(There may be a spoiler or two in here – don’t say I didn’t warn you.)
Firstly, let me say that I found Melissa Febos’ WHIP SMART to be extremely well-(There may be a spoiler or two in here – don’t say I didn’t warn you.)
Firstly, let me say that I found Melissa Febos’ WHIP SMART to be extremely well-written and knowledgeable… this is truly an unforgettable read. With only an occasional discordant note, Ms Febos' narrative has a ring of truth that makes WHIP SMART a compelling, thought-provoking, and compassionate telling of human frailty… of human need… of human imperfection. I recommend this book without hesitation.
The discordant note(s)? The imperfections which led me to upgrade my rating of the book?
The back cover of WHIP SMART reads (paraphrasing) – “Whip Smart is the story of Melissa’s journey into a shocking double life [as a college student and a professional dominatrix]. And she spares no one – clients, co-workers, herself…”
Oh, but wait a minute. It seems Ms. Febos does spare herself… to a degree. In characterizing her ‘work’ in the mid-town sex dungeons as ‘a professional dominatrix’, Melissa is less than honest with herself… and her readers. And, disappointingly, she does not correct this misperception.
This was really my only objection with the book. Well, there is one other thing, but it is really more of an observation than an objection with the story Melissa tells… and tells quite well, I might add.
All through the book, I waited for Melissa to have her ‘epiphany’. Either the epiphany never came, or she chose not to share it with her readers.
I do not doubt for a moment that everything that Ms. Febos wrote about is true... I am nonetheless disappointed that she is not being as honest with herself as I would have expected in a ‘tell-all memoir’. I don’t know - I have a suspicion - if this is deliberate or Melissa is simply in denial. I just expected more honesty, in the midst of all that truth.
I do not say this to be mean or judgmental… it is simply fact. Allow me to offer up a couple of definitions -
Prostitution – the act or practice of providing sexual services to another person in return for payment.
Dominatrix - a woman who takes the dominant role in bondage, discipline and sadomasochism - having near-absolute control over the submissive. The submissive does just that… submits. He, or she, does not ‘direct’ the dominatrix.
One can color it how they will, but what went on in those dungeons appears to have been more prostitution than domination… true domination. It can hardly be called domination if one simply does what another person has paid to have done to them. Is there really that much difference between paying a person to fellate them to orgasm, than to pay a person to whip or spank them to orgasm? Both acts meet the first definition. One does wonder though… about all those clients… how many of them went about the rest of their day thinking how cleverly they have reversed the roles?
If Ms. Febos were to be completely honest, she would preface her book with something along the lines of - “I spent four years as a prostitute in New York City, taking money from men who obtained sexual satisfaction from humiliation and pain, instead of the more conventional acts of sex. At the same time, I worked toward earning my degree, became addicted to drugs (in an attempt to numb myself to the fact that I was, in essence, selling my body so that other people could ‘get off’) and subsequently became a recovering drug addict; ultimately going on to teach creative writing at various institutions.”
I mean… if we want to take away all the pretty words; that pretty much sums things up.
The epiphany I waited for?
Just this… it became glaringly obvious fairly early in the book, that Melissa was not the ‘dominatrix’, but was instead, the ‘dominated’ – the submissive in the twisted symbiosis of two souls in need.
If someone gives you money and tells you exactly what to do… and you do it… who is the one in control? And, who is the one being controlled? Who is the one being dominated?
Who was… ‘whip smart’?
Did I miss the ‘mea culpa’? No… I’m simply not going to spend a lot of time on it. Drug addiction and recovery seem to be formulaic as far as memoirs go, and Melissa’s was about what one would expect. Blame is portioned out… perhaps not equally, but the interesting thing about blame and responsibility… they evolve… until what was once an unclosed circle… is complete.
Some have noted that Melissa’s telling of her addiction was a “little too ‘all about me’”. Of course it is… isn’t that what memoirs are all about?
It sounds as if Melissa has, as much as possible, made her peace with all that transpired during those years. Is her memoir that final step… an [attempt at] expiation of her ‘sins’… an exorcism of her demons? Only Melissa can answer that.
If it isn’t, then she has paid a steep price indeed, to ‘live outside of convention’. I want to ask her… if it was worth it… all that she lost.
In closing, I would say only this… Thank you, Melissa Febos. Whip Smart is one book which will stay with me for a very, very long time. I am certain that I will read it at least a couple of more times. ...more
(Author’s note – The best part of being a writer is becoming part of a community of extremely talented individuals who share the same passion as you d(Author’s note – The best part of being a writer is becoming part of a community of extremely talented individuals who share the same passion as you do… writing, but more than just writing… telling a story. 'Writer’ may be what we tell people we are, but in reality… we are story-tellers; a profession as old and honourable as time itself. One such person, whom it is my honor to call friend, is Rosalind Smith-Nazilli. Rosalind recently published a collection of some of her brilliant flash fiction, and I had the opportunity to read it and offer a few remarks. Thank you, Rosalind. vmls)
Gut punches... not a very lady-like expression, but that is exactly what I think of when I read FOURTEEN... Rosalind Smith-Nazilli's brilliant collection of flash fiction... fourteen jabs to the mid-section.
FOURTEEN starts with a sad little tale of woe – The Collector – that ends on a much brighter note than it began. Rosalind deftly shows that noir isn’t all dark… the occasional ray of hope can shine through.
Of course, for Sally, a bit of luck doesn’t hurt either!
Punch is a gritty little piece of flash with a ‘punch’ at the end that took my breath. Nicely done, Rosalind… nicely done, indeed!
The last line in No Intervention chilled me to the core and raises the question… ‘What will we do the next time we encounter a similar situation?’
Problem Solved is a rather pragmatic look at problem solving… I quite enjoyed this one!
The ending in Overnighter gave me one of those ‘oh my god!’ moments. Well written, Rosalind!
I love the beginning of The Five Year Plan… “It started with a kiss. Didn’t it always?” A bit cynical, but there is a note of truth to it. Never underestimate a mother’s love.
I love the ‘voice’ in Dispatched… another of my favorites in this collection.
A former punter receives ‘correction’ in A Lesson For Freddie.
‘Not in my backyard’ is carried a bit far in Friends, when three young woman ‘mark their territory’.
The Girl With The Flame Coloured Hair is a taut little bit that left me wanting more.
In this little flash of noir, Sam is about to find out what real Retribution is!
Satisfaction reminds one of the dangers of short-changing a ‘working girl’.
Downloading Disaster… I love the double meaning in the title… is a collaboration between Rosalind and Graham Smith, a writer of some repute I am told. This story is my first exposure to Graham’s writing… the lad shows promise. *wink*
Downloading Disaster gives a dystopian look at a future which bears an echo to the past… a dark part of man’s history on this fragile earth that one hopes will never be repeated.
It is also a cautionary tale against…. oh, but wait… that would be giving it away. We can’t have that, can we?
Rosalind does an excellent job here… bringing us several ‘cautionary tales’… warnings of the consequences when we succumb to our darker urges, and when we are made victims of another’s. A sharp mind with a keen understanding of noir, it is my privilege to know Rosalind. She has encouraged me much in my own writing.
Probably my favorite in this collection is Remember Yesterday. A poignant, moving story of love, sacrifice, and loss; Remember Yesterday is written with the compassion of someone who has experienced both in their life. Re-reading it now, I am brought to tears… again. There is a line in the story, near the end…
“The not knowing is what gave us hope, and the will to carry on, believing.”
Thank you, Rosalind, for a more than satisfying serving of flash fiction.
Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw 18 February 2012 Cannon Beach, Oregon ...more
Martha Moody's keen observations on the human condition make The Office of Desire an entertaining read as she takes us through a year in the life of tMartha Moody's keen observations on the human condition make The Office of Desire an entertaining read as she takes us through a year in the life of the doctors and staff of a small Midwest medical clinic... the trials and tribulations of marriage and family... the pitfalls of office romances and the re-examination of one's own life life amidst the rise and fall of others. She writes inter-personal relationships quite well and the unraveling of office unity when those relationships falter.
The Office of Desire is insightful and compelling, thought-provoking and poignant. Martha writes with a narrative style that is comfortably-paced and descriptive, yet doesn't bog the reader down in 'place', instead allowing us to identify with the characters... their thoughts and emotions. There is a strong sense of reality to the characters and the situations they face. We get to see them 'warts' and all; Martha doesn't 'air-brush' them into the stereotypes so common to television and movies.
I would recommend The Office of Desire to anyone looking for a story that goes beyond the superficiality of a lot of the fiction out on the market today. This book will make you think... and that isn't a bad thing in a market flooded with sugar-coated story-lines and one-dimensional characters.
I gave The Office of Desire only four stars... and I struggled a bit over that decision... not because it isn't a good story - it is - but because I felt there were a couple of plot points that were a bit weak. This doesn't take away from the story as a whole, however. I really have only one criticism and that is in regards to the HIPAA violation committed by one of the characters in discussing confidential patient information. I don't know if that was done on purpose, and it does make for a good discussion point for a book group; it just unsettled me a little bit. I would like to think that doesn't happen in real life, but that may be wishful thinking on my part. We are after all... only human.
One of the characters, Caroline, says this - "Desire is a dog impossible to train."
We've all been bitten by that dog, and as the story shows... there really isn't a cure for the pain that follows.
Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw Cannon Beach, Oregon Silverdale, Washington 9 June 2012...more
"The average American takes a 10.4 minute shower... 86% of those pee in the shower and 67% do not sing in the shower..."
A great little conversation st"The average American takes a 10.4 minute shower... 86% of those pee in the shower and 67% do not sing in the shower..."
A great little conversation starter for my next party.
It is nice to see some 'myths' exploded and I appreciated the insight into how the media and marketing businesses twist statistics around to suit their own narrow agendas... "you mean JIF really ISN'T the number one peanut butter in America?"
I think where Kevin has stumbled a bit is in trying to make this some kind of spiritual quest. Stick to the task at hand... find the Average American.
I am pleased, although not in the least surprised to find that I am not an 'average American'. For starters... my showers run more than 10 minutes... I don't pee in the shower, although I... but, I digress...
All in all... an interesting read; one which shouldn't be taken too seriously, but with the 'tongue-in-cheek' spirit in which it should be.
After all... is there really an 'average' American... or any other nationality, for that matter? Like snowflakes, we humans are 'no two alike'... unique and special in our own ways.
(Reviewer's note - I posted my review over on Amazon US and Amazon UK some weeks back, but neglected to post here. LETTING GO is a collection of short(Reviewer's note - I posted my review over on Amazon US and Amazon UK some weeks back, but neglected to post here. LETTING GO is a collection of short fiction that I recommend without reservation. I would also mention that I received no compensation for this review... it is based solely on the merits of the book. Thank you. vmls)
Someone once said that “fear and regret are the cruelest prison… a prison of our own construct… one we put ourselves in.”
Regret is just that… a cruel prison… one we build from our own shattered dreams and lost hopes, where ‘why’ is replaced with an endless litany of ‘should haves’ and ‘wished I’d done the other’ and ‘if only’. But, life doesn’t always give one a second chance, as we find out in Letting Go… a collection of short stories from Victoria Watson.
Victoria Watson is an impressive writer… a great talent who uses her keen insight and observations of the human condition to draw with words… sad, dark, sometimes horrific, and heart-breakingly poignant pictures of humanity… troubled souls lost in despair… their hopes and dreams washed away in the rain of their own tears.
Victoria brings a depth to her characters and a level of emotion… completely un-contrived and so real that the reader feels almost as if they were in the same room, that they were reliving the very experience on the pages before them… which, in the words of another writer I admire, rivals that of Anita Shreve.
In Letting Go, Victoria writes with a strong voice and uses a stunning descriptive narrative style that draws the reader in from word one and carries them through, completely captivated and totally absorbed in her tale. More than once, I had to pause while reading her stories and catch my breath… this is some serious writing here, people… wow! And, more than once I had to set aside the book… a bit over-whelmed at the emotional response Victoria’s writing brought out in me.
Not to take anything away from the other stories, but there were a couple that really stood out to me… touched something…
Bye, Bye Baby is a heart-wrenching story of loss… one I wished I’d skipped when I was through (this is a testament to your writing, Victoria, it is by no means a critique)… written with such raw emotion, the reader can’t put down even if they wanted to. Tina and I are ‘working on’ our first child and I should probably leave stories like this alone. Make no mistake though… Bye, Bye Baby may just well be the best written of all eight stories.
In I Should Have Seen It Coming, Victoria tells a remarkable tale of deceit and what happens when fate ‘deals the cards’… the just rewards received only a part of the regret visited upon a woman who dared to tempt powers she had no comprehension of. In spite of the protagonist’s deceit, the reader finds empathy for her… due in large part to the strong voice in Victoria’s writing.
Inside is a reflective, metaphorical tale where the reader is drawn into the emotional past of the protagonist and lulled into a sense of nostalgia… until past regrets catch up and life’s tragedy is unveiled before us.
I highly recommend Letting Go. This is truly a ‘must-read’ collection of stories of the human condition. The ‘twists’ in each tale are perfectly executed.
Each and every story is wonderfully written… evocative and a reminder to the reader not to judge others too severely, but to stop and reflect back on our own lives at how easily things might have turned out different. A life could turn on something as innocuous and innocent as not looking in the back seat before stepping in one’s car.
And remember… one can’t rebuild a life if they spend their days kicking through the rubble of regrets.
Thank you, Victoria, for a truly memorable collection of prose. These stories will stay with me long after I have read them. That is a good mark of how well-written a story is and the caliber of the writer.
In closing, I wish you much success in all your endeavors.
Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw Portland, Oregon Silverdale, Washington 5 May 2012 ...more
(REVIEWERS NOTE - Men... if you have a sense of humour, you will LOVE this book! Don't let the title put you off... this truly is a 'must-read'! Thank(REVIEWERS NOTE - Men... if you have a sense of humour, you will LOVE this book! Don't let the title put you off... this truly is a 'must-read'! Thank you. vmls)
If ever there was a book that deserved five stars... this one is it!
Menopause… something we women all have to look forward to, right? Okay, maybe ‘look forward to’ isn’t the right phrase… how about ‘stark terror’? I mean, I’ve heard stories… I’ve seen the films in school… I’ve seen Aunt Sophie! Granted I have a few years to go, but still…
After reading Cheryl Reid’s DIARY OF A MENOPAUSAL WOMAN, I am minding less the sound of that clock ticking down to my inevitable passing into that phase of womanhood.
With a sharp wit and keen sense of humour, Cheryl chronicles nine months in the life of… a survivor. Yes, I think that is a very apt description. Cheryl is a survivor. We all must be to make it in this crazy world, right? You bet your pretty lace knickers I’m right!
Cheryl does an amazing job with DIARY OF A MENOPAUSAL WOMAN… turning adversity into fortune… casting a humourous eye on those everyday things that can sometimes have one running screaming from a room… sometimes in search of a bottle of Stolichnaya – or, is that just me?
Cheryl’s dissertation on the trials and tribulations of everyday living reminds us that, I’m paraphrasing Cheryl here… “While life can sometimes feel like ‘garbage’, if one can laugh when they really feel like crying, life isn’t that bad and we can be rich in ways that money can’t buy.” It’s all about finding that silver lining… holding your chin up when you’d as soon pull the pillow over your head and stay in bed.
From dealing with the mystery of bottled water for irons… to puppy-kissing and the pitfalls of finding proper homes for Ruby’s offspring… to solving those oft-occurring financial dilemmas that can tax an already stretched-to-the-limit budget… to searching for an answer as to who is behind the chocolate conspiracy… to a devoted son who seems to be fighting his own battle in getting a card and poem to his mother before Mum’s Day is only a distant memory… Cheryl’s spirit and indomitable sense of humour will lift you up and show you that, with the proper frame of mind… you to can take the cares and woes of the world and just say… “Buzz off, world… you’re not trodding over me!”
I am trying really hard not to put any spoilers in here because I want everyone to experience Cheryl’s wit, humour and brilliant story-telling first hand… to be taken off guard, as I was… so that when laughter bubbles up from deep inside them it is with a joy at finding something brand new that brightens their day and brings a smile to their lips!
DIARY OF A MENOPAUSAL WOMAN is brilliantly done… rich with humour and a certain pragmatism that Cheryl turns ‘round into something positive. But DIARY… also has a bit of suspense.
There were a couple of times when I wasn’t rocking in my chair with laughter, tears [of joy] running down my cheeks, or passengers on the morning train casting looks at the dark-haired girl who couldn’t stop laughing.
In those moments I was on the edge of my seat, anxious with worry, as Cheryl battled her addiction… with chocolate! But then… Cheryl would offer such rationalizations – and they make perfect sense to me – as to why, in certain situations, chocolate has no calories, that I was soon literally falling out of my chair with laughter.
Repeat after me, sweetie…
“Hi. I’m Cheryl. I am a chocoholic."
(chorus of voices…) “Hi, Cheryl!”
Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw Silverdale, Washington Portland, Oregon 30 April 2012 ...more
Is the recognition she (Nannerl Mozart) so longs for the truest measure of her gifts?
This is a question that I believe we allThe question is asked...
Is the recognition she (Nannerl Mozart) so longs for the truest measure of her gifts?
This is a question that I believe we all need to ask of ourselves... is fleeting fame or our name in the footnotes of history the truest measure of what God has given us?
Extremely well-written, Mozart's Sister is more than a story of a sibling living in the shadow of her very talented brother... it is a sharp glimpse into a world where a woman's choices - regardless of her talents and abilities - are extremely limited, and her hope for dreams realized is slim, if not non-existent.
It is also a story of faith and believing that God has a plan and a purpose for each of us and His wisdom and and love and our faith will guide us to that purpose, where we will ultimately find our true 'life' and purpose... our fulfillment... our true gift.
I am looking forward to reading more from this very talented writer. I suspect that were I able to travel back in time, I would find that Nancy Moser has captured perfectly the 'atmosphere' and circumstances of the period.
The back cover of the book has the comment that "Nancy Moser unveils one of history's hidden heroines." I could not agree more!
Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw Cannon Beach, Oregon 15 May 2012 ...more
Even better than 'Bitter Is the New Black', which was definitely a seven star read!
I'll try to get back later with a few thoughts on Bright Lights, BiEven better than 'Bitter Is the New Black', which was definitely a seven star read!
I'll try to get back later with a few thoughts on Bright Lights, Big Ass. For now, trust me when I say this...
YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK! Hell (sorry for the sweary word), you need to read all three of Jen's books! I've just started 'Such A Pretty Fat', and it is every bit as great as "Bitter" and "Bright Lights".
If I wasn't gasping in 'mock horror' - "OMG!!!! She did NOT just say that!" Oh yes, she did! - I was rolling on the sofa, or the floor, doubled up in laughter!
Jen, sweetie? Love you girl, but you made me pee in my favorite pair of UnderGirl panties... the ones with the hippos. Fortunately, I was on the couch at the time and not down on the floor on my honey's treasured Barbara Barry rug... her treasured WHITE Barbara Barry rug, I might add. Oh, if that had happened, Tina would not have been a happy little camper... not at all!
I gotta ask. If you had that moment to do over, would you have stuffed that 'gay porn' mag in Fletch's bag? I would have... in a heartbeat. Not to Fletch, obviously - unless you gave me the nod - but I could just see the look on Tina's face when she opened her briefcase at her staff meeting the next morning. Bwaaahaa!!
Okay. Me? Craving? A Peanut Buster Parfait.
Veronica Marie (The Pajama Thief) Lewis-Shaw Cannon Beach, Oregon 19, September 2012 ...more
I enjoyed The Listener quite a bit more than I thought I would at first. While part of the story-line was fairly predictable, I was nonetheless caughtI enjoyed The Listener quite a bit more than I thought I would at first. While part of the story-line was fairly predictable, I was nonetheless caught off guard with the ending. Yes, I rather liked the ending. It left me with one of those 'oh!' moments when I read the last paragraph... I like that feeling!
The Listener is certainly deserving of a four star rating here. Shira Nayman has written, in her second novel, a most compelling story of human frailty. Her treatment of the main staff and patient characters was especially well done, and she adds a nice depth to the secondary characters as well.
In The Listener, the author uses a descriptive and compassionate narrative style that easily engenders empathy in the reader for the characters Shira has created. She deals with the subject of mental illness, both those being treated and the persons treating them, with an understanding and compassion that only one who has experience in the field can.
The author shows with a startling clarity that the casualties of war go far beyond those who served and their families. The consequences of war are not unlike the ripples in a pond when one drops a stone in its center... spreading out and touching everything and everyone in their path.
None of us are immune from the fragile nature of the human mind.
I would recommend The Listener without hesitation.
Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw Silverdale, Washington 22 June 2012...more
I first read Alas, Babylon in middle school. I enjoyed it then for the narrative style, not necessarily the subject matter. I liked Mr. Frank's portraI first read Alas, Babylon in middle school. I enjoyed it then for the narrative style, not necessarily the subject matter. I liked Mr. Frank's portrayal of the characters in a post-apocalyptic world. He made them 'real', something sadly lacking in a lot of fiction out on the market today.
Simply written, Alas, Babylon is nevertheless engaging and while nuclear annihilation is no longer likely, the subject of mankind's survival and adaptability in the aftermath of an armageddon is one that we should not dismiss as speculative.
I did note a few grammatical errors, surprising considering this was not an 'indie' effort, but went through the 'traditional editing and publishing channels.
Fifty-plus years later, Pat Frank's novel of the horrors of a Cold War come to fruition is still thought=provoking and sobering.
I would recommend this book.
Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw Cannon Beach, Oregon ...more
(Reviewer's note – In my junior year of college, I suffered a six month ordeal that nearly ended my life and even now, almost seven years later, still(Reviewer's note – In my junior year of college, I suffered a six month ordeal that nearly ended my life and even now, almost seven years later, still has me looking in the back seat before I get in any car and still wakes me in the middle of the night, the dying echo of tortured screams floating on the night air. After reading freefalling, I find myself asking if I really know what true suffering is? I am in no way mitigating the trauma of rape and the ordeals of myself and tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of women, young girls and children; don’t get me wrong. But, I do have my life… my pain and suffering is mostly memories now. The girls who live on the streets? Pain and suffering is their life… it isn’t just a memory.
I have received no compensation for this review, nor do I know the author personally. My five-star rating is based solely on the merits of the book. Thank you. vmls)
“please dear God I ask of thee send four angels down to me one to watch and one to pray and two to carry my soul away”
With those spare words, thus begins a story that is both transformative and unforgiving.
Darlenne Susan Girard's freefalling is the heart-breakingly poignant, breathtaking and tragic story of a young girl's 'journey' from innocence lost at the tender age of 14, to her death two and a half years later... the victim of circumstance and the unbearably crushing weight of an all too often heartless and cruel world, filled with takers and users, to whom compassion and empathy are nothing more than words on paper… lofty ideals of a civilized society that these unfortunate souls… the streetwalkers… now live on the edge of. Although, perhaps ‘living’ is too polite a term.
I will try not to put too much of the story in my review, but this is probably a good place to caution the reader about spoilers.
Forced to leave by an impossible situation at home, the protagonist, 14 year old Melinda, finds herself on the 'mean streets', virtually penniless and with little more than the clothes on her back... and woefully unprepared to face a less than certain future. A future so bleak in fact that any Las Vegas bookmaker would give long odds indeed that Melinda would last a week, let alone 30 months in the unforgiving, harsh and at times utterly ruthless, world the young girl has 'tripped' into.
It is only her chance encounter with perhaps the one person in this new 'world' - Angel - who thinks of more than just herself, that Melinda finds a fighting chance. Angel takes Mouse, whom she has 'christened' Melinda as, under her wing, showing that even when life seems at its darkest, a candle of hope still flickers.
Will this unlikely friendship be enough to save Mouse? And what will happen when she discovers that the unthinkable has happened to her? What will she do… this once innocent girl who has yet to reach the age of 15? Who can Melinda turn to for the love and understanding, the guidance and wisdom she desperately needs? Is her fate now to be determined by the whims of a psychotic streetwalker, who is at times so immersed in her own pain and suffering that she cannot help anyone else?
As we soon find out, it is street justice and street wisdom that are the girls ‘guiding light’… their ‘beacons of survival’, if you will. And like countless thousands of girls before her, Melinda finds herself doing ‘whatever it takes’ to survive.
freefalling is probably the hardest book I have ever, or will ever, read. This is a testament to the incredibly powerful and moving writing of Ms. Girard and her keen insight into the human condition. I cried most of the way through this book and had to put it down several times... I simply could not go on, having become completely overwhelmed at the tragedy unfolding on the pages in front of me. Even now, it is hard to take my mind back to the story.
freefalling is written with such uncompromising clarity and brutal honesty that one wonders if it really is the product of a prolific imagination or is a story told so well and so real because the author lived it? It is truly the mark of a great story-teller who knows her craft, when readers ask such questions.
Melinda (Mouse) and Angela (Angel) are without a doubt two of the most unforgettable people I have ever read. The author had me craving a burger and fries more than once when I would read one of the diner scenes. Darlenne - may I call you Darlenne? Ms. Girard seems so formal - weaves a story rich in detail and filled with characters drawn with the creative brilliance of a master storyteller. I actually found myself shivering at times, when Darlenne would describe one of the countless street scenes with Mouse or Angel standing curbside in the rain or in whatever meager shelter the street offered… the wet and cold soaking through to the bone.
The author’s unique style… the pace and tempo of her writing… conveyed the pain and despair… the desperation and hopelessness of the girls all too well. As I said earlier… their pain was all too real as I struggled through the pages… palms sweaty and heartbeat racing as the brutal words of Darlenne’s narrative brought forth images of the street life these girls endured.
What kind of life is it… on your knees trying to coax a little life into some stranger’s flaccid flesh, just to earn enough money for a meal, maybe a bottle and some cigarets? Or, lying on your back on a filthy bed in a filthy hotel room… legs spread… dignity and hope only distant memories… as some poor bastard spills his seed… adding to the soil around you and reminding you of your own worth… barely less than zero.
A life where violence is the only ‘gratuity’ you will ever receive for services rendered. And even in that, there is a bitter irony.
Of all the men in this story, only one seems to engender any sympathy, and even Al has his own agenda… something a new girl on the streets, like Melinda, soon enough learns. Everyone has their own agenda… everyone looks out for number one.
The acerbic Carla is another character in the book, a ‘tough’ girl whose philosophy is ‘fuck or be fucked’ and who fails to see the irony of her own situation. Angel sees the irony of her life, yet is helpless to change it. And Mouse… poor little Mouse?
The power of Melinda’s own life was taken from her before she fully realized what she had. That is the real tragedy. That is a tragedy that happens every single day… everywhere. That is a tragedy that crashes through every social strata of every society
You and I have ‘avenues’… means of escape… when life around us gets ‘rough’, more importantly; we have support systems – family and friends – who care about us, and us about them. The girls on the street have neither. They can’t afford friends… friends will only disappoint them and hurt them.
For Angela, Mouse, Carla and the others… friends are a burden they cannot bear; the weight of reciprocity is too much. There is more than enough tragedy and despair in these young girls’ lives and a friend is only someone else they will use and then disappoint, in their own search to fill the void in their lives… a void that only one thing can fill, because they’ve given up on everything else.
Well, there are two things… but a quick death isn’t something anyone on the street seems to want. They prefer a slow, painful death; seeing it as a sort of redemption for what they’ve done… for what they’ve allowed themselves to become. These girls gave up long ago believing that it was anyone’s fault but their own for the bleak existence that they now endure. Some of them may still believe in love and even think they have found it… but in the end, they will only chase it away with a needle or a pill or a bottle. And sometimes… all three.
The girls exist on the streets… little more than a ‘fingerhut’ for some other tortured soul… as penance for something they did or something that happened to them. But, penance isn’t enough… without redemption, penance is an empty gesture. For these girls, the only redemption is the slow death of giving up their lives… piece by piece… everything human about them. These girls become little more than ‘the walking dead’, riding a freight train of drugs and alcohol that gains speed every day, until one day it takes a curve too fast. And in a heartbeat… the closing credits of a life they no longer recognize, flash before their eyes… then… silence.
Despite all the promises she makes to herself and all her good intentions, Melinda finds herself on that freight train. Yet one more tragedy in an already tragic life, only… she’s brought an unwitting passenger. Can Mouse get off of that train before it runs away… before its speed takes her around that curve… and all of her promises disappear… like tears in rain.
There is a passage from a song on one of my playlists that would run through head at times, while reading freefalling -
Still falling Breathless and on again Inside today Inside me today Around broken in two ~ Mazzy Star
I recommend freefalling without reservation. It isn’t pretty and it isn’t for the faint-hearted. And, unless your heart is carved from stone, you’re going to get angry… you’re going to cry... you’re going to be made uncomfortable. Good! And just maybe you’ll do something about that.
freefalling is uncompromising and unapologetic. Anything less almost seems dishonourable.
Thank you, Darlenne, for a story that is going to stay with me for a very, very long time.
What’s that you say? How does the story end? Well, I can’t tell you that; now can I? I will leave you with one final word –
Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw Cannon Beach, Oregon 2 September 2012
A quick, enjoyable read... I thoroughly enjoyed Miss Lee's cautionary tale of relationships and losing sight of who we really are... and that we shoulA quick, enjoyable read... I thoroughly enjoyed Miss Lee's cautionary tale of relationships and losing sight of who we really are... and that we should never 'settle' or let anyone 'dim our sparkle'.
(Reviewer's note - I am a writer and freelance reviewer. I received no compensation or inducement to review this book. Thank you. vmls)
Nancy Klann-Mor(Reviewer's note - I am a writer and freelance reviewer. I received no compensation or inducement to review this book. Thank you. vmls)
Nancy Klann-Moren’s The Clock of Life is a rich, wonderful story with a distinctive flavor and narrative, engaging characters, and written with a compassion for some of the darkest days in the history of America.
The Clock of Life is an excellent historical fiction, which takes place in the American South in the last quarter of the 20th century. Reminiscent of To Kill A Mockingbird in many respects, The Clock of Life is a “coming-of-age" story about a young boy growing up in a small town in Mississippi. It is a story of truth and freedom… of injustice and inequality.
Told in ‘first-person’, in a clear, compelling voice, Jason Lee, the son of deceased Vietnam War veteran JL Rainey recounts his growing up in Hadlee, Mississippi during a time of much unrest in America. The Vietnam War and the civil rights movement had a profound and lasting impact on much of the country and Jason Lee's 'world' bears much of the brunt of that… a world where racism and intolerance runs deep. Jason Lee learns a great deal about his father and the kind of man he really was through stories from others. It is from these stories that a yearning grows.
In his befriending of a black schoolmate, Jason Lee - through many trials -grows in both character and spirit, learning and appreciating the meaning and value of friendship, freedom and tolerance for others in a society that often takes freedom for granted and does not fully appreciate the sacrifices of those who went before… those who fought and died to secure and ensure freedom for all… and a society that too often turns a blind eye to tolerance and acceptance, unable or unwilling to stand up to injustice and inequality.
Jason Lee wants to be like his father.
Ghosts of the past and the realities of a society rife with injustice and inequality, Jason Lee faces many challenges – not least among them broken hearts and the loss of a very close friend - and while [growing up] he doesn't always make the right decisions, Jason Lee, like the rest of us - especially those who also grew up in that time - learns and grows from his mistakes. He learns that while the 'right thing' isn't always the easiest thing to do… it is the right thing to do.
Jason Lee is becoming the man his father would have been proud to call son.
The author brings a strong narrative style, a very definitive sense of place and a stunning eye for the idiosyncrasies of rural life in the American South to The Clock of Life. Page after page is rich with a flavor that rings true for anyone growing up in that same period and place. One of the greatest strengths of this story, I feel, is the dialogue, with its finely-balanced dialectal quality, which adds to the overall imagery through-out the story.
There is a realism and depth to the characters in The Clock of Life that is sadly lacking in a lot of the fiction on today's market. Historical fiction especially demands richness in character, place and plot. Nancy achieves all three with such seeming ease that one forgets that this is her very first novel.
A minor scene perhaps, but like countless other 'little' scenes throughout the novel, Jason Lee and Samson's first shared experience with moonshine really struck a chord with this reader; in that relatively short passage is a great deal of truth.
A constant thread through-out The Clock of Life is the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War… both times of bitter conflict in which many lost their moral compass, some never to regain it... and the inequality and injustice those events engendered, and the scars left behind.
The Clock of Life is a powerful and thought-provoking morality play, if I may use that phrase, which will have a lasting impact on the reader. I came away from this story with many of the same feelings I had after the first time I read To Kill A Mockingbird. Nancy has written a humbling and inspiring tale of the courage and the strength of the human spirit, a story that evokes in the reader a broad range of emotions and hopefully, a degree of compassion and understanding for our fellow citizens.
If there is one thing we can take away from this story, it is this….
It is one thing to know the difference between right and wrong; that’s something we all learned in the third grade. It is quite another thing to have the courage and conviction of one’s beliefs and to live one’s life for the betterment of mankind and to have empathy and compassion for the family of man. Freedom isn’t free and justice isn’t blind. We should not live our lives with the presumption that freedom doesn’t have a cost and that justice can be dispensed equally with eyes shut.
Nancy has earned numerous accolades – among them, her debut novel was a finalist in the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards - for The Clock of Life, which should come as no surprise, and her novel has been adopted by the Los Medanos College’s English Department, to be taught in the school’s freshman writing classes.
The Clock of Life is a "must-read" and I recommend it without hesitation. Thank you, Nancy, for a thoroughly engaging story… one that will stay with the reader for a long, long time.
Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw 6 August 2013 (Writing under a large mushroom, somewhere in the Pacific Northwest)...more
(Reviewer’s note – I am an independent writer. I am also a freelance reviewer. On occasion, I receive advance copies of books from publishers, for rev(Reviewer’s note – I am an independent writer. I am also a freelance reviewer. On occasion, I receive advance copies of books from publishers, for review. My reviews are based solely on the merits of the book, and I receive no remuneration from the publisher or author, other than a copy of the book, in exchange for posting a review on my blogs. Through a contest sponsored on Goodreads.com, I recently ‘won’ an ARC of Lauren Kessler’s latest non-fiction book, COUNTER CLOCKWISE. The following is my review. Disclaimer: I have taken care to not, with a couple of minor exceptions, directly quote from the book. Please note that the opinions and any 'claims' the reader may infer from this review are mine, and not necessarily those of the author. Thank you – vmls)
“If I could turn back time… if I could find a way…”
In Diane Warren’s “If I Could Turn Back Time”, Cher sings of love and of regret over things said and things done… wishing to turn back time and take away the hurt. But as we all know, time moves in one direction.
Or, does it…?
In Lauren Kessler’s Counter Clockwise, the author writes of ‘turning back time’ in a more literal and profound sense… in a way that will change your life… in a way that will improve the quality of your life, not just now, but as one grows older… chronologically, that is. With solid research and testimony from experts in their respective fields behind her, Lauren explains that while ‘age’ may be something measured by passing of years on a calendar, how we age… the speed at which we ‘grow older’ is something that we have much, much more control over than one might think.
Lauren’s “Year of Hypnosis, Hormones, Dark Chocolate, and Other Adventures in the World of Anti-Aging”, as Counter Clockwise is subtitled, is an odyssey of discovery… and a search for the truth behind the hype… through the anti-aging ‘realm’. A market that some estimate, in the next couple of years, will exceed $200 billion in revenue.
Lauren explores the pills, supplements, creams, lotions and assorted devices pushed on a largely unsuspecting public that is in search of the fountain of youth. She tackles fitness and exercise regimens that would make even the most hardcore Marine boot camp drill sergeant toss in the towel and head for the lockers. The lure of cosmetic surgery, guaranteed to take years off your body (if not your mind), along with thousands of your hard-earned dollars, sings its siren song to Lauren. Does she succumb? Ha! If you’re expecting spoilers from me, you haven’t been reading my reviews.
Diet. When we hear that word, most of us think in terms of losing weight, but remember this… ‘diet’ is not just a verb. Diet, in the noun form, is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle and if your quest is to ‘turn back the hands of time’, what, when and how you eat is even more important. Lauren’s research - I would have loved to be her research assistant, at least for this part - takes her through the science of food and nutrition in search of the right foods and combinations of foods that will promote optimal health and get those narrow black hands winding backward around the clock face. Think you know what a superfood is? Want the real lowdown on dark chocolate and red wine? Pay particular attention to that chapter.
Even a good diet doesn’t mean your body, and mind, can’t use a little help from the supplement market. Lauren has done a great deal of research in the area of supplements and come up with her own list. I think this is a list worth paying attention to.
Exercise… how important is it? Lauren gives us the ‘sweaty truth’. After reading Chapter Eleven, I am rethinking my current exercise regimen… which presently consists of a daily five-mile run - more if my stress level is up. Deadlines and commitments; what are you gonna do? - and thrice-weekly visits to the gym. Yeah, yeah, I know… there are seven days in a week. But, I’m young. I’ve got plenty of time, right? Hmmm… might want to be re-thinking that ‘philosophy’, Veronica.
There is a philosophy, a sound one, by the way… unlike some of the hoke and hype surrounding some diet, exercise, and supplement ‘stay young’ regimens… that explores how the mind contributes to whether we age well, at a ‘normal’ pace, or age quickly.
Lifestyle, diet, attitude… the wrong combination of these can give a thirty-year old the body – inside and out – of a sixty year old. And vice-versa… the right combination… well, imagine being 60 in calendar years but with the outside body of a 50 year old - without the benefit of cosmetic surgery - and the inside body of a 40 year-old? (My words, not Lauren’s – vmls)
In Counterclockwise, Lauren shows us how we can not only slow down the march of time, but even reverse it, to some degree. Has she found the fountain of youth? No… there is no such thing. Forget all those infomercials and so-called ‘experts’ on ‘midnight’ television, hawking the latest ‘key to eternal youth’… it is for the most part little more than ‘snake oil’.
Want to know a secret? You have the key… not to eternal youth, but to living longer… to living younger than the age on your driver’s license.
I hesitate to say that there is one single thing that will ‘turn back time’, that will slow down that clock and turn you into an ‘anti-ager’… but in a very real sense there is.
One thing, from which everything else flows…
Attitude. As is pointed out in the book… “expectation rules outcome”. This is a simple, yet deeply profound truth that it seems, humans need constant reminding of. What we think… how we think… is what we become.
Getting into the proper mindset. Why does anything fail? Diets… exercise… jobs…. relationships… all have one thing in common for not succeeding. Our attitude. If you don’t ‘expect’ to meet that weight goal… if you don’t ‘expect’ to finish that marathon or 10K race… if you don’t ‘expect’ to get that job you want… you won’t! It’s that simple. You can’t just want something to happen… you have to make it happen. All of the research and advice Lauren offers in Counter Clockwise will help you make things happen.
My wife, Christina, has on more than one occasion remarked that I “act like a twelve year-old.” Well, pardon me for not always acting my age, but as Chapter Twelve - unless they get renumbered; I am reading an advance reader copy, not the final ‘to-market’ book – points out, that may not always be a bad thing. If I had only five seconds to summarize the ‘message’ in Chapter Twelve, it would be this…
Think young… live young… be young.
Fortunately, I don’t have only five seconds…
In the 21st century job market, more so than at any other time perhaps, youth… the perception of youth, that is… ‘rules’. Wisdom, experience and knowledge take second place to a pretty face and a ‘fit and trim’ body. You can take the band aid approach to ‘youth’… cosmetic surgery and the latest fad diet, but if what you really want is to look, feel and live not just younger, but longer… with a better quality of life….
Read Counter Clockwise. This book is not 230 pages of opinion and conjecture. The author has, through exhaustive research and at times, incredible self-sacrifice, written a roadmap, if you will, to a happier, healthier and longer life… a life “increasingly disease-resistant and increasingly energetic”. Lauren has consulted with some of the top experts in their respective fields, subjecting her body and mind at times to total strangers, and come away with some very good news.
We can ‘turn back time’. But remember…
You can’t just want something to happen… you have to make it happen.
I’ve read a book or two on self-help, diet and exercise… and wasn’t terribly impressed. I’ve listened to a spiel or two at conventions, fairs and such… and was more impressed with the free water bottles and key fobs than the product or the pitchman’s speech. After reading Counter Clockwise, however… I recommend it without hesitation. I don’t say this about a lot of books I read, but this one… it will be life-changing. Lauren covers all the bases here with good solid advice, as well as some resources, to set you on the path to a more fulfilling life.
Lauren's keen sense of humour, and occasional snarkiness - gotta love it! - made this a thoroughly enjoyable read, as well as being very informative and educational.
There was one thing missing from the book, though.
I didn’t see the chapter on the health benefits of Sonic’s Texas Toast Breakfast Sandwich or Five Guys’ Bacon Jalapeno Cheeseburger (yes, with the cajun fries!)… I’m sure they will be in the final version of Counter Clockwise. Right, Lauren?
One final thought…
“Lauren, I have to side with your daughter on this… don’t mess with my smoothies!”
Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw 12 May 2013 (Writing under a large mushroom, somewhere in the Pacific Northwest) ...more
I should say, this copy. We've managed to go through three copies so far... books and water don't mix well.This book rarely leaves our bedside table.
I should say, this copy. We've managed to go through three copies so far... books and water don't mix well... lol!
Tina and I recommend Jude's book without hesitation. The title reads "101 positions..."... but if you are like me and my inamorata, you will find countless variations... almost another book in itself!...more