As they light the pyre, I swear that I can hear the wood crackling and screaming . I cry as they cheer around the fire, driven by greed, hate and fearAs they light the pyre, I swear that I can hear the wood crackling and screaming . I cry as they cheer around the fire, driven by greed, hate and fear. But she doesn’t scream, she won’t give them satisfaction. Finally, she crumples to the ground and they let the fire “purify” her. Her fate after that is to be buried in an unmarked grave where no one will remember her. Forgotten by all. I clenched by teeth and threw the book clear across the room (and apparently the author is happy that I did so, as she mentioned on twitter @ErikaMailman).
“The Witch’s Trinity” by Erika Mailman is an emotional roller coaster that will have you angry, sad, and triumphant at every new turn. Mailman weaves a tale of Tierkinddorf, a German village in the early 1500′s where witches were blamed for everything from famine to sour milk. Historically, Pope Innocent VIII specifically singled out Germany as a nest of Satanic witchcraft in “Summis Desiderantes Affectibus” in 1484. In a time when the crops failed and game was hard to find, the only possible explanation was that there is a witch amongst them. When the friar arrives armed with a book called the Malleus Maleficarum—“The Witch’s Hammer”, growling stomachs overpower the sound of thunder and reason.
Güde Müller, an elderly woman, lives with her kind son and mean spirited daughter-in-law. When dinner becomes simply a bowl of snow, the daughter-in-law glares at Güde with hatred and burden. Suffering from memory loss, Güde begins having visions of her dead husband and devilish figures. Did she sign the devil’s book? Is what she seeing real? Being the oldest in the village and having herb knowledge – she is suddenly the object of everyones woes.
Living so close to Salem, the witch trials stain our history in Massachusetts. Similar to “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller, “The Witch’s Trinity” lifts the veil to reveal the dark aspects of society and illustrates how fear can turn a trusted neighbor into an enemy. It is rare to read a book about witches where the focus is not on if witchcraft is real or not.
This is not a mystery about who the witch is or a fantasy where people are turned into toads or a romance where men fall under a witch’s spell. This is a book about a group of people, hungrier than we have ever been, led by a man of social standing. He holds up a bowl of food in the air as a reward for information. Your children are starving, your mother is weak. Tales like this only bring about one fundemental question. How much would you sell your neighbor for?
Since 1993 the city council of 17 German and 2 Swiss cities have issued a resolution to exonerate the victims of the local witch hunt and have put up commemorative plaques. The City Council of Düsseldorf issued a resolution in November 2011 to exonerate the victims of the witches craft trials and the City Council of Cologne exonerated Katharina Henot and the other victims of the persecution of witches in Cologne on June 28, 2012. The victims of the witch craft trials of Salem/USA have been exonerated consecutively in 1711, in 1957 and in 2001. – “Witch trials in the early modern period”
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If I was ever sure of one thing, it was that I would never read chick lit. Now I am not sure of anything after reading "Imperfect Bliss" by Susan FaleIf I was ever sure of one thing, it was that I would never read chick lit. Now I am not sure of anything after reading "Imperfect Bliss" by Susan Fales-Hill. After hearing that it was a modern re-telling of "Pride and Prejudice," I couldn't help but be curious. I have loved Jane Austen since high school and my copy of "Pride and Prejudice" has been read so many times that the book is held together with bobby pins and rubber bands. But be warned, this isn't your mother's Jane Austen! This is Elizabeth and Darcy, transported forward in time, on the set of a Bachelorette-type reality show.
Bliss Harcourt is a thirty-something, head strong, divorced mother living at home with her parents. After her failed marriage, she returned to graduate school in hopes of graduating, becoming a professor, and finally moving away from her controlling mother. Forsythia Harcourt is the typical Mrs. Bennet as she pulls the strings of her daughters' hearts and attempts to marry her four daughters to wealthy, well connected men. Her husband, Harold, is practically voiceless in the family, only speaking in witty remarks about his wife's behavior behind the shield of the weekly newspaper.
Bliss's imperfect life is further shaken by her sister, Diana, and her sudden TV fame as the star of the reality TV show "The Virgin" where wealthy men court a woman for their hand in marriage. Bliss's life is turned upside down and inside out as her life is filled with cameras. With every ounce of strength she to tries to convince her family to reconsider but Forsythia and Diana are to0 star struck to care.
Bliss hides from the cameras yet can not help but be drawn into her own romantic reality show. Fales-Hill creates three separate love triangles that revolve around the three oldest Harcourt children. Diana is bombarded with rich suitors when only two men really catch her eye. Victoria, the eldest, is torn between marrying the man her mother approves of and a secret forbidden lover. Lastly, Bliss is temped by Wyatt, the charming and witty TV host, and Dario, the stoic but caring executive producer. Charlotte, the youngest, desperately tries to steal the spot light with her less than lady-like demeanor.
Reality TV, sex scandals, and pushy mothers. This novel is truly a "comedy of manners" with an intellectual kick. Everyone knows that Elizabeth and Darcy end up together (even if they haven't read the book or seen the movie), but reading the journey of how they are brought together is what makes the romance so breathtaking and timeless. The same can be said for "Imperfect Bliss," but Bliss's journey is a little more...interesting.
Pack up your beach chair, claim a spot in the sand, and let the waves of laughter brighten your summer day at the beach with "Imperfect Bliss"! Jane Austen just got a new makeover (that didn't involve zombies) to relate to the modern woman.
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4/22/2016 UPDATE: I had a severe anxiety disorder for over 10 years, I reached a point where I was panicking about going outside. I can now say that I4/22/2016 UPDATE: I had a severe anxiety disorder for over 10 years, I reached a point where I was panicking about going outside. I can now say that I haven't had a panic attack in over 6 months and it is the greatest feeling in the world. This book didn't cure me, but it helped me understand I was not alone. There are so many varying degrees of panic attacks, and I felt like I was a little more extreme than Daniel, but it doesn't matter - we all have panic attacks and we all want to be better. So it took me a long time but I can now say what I never believed I would say: I am better. Keep working at it guys - stay on top of it - and know that at some point, maybe not tomorrow or next year, that you will be better too.
To soothe an anxious mind is like trying to stop a tsunami...with an umbrella. Being one of the millions who suffer from anxiety, I have tried everything to "fix" myself. I have panic attacks about having panic attacks. I am in a constant state of "fight or flight" wherever I go and, at some points of my life, considered hospitalization. That is why I connected so well with Daniel Smith's "Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety."
Friends, family, and therapists always console me by saying "You're not the only one who suffers from this," to which I would reply "Well, where the hell are they?" But I finally found someone, and that someone is Daniel Smith. I have never met him in person, even though he mentions walking around the streets of Boston. Could I have bumped into him without knowing? Was I too busy having a panic attack to notice a fellow anxiety sufferer? I picked up the Advanced Reader's Edition of his book on a whim at work. Maybe I could add another useless anxiety book to my bookshelf...like I really needed another book to tell me to "breathe" when I feel that I am at the bottom of the ocean with the pressure of the water crushing my lungs like a tin can.
Something strange happened when I read the first few pages...Daniel was writing about me. Sure, the names of people and places had changed but there I was living and breathing through his words. Even his panic attacks mirrored my own, they were "cerebral...starting with a thought - a what if or a should have been or a never will be or a could have been - and metastasizes from there, sparking down the spine and rooting out into the body in the form of breathlessness...and a terrible sense that the world I find myself in is...threatening." These thoughts are practically unstoppable, they start with small raindrops of what-ifs, then a flood of what-ifs these what-ifs aren't what-ifs, then an overflowing unstoppable tsunami of impending death or doom. And that umbrella you have isn't going to save you.
Anxious thoughts are completely irrational, like the time I thought I was going to die in one of the bathroom stalls at college after a train of thought that went a little like this: "What if the paper I wrote isn't good? If the paper isn't good then I will get a bad grade. If I get a bad grade it will bring down my GPA. If my GPA goes down, no one will hire me when I graduate. If no one hires me, I will have to write erotica for porn websites for money. If I write erotica, some pervert is going to find out where I live. If the pervert finds me, he will rape me. If he rapes me, he will kill me." For some reason, in my irrational mind, a bad grade leads to rape then death just like Smith's anxious mind sees being fired leads to getting aids and dying.
I have done many things to calm my "monkey mind" ( a state of being in which the thoughts are unsettled, nervous, capricious, uncontrollable ) including breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, and therapy but nothing will stop my mind from "bouncing skull-side to skull-side, which keeps flipping and jumping flinging feces at the walls and swing from loose neurons like howlers from vines." Because that is what most anxious thoughts are...shit, waste, useless.
Daniel and I have walked the same roads emotionally (and physically through Boston) trying to deal with anxiety. We've both had " six therapists - as many shrinks as Henry VIII had wives - and five out of six have been almost completely ineffectual, like taking aspirin for leprosy." We both stood "curbside in the wet New England heat, a stout brick dorm - my new home...suddenly seized by the impulse, an impulse it took every bit of self respect I could muster to stop myself from acting on, to go bolting down the road after them, an idiot dog chasing a car" at college. We also found short lived salvation in "a small orange cylinder" filled with little chalky tablets. We have traveled a very long road together but on route he saw something I never did. People who are anxious are highly attuned to their surroundings, they see with "sharper eyes" and feel with " more active skin." We are "more receptive to the true nature of thing than everyone else" and, because of our anxiety curse, to be able view the world with such intensity is "to be an artist."
Daniel describes his condition with spunk and isn't afraid to laugh or even cry in his memoir. Through him we learn about his anxious therapist mother, his first threesome, being exiled to college, and his work as a writer. He gives anxiety a body and a voice by breaking down all the technical mumbo jumbo about peripheral vessels and adrenal medulla and transforms it, to what I imagine to be that creepy old guy at the bar, saying "This right here? This right here is probably really bad for you. You should think seriously about taking off."
This book isn't the end all cure, it doesn't have any relieving techniques or new ways to breathe. What it is....is that someone, the someone everyone has been telling you is out there. There are millions of people suffering from anxiety everywhere, and one of them is Daniel Smith. And another...is me.
All anxiety sufferers should add this to their bookshelf!