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Review: The Pepper In The Gumbo by Mary Jane Hathaway

23353789The definition of gumbo is almost as slippery as that of Creole. Just as gumbo can contain pretty much any kind of meat or seafood, Creole is a vague and inclusive term for native New Orleanians,  (note: I would say ‘Louisiana natives’)who may be black or white, depending on whom you’re asking. – Jay McInerney

I’m Creole, and I’m down to earth. – Boozoo Chavis

Technology. . . is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and stabs you in the back with the other. – Carrie Snow

Alice Augustine lives the life she has always wanted. The owner of a rare book store willed to her by the elderly couple, the Perraults, who offered her peace after the death of her family, Alice is happy. Well, as happy as you can be when your bookstore runs in the red every month, and your boyfriend is a self-centred ass. But still, she is proud of her shop, proud of her Creole culture, and just as proud of the fact that she lives her life with as little technology as possible. Let’s face it – in this day and age, the art of conversation is dead, the paper book is a rarity, and nobody pays attention to anyone else – everyone runs around with their noses in their iPhones instead.

Everything is good, though, in historical old town Natchitoches, Louisiana. Alice is on the board, so nobody can damage the culture of the city, right? Well. Not so much. For something terrible has happened – without going through any proper channels whatsoever, the Mayor and his cronies have allowed the building of a ScreenStop right in the middle of Historical Old Town – a glass and steel monstrosity that fits in the neighborhood like mud on the Mona Lisa. ScreenStop is everything that Alice abhors about modern life. A haven for people who live their lives in front of screens, fighting orcs and monsters instead of visiting with friends, having conversations, and generally being real live human beings. Oh, and reading books.

The billionaire wizard of ScreenStop, Paul Olivier is the penultimate “Creole boy makes good” story. Raised by a single mother in a shack on the wrong side of the tracks in Natchitoches, he is determined to rub the town’s nose in his success. He lives in his world of game design, public appearances and growing his gaming empire. Nevertheless, there is something different about him. For Paul Olivier has a second identity – an identity which draws him to Alice, a persona of poetry and books, kindness and charity, that could help both of them – or destroy everything.

The Pepper In The Gumbo honestly tore me apart. Don’t get me wrong – I loved the book. The writing, the characters, the French Creole history that is so important to Alice. Alice isn’t perfect by any means, but she is real and likable, even if you want to smack her and tell her to wake up a few times. That is what makes her character honest and interesting. And Paul is an enigma that I enjoyed deciphering. He pissed me off just as often as he made me appreciate his more positive qualities. All things that make him interesting.

There were some things that weren’t logically presented in the book – like why Alice didn’t explain to Paul that his building’s paperwork wasn’t legal, even though his lawyers told him there was no problem, even though the building definitely didn’t follow codes. Be that as it may, what drove me nuts about the book is exactly what makes it a wonderful piece, in its own way, for a contemporary audience. The effects of technology upon humanity – upon what makes us humans. In Alice’s eyes, Paul and his kind are, “luring a whole generation into willful ignorance. She felt like the world was in love with Paul Oliver and she was the only sane person left.

In a lot of ways, I have to agree with Alice. Humanity is so busy running around with their noses in the aforementioned iPads, they no longer raise their heads long enough to say “hello” much less have a conversation. The idea of what constitutes “achievement” is dropped to the level of winning another level in a game, something that means her young friend Charlie, who helps out in the bookshop, “was wasting her life on false achievements that meant nothing in real life.”

Mary Jane Hathaway has done a good job of pointing out the good and the bad on both sides of the story. The loss of intellect brought on by a life consumed by video games, a world where players have been known to die from sitting so long in play mode that they literally die in their chairs, to the other side of the coin, where Bix, Alice’s nearly blind friend can make the type on an e-reader large enough that he can actually read his beloved books he hasn’t been able to read in years.

As Max Frisch said, “Technology is the knack of so arranging the world that we don’t have to experience it.” But then again, the very technology that has turned us into a nation of mindless screen-gazers, where Nobody ever talks to each other anymore. Has also given us access to the classic words of those authors and poets who are no longer grist for the publishing mill. I just downloaded of the books mentioned in the story, The Seraphim, and Other Poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (original publication date January 1, 1838) off of the Google project. I hope you read The Pepper In The Gumbo. And I would love to hear what you think about it. As I said, parts of me rant about the loss of civilization (and good book stores!) to technology. Another feels guilty because, yep, I read everything on e-reader these days – can’t help it when I suffer a bit of what Bix suffers – I just can’t read as long in paper as I can on an e-reader screen where I can make the type larger, change the background colour, and raise and lower the brightness. Sigh. So, Pot/Kettle much?

I downloaded The Pepper In The Gumbo though my Kindle Unlimited account. When KU first came out I didn’t think it would be worth the monthly fee. Boy, was I ever wrong!

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Fund Raiser For St. Jude’s Hospital – 100 Copies Available!

marrow
Click to go to the LinkedIn page for Sabine’s giveaway.

St. Jude’s Hospital Fundraiser!

A limited edition art book put together for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, September 2013, containing the poems “Mrs. Albuninah”, “Memory Fractured”, and “Marrow”. Dedicated to Kyle Dean Smith, August 27, 1998 – August 1, 2010, and every child who has had, currently has, or will ever have cancer. 100% of the proceeds go to St. Jude’s Hospital to fund research to find cures for childhood cancers. Each copy is hand numbered. There will be only 100 copies. Books are available for sale on Ebay.

sabne
Click for Sabne’s Facebook Page

About the Author:

Internationally published poet, writer, book reviewer, photographer, guest blogger, songwriter. and sketch artist. See bio for links around the web.

Biography

Sabne Raznik is an internationally published poet, writer, book reviewer, photographer, guest blogger, singer/songwriter, and sketch artist with two poetry collections – full length “Following Hope” and art book “Marrow”.

Review: Thunder Snow (Thunder on the Mountain Series)

thundersnow
Click for the Goodreads page.

I must admit that I picked this book up based solely on the location. I once lived in Nederland Colorado (well, actually, I lived in a valley up on Magnolia, s brutal little switchback road with cliffs on one side, and dizzying drops on the other, which anyone familiar with the area will know. Driving it in winter in an F150 was “interesting” to say the least!). Ned is a beautiful little town, surrounded by breathtaking scenery. And who can find a town with a Frozen Dead Guy and a Carousel of Happiness all in the same place? Not to mention the Pioneer Inn, which would make any rock fan faint with envy. Besides being the first place I know if to turn fast food grease into automobile fuel?

Foster’s descriptions are spot on, from Ned itself to Left Hand Canyon, Boulder and beyond.  Her local characters are also wonderfully drawn. Sam and Morning Sun are both jewels who reminds me very much of people I once knew in Ned, and the few interactions we get with other characters made me feel at home. Overall, that portion of the book was worth the read.

Now for the bad part. The totally unrealistic romance and how it took a strong female lead and turned her into a caricature of the needy, whiny romantic novel female with the

carousel
Tickets to ride this 1910 fully restored and updated
carousel are only $1.00 and all proceeds go to children’s
charities!

emotional maturity of a 14-year-old. Callie comes to the novel strong and extremely likable. She has been through a lot, having been stalked and terrorized by a sadistic, narcissistic

sociopath and stood up for herself. However, immediately upon entering Ned and meeting Sam, a dear old friend of her father’s, she also meets Jack, a narcissistic, self-centered jerk who goes out of his way to be cruel to her. And, of course, she immediately falls head over heels. Huh? Didn’t she just get past all that? He is by turns needy then thoughtful, poetic and then a total  unmitigated self-centred (insert expletive here). The first time a situation requires he step up to the plate and be honest, he runs off for a week, “goes to ground,” Instead of doing what she is there to do, work on improving herself and learning to be happy with how wonderful her life truly is, she spends the time moping around, crying “buckets of tears” and writing long, “I’m 14-years old and my first crush just dumped me for my best friend” `poetry’. Of course, she takes him back without question, though he gives her no insight into why he treats her well and then saunters off and leaves her hanging without a word. Literally walks out on her.

The second time he does the same thing, when stakes are immensely higher, she does the same thing. The whole “buckets of tears” and bad poetry, “why, why why what did I do to make you betray me” crap (hey, HE is the one that straight out the door and disappeared once again to pout, or whatever he does when he goes off and doesn’t answer his phone. Fah!)

Of course, in the end she takes him back, AGAIN, and he promises everlasting love and explains what happened in his life that makes him such a jerk. Meh. And he will never go off and sulk for weeks at a time again. Riiiight….

Overall, the location sells the book. I was actually nauseated that one of the reviewers said one drawback of the book is that Jack should have been more “aloof”. HUH? If he were any more aloof, he would just never come back to town, but to each their own. Some seemed to think that the relationship was `romantic’ so there are those out there that won’t find it to be simply overwrought and immature.

Recommended to learn about one of the prettiest spots on earth, not recommend for the rest.

HE BIDS HIS BELOVED BE AT PEACE

Yeats
W. B. Yeats
Photo courtesy of WAMH 89.3 FM
http://wamh.amherst.edu/?p=352

 

by: William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

HEAR the Shadowy Horses, their long manes a-shake,
Their hoofs heavy with tumult, their eyes glimmering white;
The North unfolds above them clinging, creeping night,
The East her hidden joy before the morning break,
The West weeps in pale dew and sighs passing away,
The South is pouring down roses of crimson fire:
O vanity of Sleep, Hope, Dream, endless Desire,
The Horses of Disaster plunge in the heavy clay:
Beloved, let your eyes half close, and your heart beat
Over my heart, and your hair fall over my breast,
Drowning love’s lonely hour in deep twilight of rest,
And hiding their tossing manes and their tumultuous feet.

Review: Legend of an Iron Tower and Other Fables . . . by Natalia Dobzhanska

The road of life can only reveal itself as it is traveled; each turn in the road reveals a surprise. Man’s future is hidden.” Anonymous

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

legends dobzhanska
Click cover to order!

I don’t often wander the halls of poetry, tracing my fingers along the walls, breathing the scented air. And perhaps this is not poetry, not in the strictest sense. But to me, these words are poetry, touching my heart, my mind, my soul. A beautiful weaving of words, reaching inside you, touching those hidden places where love and grief and longing reside.

The nature of evil, of grief and loss, of exhaustion and despair. And yet, through all, a deep vein of goodness and light, of Heaven and Earth and all things between.

Natalia Dobzhanskas words speak to these times, to times of pain and times of love, an an overweening hope for redemption. Her words, filled with the horror and beauty and loss of her Ukranian homeland….. a land which, in 1657–1686 suffered “The Ruin” a devastating 30-year war amongst Russia, Poland, Turks and Cossacks for control of Ukraine. Where once again, as always, the people suffer the pain and death while those in power drink the blood and hopes and lives of the poor.

There are touchstones amongst these stories, words which caress the soul of each fable. For each, a line which touched me . . .

The Carrier
Oh, when will I be a carrier of Joy?”

Legend Of A Sea And A Cliff
To join her and fly to the heavens where the flaming star is twinkling to us, calling us. . .”

Together
And it bloomed so beautifully, though it was a guest from the south, and it did not fear the frosts…”

A Wrapper
And, seeing that, the wrapper went drunk with still more pride . . .”
And she was grateful to the wind . . .”

Boots For The Refuse Collector
“. . . can trolls, someone may ask, can trolls really do good deeds?”

Lilac
. . . that its dust flew to all ends of the Universe, together with the light stolen from Niall . . .”

A Hunchback
Oh, I am foolish, so foolish!” he reviled himself. “For the sake of illusory dream, I have wasted my life!”

The Gift
Can anybody fail to notice how special she is?”

Re-Lig… (Angel Incarnate)
The moment of the fall was long – but still, it was only an instant . . .”

Story Of A Little Girl And A Fairy-Tale Castle
. . . then it turned and dragged its way back pensively – to where a fairy tale lives and ends . . .”

The Man In Whom A Dragon Lived
The dragon entered his heart along with an evil intention.”

Legend Of A River And Desert Wind
The Wind whirled and gusted, spilling out all his bitterness against the ungrateful, ungracious humans . . .”

The Man Who Had No Face Of His Own
And he decided to go to a sage and ask him for advice about who he must look like now.”

Ballad Of A Sad Princess
And the sunrays broke her still wet tears into a rainbow, and the rainbow struck her in the eyes. . . “

 Poem Of A Cloud And The Sun
And the Cloud wept for the sprouts, and the sun let her go – “

 Legend Of An Iron Tower
Grief is always grief. Sorrow is not joy . . .”

Doors
. . . the course of time will never cease, there will be no turning back to the past, will never be . . .”

22 Things Happy People Do Differently

I love this “22 Things Happy People Do Differently”

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