a bit of this story every night.  I just reached for the book and realized I finished it.  What a letdown.  The characters were part of my bedtime routine, but they are all busy in their own world within the pages of the book.  I wonder how Barbara and Adele would be doing now.

This is the second book I’ve read by Tyler Tichelaar.  I have to say, that it was as equally charming and quaint a tale, of days gone by, as “The Only Thing That Lasts,” which was the first book I read.  What really caught me up in the story was the daring and tenacity that these two girls showed by trying to live in their uncle’s abandoned Michigan cabin for a winter.  There’s something that touches my heart about women who brave the odds and stick out the hardships of surviving against nature as if it were no more difficult than missing a bus and walking to work.  However, for Barbara and Adele, it was not very easy—yet, they did survive.  Of course, they had a bit of help from time to time from some local loggers who turned out to be a bit more intriguing than the first blush of fascination young girls have for young men when they meet.

Somehow this story reminded me most of “A Girl of the Limberlost” by Gene Stratton Porter, and I’m trying to figure out why.  The two stories had nothing to do with each other except perhaps the years the stories were set in.  I think, that maybe it was the comparison of Elnora in “Limberlost” with Barbara in “Spirit of the North.”  They were both fighting battles, and in a slim way, both were fighting to stay alive and succeed with nothing more than their wits and good common sense.  Elnora had to survive her mother’s mental illness and the two girls, Barbara and Adele had to survive their dead uncle’s mental illness and how it affected their survival and happiness.   The women had grit and spunk and determination—so much so—that nothing was going to stop them, not illness, not love, not isolation/fear/money.  These are all the traits women had to have to survive around the turn of the last century.  And, I think, this is why I’m so drawn to that time period.

Overall, the story was a fun read and I really enjoyed it.

My thanks to the author for this lovely copy of “The Spirit of the North” and to Review the Book.com for this opportunity to review the book.

 

SPIRIT OF THE NORTH–AT AMAZON

  • File Size: 686 KB
  • Print Length: 314 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0979179068
  • Publisher: Marquette Fiction; 1st edition (March 19, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007MTPFDE

The Only Thing That Lasts by Tyler R. Tichelaar

1080472_10151663791618201_1297244887_n ONLY THING

An Endearing Tale of a Simpler Time

 “A true library inside a home!  To possess a library was the only reason I could think of for why anyone would want to be rich.”

Okay . . . I’m hooked!  How could I not fall in love with a boy (or anyone) who loves books that much?  Just getting to page 85 to see the excitement on Robert’s face as he sees all those beautifully embossed books lining the shelves in that massive library and knowing that as a solid defining moment in his life is worth the five stars to me.  Life was so different around a hundred years ago, and without television, telephones, computers, gadgets–I imagine to a young boy who wanted to find adventure and the mysteries of life, books would seem to hold the magic keys to the world.

Some people have compared this story to Twain’s scallywags Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.  I don’t see that here.  This reminds me more of a story like  Little Women with all the homespun charm of the Little House books, except from a boy’s point of view. For this, I’d like to thank Tyler Tichelaar’s brother for requesting an “old fashioned story.” (Dedication page)  And, I’m a sucker for this type of tale.  It is so refreshing to not have all the people being murdered, being put into jail, doing drugs, or plotting revenge tactics.  This is just an easy story about a young boy’s fictional life in historic Marquette, Michigan.  Robert has more than his share of hardships and emotional adjustments for a young teen during the war, (and, as a young man) yet, he always seems to find the bright spot in things even if it is only for a short period of time as is evidenced in this passage, “And so, whenever life has felt close to falling apart, I think back on that day and think of the blue and the green, the two colors that made my soul leap up in me, that made me feel like I had a deeper, inner life I was only beginning to understand.” (P. 139)

Sprinkled throughout the book were historical facts about Marquette and Mackinac Island. It was so much fun to look up these places on the Internet.  I have to agree with the author that the Grand Hotel is the most impressive hotel I’ve ever seen.  It looks like an amazing place as does the island itself.  All this history added so much enjoyment to the story and made it really come to life.

The Only Thing That Lasts was such an enjoyable read that I’m certain I’ll be enjoying other works by Tyler R. Tichelaar.

I’d like to thank the author for this lovely copy of his book and also Review the Book.com for this opportunity to review this book.

 

THE ONLY THING THAT LASTS–AT AMAZON

  • File Size: 881 KB
  • Print Length: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Marquette Fiction; First edition (March 31, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0023RRRJU