This story is from the perspective of “the other” - a marginalized female character in the myth. It is tolOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
This story is from the perspective of “the other” - a marginalized female character in the myth. It is told in the first person by Penelope, wife of Odysseus and cousin to Helen of Troy.
Interestingly Atwood tells this in an unusual and layered way. Penelope is in Hades as she tell the story and pieces are conveyed in poem format at the beginning of each chapter, from the perspective of Penelope's 12 maids. These maids are sacrificed by Odysseus on his return after his 20 year of travels in the Mediterranean after the Trojan war. Needing a “scape goat” to keep his honor in tact, all twelve are hanged for mingling with Penelope’s suitors - who were hoping that Odysseus would not return so that they could take over his household and wealth. Through this story we see the perspective of a woman’s life via Penelope’s modern voice re-telling.
Highly creative, Atwood has crammed an amazing amount of information in this story which is only three hours long. It has some interesting scholarly theories around a goddess cult which was believed to have included the 12 maids. Her perspective is light with a humorous thread, but nevertheless is understandably dark, as are most myths. This was my first Margaret Atwood book and I truly enjoyed it and am now a big fan. Highly recommended at 4 stars.
The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus (in audio) ~ by Margaret Atwood; Laural Merlington (Reader); Canongate Myths series # 2....more
A disturbing and poignant coming of age story with elements of suspense and psychological terror which verOriginal review posted on Layers of Thought.
A disturbing and poignant coming of age story with elements of suspense and psychological terror which verges on the paranormal.
About: Arriving at his most recent boy’s school, the story’s narrator is among a number of “marginal” young adults living at the facility, perhaps with behavior problems or mental health issues – quintessential “lost boys”. The school appears to be their last resort before incarceration or asylums.
The story has a murky and gothic feeling – being set in an icy wintery season, containing dysfunctional adult characters, and taking place within decrepit halls and dusty corridors. Amazingly the story teller is never named. Lost in the system and within himself, our narrator tells his tale via cryptic journal entries, through which we see that he is “damaged” as he enters yet another broken educational facility.
Enter Willy, a charismatic, intelligent and contrastingly wealthy roommate to our story teller. He sees through the façade of the school and its teachers, and assists the boys to understand they are of value – especially our unnamed character. But this comes at a price, and as the story progresses the reader can only guess what is really going on.
My Thoughts: Through the narrator’s journaling, appropriate for a young person’s developing writing skills, the reader is led on a dark roller-coaster ride with only small glints of hopefulness. We see a lack of self worth, dark teacher student conflict, and a crooked system where the needs of the lost and disabled are not met by teachers/administrators. This is contrasted with emerging feelings of self discovery, including youthful romantic angst, and some normal coming of age fun and games.
Robert Dunbar’s grasp of the human experience is heart-piercing and he clearly understands these lost souls. Here, Willy is speaking to our main character:
“You don’t know what you are. You’re lost in yourself and you can’t always be. Would be a tragedy. Yes? No? Don’t nod like that. You don’t understand. Are you even awake enough to hear? It would be a tragedy because you feel, and you can’t imagine how rare that is, not yet. But you could. Be strong. If you survive long enough.”
One thing I think may be difficult for some readers is accessing the narrator’s language – a key to the story. It is choppy with some stream of consciousness thought which gives it a dissociative feel. However, I loved it and was at the edge of my seat while reading the book. The author effectively uses this and a variety of techniques to create a combination of angst and chills
In summary Willy, with its bits of resolution and redemption, was hard to put down. I think that it will be enjoyable for many mainstream readers, especially those who enjoy coming of age stories, stories that border on paranormal, and those that leave the reader wondering how it will all work out. There is some light m/m romance and glbt intimacy with tasteful sexual allusions, and also some slightly strong language and gore. This novel is distinctly intelligent, emotionally insightful and alarming; the reader is left with only a reference, a wonder, and a delicious dark suspicion of what has actually occurred. This genre-blending story gets 4 stars in my opinion. I loved it!...more
Original review with additional information and pictures of the Yorkshire Moors at Layers of Thought.
A classic masterpiece that is an4.5 star rating.
Original review with additional information and pictures of the Yorkshire Moors at Layers of Thought.
A classic masterpiece that is an incredible work of horrific and tragic fiction. It is a shocking “page turner” that I could not put down.
About: A tale of a haunting, either imaginary or not. It’s also a story of love and a loss so obsessive that it creates a monster from a man, mangling him into a cruel character that manipulates those around him for revenge, power, and pleasure. His anger seethes into the lives of family and those who he should love and cherish. Sadly, due to the constraints of the time, those around him cannot escape his internal conflict, external tortures, and schemes.
The story unfolds within and around two houses or manors in the late 1700s/early 1800s, in the English countryside. Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange are the names of the houses where the story takes place, among the rock strewn landscape of the bleak, damp and beautiful Yorkshire Moors.
The story is told from the perspective of a new border (Lockwood) who arrives to rent Thrushcross Grange in an effort to escape city life in London. Hoping for idyllic countryside and folk, he finds things are not at all as he had wished or imagined. He is appalled yet intrigued as to the reasons why there is such lack of normal civility at Wuthering Heights, so he consults the household’s servant, Nelly Dean. Through a series of conversations she tells him the horrible and convoluted tale. As they progress, Nelly’s strong character and moral sensibilities come through as she passes along the tragedy of the young Heathcliff and Catherine, spanning their childhood and beyond.
Thoughts: Some of you may know that John (my husband) is from North Yorkshire, growing up only several miles from where the Bronte’s lived, wrote, and died. So naturally I have visited the area frequently over the years. When visiting one can see the landscape is rocky and harsh with its boggy, peaty waters running through its craggy hills. It is generally damp and cold with summers that can be lovely and warm but only for a moment. This description of the moors is also a metaphor used throughout the novel; it mirrors a conflicted passion between the main characters.
It is accepted that life there was harsh 200 years ago, and still is for farmers working there today. They are known to be surly and cranky, so Heathcliff's temperament was no surprise, yet his extreme cruelty was. He is a character who is sadistic and that overshadows most of the other well fleshed out figures – even the wild, strong-willed, yet spoiled Catherine. I was shocked, thinking the book was categorized as a romance and it that would be light. Boy was I wrong.
You may think that through my description above that I did not particularly like Wuthering Heights. I loved it and think it is an incredible surprise of a horror story. It’s a harshly “romantic” tale and an enduring historical classic. It has a wonderful and deeply conflicted character with a chafing angst. It deserves a 4.5 stars and gets a big “Wow” in my humble opinion.
The version I listened to is included below, as is a paperback I used as reference – the Yorkshire accent is difficult even today, let alone 200 years ago when the book was set and written. Even John as a native Yorkshireman had difficulty translating it for me. The best part of the particular version I listened to is that the narrator has a “proper” Yorkshire accent and sounds just like my sister in law (a native). It gives the reading an authentic feel.
Audio: Naxos AudioBooks; Unabridged; 11-CD Set; read by Janet McTeer and David Timson; 13 hours, 9 minutes; May 15, 2007;
Paperback: Signet Classic; introduction by Alice Hoffman; copy shown above also includes an afterword by Juliet Barker; 352 pages; March 1, 2011; ...more
A complex, fantastical novel with philosophical musings and literary tropes discussed throughout. TranslatOriginal 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. ...more
There is a reason why some novels win multiple awards; this historical fantasy is one example of a book thOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
There is a reason why some novels win multiple awards; this historical fantasy is one example of a book that deserves all the accolades it has received. An incredible tome which is a grand meandering adventure into the historical, magical, and darkly hilarious. It is a perfect read for fall.
About: Set in the early 1800’s during the end of the Napoleonic wars in an England where magic and fairies exist; the story begins with Mr. Norrell as the self proclaimed “magician” of the age. He has delegated himself the task of re-establishing an order to English magic so that it can become as highly valued and respected as it once was. So in a twisted effort he eradicates every other magician/practitioner in the land.
Enter Jonathan Strange, a younger and more socially adept individual, who becomes Norrell’s student, learning what the older magician deems important to his acolyte. Sadly Norrell also hordes and hides all the most important information. Still his student develops, as Jonathan Strange is everything Norrell is not - possessing a natural ability for creating spells and magic.
This natural conflict is mixed together with an “evil fairy” and well developed characters. Woven into the mix are interesting historical facts, fantastic fairy history and a make-believe history of English magic. The result is a multi-layered, complex, dryly funny and wonderfully meandering story.
Thoughts: As mentioned there are many well developed and intriguing characters in this huge book (900 or so pages or 32 hours of listening time). It has human sized fairies (not the fluffy kind) and a mix of curious and down to earth servants -including appropriate roles for men and women during this historical period. It has a writing style which has an old fashioned English feel; quite proper and appropriate for a pre-Victorian historical era.
This book was so much fun and I learned some actual history (which I am completely inept at), as a lot of the detail is actually grounded in fact. But the best part is the intriguing amount of imaginary fairy and magic history included, which is entertaining and wonderful. A perfect historical book for those who don’t like history.
Listened to in audio, the male narrator did an excellent job of moderating his voice for each of the characters, classes, and genders. I was even surprised that the footnotes worked well in the audio version - as there are many. Here are two short and fun examples of magical spells which the author included in one of the many footnotes, which I could imagine using at one time or another:
Chauntlucet: a mysterious and ancient spell which encourages the moon to sing. The song the moon knows is apparently very beautiful and can cure leprosy or sadness in anyone who hears it.
Stokesey’s Vitrification turns objects – and people – to glass.
I loved this wonderful book and give it 5 stars. Highly recommended if you enjoy historical fiction and/or fantasy; also for non fantasy readers who may be interested in reading something with magical elements. This was a fabulous and complex tale!...more
When two young friends, both orphans, arrive in Salem MA in 1692, the litigious and imbOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
Actually 4.5 stars.
When two young friends, both orphans, arrive in Salem MA in 1692, the litigious and imbalanced nature of a community sets in motion a horrific series of events. The author uses a unique perspective around why she thinks this may have occurred.
About: This is set around actual events where the warped moral boundaries and a desire for revenge inflame the emotions of a local pastor and a selfish young woman. Situations are manipulated for personal gain, culminating in the hanging deaths of a number of its core community members - for witchcraft. Bloody scary!
It’s a historical novel about this infamous North American witch hunt, with a slightly different take on the original. The author’s slant is very plausible and extremely intriguing. While not giving this key piece away, let’s say that through some research and a bit of insightful luck or brilliance, Suzy Witten has added a theory around this 200 year old story which has created a page turning twist of a tale - a very good one at that.
Thoughts: One of my favorite genres is horror, so I devoured this story. At the same time, because it is based on a true story it is all the more terrifying, especially since it is entirely possible that something of this nature could happen again. As well as its plausible and intriguing twist, it has complex and well developed characters - many are easy to relate to and likable while others are naturally despicable. With its insight, it feels like a study in human nature with extreme examples of human failings. I was left on the “edge of my seat” (or the bed since I usually read at night). At one point I had to set the book aside with the downward spiraling events.
Another element which I liked is that there is “lustiness” as a large thread throughout the story, giving it darkness and juiciness which in my opinion did not become unrealistic and standardized (one of my peeves). So if you’re looking for a “clean” read this is not a good book for you. Witten also uses language that is accessible yet with a slightly “old English style” so that you feel like it is set within the period which it occurred. These elements give depth to the story and make it perfect for a historical fiction novel.
This is an impressive independently published debut novel, even though the author has extensive writing experience - she is a Walt Disney Studios Fellowship Finalist, which you can definitely tell by reading this book. The Afflicted Girls is also the winner of The 2010 IPPY Silver Medal for Historical Fiction (Independent Publisher Book Awards). I would say that this book deserves 4.5 stars. I will be waiting for Suzy Witten’s next book since I think she is a talented writer and am curious why this book has not been snapped up by a bigger publisher. Highly recommended!...more
A sweet and whimsical tale with images of strength, valor and courage. It’s a poetiOriginal review with additional links posted at Layers of Thought.
A sweet and whimsical tale with images of strength, valor and courage. It’s a poetic and fantastical hero's journey especially for girls (and some boys too!)
About: September is twelve and like many children of that age she is bored and confused about life; feeling stifled by her chores - especially washing the household’s flowery china teacups. It does not help that Dad is off fighting for the country and mom is working in the war efforts; tough times for a young girl, creating the natural desire to escape the perceived drudgery which is normal for all youngsters of that age.
In her imaginings of something beyond her regular world she is visited by a Green Wind in a smoking jacket and whisked off to Fairyland. There she looses her heart and a shoe while meeting a variety of diverse fairies and fantastical creatures, while learning a thing or two about herself, the true meaning of friendship, and what is truly important in life.
Thoughts: With whimsical and imaginative prose akin to poetry (Catherynne Valente has an unusual grasp of language and is actually a poet), the book has meanderings with deeper archetypal and metaphorical threads creating a story that has wording that is often like a poem.
Contrastingly the story has “real life” issues placed strategically in it, where the main character faces tough situations which are not glazed over or skirted. There are sections which touched me deeply, creating a giggle or a heart-tug from September’s experiences.
Perhaps seen as an introduction to fairy lore for the uninitiated, or a revisit for the more advanced reader, the book contains many different fantastical creatures. Since I have never heard of a Dyad, Spriggans, Pukas, Marids, and perhaps a Golem, it was a lesson for me. There is an intriguing theory around the evolution of fairies – from frogs; which I liked so much. (Macmillan has a downloadable document; a bestiary for the book which is lovely and amusing.)
Will tweens and teens like it? I think most will. However, as one of the “uninitiated” adults (I have not read a lot about fairies), I found the text esoteric in areas - which may have changed since it I read the book in an arc format. So I would recommend it for precocious youngsters beyond their reading level (due to its vocabulary – check out widdershins!), older tweens and teens, children well versed in fairytales and their language, or to teachers and parents to read out loud to students or children. I would have loved having this read out loud to me as a youngster.
As a story for most age levels, it is a tale about fairies with old fashioned yet relevant ideals which may help solidify and reestablish it - strong girls/children become strong women/adults; perseverance does make a difference; and one’s home is the best place to be (mostly). I loved this whimsical and special book and rated it 4 stars. ...more
4.5 stars actually - so very close to a five! Original review posted at Layers of Thought.
A perfect summer novel for those looking for something with a4.5 stars actually - so very close to a five! Original review posted at Layers of Thought.
A perfect summer novel for those looking for something with a bit more depth in their reading. This novel has an idyllic summer camp setting in the Ozark Mountains, where an unexpected tragedy is set in motion through a series of complicated events. It is a heart wrenching and insightful story that has a diverse and unusual set of characters.
About: When Wyatt Hudy is accepted as a camp counselor for the summer term at the Kinderman Forest Summer Camp at the very last minute, he believes he will be working with children. However, he has not been informed that for the first two week session he and the other new and impromptu counselors will be taking care of disabled adults that are wards of the state. A significant fact is that Wyatt could be mistaken for one of the campers due to a physical deformity he inherited at birth. As a series of seemingly unrelated events occur, there is an incredible build up a for a completely surprising and uncontrollable tragedy; and it does not stop there. What enfolds is at once heartbreaking yet understandable, leading the reader to think about areas that can be viewed as morally and legally ambiguous.
My Thoughts: This novel made me think and feel a great deal of unexpected emotions. The author's densely descriptive and beautifully accessible language helped me to believe that I was there in the mountains in this summer forest setting. But the best part is that the story includes developed, unusually flawed, complex and diverse characters. There are entirely unexpected personality aspects for the characters -counselors, staff, and the campers especially - creating a realistic and often shocking mix. One character could be even classified as the quintessential psychopath of the most insidious kind – one that charms and which most would not remotely suspect. With the questions that this novel will naturally create for its readers, I think The Inverted Forest will be perfect for discussions, though it may bring some heated conversations to the table.
I devoured every moment of the book, kept thinking about the characters, keep thinking about them still even weeks after finishing it. I enjoyed being immersed in the forest setting, one that most Americans will relate to and which is imbedded in our national psyche as a seasonal event – attending or counseling at a summer camp. This is a 4.5 stars and comes very highly recommended for contemporary fiction readers. For me it was the perfect summer setting and a powerful read. It almost made a rare five star status for me....more
An incredible collection of short stories, novelettes, one novella, poetry and more -rOriginal and a more complete review posted at Layers of Thought.
An incredible collection of short stories, novelettes, one novella, poetry and more -representing the best in the science fiction and fantasy field published in 2009. All chosen by peers from the SFWA –Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.
In summary: I enjoyed every story in this great anthology, one of which is the best short stories I have ever read. Yep, it was that good. Subjective star ratings are shown for each individual work. I encourage you to read these yourself as they are an exciting bunch for anyone interested in SFF (and horror since there are many threads within this selection). Overall, I give this book a rare 5 stars.
Short Stories ~ (under 7,500 words):
“Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela” by Saladin Ahmed ~ An exotic story set in old Iran where a Sultan’s physician is sent into a dusty rural area as punishment because of his directness (he confronted the king, opposing the marriage of his lover to an old rich man.) During his exile he is called to cure a hermit’s wife, who has a startling affliction. Purported to be a witch, she is in fact more. With descriptive language and light insight into some of daily practices from Muslim culture, I re-told this great tale to John over Persian food the subsequent evening. Delicious and entertaining at 4.5 stars.I remember the future2
“I Remember the Future” by Michael A. Burstein ~ An aging and dying science fiction author deals with the anger and angst from his daughter from his slights and perceived neglect toward her over the years. As he descends into a happy madness, there was a tear inducing ending. 5 stars.
Non-Zero Probabilities” by N. K. Jemisin ~ A down to earth and intelligent story, that is a “walk around” New York. It has a creative, fantastical, and magical link into a probability of sorts. It made me giggle and blush too. 4 stars.
“Going Deep” by James Patrick Kelly ~ A science fiction story whose main character is a tween girl. Living on a dying space center this girl’s genetic heritage is determined as – “space traveler”. The last in this “retired” collection, it is a relatable tale which accesses the psyche of the main character in an amazing way. A terrific story, which I want to read more of. It’s a 4.5 stars in my opinion.
“Bridesicle” by Will McIntosh ~ Horror, science fiction, and humor mesh in this story, where attractive dead women are frozen for reanimation and can be revived for dating and marriage purposes. Darkly hilarious and an incredible idea, this tale gave me “giggle tears”. I laughed till I cried at 4.5 stars.
Winner: “Spar” by Kij Johnson ~ A dark, horrific, and erotic science fiction short that includes an amorphous non-human alien. Not for the faint of heart or stomach. This story deserves 4 stars.
SFWA Author Emeritus – Neal Barrett, Jr. ~ “Getting Dark” ~ A southern story of sorts where the female narrator is haunting or being haunted - perhaps both? This is surreal and earthy, with a dark and sexual thread told in an authentic female voice. I give it 4 stars.
Novelette ~ (over 7,500 and under 17,500 words):
“The Gambler” by Paolo Bacigalupi ~ Set in the future, a Laos refugee escapes his deteriorating country for the US only to find that his idealism does not work here - within the ever increasing thrill and monetary seeking society that the US has become. With an environmental thread - apparently one of this author’s major themes; this is an incredible story with interesting and sensitive cultural insight. It’s definitely a 5 stars.
“Vinegar Peace” by Michael Bishop ~ An emotional and convoluted story about orphaned parents - designated as such and put to pasture when they loose their children in death. Set in the future it is difficult, full of angst, and has a hallucination-like feel to it as it is often a natural consequence from a severe loss. Its is a 4 stars in my opinion.
“I Needs Must Part, the Policeman Said” by Richard Bowes ~ A dying man is brought into a hospital and falls into various dream like states around his life and the experiences of his friends; many ill like himself from Aids-related complications. I laughed, cried and just loved this incredible story. I’m now a serious fan; this is a 5 star from an incredibly sensitive and insightful author.
“Divining Light” by Ted Kosmatka ~ Every once in a while you read something that just “blows you away”. That is the case with this story – consequently it is my favorite from the collection. It goes beyond any of my expectation and includes elements from several of my preferred genre mixes - horror, science fiction and an encompassing “meaning of life” thread. In my opinion it’s an impossible 5.5 stars. a memory of wind
“A Memory of Wind” by Rachel Swirsky ~ Reviewed by me in another post - linked via the title. It is based upon Iphigenia and set in ancient Greece. I gave it 4 stars.
Winner: “ Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest: Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast” By Eugie Foster ~ In this consciousness-bending story – described as a “dystopian” tale - identity is a key element. The individuals of this society are required to wear masks imbued with different drugs/hormones which change daily. There is an element of blending of genders so the story will be classified as GLBT; it also contains a horrific thread. I enjoyed this phantasmagorical story at 4 stars.
Damon Knight Grand Master - Joe Haldeman ~ “A !Tangled Web” ~ An excellent science fiction short which tells the tale of a business deal made between humans and aliens on a planet other than earth. The aliens have an interesting physiology and language, and a method of self-depreciation which is beyond western behaviors. Because of this it’s a darkly funny short with an intriguing alien, written by an author who is rightly honored as a Grand Master in the field. This is my first story by him at 4.5 stars.
Rhysling Awards (poetry):
“Song for an Ancient City” by Amal El-Mohtar ~ Is about a magical ancientthe women of nell gymme's city; a short and lovely poem.
“Search” and “Fireflies” by Geoffrey A. Landis ~ The first poem speaks of a hope in finding other life forms in the stars; the other compares fireflies and the stars.
I enjoyed all three at 4 stars each.
A bundle of highly recommended stories from this “cream of the crop” collection. This was a tough one to complete. How do you review an anthology such as this? I am thinking maybe I should start working on the 2010 winners and nominees since maybe I will be fortunate enough to receive next year’s copy of the Showcase. One can dream....more
A historical gothic thriller set during the great depression in the rural south. It has a thread which linOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
A historical gothic thriller set during the great depression in the rural south. It has a thread which links to the US Civil War. Readers won’t guess what the source of the horror is until two thirds through the book; be prepared to linger at the edge of your comfort zone and have a hard time putting this book down.
About: Main character Frank Nichols is a WWI vet turned college professor. His girl friend Eudora and he have decided to marry after a several year affair which has destroyed her marriage and his career.
Against the advice of his deceased aunt they move into the house she has given him in her will. The small Southern town where the house is located (near the river) is where Frank plans to write his historical book. It will be about his notorious and cruel ancestor whose plantation was also located “across the river”, where he was horrifically murdered at the hands of his slaves.
Our narrator, Frank, and his young wife do not recognize what lurks just beyond the river, even though he has been warned by a variety of sources not to venture into the woods. But soon they and the entire town will be caught in a tangle which will alter their lives and the landscape completely .
Thoughts: I found Those Across the River in audio at our local library, and think it is a perfect read for Fall since the climax for the novel is set around Halloween. The reader has a slightly sad and light southern accent – perfect for Frank. Interestingly he also has a variety of deeper accents which are effectively used for the other Southern characters in the novel. All work very well in helping make this book a heartbeat-increasing pleasure to listen to.
With its historical thread I was thinking that it was going to be a realistic thriller, but after finishing think that I would define it as horror. I liked the dark paranormal aspect although would not recommended it for “sensitive readers”. There are some interesting and gory scenes - one in particular a graphic sexual encounter which may shake up some readers; it did me.
I would recommend it for those who enjoy Southern gothic stories, thrillers with a paranormal edge, horror aficionados, and anyone with an interest in the US civil war (sadly only a too short thread as I found myself wishing for more). I liked that everything did not end up in a “traditional story tied bow”, and give this audio book 4 stars. I will be watching for more from this author since it did surprise me. ...more
A “literary tragicomic” that is translated from Norwegian. It’s a short but challenging read which is at tOriginal review posted on Layers of Thought.
A “literary tragicomic” that is translated from Norwegian. It’s a short but challenging read which is at times brilliant, heart-wrenching, sadly funny, and with some interesting bits which require mathematical knowledge to fully understand their references.
About: It is told in the first person by an aging woman Mathea Martinsen. She is a cerebral individual, currently obsessed with death, and perhaps possessing a social anxiety disorder. She stays in her apartment with little desire to connect with anyone other than her husband. With no children, her life consists of the television and going to the store, while simultaneously trying to avoid and connect with her neighbors.
When she finally realizes something is missing from her life – that she wants to be and feel important - she attempts to set things right in a dilapidated series of too-late actions. It seems the harder she tries to be someone, and to connect with others, the worse things become. While she remains oddly positive, as the title suggests she only feels smaller. As her muddled attempts become more desperate, her descent leads to a culmination which is not entirely expected and completely heartbreaking.
Thoughts: One of the reasons I love translated literature is that it helps me to think differently. This book definitely did, and then some. It pushed me to re-read passages, research references, and to do quite few “Googles”. I would even say that with so many looking up of references while reading this ARC, it felt like it was not completely finished.
However, many of the analogies were brilliant and curious. The author has a variety of these interesting tidbits scattered through the story line coming directly from Mathea’s thoughts and actions. An example is that Mathea puts many thing into numerical concepts and theories, speaking to her connection with the world and her relationship to her husband – his nickname and even the title is a reference to a numerical theory.
So, I was a bit conflicted about this book. But remembering it is an ARC I will be searching for a finished copy to compare the two. Perhaps footnotes for the Norwegian cultural references and math connections would help? I don’t always want to stop reading to find an answer to a question.
Recommended for readers that enjoy translated fiction, mathematical logic, and for those looking for a much deeper read. I give this short and intellectually intense book 3 stars as it is in its ARC format; more if my concerns have been addressed in the finished copy. ...more
The adage: "getting old is not for sissies" should be the subtitle for this book. Although Weil does so kindly and realistically t2.5 starts actually.
The adage: "getting old is not for sissies" should be the subtitle for this book. Although Weil does so kindly and realistically the truth of the matter is there is nothing we can do to completely stop aging. But we can live a healthy life, a balanced life, a contemplative life.
This book is an overview of one of my favorite health, diet and well being books by this Physician/new age science guru who mixes Eastern and Western medical advice. He debunks a lot of myths, tells you what he thinks and gives the reader a real life plan that one can work with. Although strict it feels like if you do your best to follow this advice you will be that much healthier
I would recommend you skip this book and move onto the one linked below for a comprehensive guide to logical holistic health that will optimize your anti aging plan:
4.5 stars actually. Original review with additional historical bits at Layers of Thought.
A poetic page turning historical début with an unusual and pre4.5 stars actually. Original review with additional historical bits at Layers of Thought.
A poetic page turning historical début with an unusual and precocious young girl as the main character. All set in an exotic, magical, yet politically volatile country and time.
About: When Eleanor Cohen is born there are auspicious signs that she is not your normal child. She is to be a prodigy with gifts of memory, languages, extreme intelligence and something which is just a tad mystical. Set in the late 1800s in what is now Turkey, 8 year old Eleanor finds herself in Stamboul within the struggling Ottoman empire, after a decision to follow her father. As the fates conspire she is linked to the king - Sultan Abdulhamid II - and becomes his adviser for a short time during the ill fated years of his declining empire.
Thoughts: This was such a lovely read with my very favorite type of female character, one who is strong, brave and kind. Yet Eleanor is also beyond brilliant. Endearingly she makes a few girlish decisions creating a wonderfully realistic and exceedingly likeable character.
As a historical fiction novel, it is light enough to appeal to those who are not so historically inclined (like myself). I would even recommend the book to young adult readers due to its wonderful character and easy to read lyrical writing style. For those that enjoy history, also mentioned are classic texts which are significant to the political choices made within the novel, making it of particular interest.
As Lukas’s first novel, The Oracle of Stamboul is complex yet easy to read. His descriptions are sensual but there is no sex in this story, and many volatile elements are just alluded to. This combination gives the novel a very strong appeal -it’s a rare combination in my experience and leads me to think that Lucas is an extraordinary writer. He took six years to complete this story and it shows.
In my opinion this book is rated 4.5 stars since it doesn’t get much better - a lyrical historical novel with mystical yet realistic threads. I am wondering when we will see his next book? Hopefully it won’t be another six years....more
A darkly funny yet introspective and mildly gory novel about a zombie who becomes emotionally human and faOriginal review posted on Layers of Thought.
A darkly funny yet introspective and mildly gory novel about a zombie who becomes emotionally human and falls in love. And it has a great cover!
About: The main character, whose name is “R”, has little or no memories of who he was prior to his “death”. So a letter is all he uses as his name. He does know a few things about himself though - based upon the suit he wears he thinks that he must have been a professional. Better yet, he was probably good looking since his appearance is not “as bad” and he doesn’t smell “as much” as the other zombies he knows. Also he has a growing ability to communicate beyond the prerequisite grunt or moan, which continues to improve as he starts to ponder about who he is and his purpose in “life”.
To complicate things more, while out on a hunt with his zombie “buddies” he gets a taste of a young man’s brains which allows him to see and feel this victim’s (or should I say lunch’s) memories. In doing so he begins to share growing feelings for a feisty and pretty young woman who is his dead meal’s girlfriend. As he explores his growing love interest, the two share a common bond - a desire to look beyond their apocalyptic world. As they do so, inner turmoil and growth abound, all mixed with a lot of drama, some violence, understandable campiness, and light romance.
Thoughts: This novel borders ever so slightly on the literary side, with its interesting and almost too lengthy existential processes – all around R’s personal growth, meanderings, reflections and angst. It is not your usual horror book since it is only mildly scary and delves into the emotional changes of a zombie beginning to remember that he was once a man.
Recommended for readers desiring a “lighter” zombie story, who enjoy some reflection mixed with romance; also for those in need of some farcical fun. It has an unbelievable ending which is also redemptive. I liked this story at 3 stars. ...more
An adorable mystery for middle grade readers – especially boys! It h3.5 stars actually Original review with links and more posted at Layers of Thought.
An adorable mystery for middle grade readers – especially boys! It has incredible black and white line drawn illustrations. It can be seen as a book for literary minded and reluctant readers and as an introduction to this fine American author.
About: Eddie is the nick name for Edgar Allen Poe and the story is based upon the author’s humble beginnings, as we find out more about how he was born, raised, and lived.
Young Eddie attempts to get himself out of trouble when a powerful next door neighbor’s prized rooster and the local tom cat are hung on a weather vein in a bag during the middle of the night. Eddie is blamed for creating the ruckus by the entire neighborhood and especially by his father.
Thoughts: I just loved this cute short story, the drawings are lovely black lined and delicately done and will break up the reading for younger or reluctant readers. The story is cute and has a deeper appropriate age level message – which states “if you know who you are and are honest and truthful that is what matters most - even if others do not believe you”.
The story has a touch of the speculative. Our young hero has his own personal imp - which is based upon one of Poe’s stories “The Imp of the Perverse” (actual story is linked on the blog). Eddie experiences the human conundrum where one often chooses to follow an internal voice (called by Poe the “imp”) rather than a better and more reasonable form of logic, therefore creating many human problems. Poe believed that it is human nature to follow this “imp” which persuades us to wait until the last minute to accomplish important responsibilities.
This book can be seen as a roll model for children, as well as for youngsters whose interest are literary rather than athletic or social. An important story about one of my favorite classic authors. 3.5 stars for this perfect Halloween “treat” rather than a bag full of candy – or in addition too! ...more
This is the sad tale of Iphigenia, the daughter of King Agamemnon. She is sacrificed by her father to theOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
This is the sad tale of Iphigenia, the daughter of King Agamemnon. She is sacrificed by her father to the Goddess Artemis in order to create wind so that they (the Greeks) might sail to Troy - all to avenge the “kidnap” of the unhappily married Helen of Troy (or rather her elopement with Paris - the prince of Troy).
What is so special about “A Memory of Wind” is that unlike other stories around this particular Myth, in this telling Iphigenia is not marginalized. Her death is not taken as an insignificant part of the bigger picture as in the traditional tale. Told in the first person by Iphigenia herself, we see the horror of a teenage girl who thinks she is to be married to the warrior Achilles yet instead is sacrificed. As Rachel Swirsky aptly states in the Nebula Awards Showcase in the preface to the story:
From a certain perspective, Iphigenia is an unsuitable main character. She has minimal agency. She is young and trapped and sad and passive and dying…. But sometimes we are are the ones who are trapped. Sometimes we are the ones who can’t change our fate. Those stories are also important.
Heartbreakingly, after her death our narrator attempts to understand her fate as we hear her speaking to her father - questioning his reasoning for this horrific decision. It is a lovely tale, done well with a light poetic style and an effective ending. 4 stars for this feminist take on a piece of an ancient myth.
This short Nebula nominated story/novelette is available in ebook format and is also included in the paperback edition Nebula Awards Showcase 2011. The ebook includes the above gorgeous cover, and is available at the Macmillan web site for ninety nine cents. http://us.macmillan.com/amemoryofwind; and on Amazon Kindle for US.
An epic story, with cute and colorful drawings about thOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought in a graphic novel trio review.
3.5 starts actually!
An epic story, with cute and colorful drawings about the famous Tolkien hobbit, who finds one of the fabled rings which become an important part of the continuing saga of The Lord of the Rings.
About: Bilbo Baggins is happy with his quiet life in his little cottage when the wizard Gandalf and a group of dwarves invite themselves for tea and drag him along on an incredible adventure. Unbeknown to him, he is to play an important role in its success and become the story's reluctant hero.
Thoughts: Recommended for all ages, this is a wonderful introduction to Tolkien for anyone who is daunted by his books. I know I had difficulties accessing them as a youngster (and as an adult too) and thought this would be a perfect substitute. I loved the cute and colorful pictures golemand the text was so pleasant and easy to digest. It would be wonderful for children of almost any age. Including kids of the ancient variety!
The particular version, which I read in the UK, was apparently written for the local population; some of the wording and references may be difficult for a US reader. So be aware of your version and don’t let anyone tell you that books don’t need to be translated from UK English to US English. It was a fun and lovely read at 3.5 stars. I can now say I have finally read – The Hobbit.
The version I reviewed is out of print for the US and its cover art is not the same: 144 pages; Harper Collins (1991). For the UK this version is also out of print but is available used. In Canada there are new copies and it looks like one is available in French....more
With gorgeous graphics, this is a sci fi novella for adults orOriginal version posted at Layers of Thought with a trio of reviews.
3.5 stars actually!
With gorgeous graphics, this is a sci fi novella for adults or mature and older teens. It is a metaphor for an existential trip that most of us unexpectedly take at one time or another - like the main character.
About: It’s a graphic take on Philip K. Dick’s science fiction novella The Electric Ant, which was first published in Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine in October 1969. It’s based around an android questioning his reason for existing after he discovers that he is not actually a human as he has believed. His shocking discovery leads to questions about who he is, his purpose, who created him, and if his behaviors are his own or programed by someone else. By opening himself up and examining his “pre-programed tapes” takes a trip into the past via some type of a time-warp. As he digs around inside his inner workings, it can be seen as a metaphor for an examination of his “psychological self”. Psycho-babble for sure but never the less a key concept.
Thoughts: Definitely an adult novel as there are some very adult themes and images, sexual scenes and nudity (although the rude bits are glossed over). Three artists contributed to the novel but the main images displayed are by Pascal Aline.
The one thing that bothered me about the book was that the main character’s diggings and his apparent time travel felt unclear to me. I found myself wanting more and think I would like to read the actual version of Dick’s novella to compare. Hopefully Dick’s writing of the android’s existential experiences will be clearer in the original story. With that said, the graphics are completely wonderful, most of the story is darn good, the ending was one that I really liked and is completely appropriate as it reflects the time in which is was written - the late sixties. So on balance it’s a 3.5 stars.
Extra Info: Marvel Comics adapted "The Electric Ant" as a limited series, in 2010. Produced by writer David Mack; French artist Pascal Alixe; and with covers provided by artist Paul Pope. Also for an interesting indie short film based around the story which is about 6 minutes long link below. Cool but I was not crazy about the ending. Its called "All Gates Open" - http://vimeo.com/6793981...more
An accessible and life-affirming novella which takes the reader on a trip from the dark stages of addiction and abuse to a kind of whole-ness; set in a realistic and magical setting.
About: Young Jilly Coppercorn, our story's narrator, has not had an easy life. The victim of abuse of various kinds – much of it at the hands of family members - it has been a struggle to stay alive, let alone clean and drug free. Now off the drugs she is turning her life around. Then a good friend, one of her best, turns up and invites her to a concert of sorts. She is a bit worried as this friend is from her old life – her addicted life.
As she steps over doorway into the party she has an unsettling feeling akin to an elevator ride; unbeknownst to her she enters a netherworld. It is very much like our world but in many ways not - as Jilly soon discovers. There she must make a choice to stay in this other realm or to go back to her “real life”. It’s a decision that may help her find and reconcile the darker aspects of herself, the parts she has no desire in accepting.
Thoughts: This is a story set in and around Newford – it is also a realistic fantasy series. The 13th in the set, it is a standalone which features Jilly, one of the Newford series readers’ favorite characters. I can understand why. Jilly is wonderful. She is strong and struggling and imperfect. She isn’t tall, beautiful and waifish but artistic, small and messy. I like that, a lot.
Promises to Keep is dark at times, violent at others, it examines many of the issues experienced by young people (adults too) when trying to get and remain clean, as well as dealing with all sorts of toxic childhood experiences. It is also light and life affirming with a believable perspective from the point of view of a female character, which is impressive. I liked that our main character was more concerned with doing positive things like volunteering at a soup kitchen and a nursing home rather than fixing her hair or boyfriend drama.
This is my second Charles De Lint novel. My first was Yarrow, written in 1986 and read some time in the 90’s, which I count as one of my all time favorites. It was read at a time when I could not digest any fiction at all, which tells you something. In Promises to Keep I had damp eyes at times, laughed too, and said I just loved this book out loud more than once. Highly recommended for anyone who is looking for a change from some of the “kick bottom” urban fantasy out there. It is perfect for those looking for lots of realism in their fantasy, but with a more than a touch of the magical. Perfect for artists, musicians, healers and, most of all, those healing themselves. I give this story a 4.5 stars. Perfect for someone like myself who has not read any of the Newford novels; an excellent introduction I’d say....more
A futuristic science fiction novel with underground “noir-ish” themes, which takes the reader on a journey vOriginal review post at Layers of Thought.
A futuristic science fiction novel with underground “noir-ish” themes, which takes the reader on a journey via internal biological internet connections into an intriguing online world.
Trouble is well known online as one of the best and most notorious “crackers”. She is a future version of a hacker, where cracking is breaking through IC(E) – the acronym for the complex security systems which simulate actual ice. Intriguingly, web users have connections to the web via “dollie ports” and “brain worms” giving a “virtual reality” experience to being online, where one smells color.
A story set in a dystopian US where things have gone environmentally sour, the beaches are so polluted that visiting them is toxic. Political factions have set in place laws which make “cracking” illegal and dangerous. As the stakes become higher, Trouble disappears in an effort to protect herself.
What brings her out of hiding is that someone is using her name. Not happy (neither are some significant powers that be), she emerges to set things right. As Trouble lives up to her name - she and her friends have an interesting and not entirely safe romp into an online and real-world futuristic adventure.
Trouble and Her Friends is cyberpunk. It is a subgenre which is characterized by a high tech dystopian environment with characters that are of marginal class standing. It is also said to have a “noir-ish” feel. Which are perfect descriptions for this science fiction novel.
Melissa Scott uses many intriguing science fiction concepts - for example the “dollie ports” and “brain worms” which actually hook the user up to the net through implants into the body. Beyond the nerdy bits she also has included romance (lgbt), virtual sex (nicely done), and the experience of traveling the net via internally hard wired brain connection with some excellent results.
I could not imagine a writer being able to tell you about a virtual web experience as it occurs in Trouble’s world. But she does – and very well at that. Scott uses a technique that toggles between real world and internet experiences, using italicized letters for the virtual world travels and normal text for the real world experience.
Despite the description, the book is very accessible and is actually a mystery thriller set in a darker future time. There are strong female characters (another favorite element) and it has some realistic science (another one too). I will be looking at this author and this subgenre more. This is an impressive novel with a redemptive ending. I give it 4 stars....more
A self published children’s book that gives some insight into issues kids may be facing with their parents tOriginal 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....more
A darkly hilarious, and almost unbelievable journalistic journey into how “madness” is defined, recognized, and treated within western culture and the mental heath industry.
In attempt to the question “what is it that defines madness?” Jon Ronson spent two years undertaking some intriguing travels and interviews and then carrying out further research. As he examines himself, journalism, the entertainment industry, psychiatry, pharmaceutical companies and more, he blends it all together with a reflective and self effacing style. On his travels he meets a psychologist who has created a check list that is used to define psychopathic individuals – hence the book’s title.
So what is a psychopath? (Also termed a sociopath or someone with anti-social personality disorder). And why a test? In his research Ronson finds that these are individuals who are lacking in common empathy and a moral sensibility. In other words they have no guilt. A psychopath’s very nature is often hard to recognize since they are charming, chameleon like, and blend well within the general population. They also prey upon unsuspecting people in order to satisfy their desires and perceived needs. Is there more of an excuse to define them? Ronson reports that it is believed that psychopaths account for as many as 25% of the prison population; by comparison, within the general population it is assumed or speculated that the respective figure is just 1%. He examines where these individuals are most likely to appear within the “free pollution”, including a theory that a much higher percentage of the world’s most powerful positions (CEOs, politicians, world leaders) are held by psychopaths. Not too hard to imagine.
Most interestingly the book contains some shocking evidence on just how far we have yet to progress in understanding what mental illness is and how best to treat it’s varying manifestations. Ronson includes some amazing situations - one in particular I would have believed could only exist in fiction (and maybe in his novel-turned-movie Men Who Stare at Goats). In this instance a prison psychiatrist, in an attempt to “cure” his psychopathic patients of their lack of empathy, grouped them together, isolated the group, and administered LSD for eleven day periods. The results were darkly hilarious and not at all shocking. Ronson does not stop there.
This is highly recommended for anyone interested in the mental health or medical field, journalistic writing, and those with a twisted sense of humor – and I score on all of those counts! Be forewarned that this book is not for the “faint of heart” or those wanting conclusive endings. I give this book a 4.5 stars. I completely enjoyed this informing, intelligent, and darkly funny read....more
A historical fantasy set in 1494 Barcelona during the Spanish inquisition. It’s an exciting novel that conOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
A historical fantasy set in 1494 Barcelona during the Spanish inquisition. It’s an exciting novel that contains a strong intelligent heroine and a magical book that has esoteric knowledge which everyone is literally dying to possess.
About: Nadira, is a tiny young woman who barely looks her age. Although in her 20’s she appears 17. Of Muslim descent (and called Moorish during this time period), she arrives in Spain as a small child. Abducted from her desert home as the proceeds from war she is sold as a slave along with her mother to a Spanish master.
Amazingly, before leaving her homeland her mother taught her to read and write in their native tongue. Even more unusual is that Nadira’s new owner, a once Jewish man, trains her in various other languages. Giving her extraordinary abilities as a reader of Ancient Greek, Latin, Arabic and Hebrew which makes her among the few who have the skills needed to read a controversial and blasphemous book - the Hermetic of Elysium.
When Nadira is “taken” again but now from her new Spanish master by the English lord - Baron Montrose, she is at first resistant. But things change for her rather quickly when she realizes this man is of good character and swears to protect her with his life, if only she will help him avenge his brother’s death and decipher the contents of this esoteric book.
Thoughts: An easily read novel that I did not want to put it down, it has a strong female character (my favorite), a strong and likable male lead, and a scattering of interesting side characters which creates an interesting and colorful ride. I particularly liked that there was only light sexual references and romance.
The story feels like it’s historical fiction with a thread of the fantastical (which is turning out to be one of my preferred type of fantasy). With writing that is intelligent, imbued with literary and philosophical knowledge, including key issues around human nature, what is good and evil, and a solid definition of ignorance and knowledge. All the while presenting a way for readers (like me) to get some world history without even realizing it. Considering it happens during an intriguing and volatile period there is plenty of opportunity for some very nasty bad guys – the Black Friars, to do horrible inquisition type things.
What didn’t I like about this book? Absolutely nothing, since it was just one of those great reads that gave me a needed escape. It’s a 4.25 star in my opinion since I could not decide which way to go; 4 star or 4.5 stars. Kudos to this author who apparently self published the book under a different title before finding its current home. But the best yet is there is a sequel coming soon, which I will be excitedly waiting for.
Looking for some basic structure on the short story? This is probably not the book you want.
It does however try and persuade you n2.5 stars actually.
Looking for some basic structure on the short story? This is probably not the book you want.
It does however try and persuade you not to write. Which is really very sad. One should not dissuade people to have creative outlets, which is my reason for the two stars.
On the upside: If you are in a writing group (and ignore the negative bits) there are some excellent exercises, and guideline on what to do and what not to do when in a group to be helpful to each other.
The best and most helpful bits: There is a great short glossary of terms and definitions used when writing mainly short stories and more; and a story check list that looks to be helpful.
I suggest borrowing a copy to make notes, copy the glossary, and checklist then return it. That's what I did. ...more
A multilayered award winning tale of interwoven romances. Set in two different centuries and connected ingOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
A multilayered award winning tale of interwoven romances. Set in two different centuries and connected ingeniously through letters and journals. It has elements which include faeries, myth, poetry, science, feminism, lgbt, and Victoriana.
Setting: Primarily set in the late 1980s in London we have a variety of academics whose interests lie in a celebrated poet’s life and work - Randolph Henry Ash. He is a source of intense exploration and historical interest for these scholars, as they research his body of work in their highly competitive environment. From their findings on his life during the mid to late 1800’s it appears Ash led a very quiet and uneventful life. But as one researcher finds out via misplaced letters, they are very wrong.
Thus begins the recovery of the missing pieces that will fill in the blanks for this group of academics, who become ever more obsessed as they struggle to be the first to piece together the juicy details that are alluded to in the new findings. As two of the scholars try and answer their questions they find themselves traipsing to various areas in England and France to find the answers.
Sound simple? Not a chance - there is so much more. This convoluted story will take you back to a very different time, but there is also a wealth of incredible subplots and threads.
Thoughts: I started and abandoned Possession several times. Giving up on try number two, I thought the writing to be inaccessible, overly intellectual and boringly academic. Now I am thinking one develops “reading muscles”, and considering my years of hiatus from reading fiction I was out of shape. Having read bits about the book’s elements since, I realized the book fits inside a favorite circle of my interests. I gave it another try in audio.
This unabridged audio version was read by Virginia Leishman, and she moderates her voice for each of the character’s while changing accents - ranging from English to Scottish to American and with a believable voice for changes in gender. Excellently done, my only “complaint” is that the narrator’s voice is so pleasant she lulled me to sleep on various occasions. So listening while tired or sleepy is not recommended.
The novel has some interesting elements and literary techniques interwoven inside it. These include threads about fairies, what appears to be paranormal events, and scientific research – including the collection of insect, plant and sea life (all popular with the gentry during Victorian times). The author also expertly uses several literary devices; for example, the usage of poetry as a preclusion to the chapters called epigraphs. Through this method the author has written and included some complex poetry. Lastly the story is told via letters and journal entries making it epistolary.
Not a fluffy romance, it is a complex, realistic yet sad romance – where real life choices and their consequences are exemplified and I liked that it does not end with everyone living happily ever after. In summary, Possession is out of the ordinary, intellectual and academic – making it a book that not everyone will enjoy. It is also descriptive, metaphorical, dense and an amazing work of fiction. It deserves a rare 5 stars in my opinion. ...more
A lovely hardbound book that is mostly art and a bit of written poetic philosophizing. It’s a rendition ofOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
A lovely hardbound book that is mostly art and a bit of written poetic philosophizing. It’s a rendition of a twelfth-century Sufi poem and is done in predominantly fall colors with a mix of ancient and modern styles.
About: A conference of birds is led on a quest by a poet who has turned into a hoopoe bird after a disturbing dream. Gathering them together, he wishes to know the reason for all the wrongs in the world and a way to change them. But to do so they must find the king – Simorgh.
As they travel a long and arduous distance, the birds come to realize that each of them is but a tiny piece of an immense and larger whole. Flying through the daunting terrain (valleys of tribulations and mazes) to reach their goal, most will not survive the trip. But those that do will receive a gift - a realization that what they are seeking from their quest can be found inside each of them.
Thoughts: Read several times over, allowing the art and poetry to settle, this book gets better with each subsequent read. It’s deep message is told metaphorically, visually, and simply, with a spiritual twist that transcends religion. A tale which moves us to know we are all on a journey to one place, a trip which many may not entirely understand.
It has only a small amount of writing but mostly images that appear to be tempera paint and carved block print on beautiful thick colored paper (I would love to see the author’s originals). The images are done in warm earth tones except for the culmination of the story where Peter Sis uses cool and vivid colors to give the crescendo a significant visual meaning. Importantly the art work feels both ancient and modern giving the impression that it is an old story told in a new way.
A relevant rendition that is just as meaningful today as it was a thousand years ago. I can see this book sitting on an office or home table, or in front of a comfortable chair or sofa, since it is a relaxing read. This is a terrific holiday gift for a special person, professional, or family. I give this book a 4 star rating. I loved it and will read it again....more
An awarding winning novella, that has a dark and lovely rendition of a numbOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought in a graphic novel trio review.
An awarding winning novella, that has a dark and lovely rendition of a number of combined ancient fables. It’s gorgeously illustrated and celebrates Japanese mythology.
About: A young Buddhist monk who is at peace with his life is in charge of a small temple set in some beautiful mountains in Japan. While attending to his his daily rituals and household maintenance he is emotionally accosted by two animals/spirits who want to live in his place. In their attempt to finagle the little church from the Zen priest, the fox falls in love with him. Later when his life is in danger from another selfish faction who would like to live his life, the fox spirit has no choice but to attempt to save him.the dream hunter
Thoughts: This is a stand alone story from the Sandman series which I am only just learning about, it was apparently written after the series had been “retired”. Technically not a graphic novel, this is really a story with a lot of illustrations. Happily they are gorgeous – I love Japanese art. The text is incredible too – complex and yet very easy to read, which is a big favorite style for me.
It won several awards in 2000 including a Bram Stoker and a Hugo. In my research I also became aware that several other versions of the book have been printed and are using other artists in a more traditional comic book format, including a very recent version. A warning for parents is that it is adult in nature with some very dark themes, so I would not give this book to children or immature teens. The story contains “dream hunters” which are particularly menacing – very cool but scary. I am thinking nightmares.
I loved this book at 4 stars and I am now a fan of Neil Gaiman. Believe it or not this is the first of his books that I’ve read. So what’s next? Perhaps American Gods before the movie comes out? I better get cracking!
Please note according to my searches the version I read is not available in the US. It is however available in the UK and Canada. ...more
A concise, easy to read guide for any one who is considering facial plastic surgery and procedures that goOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
A concise, easy to read guide for any one who is considering facial plastic surgery and procedures that go beyond a monthly facial. If you are considering it, this is a helpful place to start.
Definitely not a normal read for me in recent years – I have been mired in fiction (mostly speculative). I decided to take a look at Fabulous Faces because I am an Aesthetician (a professional skin care practitioner – facials, waxing, makeup artistry) which makes me naturally interested in medical procedures and other efforts to look one’s best.
In years past, and within my skin care practices, I would come into contact with many people who would ask me questions about advanced skin resurfacing procedures and fillers and plastic surgery. I have also had the experiences of seeing many clients through their process– getting the real life before and after both visually and verbally. Most have been extremely happy with the results of their decisions. It is an exciting and scary choice, one which most people do not take lightly, so they are often looking for further information from a trusted source. This book is an example of one such example as it is written by an M.D. who specializes in facial, head, and neck plastic surgery.
The format for this accessible book includes short easy to digest chapters. It is concise, well organized, and informative, with real life questions around the feelings of people considering or wanting facial plastic surgery, as well as personal stories from men and women during their processes. The text moves from wondering, to researching options, the inevitable emotional examination, the procedure itself and, most importantly, the results. Dr. Adamson also includes a section on advance skin procedures - like deeper peels using lasers, CO2, and medical grade acids; as well as fillers and Botox.
I recommend it to anyone who is considering facial plastic surgery as a place to begin. It will help one to feel informed when speaking to a surgeon about the available options that he/she may be discussing with you. Most importantly, you’ll know more about what you can expect throughout the process, and then of course the possible results. 4 stars for this great little book written for the layman wanting to know more about facial plastic surgery and related procedures.
Peter A. Adamson M.D. is a plastic surgeon and Otolaryngologist (face, head, and neck specialist).
I have received this book via the publicist in exchange for my honest opinion, which is offered here. ...more
I tried four times to get into this story but this romantic paranormal novel was not something I connected with. The writing is good but for me thereI tried four times to get into this story but this romantic paranormal novel was not something I connected with. The writing is good but for me there was no anchor in the story for the setting, or characters - so I felt lost.
However - I know many readers will enjoy it. I would say it has an unusual "stream of consciousness" style.
For those interested it is currently available at B&N for the Nook at .99 cents, and still may be available on Net Galley for review. The second in this series is soon to be or has recently been released.
A young adult science fiction novel that examines some of the moral issues around the ability to put humanOriginal review posted on Layers of Thought.
A young adult science fiction novel that examines some of the moral issues around the ability to put humans to sleep for extended periods of time.
About: Rosalinda (Rose) has been in “stas” (chemically induced sleep inside a tube) for 62 years. She was “forgotten” in a basement and awakes to a world very different from the one she left. Of course she doesn’t quite fit in. Understandably Rosalinda is weak, thin, and has difficulties relating to other teens because her mannerisms and language are old-fashioned.
Even more complicated is that there appears to be an unknown force that is stalking her and wants her dead. Rosalinda does not quite understand why and also doubts her perceptions that it could actually be happening. As she discovers who she really is and attempts to capture the heart of her “not so available prince charming” (there is a thin thread linking it to the fairy-tale sleeping beauty), the reasons become clear as to why she has remained asleep for so many years. Worse yet, perhaps it was not a mistake.
Thoughts: First I want to mention that I particularly liked this little snippet from the book. It is where the main character Rose is conversing via a tablet of sorts to a friend, which allows a form of texting. She is asking this genetically altered male Otto (who has blue skin) about his girl friend Nabiki:
Is Nabiki interesting?
Very. She has many layers of thought. Which is why she can feel hostility and sympathy for you at the same time. ~ page 105
It was really fun to read a novel that has the blog name in it!
Interestingly, I read the first half of this book from Net Galley in its ARC ebook format. I finished it in audio which is the cover you see above. I also took a look at a paper copy and read several chapters that way too. I liked seeing the differences in the versions and will have to say that I enjoyed the first half of the novel in the ARC format the most. The published version had been changed a bit from the ARC and the audio version had a reader which presented Rosalinda as depressed, and whiney. I understand why this characteristic was used to depict her, however, it is one that I did not like listening to in audio.
All in all this book is one of the meatier young adult dystopian books that I read during the 2011 year. I liked that it had real science as a basis for the world’s technological advancements and that the author addresses some interesting issues, moral and legal, around the ability to be able to put someone to “sleep” for long periods of time. Most importantly and unusually she addresses what may happen when the sleeping beauty does not get the so called prince.
I give this young adult book 3.5 stars. I liked it a lot and wonder how it would have felt if I had completed the ARC version in the time allotted with the expire-able version. Conversely, reading these several versions made me curious about the differences between them and why publishers and editors make the changes they do....more