Historical fiction and a multi-generational tale, set in the freezing Newfoundland seaside town of Paradis...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
Historical fiction and a multi-generational tale, set in the freezing Newfoundland seaside town of Paradise Deep. Layered with snippets of the resident’s lives containing a touch of myth and small tastes of paranormal.
About: Galore is a complex and page-turning book, set in an area and time where living is bleak – a frigid seaside town in the mid 1800’s. Sadly the locals are starving, so when a dying whale swims into the harbor the town folk eagerly wait for the animal to take its last breath. All are lurking on the beach, with their knives and buckets and plans to use every part of its body for sustenance; to their surprise when removing its stomach they discover the body of a man. Thinking it’s a corpse they plan to bury it, but are shocked to find that he is still alive. Judah, as they name him, is at first feared due to the nature of his arrival, his unusual appearance, a lack of apparent ability to speak, and a very strong odor. However, in time he is thought to be the reason for an increase in the fish being pulled in by their once empty nets and other improvements in the relative comfort of the remote community.
My Thoughts: The above is only a short description of the very first part of the book; the rest contains interwoven stories around the numerous characters developed within the text. The author skillfully and incredibly weaves together the complex personalities of the resident’s lives in an earthy, heartbreaking, and at times starkly hilarious way. It includes some interesting twists, a full circle and an appropriate ending. The story is a take on a universal theme of a man being swallowed by a whale - this is a myth which is found in various cultures, religious text, and folk stories. Although Galore does not have an ancient setting and it is also not religious, it does contain a strong thread containing two Christian factions and several colorful local clergymen.
Michael Crummey is an exceptional writer with an unusual style that is at once page-turning and complex. With so many tangled threads it’s a good thing there are two genealogy trees located at the beginning of the book; it is needed. Highly recommended for historical fiction lovers, those who enjoy a mythic theme, and those who love complex colorful characters in their reads. I rate Galore at 4 stars; I loved it and now know why this author has won so many awards.(less)
Mini Synopsis: This is a user friendly book with out any new age “mumbo jumbo”. It systematically and realistically addresses the issues a person will...more Mini Synopsis: This is a user friendly book with out any new age “mumbo jumbo”. It systematically and realistically addresses the issues a person will invariably have when they are confronted with the inevitable occurrence of a life’s disruption. With the subsequent need to make rational and realistic decisions when faced with loss of a job, divorce, death of a partner, or just plain old dissatisfaction with life it is a useful resource which is relevant during these unstable economic times. This book addresses the issues and questions through direction, real life examples, important questions, and activities at the end of each progressive section. For a few examples, ask yourself what you hate about your life, the importance of letting go of the past, and referral to a psychologist if issues cannot be addressed within the series of questions and activities in the book. There are further references which are helpful in the back which give more information on resources such as starting a business, inspiration, and for making contact with the author or another life coach and more. My Thoughts: Myself being no stranger to life’s disruptions, various career changes, quandaries of various natures around which direction to take in my life, and one who has searched a great deal for ways to find more meaning in it, I have read a bit on the subject. I have taken career counseling courses at both the junior college and the university level. I am no expert but am familiar with the subject and the path, and yet still do not know what I want to be when I grow up. Perhaps a life coach would be the answer? ;) My personal opinion is that this is an organized over view of a logical process. A starting place to make a move toward a change. I think it will help the seeker see many of the elements which will be needed for a logical quest which the author is suggesting. I however feel that if this books is your only resource, a commitment to following the path outlined in this book will be difficult. Hence the importance of the ability to contact the author or another life counselor or coach. From reading the book I would say she is an excellent option. (less)
A steam punk novella which won a 2009 Nebula award. It has a bit of a satirical twist, where the women of...moreOriginal review posted on Layers of Thought.
A steam punk novella which won a 2009 Nebula award. It has a bit of a satirical twist, where the women of this “special organization” help with the fight against evil in their special and socially unaccepted way.
About: “The women of Nell Gwynne’s” is set in an alternative England where steam has a decidedly different technological aspect than the standard historical Victorian era model; this is definitely steam punk. The unique aspect of the story is the women. As high class call girls, each of these special women has been selected by the madam for their strength, feistiness and other special talents - all which help them in their fight against the darker aspects of their time. As you might imagine, their main way of ascertaining secret information is especially intriguing, and revolves around the high-standing men who possess it being in the awkward and vulnerable position of having “their pants around their ankles”.
Thoughts: I completely enjoyed this short novel and was immersed in it. A key to Kage Baker’s talents is that the novella is a page turner that took me on a trip into an alternative Victorian era - it included some fictional technological inventions which combined to create a story that anyone interested in steam punk should read. It was dryly funny too. I understand from my digging around for information on the author and the back story that she had a cutting wit and sense of humor; and it shows. I giggled a lot.
Although done tastefully it’s important to mention that since the story is about “ladies of the night” there are some interesting sexual involvements, so I consider parts of this story to be light erotica. Readers bothered by this kind of read should give the story a miss. But it is highly recommended for all steam punk fans and anyone interested in a fun read. It’s a 4.5 stars and darn near a 5 in my opinion. I will be reading a lot more by this author, which is heartbreaking since her books are numbered, considering her death prior to winning the Nebula for this book.(less)
In a Kafkaesque turn of event someone is submitted to a psychiatric unit who shouldn’t be. Just...moreOriginal review by John is posted at Layers of Thought.
In a Kafkaesque turn of event someone is submitted to a psychiatric unit who shouldn’t be. Just when you think things can’t get any worse, they do – in the dead of night patients are being attacked by some demonic creature which the staff might possibly be protecting.
About: Pepper is a big man who is a bit impetuous and tends to charge at life without thinking things through. Sometimes that can get him in trouble, and on one fateful night it leaves him in the hands of three out-of-uniform policemen, who promptly take him to the psychiatric unit of a run-down local hospital. He really shouldn’t be there, but it seems that the police have to fill in far less paperwork if they drop people off at the hospital rather than arrest them. So Pepper is admitted for 72 hours while he is to be evaluated.
In a Kafkaesque turn of events the 72 hours turns into an indefinite period, and Pepper finds himself confined to the ward with a bunch of strange people – some of whom are patients and some of whom are staff. As if that weren’t bad enough, Pepper is viciously attacked by a strange demonic creature that seems to haunt the unit. Can it really be that the staff who rescued him know all about the creature? Surely not, as it turns out that others on the ward have also been attacked.
Pepper finally forms a kind of bond with three of his disparate fellow patients, and together they slowly come to the conclusion that they have to do something to save themselves from an ugly fate at the hands of the demon.
John’s thoughts: This is a serious-but-fun read with a really novel plot. For sure it brought to mind images of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest at times, but Pepper is nothing like McMurphy and doesn’t rail against the system in the same way.
Nonetheless, one of Pepper’s biggest foes is the daily regime of mind-numbing drugs and the boring routine of life on the ward. And how can life be so crazy that a sane person becomes embedded in a system that is supposedly there to help look after insane people? The novel also brings to light the crazy logic of bureaucracy and systems that are not designed to help people, but instead develop a life and self-perpetuating momentum of their own. It becomes quite clear that it is not the patients who are the maddest and in the most need of treatment. The demonic monster then acts as a catalyst to bring things to a head, by which time you are rooting for a fair outcome for the gang of four patients.
I like this book a lot. For sure Pepper is far from being perfect but you know that he shouldn’t be in the hospital and you do want his life to return to some sort of normality – you cannot help but become involved in the plight of the patients. Meanwhile, the madness that surrounds him is both funny and scary. I’d rate this book 4 stars and thoroughly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a slightly wacky view of life in their reading material. (less)
It’s a poetic trip to Hungary for the reader, with a bittersweet ending. A coming-of-a...more3.5 stars actually. Original review posted at Layers of Thought.
It’s a poetic trip to Hungary for the reader, with a bittersweet ending. A coming-of-age story that is tied to the decisions one can make in anger, and the regrets about those choices, but ultimately leading to forgiveness and maturity.
About: Beth (Erzsi - her Hungarian name) is now in her thirties and lives in London. She has repressed anger which comes out toward her father who lives miles away in Devon. When her father calls to visit she becomes excited, but then angry because she finds it’s only to bring her a letter and a handmade book from Hungary. It’s a lovely book in which her trips to the country have been cataloged lovingly by Marika, her Hungarian mom.
Perusing the book, she has no choice but to take a trip back to the wonderful summers she spent there with loved ones. As Erzsi reminisces while looking at her childhood pictures from each summer spent in Hungary, the reader follows her back in lolling experiences, which culminate in a heartbreaking choice made by the main character.
Thoughts: This is a lovely novel with long poetic depictions of Hungary. It’s definitely women’s fiction, but having the flow of literary fiction since the characters are well developed. The accounts of Erzsi’s visits take up most of the book’s content, which is important to remember when choosing this book to read, since this may make or break the book for some readers.
It’s a book which I think would be an excellent choice for a woman’s book group discussion since it will evoke strong emotions in many readers. It involves the choices made in anger, at an age when maturity has not set in, also it reveals the emotions around secrets kept and shared too late, regret, and ultimately forgiveness. Recommended for anyone wanting a summer trip to the area, for readers who like to savor lengthy descriptions, and bittersweet endings. I give this story a 3.5 stars, it’s a good book for a vicarious summer trip.(less)
Quick take: A nicely paced urban fantasy about werewolves. It includes a strong romanti...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
3.5 stars actually
Quick take: A nicely paced urban fantasy about werewolves. It includes a strong romantic element, a religion particular to werewolves and insanity.
Description: Andrew Dare is a werewolf with a horrific past. His life is spent finding and punishing other werewolves that break the social laws of the werewolves in Northern America. Essentially the second in command for a wolf-pack that resides on the Eastern side of the United States, it’s when he finds a lone female wandering in his pack’s territory that the story begins. She calls herself Silver since she has been injected with silver yet has miraculously survived – and from Andrew’s encounter with her it’s apparent she has gone mad. She rambles mindlessly to a phantom and has not eaten or bathed in some time. She refuses to let him help her. Eager to put this drama to rest, Andrew does his best to do the right thing and attempts to find out Silver’s story. It appears that the monster that’s injected her may also be tracking others. So the entire werewolf community may be at risk for an identical fate and Andrew decides he must find the killer before another werewolf is victimized.
In alternating story lines from both Silver and Andrew, the reader finds out the mystery of Silver’s torture and the identity of the monster that is stalking her. This is all told with an increasing emotional involvement between the two main characters.
Shellie’s thoughts:Silver is a dark, emotional and thoughtful story. What I particularly liked is that there is no other magical system or paranormal creatures complicating things (in this first of three books anyway). And the werewolf mythology is based upon what most readers already believe about werewolves, making it so the reader can immediately jump into the action of the story.
Although at first the plot description may sound rather simple and perhaps familiar, Silver has great pacing, emotional and social depth, and compelling complications, so it pulls the reader along quickly. As the plot becomes increasingly involved and the relationship between the two main characters develops, the reader gets deeper insight into the characters’ inner workings. Also included are some added twists; the main character Silver is emotionally and physically damaged (essentially handicapped) and yet conversely is still a strong lead; she is experiencing hallucinations which have a life of their own and actually become a character; and the author brings in a spiritual/religious element (a religion that is specific to the werewolves) giving the story another dimension and adding to the complexity of the emotions.
On the negative side Silver does have an ending that is predictable and I did have slight trouble getting into the writing. It took me several chapters before becoming comfortable with Held’s style, which I would consider sparse and engaging.
Definitely for those who enjoy romance, books that include werewolves, fans of Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series, and anyone who enjoys a good story. Silver is for readers who are looking for drama and emotions around the main characters rather than just an action-oriented story (although there is quite a lot of that). I give this debut novel 3.5 stars. It would have been 4 stars if not for my few quibbles. A promising debut, I will definitely be looking at the books the author writes in the future since I believe that she will only get better at her craft. (less)
Mini Synopsis: Samuel is in his first year of high school. He’s a good kid. He’s smart, popular, from a healthy family, and facing the normal challenge...moreMini Synopsis: Samuel is in his first year of high school. He’s a good kid. He’s smart, popular, from a healthy family, and facing the normal challenges which occur for most young teens. Coupled with his adolescent angst, he just lost his mother to cancer. In addition he is also harboring feelings of guilt around her death. In an attempt to create a video for a class assignment, he decides to record a local set of triplets whom have some unusual physical disabilities. Because of these oddities they are surround by local myth, mystery, ignorance, and sadly horror. When Samuel sees “the babies” for the first time, he has strong conflicting emotions, and an obsession develops for him to see them again, and again. This desire leads him to discover a terrifying situation involving them. As he becomes inextricably involved, he must ultimately decide what constitutes right action, and what defines men as evil. The choices he makes move him toward the beginnings of manhood. My thoughts: I gave this book 4 stars – I loved it. Sang Pak has given the young adult reader “a modern rites of passage” story, with many of the current day conflicts which boys and teens face. Samuel, the main character, is an excellent and important role model for growing men as they struggle with the inevitable tobacco, drug and alcohol exposure, and sexual introduction. What is important is that Samuel’s character immerses himself in these situations without loosing his sensibilities and balance. The character provides an example of neither abstinence nor abuse when confronted with these issues, which although not the only option is a sensible one. Speaking from the perspective of an adult with a background in childhood education I have been led to look at books for their “learning/teaching opportunities”. Waiting for Twilight has them. Because of the content in the story I do recommend this book for a mature teen, as well as their parents, or adults interested in issues around young adults. The book contains smoking, drugs and alcohol usage, safe sex, and violence. These examples can be used as a starting place to begin “conversations”, since as adults, we cannot prevent an exposure to them.(less)
This a page turning coming of age story with a dark Southern Gothic tone and an intriguing twist.
Mini Synopsis: A realistic tale cen...moreActually 3.5 stars
This a page turning coming of age story with a dark Southern Gothic tone and an intriguing twist.
Mini Synopsis: A realistic tale centered in a pre Katrina New Orleans, the main character Haley is a 16 years old girl whose family is having financial difficulties among other sad things. Mom has had a recent miscarriage and is bedbound. Pop is out of work, is spending his time and what little money they do have at the local bar/pool hall, and is involved with a local stripper/waitress.
With all these elements we can see the main character is caught in a situation which is less than ideal. It is a slippery slope as she tries to emotionally balance the events occurring around her and manage her own maturation and the realizations which adolescence provokes.
The story includes a variety of motley characters, and when Haley gets sucked into some gang like activities, the events conspiring against her culminate into an original, intriguing, slightly paranormal, and heart wrenching ending which is connected to the title – Dirty Little Angels.
My Thoughts: I devoured this short novel, it was a definite page turner! Chris Tusa captures the confusion of a teenager spiraling out of control, writing of her confusion, contemplations, and angst. In doing so he uses a simple language appropriate for the background of the characters. Here is an example which is in part both funny and dark. Haley and her brother Cyrus are being questioned by a local detective:
When we got there, the officer brought Cyrus and me into a white room with glass walls. A few minutes later, another man came in and sat down. He was an older fat man with a stubbly chin and a bald, liver spotted skull. He had tiny baby teeth that looked like someone had plugged little white Chiclets into his gums, and you could smell Old Spice seeping from his pores. His hips where someone else’s hips welded onto his skeleton, and his chest looked like Brandon Piggert’s chest the summer he’d grown little midget boobs after shooting up a batch of steroids.
This novel asks the questions: How does one become involved in situations we know are not quite right? Where does one fit in within a world that values unreal perfection? And although not a religious book, it examines the concept of whether saving ourselves is right even if it conflicts with our religious beliefs (or lack thereof) or those of others.
The ending, which is connected to the concept of the title, is the clincher, where the title is not at all what it seems. The connection is dark, a bit other worldly, has a touch of insanity, and is something I keep thinking about. I give this great little book 3.5 stars. I am really looking forward to more of this author’s work.(less)
As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. – Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis
A novella published in 1915, it is set in Europe in the early 1900’s. The main character, Gregor Samsa wakes one morning to find that he has transformed into a bug. Being the sole support of his aging parents and teenage sister he becomes increasingly worried about their future. They are appalled at his appearance and leave him in his bedroom alone while hoping he disappears.
Thoughts: John (husband) and I listened to this audio book while driving. It was unabridged.
We both agreed that, while the narration was done with an English accent and was pleasant it was surprisingly upbeat in tone, it felt like a slightly bizarre period piece, telling of woes in that particular time. Where instead of the main character having a terminal disease he turned into a beetle.
This horrific event espouses the horrors of loss, abandonment, loosing one’s ability to communicate, and station in life, as well as our ability to truly recognize who we are or what we have become.
I felt that although the writing/reading was intriguing, I wanted more. Perhaps it is being so accustomed to drama and hype within modern day reading The Metamorphosis went comparatively limp. We agreed and gave this book 3 Stars. We liked it but it was not what we expected.
An Austrian/Czech author born – July 3, 1883 died – June 3, 1924. He is purported to be one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. Sadly, he was not well known until after his death.(less)
Shellie’s quick take:Set in England in the 1800’s, in a Yorkshire mill town and on the outskirts of Londo...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
Shellie’s quick take:Set in England in the 1800’s, in a Yorkshire mill town and on the outskirts of London, this literary thriller has a dark, otherworldly, and mysterious thread with a hidden moral. It also includes facts and mythology about the Rook woven through its story-line.
Shellie’s description:Bellman & Black is primarily about the life of the main character, William Bellman. It begins on a fateful day when the youthful William kills a Rook (a crow of sorts found mostly in Europe) during a moment of bravado in front of a group of his amazed friends - via a lucky catapult from his slingshot. This unlikely once-in-a-lifetime strike turns out to be an example of the luck and success of William’s life. In addition to being lucky, he is handsome and driven, and the world appears to open its arms for the young man.
But like every human, life delivers William Bellman the hard knocks that are unavoidable. It is during one of these periods that he encounters Mr. Black - a man who is to become for William the metaphor for the one thing that he cannot escape.
Shellie’s thoughts: This is a gothic-like literary thriller. Although technically not a gothic novel, it has some aspects that make it feel like it is - for example there is that dark, moody feel to the tone of of the story. And because it is a literary novel from an established author, there is definitely strong character development. I found myself knowing and understanding the main character quite well. There is also a great plot with interesting ups and down throughout, including a light paranormal thread. Happily I found myself wondering what was going to happen next, including some nice chills every so often, that will appeal to horror fans.
I liked that the author uses lovely period-styled prose, though paradoxically she kept it modern-ish, giving the book an authentic feel without the difficulty of having to decipher the old-fashioned writing style often found in Victorian literature. I definitely liked this particular aspect of the novel, which is perfect for anyone who enjoys historical fiction.
Recommended for anyone interested in literary thrillers and horror, those who enjoy a gothic feel to their reads, readers interested in a light paranormal element, and anyone who is interested in historical England. I would also recommend it to readers interested in birds. A terrific and well-written book, the author has apparently taken years to complete it and it shows. It’s highly recommended at 4 stars. (less)
A complex, fantastical novel with philosophical musings and literary tropes discussed throughout. Translat...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
A complex, fantastical novel with philosophical musings and literary tropes discussed throughout. Translated to English from Japanese, it is a novel that has the distinct feel of its country’s setting.
About: There are a a number of story lines in this complex and layered story, with the two primary ones based around Kafka Tamura and Mr. Nakata. The story starts with fifteen year old Kafka in the process of running away from his home in Tokyo, perhaps due to his emotionally unavailable father or to find his mother and adopted sister, who left when Kafka was little. As a usual sort of intelligent teen with some unusual attributes (he has an imaginary boy named crow who advises him on various issues), he takes his “road trip” to escape.
Then there is Mr. Nakata, a lovely “simple” older man who cannot read but can amazingly speak to cats (and boy are the cats amusing and well done). He has a “Zen” like characteristic to his attitude and also to his speaking quality in the audio version. Although the two men never actually meet, they move inside the story with their own personal quests overlapping frequently - with the intricate connections becoming clear as the story progresses.
Thoughts: Kafka on the Shore has a variety of themes which may intrigue potential readers, as they did me. Some of these are - cats; World War II; philosophical musings; discussions around literature; the use and discussion of literary tropes such as metaphor, allegory and more; and the arts, including music. Murakami addresses gender and feminism in an indirect way. He has also woven in Asian spiritual themes such enlightenment and rebirth, and some interesting imagery regarding body fluids. The strongest thread in the story is its connection with the mythical story of Oedipus, that creates an unusual twist within the book. For a bit about this myth, here is a short definition:
As a Freudian psychological metaphor describing son–father psychosexual competition for possession of mother, the Oedipus complex derives from the 5th-century BC Greek mythological character Oedipus, who unwittingly kills his father, Laius, and marries his mother… (via Wikipedia)
It’s interesting that several of Murakami’s major themes for Kafka on the Shore are metaphor and the myth of Oedipus, and that this shocking complex is also considered a metaphor in its definition above.
I felt that the readers’ voices for the characters where done very well, giving life to the various and well developed characters. I liked that so many of the themes stimulated an intellectual side for me and that better yet I learned a few things. However, I had a conflict – there were too many sexual references and scenes, some were too detailed. Indeed the end of the novel became more about our main protagonist Kafka’s sexual desires and experiences than anything else. Otherwise a very worthy read and well done in this audio version. I give this intriguing audio book 4 stars; more if the sex had been a bit more subtle. (less)
If you love books and lists, and are an eclectic reader, you will adore this series. Each recommend...moreOriginal series review posted at Layers of Thought.
If you love books and lists, and are an eclectic reader, you will adore this series. Each recommends books which are organized into themes, with great little descriptions; all are softbound, small and easy to read.
Books reviewed: Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason ~ by Nancy Pearl More Book Lust: Reading Recommendations for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason Book Crush: For Kids and Teens
Thoughts: Nancy Pearl, librarian extraordinaire, has created this series of books (with the fourth to be released in a few days - its one for travelers) which contain organized collections of book recommendations, labeled under catchy little categories. Inside the categories are enticing snippets of the books in a very readable format.
The books are small and easy to handle with a soft cover. With her “lust” of reading, Pearl shares with the reader the books she loves and those which she knows about, creating more desire and adding to your ever expanding book list. I spent hours perusing these books, enjoying her fun and interesting recommendations.
Better yet, Nancy has a variety of philosophies which she labels “Pearlisms”. One is the “rule of fifty” which I have used recently when an abandoning a book (Pride and Prejudice – sorry Jane). What I love is that she gives you permission to stop reading a book when you are not enjoying it. It’s a free “get out of guilt card”. Here is her rule:
If you’re fifty years of age or younger, give a book fifty pages before you decide to commit to reading it or give it up. If you’re over fifty, which is when time gets even shorter, subtract your age from 100—the result is the number of pages you should read before making your decision to stay with it or quit. Since that number gets smaller and smaller as we get older and older, our big reward is that when we turn 100, we can judge a book by its cover!
I loved these little books and will be purchasing every one for my personal collection. 4 stars for Book Lust and Book Crush, and 4.5 stars for More Book Lust – since it has so many books I had never heard of. Highly recommend resources for teachers, librarians, and book lovers within every genre.(less)
Set Up: This story is a version of the tale Rose Red and Snow White, which, according to the link, has no connection to the American version or any oth...more Set Up: This story is a version of the tale Rose Red and Snow White, which, according to the link, has no connection to the American version or any other version of Snow White. Wikipedia states the original story is about a poor widow and her two daughters, whom have a wild bear as a companion. It also involves an evil dwarf and treasure.
Unlike the actual tale, and with some artistic license given by Margo Lanagan to give it depth and interest, this retelling of the tale has an interesting bear connection. The author apparently viewed an actual bear festival on television prior to writing the story. This was consequentially added to her story.
An additional difference is that the setting is within two parallel worlds connected by magic, where the real world is a version of our past being lit only by fire. The second realm is called the false world or that of the “heart’s desire”. It is an idealized version created in desperation by the main character Liga (the mother), through personal trauma and her inability to deal with reality.
My Thoughts: There are many things I like about Tender Morsels. The writing is evocative and disturbing; the language used is set in period with an English/Australian bent, making it feel old and rural; the book cover renditions support some of the major themes within the story (I am highly visual); and the evil characters are given a perspective which helps the reader to sympathize with them – because that's what happens in real life.
It is a wonderfully complex rendition of the original story. It is multilayered where the author brings in some important themes, two of which are Women’s issues around social oppression and strength.
Here is a quote which shows the oppressiveness of the social structure of the real world compared to the “heart’s desire” world:
Annie peered and grinned. “Heh-heh. There is nothing like upbringing up in a heaven to give a girl a false confidence.” “False, you think?” said Liga anxiously, dropping the lace back across the windo. “The size o’ that mob, Liga? I say false. Get yourself dressed, girl, in your very best; we will need to summon all the menfolk and all the respectability we can, if she’s not to be whipped in the street.”
To be raised in an environment with no constraints one may have a false confidence about one’s ability to counter social mores of a present society, no matter how warranted they are.
Another quote regarding one woman’s strength:
…She, Urdda, must see that place someday, where women dressed so beautifully yet so plain, rode about alone. No one would dare spit upon this woman, or call out at her. She had a different kind of boldness, a strength that did not defy that of men so much as ignore it, or take its place without question beside it – Urdda wanted some of that boldness.
A wonderful role model for young women.
Be forewarned this is not a light story, and addresses some very very dark and difficult issues. Which I have not mentioned here. It is not a story which everyone is going to enjoy or even like.
Tender Morsels won the World Fantasy Award for 2009 covering the year 2008. Personally, I can see why. I love dark fantasy which touches on important social issues and is also well written. This is exceptional. I have given this story a rare 5 stars.(less)
Touted as a book with magical realism, I have to agree. Garden Spells is a sweet and enchanting novel that takes the reader into a world that is real...moreTouted as a book with magical realism, I have to agree. Garden Spells is a sweet and enchanting novel that takes the reader into a world that is real to life but it has elements that are supernatural. It is not literature. It is wonderfully fun fluff. Mini Synopsis: The Waverleys have been residents of this small Southern town for generations. That the women of this family have special gifts is common knowledge in the community. The main character Claire is a 30 something woman with a fear of commitment who has a magical gift of being able to take the herbs from her garden and create food that influences the eater's feelings. Her aunt Evanelle is compelled to give people “things” which they will need in the near future. To her chagrin and other’s she has no idea why. Her sister, Sydney, whom has recently reappeared after a 10 year disappearance has narrowly escaped a violent relationship with her little girl in tow. All this, combined with a few romantic interests, an apple tree that wishes and acts as if it were human, and you have the magical basis for a very cute story. Highly recommended for a quick, feel good, romantic, girly read. Read it after a long or short, difficult and/or emotional book. I would give this book 4 stars. I loved it. (less)
The original review for this book is posted at Layers of Thought. There is also a giveaway for it there that ends October 3rd - 2010 for the US and Ca...moreThe original review for this book is posted at Layers of Thought. There is also a giveaway for it there that ends October 3rd - 2010 for the US and Canada.
A “trip” into the realistic yet magical where an urbanite discovers herself in the rain forest of Mexico. It’s city girl goes jungle Jane with consciousness altering plants.
About: Lila is from NYC. She is in her thirties and cynical as well as wounded from her recent divorce. She has sworn off men and most attachments - “no pets, no plants, no people, no problems”. However she breaks her rule when she decides to buy herself a bird of paradise plant from the hunky greenery vendor around the corner from her studio. This starts her adventures and discovery about the mythical 9 plants of desire.
This humorous story, with its self- depreciating main character, takes the reader to the rain forests of Mexico. Where Lila is propelled by her quirky yet mystically oriented friend Armand to search for the illusive plants in order to repay a debt. As they enter into foreign territory into a place where fantastical elements are the norm, Lila herself makes a mildly hallucinogenic ride into self discovery and more.
Thoughts: Funny, fluffy and a very easy read, it was a needed break from the heavier stuff I have been recently reading. It was a foray into the magical. A chick lit escapist read with some mild romance which includes a gorgeous Huichol Indian from the mountains of Mexico.
As Lila gets to know these plants with their anthropomorphic attributes, we get an interesting mix of fact and fun fiction about each, where all of the short chapters are headed with a plant (and a few critters) and their description. I think my favorite section was on the chocolate plant, native to Southern America, where the author includes a recipe on how to make chocolate from the actual pods. Fun stuff!
I think this book will be perfect for any woman recovering from a recent break up or for anyone needing a light yet magical read. My mom is going to love this book being a plant person extraordinaire – me, the black thumb of the family killing cactus in the desert, enjoyed it just as much. I even found a few new books to add to my tbr list within the text of the novel - The Sheltering Sky by Philip Bowles and one by Carlos Castaneda. I love that. I give this fun book 3.5 stars. It was a blast.(less)
This novel is a sequel so this review contains spoilers. You can read John's review for the first...moreOriginal review by John posted at Layers of Thought.
This novel is a sequel so this review contains spoilers. You can read John's review for the first in series The Map of Time linked via the text.
John’s quick take: A sort of stand-alone sequel to the impressive The Map of Time, this is an equally complex and original story. Once again featuring H. G. Wells as a central character, this time Palma takes Wells’s The War of the Worlds as a foundation and spins a mind-bending tale of time travel, aliens, adventure, terror and love.
John’s description: H. G. Wells is not happy. Just a few months after the publication of his book The War of the Worlds, an American hack writer has written a sequel which Wells thinks of poor quality and in poor taste. He finally agrees to meet the writer for lunch, and after a few drinks Wells surprisingly starts to soften to him. After more drinks the American takes Wells to a secret room in the Natural History Museum and shows him an amazing otherworldly exhibit which totally stuns the British author (I will say no more in case I give away too much).
Several decades earlier, an ill-fated expedition to the Antarctic floundered as the ship became locked in the ice. The explorers are trying to make the most of their unhappy lot, when a flying object streaks overhead and crashes into the ice nearby. Their travails become worse when they find the object contained a strange alien beast, and soon they are embroiled in a fierce battle for survival.
Back in present day 1898, New York socialite Emma Harlow is bored of her constant suitors, and especially the egotistical and determined millionaire, Montgomery Gilmore. Eventually Emma agrees to marry Gilmore, but on one condition – first he has to create a reproduction of the Martian invasion scenes featured in The War of the Worlds. Thanks in part to things he achieved during his secret past, Gilmore thinks he can pull this off and starts planning the event.
A short while later in the outskirts of London, Wells is present when Gilmore’s show starts. Strange containers appear but soon it becomes apparent, to everyone’s horror, that a real alien invasion has started. Amazingly, in some ways the invasion mirrors Wells’s recently published novel. Even the might of the British empire can do nothing to stop the aliens, who’ve soon overrun London. Wells, Gilmore, Harlow, a strange detective and a motley crew of associates struggle to escape the onslaught – and Wells finds he has a strange gift which might just help.
John’s thoughts: As with The Map of Time, this is structured around three separate story lines which eventually become interweaved, thanks in part to a bending of the timelines. Also in line with the earlier novel, everything in this book centers around H. G. Wells, an intriguing character who is painted as being super-smart and rather prescient.
It’s an interesting story with a complex plot and many twists and turns. Again one of Wells’s most famous novels features prominently in the story; this time The War of the Worlds provides a foundation and launch pad for Palma’s strange tale. What would happen if a “war of the worlds” actually happened, and what might the famous author be able to do about it?
Palma clearly has a gift for storytelling and a great imagination. He leverages the original master of the science fiction genre, but this is a lot more than an homage to the great H.G. Wells – Palma takes the story into some pretty whacky places.
My quibbles about the book? It is some 600 pages long and I think it could have benefitted by some tight editing and losing 100 of those pages. In places it seems to take a long time to get to where it wants to go. It also builds quite a lot on characters and events from The Map of Time – not a problem for me as I’d read the earlier book, but for those who are reading Palma for the first time, there will be some missing background and character development that will take away from the reading experience.
I do really like the Victorian setting and Palma does a good job of creating a realistic Victorian era background and then mixing in some oddball storylines. Overall I’d rate it 4 stars and as with The Map of Time I’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good historical fantasy novel or indeed a good fantasy novel, period. If you are a science fiction fan and a big follower of Victorian fiction, then this is most definitely one for you. (less)
It’s a page-turning, action-packed steampunk murder mystery with even steamier romantic elements. It has...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
It’s a page-turning, action-packed steampunk murder mystery with even steamier romantic elements. It has a feisty lead character so it’s a perfect read for the fans of Gail Carriger – only it’s a bit darker.
About: Petite and feisty redheaded Cherry St. Croix is a bit tarnished. Orphaned at an early age, she is from an upper class family and lives comfortably with a variety of servants in her estate home - albeit as a ward to a never-present male benefactor, since women from this alternative Victorian period cannot own and are considered property. Darker still is that she is addicted to laudanum or opium depending on which is closer at hand; and she is a collector – a hired bounty woman who tracks down the wanted.
As she travels the polluted and sooty underworld of this different sort of London, she is asked to “collect’ a “ripper” who is killing local “sweets” (the most beautiful and desirable prostitutes) and taking their body parts for goodness knows what. It’s in the process of finding this insidious killer that she discovers darker things about her past; and sidesteps two romantic entanglements.
Thoughts: I really liked Cherry, the intelligent, tainted and strong main character who denies the existence of magic and only believes in science. It was also appealing that she is adamant about not wanting to get married, contrary to proper behavior for the time.
Although I really dislike comparing newer novels to wildly popular ones, I would say that this historical-ish novel felt quite similar to Gail Carriger’s Soulless, which I really enjoyed - although Tarnished is darker, less humorous, and has a more realistic setting than Carriger’s books. But like Soulless it includes science and gadgets, along with Victorian fashion and propriety, so it’s a genre-blender mystery story like Soulless.
My only niggle was that I had a slight problem getting into the author’s writing style at first. But I found it became easier after several chapters. And once I did I was completely hooked. I also want to mention that this first book is a cliff hanger, but what better way of starting off a series since it definitely created a desire to read the next in the series, even if I now have to wait.
Highly recommended for those interested in steampunk, historical romance, urban fantasy, murder mysteries, and especially for those who like strong female leads. It’s a 3.5 star read for me. I can’t wait for the second in the series.(less)
Mini Synopsis: Actually 3.5 stars - (This is a series review with basic set up and setting information included but no spoilers.)
This is a young adult...more Mini Synopsis: Actually 3.5 stars - (This is a series review with basic set up and setting information included but no spoilers.)
This is a young adult series with the latest book This World We Live In being the last of the trilogy (I think.) It is set within the present day where an apocalyptic event has occurred. The moon has been knocked off its orbit causing a plethora of environmental disasters all over the planet. Tsunamis destroy coastal cities and that is just the beginning. As all normal life deteriorates the 17 year old main character, Miranda, in the first book tells us through her diary the events and her feelings as her life completely changes. It occurs within a Pennsylvania suburb setting. The second book is a parallel book where the main character, Alex, lives in New York City. In the third book the two main characters’ lives come together.
The last in the series – This World We Live In, was released on April 1, 2010.
The books all have a realistic feeling for what could happen if the world’s food, communication services, and other vital systems were to break down and gradually collapse and disappear. The author does a nice job of giving the reader a feel for this type of event and doesn’t skirt painful happenings such as death, which she does tastefully for a younger audience.
It’s a page turning series for young men and women which I would “safely” recommend for my nieces, grandchildren, and/or students. The behaviors of the main characters in the books show strong character; I would almost say an unrealistic sense of self and behavior (I think I would have gone bonkers under the circumstances). Nevertheless, it’s what I believe to be exemplary behavior for young adults, which I support. I also liked the fact that the two character’s belief systems, atheism and Catholicism, are non-judgmentally contrasted.
Susanne Beth Pfeffer has a strong and easy to follow writing style, which sucks you in and keeps you reading while caring about the characters. I completely devoured this series. I would rate the first two books in the series as 3.5 stars. I would say I liked the latest book the best due to its incredible and heartbreaking ending. This, I think, takes the book over the 4 star edge with its deeper internal conflict. Highly recommended for adults and teens alike. I also recommend that they are read in order, don’t be tempted to skip the second book – I almost did.(less)
John’s quick take:A fascinating book for anyone interested in World War II or military history; but also...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
John’s quick take:A fascinating book for anyone interested in World War II or military history; but also a terrific read for anyone who likes a good adventure story. This history book is full of both intriguing historical details and breathtakingly dangerous human exploits.
John’s description: As Hitler’s Germany prepared for war, it was determined to match the might of the British Navy. One result of this was the building of a huge battleship that was bigger, faster, better armed and more advanced than anything the world had seen. The Tirpitz, named after Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz who was the architect of the German Imperial Navy, was supposedly unsinkable.
As the war developed, the main role of the ship was to cause havoc with the Atlantic convoys that were both the lifeline of besieged Britain and an important source of allied arms being supplied to Russia. The Germans based Tirpitz on the Norwegian coast, so it could also serve as a deterrent to a possible allied invasion of that country. Hitler had something close to paranoia about the threat of the allies rescuing Norway from its German occupiers.
As it turned out, by far the biggest impact that the Tirpitz had on the war was the threat of what it might do, rather than anything it actually did do. The allied forces were terrified of the ship’s capabilities and went to enormous lengths to protect their convoys and to avoid a direct confrontation, thereby tying up enormous amounts of military assets; meanwhile the Germans, and Hitler in particular, were terrified of losing the ship and were amazingly cautious about using it in anger, despite its reputed invincibility. But Hitler was not the only wartime leader who played a major personal role in the Tirpitz story; Churchill was almost obsessed with the Tirpitz, and relentlessly pushed his forces to attack the ship, even after it should have become obvious that its threat was overstated.
The result was that over a three-year period the British launched no less than 36 operations designed specifically to sink the ship. As Tirpitz was moored in well-protected Norwegian fjords, beyond the range of traditional British-based bombers, many of the British operations were innovative or desperately risky, bordering on suicidal. Among other things the British tried to use human torpedoes, midget submarines, aircraft carrier-based dive bombers, and specially designed mines. Some of the operations used special services groups, supported by undercover agents in Norway, and much of the intelligence about the ship’s movements and plans was the result of the British decrypting top-secret German Enigma communications.
The operation involving newly designed midget submarines was particularly unusual and daring. After perilous training and a fraught journey across the North Sea, just three of the ten craft made it beyond the ship’s defenses, one of which was then sunk by gunfire and depth charges. But two of the tiny submarines did manage to lay mines which did quite a bit of damage to Tirpitz, and put it out of action for almost six months. However, the ship was repaired and once again became a thorn in the sides of the British.
Eventually the job of sinking Tirpitz was handed over to the Royal Air Force, which now had access to Lancaster bombers which had just about enough range to reach the Tirpitz. The attacks by the bombers stretched the limits of both human endurance and available technology, and the losses were high. But using highly innovative and terrifying new “earthquake bombs”, the RAF finally scored two direct hits on the ship causing it to capsize within minutes; of the 1,700 sailors on board at the time of the bombing, it is estimated that almost 1,000 died as a result of the attack.
John’s thoughts: I found this a tremendously interesting read. It could have been just a dry, historical account of events, but throughout the book, Bishop uses personal diaries, memoirs and interviews with families of survivors to bring the history to life. In large parts the story is told through the eyes of people who were involved.
And what a story this is. If a Hollywood movie had used a plot like this, many would accuse it of being far-fetched and unbelievable. In here we have arms races, technology being pushed to the absolute limits, powerful nations battling for survival, spies, decrypted secret messages, audacious plans and quite stunning acts of bravery in the face of overwhelming odds. It is the latter which I found most amazing. Throughout the book there are seemingly normal people that are willing to volunteer for missions or to do things which are absurdly dangerous. Heroes indeed.
Apart from all of that, I also found it an educational book. I’m old enough that World War II was very real to my parents and grandparents, and I’ve always been fascinated by the period. I learnt a lot from this read and it wasn’t just about the facts and the stories immediately surrounding the Tirpitz. It was also an education to find out more about the people – from how the personalities of Hitler and Churchill had a direct impact on events, to the stories of the daring pilots and sailors who undertook the raids, to the impact of German occupation on Norwegians, to the lives of the sailors on board the Tirpitz. Something else gave me great pause for thought. The Tirpitz never did attack allied ships and essentially the only time it caused any damage was when it was defending itself against attack; yet it had a major influence on events during the war. The threat of a weapon turned out to be much more damaging than the weapon itself. Intriguing, and you can’t help but draw some parallels with the cold war that followed World War II.
I’d rate this book four stars and thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in World War II or military history; but also to anyone who enjoys reading about real-life adventure. (less)
Lisa Lillien is a blogger gone mainstream author. I am now seeing her books in the grocery store. Her philosophy is to eat and to no...more
3.5 stars actually
Lisa Lillien is a blogger gone mainstream author. I am now seeing her books in the grocery store. Her philosophy is to eat and to not be hungry but to cut out where ever you can. Her avatar and attitude is cute fun and positive...
She has a great website which features the latest calorie skimming foods you can easily purchase from your local grocery. (Hungrygirl.com is her site where you can sign up for daily emails for recipes and tips - which include what to eat at popular restaurants and what to avoid - so this is great for guys too.)
I do have to note that the recipes she publishes have been designed and taste tested by her growing staff and are really good. However she tends to veer toward the artificial and center aisle stuffs of the grocery store where most health and diet professional suggest that you steer clear. Most of her recipes include artificial ingredients such as sugars and non fat items which are kinda scary. However they are delicious. I have cooked quite a few and have not been disappointed and neither has my husband.
She take a number of old favorite recipes which are extremely fattening and creates low fat, low calorie dishes which you would enjoy and not feel cheated when eating. Try her site first which I did and love.(less)
John’s quick take: Grand science fiction ideas and an epic-scale story, but a disappointingly exe...moreOriginal review by John posted at Layers of Thought.
John’s quick take: Grand science fiction ideas and an epic-scale story, but a disappointingly executed novel.
John’s description: An expedition sets off from Earth to explore a distant star system and to populate a (hopefully) Earth-like plant. The journey will take many decades and most of the travelers are put into a deep sleep while skeleton crews take it in turn to pilot the starship. But after just eighty years Cliff Kammash, one of the lead biologists, is awoken early.
It soon becomes apparent to Cliff that there is a problem, but the problem pales beside the discovery of an unimaginably huge artifact that is the size of a solar system. Indeed, the bowl-shaped object seems to encompass a star and have a surface area that is millions of times that of earth. It also seems to heading towards the same star system targeted by the humans.
With the starship inexplicably losing velocity and struggling to reach its goal, the crew decide to investigate the bowl, hoping to replenish supplies that are being depleted too quickly. More of the crew are awakened and a landing party is sent down to the surface of the bowl. There they discover strange bird-like aliens, but half of the party are captured. The two separated groups then struggle to explore and understand the strange world, unsure of how they can ever get back to their own ship.
John’s thoughts: Oh dear. One of my pet hates is a book that masquerades as a standalone novel but in reality is only the first episode in a series – with no satisfactory conclusion to any of the plot threads. There are ways of creating a series that still provide a satisfying experience to someone who just wants to read one of the books, but no attempt is made to do that in Bowl of Heaven. Worse still, nowhere on the jacket or book description are you made aware that this is just the first in the series. This is the worst example of my pet hate that I have come across in a long time. Very frustrating.
Will I be tempted to seek out the next in the series? No. There are some interesting ideas in the book and I like some of the interaction between the different species, but the story drags on too much and lacks pace - I had a hard time reading more than a dozen pages at a time. It doesn’t help that the characters are all a bit two dimensional and some of the interplay between them just doesn’t feel plausible. It also doesn’t help that there is some weird editing in the book. There were at least three obvious discontinuities or contradictions in the story.
I can only rate this book 2 stars; and the only people I could recommend it to are die-hard fanatical follower of Benford or Niven who are prepared for the long haul of a series and can get beyond some of the shortcomings of this read. (less)
By the year 2042 white people will be a minority in the United States. With this in mind, Rich Benjamin takes a trip a...moreActually 4.5 stars
By the year 2042 white people will be a minority in the United States. With this in mind, Rich Benjamin takes a trip around the country where he explores the areas of the US where the majority of the population, curiously, is not a blend of color. He then strives to define these enclaves, which he terms “Whitopias”. They are popping up in spots all over the country for reasons which he questions in his book. As he does his personal research in this sort of “reverse ethnography”, he boldly goes into the territory to interview, live with, and experience the life style which defines these areas and the population.
Rich Benjamin is a very intelligent, highly educated, and extremely articulate individual. His writing is lyrical, satirically humorous and sensitive, and he has a very advanced fashion sense which adds some levity to the book. He is thorough and backs up his findings with statistics and references - be aware this book is somewhat academic in nature. But most significantly he’s brave, and goes into areas which for me as a white person would even be scary; areas where there are known connections with extremists who may threaten violence to people of color and/or their supporters.
He is welcomed warmly within these “white enclaves”, and what he finds is interesting, enlightening, and often quite difficult to swallow. It was for me. Although Benjamin specifically states that as a culture we have moved mostly beyond blatant personal racial discrimination, racism still exists within most static bureaucratic structures within the country. He also supports the adage that classism and racism are intimate partners. Knowing that both also exist among these “Whitopias” he further supports their link within the text.
This is a great book. My only negative thoughts around it is that it is so information packed it will probably not be a quick or easy read for most. It wasn’t for me. More importantly the subject matter is emotional and difficult, and one which many people do not want to deal with. Although the author does a brilliant job of attempting to making light of some situations, how can it be? Sadly, and most significantly, I also do not believe it will actually reach his intended audience. Considering myself for example, although white, to me I believe he is “preaching to the choir” - albeit I am the white kid in the back, who doesn’t quite know the words, and whom annoyingly sings a bit off key, but I certainly won’t stop singing. I give this excellent yet difficult book 4.5 stars. (less)
A tastefully fun book for anyone interested in knowing the background for the ingredients that go into cre...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
A tastefully fun book for anyone interested in knowing the background for the ingredients that go into creating your favorite alcoholic drinks, including chemistry, historical drama, archeology, recipes, and a fun layout with illustrations and intriguing snippets. This is an excellent book for the geeky imbiber and/or gardener.
Shellie’s thoughts: Definitely not dry, this book has been broken down visually and thematically for clarity, so it’s not like reading a text book. With an easy to digest visual style the book’s contents are divided into three major parts. The first is Distillation and Fermentation where the author alphabetically addresses the plants Agave through Wheat (including an end section called Strange Brews). The second part is Suffusions and it tells about the plant flavors which are added to the basic alcohols mentioned. It’s then broken down into Herbs, Flowers, Spices, Trees, Fruits, Nuts, and Seeds. The third part then covers the plants that are added to the drinks after they are mixed in a glass, using the topics Botanical Mixers and Garnishes.
Happily at the end of many of the sections for the book the author includes recipes for cocktail, syrups, infusions, and garnishes. She embeds short informational snippets on various subjects such as “A Field Guide to Tequila and Mezcal”, “Bugs in Booze”, “What’s the Difference between Ale and Lager”, “Know your Gins”, and more. The book also makes recommendation of what brands of liquors to use, which not to bother with, and other suggestions for creating upscale and finely crafted libations. It also has some gardening advice on growing plants for your own personal garden so that you can add them to your drinks.
I listened to the book in audio first then took a look at it in its hardbound format for further in-depth digging - and I loved both. The audio version was well read from a reader with a pleasant voice and featured a little clink of a glasses to designate the reading of each recipe. I did however feel the need to be able to look at the layout of the book’s organization, so the hardbound version may be little more practical.
This is a completely fun book which I would recommend. If you enjoy tasteful and upscale libations, are interested in how and what you are drinking is made, and would like some historical details and drama around the process in their creation then this will be a book for you. It would also make a wonderful gift for gardeners and drinkers alike. 4.5 stars.(less)
A stylized yet simple graphic novel which questions life and its inevitable uncertainties, where the autho...moreOriginal review posted on Layers of Thought.
A stylized yet simple graphic novel which questions life and its inevitable uncertainties, where the author asks about the meaning of life and death within a one-year segment of her life.
Thoughts: Author Maira Kalman is the illustrator for The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, as well as the author and artist for a number of children’s books. As a collector of many curious things, she has compiled her thoughts, drawings, and photographs in this book which reflect her feeling on some of the oddities within life. All compiled here in an adult’s picture book of sorts. It’s a philosophical, sad, yet mildly funny trip where the examples of human experience she shares also have a very universal feel. As the reader follows her path and the author questions life and the inevitable ups and downs of it all, we are left with more questions than are answered.
She has included her lovely drawings and photos she has taken, with her simple yet dryly lyrical thoughts around a year in her life. A lovely books which is easily read in one sitting but is one I would like to pick up again and again – it’s a meditation on life, art, human nature, all of its disappointments and within them, hidden joys. Asking the quintessential human questions in a slightly different and adult way: what is life about? Why do I feel sad? What happens after we die?
Highly recommended reading for adults who like stylized art and contemplating the nature of life. It’s a 4 star in my opinion and would make a lovely gift. (less)
A tragic page turning story that has madness, and themes of water and fire at its core...more3.5 stars actually. Original review posted at Layers of Thought.
A tragic page turning story that has madness, and themes of water and fire at its core.
About: This is the second version of Vincent Zandri’s award nominated story first published in 1995. It’s a heartbreaking thriller with a broken main character named Mary Kismet. She has a family history of mental illness, her first baby drowned accidently in the household bathtub and her husband has subsequently left her. As she struggles to keep herself together, her only solace is her weekly visit to her psychiatrist, who has overstepped his professional boundaries. But he too has his secrets, which he is unable to share. The question is: will it take Mary over the edge?
Thoughts: The above is the first part of a heart-stopping story which although interspersed with some happier moments spirals down, becoming more convoluted until its heartbreaking ending. Told in an unusual writing style, Zandri is both down to earth and unique in his word usage. He also does a fine job of taking the perspective of a woman on the edge or sanity.
With its theme of water running through the novel, there is a drowning and a trip to Venice as key events. So be prepared to be taken on a trip to Italy and more, where you have to keep reading to find out what’s going to happen next. I enjoyed this novella, give it a 3.5 stars, and recommend it for those who enjoy tragic thrillers.(less)
A lyrical, “stream of consciousness” styled novel about three generations of strong and independent women...moreOriginal review posted on Layers of Thought.
A lyrical, “stream of consciousness” styled novel about three generations of strong and independent women and their relationship to the sea and a “salt-god”.
About: This story is set in the coastal areas of Southern California, where it catalogs the lives, difficulties and connections to the ocean of three generations of women. Starting in the 1970’s - two young sisters struggle with their mother, her addictions, and their homelessness and its dysfunction. Later Ruthie, one sister, depicts her coming of age and tells of falling in love and the subsequent birth of her child – Naida. Then Naida tells her tale.
Ilie Ruby includes Jewish mysticism, Celtic folklore, environmental themes, women’s issues, and more into this complex and emotional story. It’s women’s fiction that has some mythical aspects and can be viewed as slightly “paranormal” in nature.
Thoughts: Ilie Ruby has an unusual style of writing that is mostly linear yet meanders back and forth in time in a sort of “stream of consciousness” writing style - the reader is taken into the thought processes of the characters as they move through their lives, resulting in a complex mix of happenings, memories and emotions. It’s definitely a literary styled book, definitely women’s fiction, and is character driven. This may not suit some readers, however, others are going to adore it.
I enjoyed this book and plowed through it fairly quickly, mostly because it reminded me that as women, all of us will experience the difficulties exemplified in the book’s pages. Ruby addresses issues of single motherhood, addiction, homelessness, rape, bullying and more. Issues that we are familiar with and have experienced directly or through our children, sisters, friends, or mothers. Sadly they are life events that we cannot deny but wish to ignore. Kudos to the author in addressing them in this second novel.
Feeling for the difficulties of the characters and the natural progression of their lives, loves, and failings, I recommend it for readers who enjoy character-driven stories, literary styled writing, women’s fiction (including feminist issues) and readers who like a touch of the mystical or folklore in their books. I give The Salt God’s Daughter 4 stars. It’s a lovely and heartfelt read.(less)
About a persistent woman who holds onto her dreams. It is about her life during the sexual revol...moreThis review is originally posted at Layers of Thought.
About a persistent woman who holds onto her dreams. It is about her life during the sexual revolution, developing feminism, and the war in Vietnam.
About: A contemporary story about the life of Merrilee Hennessy, a woman born in the US during the late 1950’s. It extends through her life experiences into the early 2000’s. With an omnipresent narration we see her life and what she feels and thinks, as a strong and driven woman, at first in her late teens and then into her middle age. With the historical back drop of the Vietnam war, the sexual revolution and the growth of feminism, it is a look inside a woman, her beliefs and the myths of her life and the generation.
Thoughts: Chasing Stardust starts out slowly, almost like a diary, with the issues being resolved through the main character’s ability to hold on to her dreams through pure perseverance and positive thinking - an important perspective for understanding the character and her life during that time. As she struggles with her dreams of a romantic ideal, akin to the romance novels she devours, she is strengthened by the ideals (held internally and supported culturally) of the perfect home and family. While things are not quite right for her, she perseveres by pushing the acknowledgment of her difficulties out of her consciousness; a key element for the story.
Some significant themes within the novel are - contrary to our internalized myths about motherhood, at times and even with a woman’s best efforts, bonding with one’s child is not a possibility; the love of a woman’s life is not necessarily a romantic love, but can be the love of a child; issues related to drug and alcohol abuse; the US legal system and its methodology for placing children from neglected and abusive homes.
My recommendation for the reader is to be aware that the first part of the novel moves along with Merrilee with her ups and downs just a bit slowly – as readers we are sometimes accustomed to the “drama and trauma” contained in the very beginning of books. It is, however, important for understanding this character. The story significantly picks up about a third of the way through and becomes heart wrenching and insightful where the consequences of the main character’s choices are made clear.
Highly recommended if you enjoy women’s fiction, strong female characters, this recent era in period fiction, and/or if you like stories with addiction and recovery as a theme. It is a wonderful self published and edited novel, amazingly without any errors in syntax as well as spelling. I give this excellent effort and book 4 stars.(less)
I really enjoyed this book. I think, in part, it may be my inner child connecting to what we adults consider "poop humour" but in an adult way. Even though the issues in this book are not funny some of the situation described by the author are. The book takes a look at what we in the Western world take for granted, but for others - whom do not have access to safe disposal of their waste it is a serious life and death health issue. The author interviews a large number of "unsung heroes" whom are battling bureaucratic beliefs, cultural ideals and habits, and environmental issues around what we and other countries do with our/their waste. I think what I found interesting is how other cultures exhibit their "toileting habits". For example, the Japanese are open about this need and have as a result developed extremely high-tech toilets. Having traveled there it is a bit of a culture shock using the toilets for the first time. Trying to figure out all the little gadgets - front and back warm water spray nozzels, heated seats, and recordings of water running so that the potty sounds are not heard by others is daunting, comical, and interesting. I recommend this book to anyone interested in human behavior and cultural differences, as well as those whom are interested in environmental issues and the social costs of the lack of adequate disposal/reuse of human waste. (less)
Shellie’s quick take:A fast paced, complex but easy-to-read science fiction romance st...moreOriginal review written by Shellie posted at Layers of Thought.
Shellie’s quick take:A fast paced, complex but easy-to-read science fiction romance story that had me quickly turning the pages. It has a believable alien, cool science oriented “time warps”, and a wonderful, strong and likeable female lead. It was nominated for a Philip K. Dick Award and is an unbelievable .99 cents at various ebook retailers. What a deal!
Shellie’s description: On a distant planet in the distant future, our heroine Siggy Lindquist has grown up on a planet that is much like ours but where trips to other nebulas and galaxies, and other futuristic phenomena are the norm. However, this world is recognizable and Siggy has a life similar to a regular girl (excluding her beautiful and unusual contrast of brown skin and white hair), with her various interests and life events. For example, she is a terrific dancer and believes she is going to marry her childhood sweetheart.
The drama starts when Siggy graduates from high school and her dreams for the future fail unexpectedly; she accepts an undesirable job on a distant planet knowing that this may be her only option of getting away from her heartbreak and earning a living. It’s not by any means a dream job – since Siggy will be doing janitorial work in a maximum security prison/hospital for the criminally insane. That the inmates are the absolute bottom of the heap when it comes to human nature is an understatement; worse yet is that they are brilliant. Get in, get it finished, and get out is her motto. But when the “Director” of the prison requires Siggy to ascertain information from the patients for research, things get a bit more complicated.
Then to twist things nicely there are the aliens called “Speedies” - who do everything that humans can except much faster - who are occasionally attacking the planet. It all creates a story even more wonderfully convoluted than what I have summarized here.
Shellie’s thoughts: Emily Devenport is one of those unusual writers who writes complex plots in a way that makes them feel easy to read and simple. Broken Time was one of those books for me. I did not struggle with it or have to re-read any parts because it flowed, yet it’s layered with intriguing plot lines, subplots and themes. The only negative thing I can say about this book is that I could see it easily being a third or more longer; maybe there will be a sequel?
I like science fiction anyway – especially science-based science fiction – and I loved this book. It does help that I also enjoy books with a wonderful strong female character, and Siggy certainly fits the bill; it is also nice to see great science fiction written by a woman. I also love the dark psychological aspects, including the insane yet brilliant inmates that give the book a taste of horror.
That is five big pluses in my opinion, so I cannot recommend this book enough, especially for those who like science-based science fiction, those who enjoy romance and are perhaps looking to try out the sci-fi genre, and perhaps for fans of Lois McMaster Bujold. It was a 4.5 star read for me. I will definitely be reading more from this author with her accessible but complex writing style.(less)
A self published children’s book that gives some insight into issues kids may be facing with their parents t...moreOriginal review post at Layers of Thought.
A self published children’s book that gives some insight into issues kids may be facing with their parents today, especially when it concerns a step parent - an often difficult relationship for children. It has sweet and fun color illustrations.
About: Billy and Susan have been living with grandma and grandpa for the past year while dad has been away fighting for their country. They miss him a lot and their mom too, who has recently passed away. Their newest concern is that Daddy has remarried. They now have a new mom – a stepmother. They have heard all the bad things about stepmothers from stories and both are scared. As they imagine all the horrible things this new evil stepmother will do to them, they become even more uncomfortable at the prospect of meeting their new mom.
But when they meet Daddy’s new wife they find that she is pretty, and it turns out she is also very nice. When she meets both children she promises to try and be a terrific stepmother and get to know them better so that maybe some day they will love her as much as their dad does.
Thoughts: An important short story for boys and girls to help them transition into a new family arrangement in a positive way. It has a thoughtful introduction for the adults at the beginning to assist parents to in turn help their children understand the stereotypes and scary thoughts that may be concerning them about a new and different parent - a relationship which often holds much angst and tension.
The book has 30 colorful pages, sweet illustrations, and meaningful and important text for small children to read. Not all stepmothers are evil or wicked, even though there are many stories which tell them that they are. Like most of William’s books it has a creative and cute twist at the end which is fun and intriguing, and a listing of Bill’s other wonderful children’s books is also at the end of the book. Highly recommended, it’s a 4 star read that is helpful for growing and changing families in understanding a complex and often difficult relationship.(less)