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Literature

Free On Amazon: The Criers Club by Kimberly A. Bettes

The Criers ClubComing up on FOUR YEARS post Cancer, when I saw this book on my ebookhabit.com email I immediately added it to my reading list. Now, I won’t read it right away (I have to be in the right mindset to read “tearjerkers) but It sounds like it might be a wonderful book for ‘literary tearjerker lovers!

The Criers Club

Adam Spencer, a happily married 37 year-old father of two young boys, has everything he wants. A successful business, a beautiful home, two cars in the garage, and a dog. What he doesn’t want is to die. But Adam doesn’t have a say in the matter. He just found out he has brain cancer.

Troubled by his newly-discovered death sentence, Adam joins a support group for the terminally ill. There, he meets six strangers who are struggling to cope with their own impending demises.

When one member of the group dies, leaving behind an unfulfilled dream, the others realize just how limited their time is. Now, as the youngest member nears the end of his short life, they become determined to make sure the boy’s dream comes true before it’s too late. Together, they embark on a road trip that will teach them all what it means to live, and to die.

Review: The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler – Beautiful

23014670“But the heaviest things, I think, are the secrets. They can drown you if you let them.”
Ally Carter

“Let them think what they liked, but I didn’t mean to drown myself. I meant to swim till I sank — but that’s not the same thing.”
― Joseph Conrad, The Secret Sharer and other stories

“There’s a sucker born every minute.”
― P.T. Barnum

Tragedy and loss are sounds. The slip of waves across rock. The cry of a loon across a dark lake. The patter of rain against midnight windows.

They are water, streaming from here to there, giving life. And taking it away.

His mother, Paulina, circus performer, fortune-teller, magician’s assistant, and mermaid, walked into the water when he was seven. His father soon followed, destroyed by grief. And only Simon, and his baby sister Enola, remain. Simon, a lonely young librarian, who clings to the home he grew up in, which itself clings desperately to the edge of the cliff above the sea, falling to wrack and ruin, a mere memory, a ghost of the warm family home it once was. Simon, who lives alone while his sister, like her mother before her, lives the life of the circus, the carnival, reading the fortunes of the lonely, the lovelorn, the lost.

But then, the book arrives. And time begins to waver, back and forth through time, the past melding with the present through the words of yet another “walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more.”* A poor player indeed, who struts and frets across a traveling carnival stage. There is magic here. Magic and pain and loss and death.

And drowning.
Always drowning.

Simon’s tale reaches back, back to Hermelius H. Peabody’s Portable Magic and Miracles Traveling Show. Hermelius H. Peabody, self-proclaimed visionary in entertainment and education. Hermelius H. Peabody, who one day comes upon a real Wild Boy – a Wild Boy who was left in the woods to die, and instead lives – lives, and learns to listen to the water. Learns to vanish.

“The Book of Speculation”
is a small miracle. History and mystery, mysticism and the water. Always, always the water. A lost book, a lost soul. A lost history found, beliefs crumpled.

And the water sings, its quiet song of death.

I received “The Book of Speculation” from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own.

Highly recommended.

  • Shakespeare, Hamlet

Review: The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

The Water Knife: A novel by Paolo BacigalupiThere is good evidence that Venus once had liquid water and a much thinner atmosphere, similar to Earth billions of years ago. But today the surface of Venus is dry as a bone, hot enough to melt lead, there are clouds of sulfuric acid that reach a hundred miles high and the air is so thick it’s like being 900 meters deep in the ocean. – Bill Nye

If we keep working at it, we can certainly become Venusian. All we have to do is continue the path we have begun. Global warming, climate change, worldwide drought. Yes, we are on our way to destruction, up the proverbial creek without water.

And water is what this story is all about. Honestly however, in a way it reminds me of those stereotypical 1950’s era monster movies. The Creature From the Black Lagoon, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Nuclear weapons were the fear then. And yes, they were worth being terrified of. But as horrifying as they are – this is a situation that it is hard to see any way out of.

Worldwide drought is becoming more and more feasible as a worldwide outcome of our continuing greed and carelessness. And The Water Knife has a good premise. However, its problem is that of being written more like a script for a B movie rather than a well-written novel. The stereotypes are a bit overwhelming, and though it is apparently meant to be exciting and breath-taking, it comes across as a simple genre piece rather than a work deserving of the attention it is receiving from the public. I just expected more – more realism regarding an extremely important ecological issue that can cost us more than we can ever expect to salvage.

https://soundcloud.com/audible/the-water-knife

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own.

Review: The Shadowy Horses – Susanna Kearsley – Highly Recommended

In the last fifteen years or so, the women’s novel has turned into the Amtrak of American literature; crashing through the gates at Aristotle, jumping the tracks at Horace, ignoring the flashing red lights at Boileau, and scooping up Alexander Pope in the cowcatcher. The rules are down and it’s every stylist for herself in this best of all Tupperware parties, where plot and characterization have been replaced by the kind of non-stop chatter that enabled the French Foreign Legion to meet its enlistment quota for a hundred and fifty years. In the unlikely event that future scholars will bother to give our era a cultural tag, it will be called the Age of Women’s Litter.  –  Florence King
shadowy horsesHonestly, Ms. King’s words have been a mantra for me more often than not these days. In this era of “50 Shades of Gag Me With A Spoon” I have been not only distressed, but horrified by the state of literature written by women. Not all women, of course. I have read, and reviewed, several books by women authors which are exceptional. However, the exceptional has been overshadowed by the inane and senseless. It is heart breaking.
Then, just when I despaired, something wonderful happened. I listened to The Shadowy Horses. Written by Susanna Kearsley, and narrated by Sally Armstrong, this book should be on every bestseller list in existence. If you haven’t read it, I highly, Highly recommended the audio edition. Sally Armstrong has a beautiful, lyrical voice which turns the smooth prose of Kearsley into pure poetry.
Kearsley’s story is set in Scotland as is well described in the blurb for the book and in other reviews. The story follows archeologists at a dig at Rose Hill, or, in old Latin, “Rouges Hill” a name which will come clear as the story unfolds. The voice of the book is beautifully paced, and draws you into the world of both modern and ancient Scotland, introducing the people both gently and with true understanding. Some are good, some not so much, but the people and the land are, above all, truly well written and make you feel that you are actually being drawn into the story.
This is a beautifully designed tale. The main storyline concerns an ancient mystery – what really happened to the Legio Nona Hispana, the 9th Spanish Legion of the Roman Empire. The last testified activity of the Ninth in Britain was reported during the rebuilding in stone of the legionary fortress at York, or Eboracum in 108 AD. After that, the 9th disappeared into the mists of history. Did they simply disappear in Britain about 117 AD? Were they slaughtered during the war with the Parthenian Empire much later on? The only known fact is that they were nonexistent during the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. What truly happened to these thousands of strong, well trained Roman Legionnaires?
Kearsley builds on the stories and the mystery of the infamous 9th, following the theory of Miles Russell of Bournemouth University who has theorized that, “by far the most plausible answer to the question ‘what happened to the Ninth’ is that they fought and died in Britain, disappearing in the late 110s or early 120s when the province was in disarray”.  And Britain was, indeed, in disarray. For all the control and training of the Romans, Britain was not easily taken or controlled. Did the “savage” tribes of Britain really destroy a formerly invincible army?
While this may sound at first as if this is a dry text, it is very far from being so. Verity Grey has traveled from London to the village of Eyemouth, Scotland at the behest of her great friend and mentor Peter, an aging archeologist who has long searched for the vaunted 9th Legion. There, things become very strange, as she meets Robbie, a child with the “Second Sight” a psychic ability which has for centuries been believed to be inherited through family lines in Scotland and other countries with rich cultural histories. Robbie is a main character in the storyline, introducing Verity and the other archeologists to “The Sentinel” a ghostly figure wandering the lands of Rose Hill, who speaks the Latin, wears the clothing, and carries the arms of the Roman Legions. A lost and lonely figure who has great secrets and great heartache, secrets and pain which have apparently kept him tied to these lands for thousands of years. For why else would a wraith stalk these hills for centuries on end? Kearsley does a beautiful job with Robbie’s abilities – they are not overdone or unbelievable, but rather handled with a deft touch, much in line with how Second Sight is actually understood in Scotland. (For more info on Second Sight see The Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 13, Number 3, pp 351-372, 1999, or online at: Second Sight and Family History:Pedigree and Segregation Analysis by Shari A. Cohn  http://www.scientificexploration.org/journal/jse_13_3_cohn.pdf)
While others seem to have reviewed this as a “romance” this is absolutely not how I understood this beautifully written novel. Yes, there is a bit of romance, boy gets girl stuff. But that is such a small portion of the overall tale. This is a tale of mysteries, of history and culture and beautiful, beautiful words. Of an ancient land and ancient peoples, brought into the modern day through the use of story and theory woven into a ghostly tale of the horrors of a brutal time in history. Of love of family, the bonds of friendship in times of war, and the length one man will go through to protect and honor his friend and his family, though death take all.
This is, again, a beautiful and fascinating story for many reasons. I have visited that area of Scotland, and would do so again – only if I were to go back, it would be very hard to drag me away again. The history of the British Isles is rich and varied, brutal and savage, and deep as any Scottish Loch. And it calls to my heart and soul, a siren song of longing which I am loath to deny. I would wish you to know the beauty of those lands and its stories . . .
Highly recommended.

A Challenge for Reviewers of E.L. James

Reason sits firm and holds the reins, and she will not let the feelings burst away and hurry her to wild chasms. The passions may rage furiously, like true heathens, as they are; and the desires may imagine all sorts of vain things: but judgment shall still have the last word in every argument, and the casting vote in every decision.
– Charlotte Bronte

gertrude
Nobel Laureate Gertrude Stein.
(© Hulton-Deutsch Collection / Corbis)
All Rights Reserved

We are not people with no discriminating taste when it comes to literature.” – Pamelia A. in a 5-Star Review for “50 Shades of Grey”

jury
Click for
A Jury Of Her Peers

Like some other reviewers, what I find terribly depressing is that this is a runaway bestseller and the movie rights are expected to sell for up to $5 million. There are so many highly talented writers in the genre… and erotica is so much more erotic when the author has a command of the language and can make you care about the characters. For examples, check out the “Beauty” trilogy written by Anne Rice under the pen name A.N. Roquelaure, or any stories by Donna George Storey or Rachel Kramer Bussel. – D.S. From LA in a 1-Star Review for “50 Shades of Grey”

I challenge reviewers of “50 Shades of Grey” to read and review a minimum of THREE books from writers who are listed in
A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx” by Elaine Showalter. This is an exceptional overview of true women’s literature. Stories of and by women with strength, intelligence, knowledge, and heart. Women who offer truly discriminating taste in literature. Only three, as there are three installments in James.

If you don’t wish to purchase her book, you may find a simple list of Women Nobel Laureates in Literature at: http://womenshistory.about.com/od/nob…

Once you have read and reviewed three of these books, I encourage you to go back and read “50 Shades” again. Then, post another review of E.L. James in light of your three chosen Nobel Laureate books.

Reviews should be posted here in this group. They may, of course, be posted to other sites, including Amazon.

Reviews to be submitted by APRIL 1, 2014. That is a book a month, certainly achievable if you are interested in this challenge.

A poll will be posted in order to choose your favorite “hate it” and “still love it” reviews. Prizes will be awarded!

And for those who really only read erotica, you can choose books by the authors suggested by D.S. From LA if you have read this post here on my website!
Are YOU sure enough of your literary assessment of James’ work to meet my challenge?

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