Pamela Taylor’s “Pestilence: Second Son Chronicles, Volume 3”

Blog Tour for Pamela Taylor’s book, Pestilence: Second Son Chronicles Volume 3

Welcome Back!

If you are just joining us, this blog is part of a book tour promoting a new historical fiction novel by Pamela Taylor, Prestilence: Second Son Chronicles Volume 3.

Note: The author sent me an autographed copy of the book in exchange for this review.

Pamela Taylor’s book series, Second Son Chronicles, is a historical fiction series using familiar historical settings to tell the story of a family that is fictional. It is not a reimagining of actual people or events–like some historical fiction–and readers may have to remind themselves of that as they read.

The book opens with the sudden death of a beloved king and his rapid replacement by an impetuous son. It doesn’t take long to see that this new king is going to lead the realm in a downward spiral. The story is all told to us by a second son and brother of the new king who has some mysterious destiny of his own yet to be fulfilled.

This book begins mid-action with characters and plots that have been brewing for two books prior to this one. Though the writer does provide a family tree and a sketch of the kingdom at the start of the book, it is hard to understand what is happening if you haven’t read books one and two first. If you read excerpts of the books on the author’s website, linked here, you get a sense of the story without the full depth of it. This is about a family of royals where the second sons–unlikely to become kings–have value and voice. This is also a story that rarely sits still; some scheme or battle is always in the middle of happening or being plotted.

Though there are uncanny resemblances to Henry VIII in some of what happens in Pestilence, the author makes it clear that this is a work of fiction inspired by events of the past but not about any person(s) in particular. The author responds to this idea in the book:

Readers will note similarities with northern Europe, but my decision to fictionalize the setting was a matter of practicality for my characters. European history from this period and its major actors are too well known for it to be plausible that a different set of kings and nobility might actually have existed.

Taylor, Pamela. Pestilence: Second Son Chronicles Volume 3, “Author’s Notes”, Black Rose Writing: Texas, 2020. pg 218.

Pamela Taylor’s work is particularly well designed to showcase language. At one point, the narrator creates a historical record of the new king’s reign that looked and sounded like an actual document that I could research and find. The characters, too, feel real because of the depth of research behind authenticating them within their era. Taylor transitions seamlessly from formal to casual speech; she is surprisingly eloquent as a noble as well as an accented servant. I can only imagine this book series would come to life in full cast audio production.

Taylor’s work would have every right to be laden with words we cannot understand outside of the context, but she makes it a particular point not to do that. Language is intentionally modernized slightly to save readers from referencing dictionaries to understand her work. It is a subtle nod to the audience that does not affect the story but greatly assists the reader.

I greatly respect the work Taylor has put into creating this entertaining series, and I plan to order books one and two to get the full story. If you are looking for an adventurous, mysterious, historical novel full of scandal and glory, check out the Second Son Chronicles. It will not disappoint.

Tara Westover’s “Educated: A Memoir”

Today I had the opportunity to finish a book that wrecked me.

The book was Tara Westover‘s memoir, Educated.


I won’t tell you how the story ends, but I will tell you that it is about a girl who grows up in a stifling environment with parents who never believed in giving her a high-school education. When she was finally old enough to fight for an education, her choice would often come between her and her family.

I could not deny the truth of the book. I knew it was true because it echoed too loudly the voices of the students I teach every day. I teach adults who didn’t finish high school, and the stories of why they never finished can be shocking.

One student walked for two hours to be here because it was the only way he could get to school. Any other time he came, he said, his dad would find out he was here and come and drag him out of class. I tried to picture his fragile frame being dragged down the hallway, legs flailing, while teachers stood agape in the doorways. I tried to imagine a time when any of my peers would have let that happen to him…on government property…where we should have at least held the upper hand. If I knew him then, I like to think I would have said something. I would not have just watched. But by the time I did know him, it was too late. He was too convinced he was worthless. I never saw him again.

Another student came to me with his arms folded and his nose held high in the air. He was determined not to work with his classmates on any group assignments that I gave him. He said he was “better than them” because he “needed his education more”. He had been homeless for years. He had lived in tents in the woods. He had lived with his family splintered when poverty finally caused his mother to suffer mental illness and not be able to recognize her own children. When I finally got this student to see his classmates as friends, he became one of the best tutors I have ever seen. He could explain material better than I could teach it with all my elevated degrees. He completed his high school degree and, later, his college degree while also tutoring strangers in the community. Education changed his life and gave him options he would have never had without it.

When I read Educated, I thought of all the students I have seen and continue to see that suffer a likewise fate. I have treated my job as a battlefield on which I am doing the very real work of saving people from the tyranny of ignorance. I have treated education as the saving grace that would get them out of the mess they are in. I still believe education is the key to a successful future, but I have to wonder if education isn’t also educating the educated on those who don’t have it as well as they do.

Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote a book in the 1850s that would change forever the way we looked at slavery. Jacob Riis’s photography exposed the harsh realities of poverty vs. the gilded age of wealth in 1890s New York. Could Tara Westover’s book cause a likewise revolution in how we look at and treat uneducated people in America today?

As much as I wanted to believe the book was ground-breaking, I struggled with the fact that Tara returned to her abusive environment year after year even when she knew better and had every opportunity to stay away. I reasoned that the family couldn’t possibly be that bad if she would return to them. Then I remembered another one of my students. This student had been abused in every possible way by her father before the government stepped in and took her away from him, yet she still tried to call him and reach out for him from foster care. When she finally graduated high school as an adult years later, it was her abusive biological parents she was proudly introducing me to.

Why would any educated, abused person return to the place of their torment once they know better?

I can’t really answer that question, but I believe it lies in the importance of the bonds we make in our childhood. It seems that no matter how good or bad your parents are, you still seek their approval. You still want to make them happy. It is just something innate in us as human beings.

That leads me to another question: why didn’t anyone who knew what was going on, step in to make a difference at an earlier time in their childhood?

In Tara’s story, I think no one intervened because of the sheer force of the person they would have had to come against. He was scary. On the other hand, the family was so isolated that not many people knew anything about the truth of what happened until her book came out. Now the decisions that saved her–the decisions to educate herself and develop her own identity–would come in adulthood.

Like so many of the students I see every day, Tara had to wait till adulthood to take charge of bettering her life. Waiting that long, however, has left deep scars and regrets and ideologies that are hard to shake loose even with the elevated degrees she now holds. I can’t help but feel it would all be different if someone said something or did something earlier. If someone helped her as a child, could she have lived in more freedom today?

I think the real challenge of this book is the challenge for educated people to learn about people unlike themselves and challenge themselves to pay more attention to the people around them. Poverty and ignorance are everywhere; if we all got more involved, we could make a real difference in ending injustice before it becomes a lifetime of trauma for an adult to unwind.

Free Spirits and The Sense of Belonging in Wendy Brown-Baez’s Catch A Dream

This week’s post is a guest post from author, Wendy Brown-Baez, on her book tour for Catch A Dream.

What if home is not where we come from but where we feel we belong? What are we willing to give up to stay?

In Catch a Dream, Lily reflects on traveling: “Is it because I don’t believe in borders and want to cross them freely like the birds do, without nationality, without history, without strife and war, the barriers and borders of separation?”
After years of traveling as a free spirit, Lily has a deep inner longing to put down roots. She states that she wants to be free to travel like the birds do, without borders, and yet there is also the intrinsic human desire to belong, to be part of a community. Is it possible to have that connection with a place that is not where we happened to be born? At what point do we give up freedom to travel and explore in order to land?
Lily has this uncanny connection to the land of Israel although she is not Jewish. The combination of her fascination with Jewish history, the strength of family all around her, and immersion in the cycles of Jewish life inspire her to plant roots. But the reality is that she must either convert to Judaism or marry an Israeli citizen in order to stay permanently. The laws of immigration were decided by the religious parties when Israel first became a state: their objective is a Jewish nation. Neither option appeals to her.
She wrestles both practically and philosophically with how to stay where she feels she belongs.

This is so relevant to today’s discussion about immigration. People give up homes, leave behind families, communities, a career or profession, the security of living where you speak the language and know the culture, to start over somewhere else. Some immigrants never lose their longing to go back. Others sink down roots for generations in their adopted country. Sometimes immigrants are escaping war or oppression or extreme poverty and it can be very dangerous to make the crossing, even to the loss of life. And to go back is also dangerous and can mean arrest or death. Political asylum can rescue someone in this situation but it can also exile them. But sometimes we reach the limits of what we can give up. Sometimes the price is too high.

I wanted to stay in Israel but if I converted, my son would have to convert. He wanted to return to the USA where he spoke the language (although fluent in conversation, academics in Hebrew were hard) and he wanted to play football. I came back to the states planning to return but then I started thinking about the mandatory army service which he would be obligated to do. As a dedicated pacifist, it didn’t sit well with me. Could I go against my beliefs to fulfill my longing? In the end, I just couldn’t. That price was one I wasn’t willing to pay. Life moved on but I carry with me the beauty of the land, the heartbreak of the conflict, and love of the Jewish people and Jewish traditions, in my memories and in my story. I have also learned that when we plant roots, our friendships deepen and our circles of connection develop. “Grow where you are planted,” is a saying I have often contemplated since leaving Israel.

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About the Author

 Wendy Brown-Báez is the author of a poetry CD Longing for Home, the full-length poetry collection Ceremonies of the Spirit (Plain View Press, ’09), and chapbooks: Transparencies of Light (Finishing Line Press, ’11) and Elegy for Newtown (Red Bird Chapbooks, ’14).  She has published both poetry and prose in numerous literary journals and anthologies, both in print and online. She received McKnight, Mn State Arts Board and Saint Louis Park Arts & Culture grants to bring writing workshops into non-profits and community centers.

Wendy has facilitated writing workshops since 1994 including at Cornerstone’s support groups, the Women & Spirituality conference at MSU Mankato, Celebrate Yourself women’s retreats, All About the Journey healing center, The Aliveness Project, Unity Minneapolis,  El Colegio High School and Jacob’s Well women’s retreat. Wendy received 2008 and 2009 McKnight grants through COMPAS Community Art Program to teach writing workshops for youth in crisis. The project at SafeZone and Face to Face Academy developed into an art installation showcasing their recorded writings. When it was noted that students’ reading scores improved, she was hired as Face to Face’s writing instructor.

In 2012, she was awarded an MN State Arts Board Artist Initiative grant to teach writing workshops in twelve non-profit arts and human service organizations. She continues to teach at Pathways: a healing center, in Mn prisons, and in community spaces such as public libraries, yoga studios, churches, and cafes.

Wendy has taught memoir at MCTC continuing ed and through Minneapolis community ed.

In addition, Wendy has managed shelters for the homeless and visited incarcerated teens. She is trained as a hospice volunteer and as a facilitator of Monologue Life Stories. Wendy studied alternative healing, ceremony, and spiritual traditions with Earthwalks for Health and lived in Mexico and Israel. She has collected wisdom teachings from these diverse cultures, as well as written memoirs of her adventures.

You can find Wendy Brown-Baez at:







Catch A Dream Book Summary

A woman’s healing journey begins in a country embroiled in relentless turmoil. In Israel, the first Intifada has just begun. Palestinian frustration for a homeland erupts in strikes, demonstrations and suicide bombings and Israel responds with tear gas, arrests, and house demolitions. Lily Ambrosia and Rainbow Dove arrive in Haifa with their children on a pilgrimage to sow seeds of peace. Lily’s fascination with Jewish culture inspires her to dream she can plant roots in the Holy Land. She falls in love with the land itself, with its people, and with Levi, a charming enigma, dangerous but irresistible. Eventually, she is fully immersed in Israeli life, earning her way as a nanny, hanging out in cafes with friends, and attending Yom Kippur in the synagogue. Her son rebels against the lifestyle she has chosen and war with Syria looms on the horizon. Will she be able to stay? What does she have to give up and what will she be able to keep?

Print Length: 196 pages

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publisher: BookBaby (March 24, 2018)

ISBN-13: 9781543925579

Catch a Dream is available as an eBook at BookBaby and Amazon.

Catch A Dream Book Blog Tour Dates (in Chronological Order)

May 21st @ The Muffin

Grab a muffin and a cup of coffee and read Women on Writing’s interview with author Wendy Brown-Baez and enter to win a copy of the book Catch a Dream.

May 22nd @ Memory Revolution

Jerry Waxler relates to the main character in To Catch a Dream as if she was a real person. His post reflects on lessons learned in this fertile ground between “memoir” and “fiction-based-on-fact.

May 22nd @ Memory Revolution

In a second post, Jerry Waxler will share Wendy Baez’s own words about the choices she made to publish her true life story as a fictional novel.

May 23rd @ World of My Imagination

Exercise your imagination over at Nicole’s blog The World of My Imagination where she reviews Wendy Brown-Baez’ book Catch a Dream.

May 24th @ Jill Sheet’s Blog

Make sure to stop by Jill Sheet’s blog to read Wendy Brown-Baez fascinating guest post on conflict and peace. The author answers the question – is peace possible without forgiveness?

May 24th @ Rebecca Whitman’s Blog

You should also stop by Rebecca Whitman’s blog where Wendy Brown-Baez talks about free spirits and belonging. What if home is not where we come from but where we feel we belong? What are we willing to give up to stay?

May 25th @ Margo Dill’s Blog

Come by Margo Dill’s blog to catch another guest post by author Wendy Brown-Baez. This moving post is about motherhood and how can we be a good parent and yet fulfilled as a woman?

May 26th @ Mommy Daze: Say What??

Come by Ashley Bass’ blog to check out Wendy Brown-Baez guest post on trauma and healing. How can we stand up for ourselves? How can we reclaim our voice when we have been silenced by trauma?

May 27 @ Beverly A. Baird’s Blog

Make sure to stop by Beverly’s blog to find out her thoughts about Wendy Brown-Baez book Catch a Dream.

May 29th @ Mari’s #JustJournal! Blog

Stop by Mari’s blog to read Wendy Brown-Baez guest post on journaling and self-reflecting writing. A must-read if you love freewriting or journaling!

May 30th @ Story Teller Alley

Come by Veronica’s Story Teller Alley blog and find out how Wendy Brown-Baez book came to be in the Story Teller Alley feature “Where Do Stories Grow?”

June 1st @ Words from the Heart

Come by Rev. Linda Naes’ blog to read Wendy Brown-Baez guest post on the topic loving someone who is not good for us.

June 2nd @ McNellis Writes

Come by Margaret’s blog when she shares Wendy Brown-Baez guest post on the subject of travelling in countries during times of unrest.

June 3rd @ Margo Dill’s Blog

Stop by Margo’s blog where she reviews Wendy Brown-Baez book Catch a Dream.

June 4th @ Mommy Daze: Say What??

Come by Ashley Bass’ blog and find out her thoughts on the moving book Catch a Dream.

June 5th @ Madeline Sharples’ Blog

Take a look at Wendy Brown-Baez guest post over at Madeline Sharples’ blog where the author talks about writing to heal. A must read during these troubled times!

June 7th @ Memoir Writer’s Journey

Stop by Kathleen’s blog where she shares Wendy Brown-Baez guest post on writing authentically about difficult or painful topics.

June 8th @ Words from the Heart

Take a heartwarming journey over at Rev Linda Naes’ blog Words from the Heart to find out her thoughts on Wendy Brown-Baez book Catch a Dream.

June 14th @ Become Zen Again

Come by Shell’s blog Become Zen Again where she shares her opinions on Wendy Brown-Baez moving book Catch a Dream.

June 18th @ Strength 4 Spouses

Stop by Wendi Huskin’s blog Strength 4 Spouses where she shares Wendy Brown-Baez guest post on writing to heal.

June 22nd @ Strength 4 Spouses

Stop by Wendi Huskin’s blog where she shares her thoughts on the book Catch a Dream. A must read for your upcoming summer vacation!