Reading Life


Monday, December 29, 2014

She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick

This young adult novel tackles the slippery nature of coincidence. While researching a non-fiction book about coincidences, a disabled girl's father he mysteriously disappears.

Laureth, a blind teenager, leads an unofficial investigation into her father's disappearance. Her mother refuses to help her and seems on the verge of splitting up with her father. 

Readers can immediately identify with Laureth, not because of her blindness, but because they recognize her plight. She is in real trouble--the starting point for any great narrative.

Convinced someone on the Internet has her Dad's notebook and may know his whereabouts, she books a plane to New York. She has told no one and her only guide to the seeing world is her seven-year-old brother. 

She had no idea where her father may be staying; she has no idea where she and her brother will stay. She only goes on a hunch that her father is in trouble and needs her help. 

Wearing dark glasses, she must also keep up the pretense that she is not blind. She needs to be seen as the one caring for her brother instead of the other way around or someone may call authorities or notify her mother in England.

Every encounter--from navigating the airport to New York's public transportation--carries the risk that Laureth will be uncovered as a blind, and, thus, invisible person.  Laureth's ability to find her way in New York and find her father proves the title. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Portrait of a Lady

Thoughts on Henry James' Portrait of a Lady.

One of the best lines in Henry James' novel, Portrait of a Lady, is the line he gives to Ralph Touchett. 
Portrait of a Lady, Dawson Dawson-Watson

Ralph's a detached observer but a social scientist, too, in his own way. In Henry James' world, if someone is sick and wealthy, they have the privileged position to quietly observe.

Ralph, as everyone knows, sets up a grand experiment. He uses his cousin, Isabelle, whom he adores as a subject. 

James gives Ralph Touchett the line, "I call people rich if they can satisfy their imagination." 

In the novel, Ralph wants to make Isabelle rich to see if that will allow her the freedom to follow her dreams.

But you don't really need to be rich to satisfy your imagination and he seems to forget that. 

If you are a poor and starving artist, but have enough for art supplies, you can be rich.  

Monday, December 15, 2014

Evergreen by Rebecca Rasmussen

Evergreen by Rebecca Rasmussen
In one of the best novels of 2014, Rebecca Rasmussen describes both the joy and the loneliness of the Minnesota wilderness.
Eveline, joins her German husband, Emil, in a hardscrabble existence in Evergreen. Unbeknownst to her, Emil doesn't own the cabin they relocate to. When his father becomes sick, Emil goes to Germany, leaving Eveline and Hux on their own.

When a land surveyor comes through the Evergreen area, he cruelly takes advantage of her. She later makes a fateful choice that will effect her young son, Hux, and her husband who is still abroad.

The story also focuses upon Hux's sister Naamah, and their relationship. 

Hux locates his half-sister in a logging camp, years after she has left Hopewell, an orphanage, that has left her emotionally and physically scarred. 

Hux, who is a taxidermist and barely scraping by, tries to help Naamah heal; he tries to return a small piece of the childhood that was stolen from her. 

This is a heart-breaking story with many warm and humorous moments. 

Readers who like Evergreen may also like Orphan Train by Christina Kline, The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, and Bloodroot by Amy Greene.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Boxtrolls by Elizabeth Kimmell

The Boxtrolls is a wonderful children's story that, among other things, show kids how awful it is to stereotype and scapegoat others. 

Boxtrolls starts with a  scenario that sounds a lot like many other dystopias. The above ground society, the Cheese Bits, are terrified of the underground society, the Boxtrolls. 

The Boxtrolls literally live underground; They eat insects and use odds and ends from the world above them to make things like a music maker. A manhole is a portal to and from worlds.

Because they are terrified of the Boxtrolls, the Cheese bits and their secret police, the Red Hats, hunt the Boxtrolls as monsters. The White Hats, who govern the Cheese bits, support the Boxtrolls hunts. One of the Cheese bit, a baby, was kidnapped and killed by the Boxtrolls. But was the Trubshaw baby really taken?

Eggs doesn't think so. He knows the Boxtrolls aren't monsters. Eggs knows this because he lives with them, They are his friends who assure him his peach skin is fine even though theirs is green or grey.

Eggs feels ok about his appearance until a girl who lives above ground, Winne Portley-Rind, calls him a name he never heard before, "boy."

Sunday, December 7, 2014

American Innovations: Stories by Rivka Galchen.

Readers who like stories about odd characters who find themselves in strange situations, will love this new collection by Rivka Galchen. 

As strange as the characters are, though, it's easy to relate to them.Who hasn't felt what this character in "The Lost Order" feels so keenly?

"But one day I woke up and heard myself saying, I am a fork being used to eat cereal. I am not a spoon. I am a fork. And I can't help people eat cereal any longer."

After a strange caller angrily denounces her for a missing Chinese take-out order, the narrator of "The Lost Order," comes to some startling conclusions about her marriage and herself.

"The Region of Unlikeness," is about another lost soul who befriends two eccentric intellectuals at a coffee shop. She is secretly attracted to one of them and repelled by the other. 

"American Innovations" bravely tackles magical realism, body image, and deformity.

"Wild Berry Blue," is a wonderful coming-of-age story about a girl who has a crush on an ex-junkie who works at her favorite McDonalds.

In one story, "Once Upon an Empire," a likable but possibly deranged narrator, loses all of her belongings. No one steals them; instead, in a magical realism way, they become mobile and literally walk away from her apartment.

She finds them in a dumpster but is reluctant to identify them to the police. 

Less successful stories included in this collection are "Dean of the Arts" or "The Late Novels of Gene Hackman." 

Galchen's collection was long-listed for the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Black Warrior Review

Most of these stories and poems in Black Warrior Review (issue 41.1) are atmospheric stories with a magical realism bent. Unless that is your style, I wouldn't recommend submitting to them.

"Rejas" by Brenda Peynado is possibly the best story. A young Dominican Republic woman returns to her homeland where she no longer feels at home.

The bars or "rejas" keep the criminals from entering residences but they also keep people from understanding one another.
Black Warrior Review, 41.1

In M H Rowe's "The Dead Crystal Palace" a boy's father, in a magical realist style, moves to a crystal palace. He waves a scepter acting the part of the tyrant. His infidelity caused the divorce. He seems powerful but the last scene demonstrates his impotence.

In "Sail, Su Corazon," a young man records his final, delusional  thoughts on a faltering ship.

 The last narrative poem, "Shadow Memories From Desire: A Haunting," is dense, atmospheric and strangely captivating. A child who can see a ghost is also the object of her benefactor's desire. 

Black Warrior Review is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Writer's Digest has named BWR as one of the literary journals that matter.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Evil Eye: Four Novellas of Love Gone Wrong by Joyce Carol Oates

The opening novella, "Evil Eye," is a powerful story about a woman who could be on the verge of losing her mind. In a fit of despair, she has married an older man who crushes what is left of her spirit. One of the man's ex-wives tries to warn her to no avail.

The best novella is "So Near Anytime Always." Not only is this a great title, but it perfectly captures what Oates does so well. A highly-vulnerable girl wrongly believes a predator loves her.

Desmond appears charming at first. He is the dapper "boyfriend" that she has always dreamed about. Lizbeth believes a boyfriend as a "passport" to a new country.

Readers, however, can sense something wrong from the beginning. This is how Lizbeth meets Desmond: she looks up from her homework to see a boy staring intensely at her. Whether she realized it or not, he stalks her from that moment onward.

He appears well-educated, rich, and polite but becomes increasingly controlling. Desmond's true character quickly reveals itself after a disastrous violin lesson.  

"The Execution" is less satisfying because the narrator, Bart, is so unlikeable.  In chilling details, "The Execution" depicts an entitled college-aged kid who decides to murder his parents. Nothing unfolds as he plans.

The last novella, "The Flatbed," captures the feelings of a repressed woman. She suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a relative. Perhaps no other author captures the victim's viewpoint as well as Oates. 

Like all the novellas in this collection, "The Flatbed" ends on just the right ironic note. Has her fiance' revenge upon her perpetrator freed Cecilia from her damaging past? Or has she just traded one secret for another?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Anna Saves Them All by Seth Dickinson

Seth Dickinson, a science fiction author to watch, has written an impressive story about alien contact, terrible choices, and genocide in "Anna Saves Them All," by Seth Dickinson. This short story appears in tne September 2014 issue of Shimmer

Anna is Yazidi who remembers the cruelty of the "man in the red beret." She also knows that Ssrin sees some of that ruthlessness in her. 

This author has also written "Morrigan in the Sunglare" for Clarkesworld and "A Tank Only Fears Four Things" for Lightspeed.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Hot Zone, A Terrifying True Story by Robert Preston

When Robert Preston's Hot Zone was published in 1994, it was an immediate best-seller. Written in the style of a thriller, Preston describes what happens when an unknown virus breaks out at a monkey house in Reston, Virginia.

While it reads like fiction, the events actually happened. Nearly five hundred monkeys at a Reston research facility were dying horrific deaths. Caretakers suspect the monkey are dying of simian fever (harmless to humans) but they send a sample to USAMRIID as a precaution.

USAMRIID or United States Army Military Research Institute for Infection Diseases have the personnel and knowledge to test for level 4 hot agents e.g. Marburg or Ebola.

When the sample glows positively against known samples of the Ebola virus, the US Army know it has serious problem.

Yet there is one perplexing mystery. All of the known outbreaks of Ebola had come from Africa. This particular shipment of crab-eating monkeys came from the Philippines.

As it turns out, the agent is not Ebola Zaire at all but rather a new agent that Army researchers call Ebola Reston. 

Preston's work, which captures the fear and chaos that accompanies a breakout, is even more relevant today than when it was published in the 1990s.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Box Trolls

Did you know the Box Trolls is based on the book, Here Be Monsters, by Alan Snow? Elizabeth Cody Kimmel has written a novelization of the movie and its available from Scholastic. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Everybody Paints: The Lives and Art of the Wyeth Family by Susan Goldman Rubin

Everybody Paints may be for young readers but adults will also enjoy this wonderful biography about this remarkable artistic family (the Wyeths). 

The book begins with pathfinder Newell Conver's story. His father thought art was nonsense yet Newell Conver Wyeth (better known as N.C. Wyeth) persisted, studied the craft, and became one of the most successful illustrators of his time.

Wyeth traveled West, wrote and illustrated "A Day with the Roundup" for Scribner's magazine, and married his sweetheart in 1906. Most people know Wyeth, however, for his illustrations of British stories:Treasure IslandKidnappedRobin Hood, and King Arthur.

Though all of his children were artistic, Andrew was the one who followed in his father's footsteps. Andrew is perhaps best known for the paintings "Braids" and "Christina's World" that use a technique called tempera on panel.

Andrew's son, James, became the third generation of Wyeths to take up painting. Jamie painted with combined mediums and had made portraits of the Kennedys, Andy Warhol, his wife and friends. Like his grandfather, James also illustrates children's books. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen

Prepare to fall in love with Rasmussen's characters in this wonderful novel about small-town life in Spring Green, Wisconsin. At the heart of the story are two sisters who have devoted their lives to each other.

In a novel that deftly moves back and forth in time, Rasmussen introduces us to two versions of the sisters: as they were in their teens and as they are as elderly ladies.

Twiss, who is adventurous and mischievous, wants to be an explorer and a scientist. Good as gold, Milly, wants to get married and have children. Things do not exactly go as planned, especially since they have an eccentric father and a stoic mother.

After losing his golf prowess, Milly and Twiss' father is never quite the same. He loses his job as golf instructor and his passion for life. He and the girls' mother never officially separate, yet he takes up residence in the barn, hanging his silk shirts from the rafters.

Rasmussen enlivens a heartbreaking situation with a quirky cast of characters. Spring Green is populated with people like lonely Mrs. Bettle whose only love is her pet parrot and nosy and fearless Bett who talks non-stop about her life in Dead Water, Wisconsin.

We also find characters like Father Rice who leaves his congregation to take a trip to Mexico and have a margarita. The bird sisters and the town work tirelessly to help him return when he runs into trouble.

For Father Rice, Twiss creates her happiness tonic which she tries to sell at the fair. Twiss arrives in a lacy dress in order to prove how much the tonic can transform a person. Twiss normally hates dresses.

What I like best about this novel is the terrific, comic scenes which also offer irony. When Margaret wins a bean-counting contest at the fair, her prize is a trip in a small airplane. 

The pilot asks her where she lives so he can fly over her house and barn. For Margaret, its a chance to fly over her life. Significantly, right after she flies over life, she comes to some startling revelations. 

As humorous as it is, the novel is also a deeply moving testament to the strength of sisterhood. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Last Dead Girl by Harry Dolan

The Last Dead Girl features amateur detective David Malone who, in this novel, is still a home inspector in Rome, NY. Dolan's latest novel gives David's back story; it serves as a prequel to Bad Things Happen (2009) and Very Bad Men (2011). 

Though he is engaged to be married, David finds himself traveling down a dark trail that leads to Jana Fletcher. After a brief romance with Jana, she is killed by an unknown assailant. The reluctant hero finds himself chasing down leads. 

Detective Frank Moretti thinks Jana's murderer is local thug, Simon Lansky. David incurs the wrath of Rome lead detective, Frank Moretti, when he develops a completely different theory about Jana's killer. 

Moretti wants Malone to "stop playing detective," but his motives may not be as pure he pretends. David suspects the detective has framed an innocent person and may be hiding even darker secrets.

Dolan alternately illuminates and obscures the facts of the case for dramatic effect. Plot twists and time shifts add tension to this fast-paced, thrilling amateur detective story.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

We Were Liars by e.Lockart

Cady's family enjoys idyllic summers on a private island each summer. She has a crush on Gat, a family friend, who joins them at Beechwood each summer. The four of them, Mirren, Johnny, Gat, and Cady are the Liars. Sitting atop Cuddledown's roof, one of the summer houses, Cady feels invincible.

The four of us Liars, we have always been. We always will be.
No matter what happens as we go to college, grow old, build lives
for ourselves; no matter if Gat and I are together or not. No matter where we go, we will always be able to line up on the roof of Cuddledown and gaze at the sea. The island is our. Here, in some way, we are young forever.

A horrible accident, though, during summer 15, leaves Cady critically injured. She was found on the beach with a head injury and hazy memories. Will Cady's memories of summer 15 ever return?

During summer 17, Cady turns her room into an incident room, meticulously recording what she remembers on graph paper and post-it notes above her bed. She is still in love with Gat but something pivotal has happened that has changed their relationship.

Gat, the only non-Sinclair in the group, is the one who first opens Cady's eyes to social issues. Not every family, he says, owns a private island. He is of Indian descent, like his Uncle Ed, who has developed a relationship with Cady's Aunt Carrie. 

Lockhart skillfully interweaves fairy tales in the novel that foreshadows  the surprising twist in Cady's story. Gat, the outsider, is the mouse in many of these fairy tales.

Gradually, readers learn that Harris, Cady's Grandfather, has tried to manipulate his daugthers and grandchildren. Though he's not a bad man, not crooked, he is entitled and reckless with his money. He is prejudiced against Ed and Gat; he pretends to accept them when he actually cannot abide them.

Gat is the first to caution Cady that Harris does not want the two of them to date. The Aunts begins fighting over belongings. Cady, whose motto is to do what she she most fears, undertakes a daring plan to rectify their idyll. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Burning Air by Erin Kelly

A home schooled boy bears a grudge against the family he believes destroyed his future. Darcy Kellaway's vicious act against head master Ronan McBride's son, Felix, could have resulted in prison time. Instead, he avoids detection, rebuilds his life, and entraps an innocent girl in a foul plot to exact revenge.

Kelly's novel is a complicated revenge plot. The McBrides are an affable, accomplished family, yet Mrs. McBride's diary hides a secret. After her death, Darcy infiltrates their home away from home--the Far Barn in Devon.

Things come to a dramatic climax on Bonfire night--a family tradition that nearly goes horribly wrong. Felix's girlfriend may have kidnapped Sophie's baby while the family enjoyed the bonfire.

Kelly's nuanced depiction of Kerry is particularly well-crafted. She is a victim, in more ways than one, yet she seems surprisingly strong and level-headed.  

This thriller will have readers constantly guessing what the outcome will be. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Badlands Canyons

Speech after long silence,
It is right,
Just as right,
as lightning hitting dead air,
or an army of wildflowers--
Scorpionweed and beeplant,
creeping into position,
like soldiers,
in cracked and bald canyons.

Pictures courtesy of,

Monday, August 4, 2014

Dorothy Johnson's The Hanging Tree

The Hanging Tree is an impressive novelette; the prose is spare and economical yet Johnson stuns with incisive psychological portraits that are both convincing and surprising.

Joe Frail is an ace gunman who has lost the ability to shoot when it counts. He shot a man once and afterwards his widow placed a curse on him that incapacitates his shooting arm. So, in a way, Joe is just bluffing when he stares everyone down. Johnson writes that Joe challenges everyone a look that warns most men away seems to ask, "Do you amount to anything?"

The boy Rune, who is indebted to him, alternately admires and despises him. Rune wants his reputation and gun skills but he hates him for making him a "slave" or his indentured servant.

He begins to rebel after he becomes the lost lady's friend. 
"He straightened up and blurted out a question: 'How much time do I still owe you?"

Doc's position is slipping, "Time? That old nonsense. You don't owe me anything. I just wanted to cut you down to size."

Rune rejoins with, "Maybe somebody will cut you down to size some time."
  Then, there's an elaborate "joke" that Frenchy plays on Doc, something that would not have happened when Doc's reputation was intact.

Everything changes the minute someone's fortune changes: "At the end of single week, the fragility of the Skull Creek gold camp was plain. The town was collapsing, moving to the new strike..."

In a stunning reversal near the end, Rune overshadows his master.

Doc always expected to hang because of the curse that was put upon him. He does not die (only his reputation does) and that allows something new and completely different to happen.

Gary Cooper, Maria Schell

Dorothy Johnson's  amazing Western novelette was made into a movie in 1959 with Gary Cooper and Maria Schell.

More information:

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Among Others by Jo Walton

Hugo-award winning, Among Others, will have you believing in magic and in the power of books, libraries, and friendship.

Mor, who loves science fiction, is sent to England where she will meet the father that abandoned her years before. He and his sisters have decided to send her to a posh boarding school, a situation Mor dreads. Morwenna is used to living in Wales with her Grampar, her twin sister, and the beings she calls fairies that inhabit desolate spaces like empty mines and  abandoned factories. 

While at school she is lonely she creates a karass, a term Walton borrows from Kurt Vonnegut. According to Mor, magic is a bit different from how its represented in stories but the karass seems to work. Using two apples she works a magic spell that helps her find a like-minded group to which she can belong.

At a library, Mor joins a science fiction club and meets Wim who changes her life. Meeting Wim makes her stronger. Though her leg is not healed, she is able to confront her mother and deal with the loss of her twin sister.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Learning by Luis Borges

After some time, you learn the subtle difference between
holding a hand
and imprisoning a soul;
You learn that love does not equal sex,
and that company does not equal security,
and you start to learn….
That kisses are not contracts and gifts are not promises,
 and you start to accept defeat with the head up high
and open eyes,
and you learn to build all roads on today,
because the terrain of tomorrow is too insecure for plans…
and the future has its own way of falling apart in half.
And you learn that if it’s too much
even the warmth of the sun can burn.
So you plant your own garden and embellish your own soul,
instead of waiting for someone to bring flowers to you.
And you learn that you can actually bear hardship,
that you are actually strong,
and you are actually worthy,
and you learn and learn…and so every day.
Over time you learn that being with someone
because they offer you a good future,
means that sooner or later you’ll want to return to your past.
Over time you comprehend that only who is capable
of loving you with your flaws, with no intention of changing you
can bring you all happiness.
Over time you learn that if you are with a person
only to accompany your own solitude,
irremediably you’ll end up wishing not to see them again.
Over time you learn that real friends are few
and who does not fight for them, sooner or later,
will find himself surrounded only with false friendships.
Over time you learn that words spoken in moments of anger
continue hurting throughout a lifetime.
Over time you learn that anyone can apologize,
but forgiveness is an attribute solely of great souls.
Over time you comprehend that if you have hurt a friend harshly
it is very likely that your friendship will never be the same.
Over time you realize that despite being happy with your friends,
you cry for those you let go.
Over time you realize that every experience lived,
with each person, is unrepeatable.
Over time you realize that whoever humiliates
or scorns another human being, sooner or later
will suffer the same humiliations or scorn in tenfold.
Over time you learn to build your roads on today,
because the path of tomorrow doesn’t exist.
Over time you comprehend that rushing things or forcing them to happen
causes the finale to be different form expected.
Over time you realize that in fact the best was not the future,
but the moment you were living just that instant.
Over time you will see that even when you are happy with those around you,
you’ll yearn for those who walked away.
Over time you will learn to forgive or ask for forgiveness,
say you love, say you miss, say you need,
say you want to be friends, since before
a grave, it will no longer make sense.
But unfortunately, only over time…”

Saturday, July 19, 2014


Wreckers is a strangely unsatisfying movie. A young married couple, who are in the midst of repairing a dilapidated house, 
begin experiencing problems after the arrival of the husband's brother.

The past encroaches upon their happy world, leaving Dawn to realize she doesn't know her husband at all.  But if David (Benedict Cumberbatch) is dishonest with his wife, so is Dawn. The wife(Claire Foy) is unfaithful to David with a man who, like everyone else, is not what he seems.

Wreckers is an intriguing but somewhat flawed film. The movie ends but conflicts are not resolved, just avoided. David refuses to asks about the paternity of the child his wife bears. He hints, though, that he suspects something.

The conflict between the two brothers isn't resolved either. Nick goes AWOL. David finally admits that there is something wrong psychologically with Nick but the he two brothers never reconcile.

We're given a semi-happy ending; David and Dawn are together sans Nick with a new baby, but it feels like a shortcut.

Performances by the actors are superb and the film is beautifully shot. The screenplay itself, however, is not fully realized.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Husband's Secret

Hamlet. Frankenstein. Moby Dick. These are all classic revenge stories that end in tragedy. Where do we look for a contemporary twist on the revenge tale? For starters, there's Liane Moriarty's The Husband's Secret. 

In her novel, revenge is like a snake hidden in a beautiful garden. Underneath the novel's frothy, humorous exterior are terrible secrets waiting to be unearthed.

We see the world through the eyes of three women--Tess, Cecilia, and Rachel. Tess an advertising account executive hides her 
secret--social anxiety--fairly well. She has even fooled herself. Her witty but fat cousin, Felicity, helps her with  any and all insecurities until --oops-- she wants what belongs exclusively to Tess.

Cecilia is a Tupperware queen who practically runs the Catholic school her children attend. She is the envied, perfectly-organized Mom until she finds a letter that unhinges her well-ordered life. The letter to be opened, it says, upon her husband's death, reveals a terrible secret that will shatter the lives of the three women.

The shattered rose on the cover is a fitting image.

Rachel who dislikes her daughter-in-law is probably the character who suffers most in the novel. In one terrible moment, Rachel seeks vengeance upon the man whom she believes has murdered her daughter. Tragedy ensues yet truth--the secret and its repercussions--is finally revealed.

Complicated, yet entertaining, funny and thrilling, The Husband's Secret will delight all kinds of readers. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

G.K. Chesterton

"Fairy tales are true, not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten." 

G.K. Chesterton

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Litany by Billy Collins

One of the best poems one of the best poets
You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine...
-Jacques Crickillon

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman's tea cup.
But don't worry, I'm not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and--somehow--the wine. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

If you haven't had a chance to read Yellow Birds yet, this is one to put on the top of your reading list. The story features two raw recruits--Murph and Bart who her deployed to Al Tafar, Iraq.

Both are from the "sticks," as they call it, and both are searching for meaning and adventure, wrongly thinking they can find that by enlisting.

They fall under the spell of Sargent Sterling, a hero of the first Gulf War. Sterling is a warrior so perfect that commanders want to put him on recruitment posters.  Bart soon discovers Sterling's darker side.

Bart's world start crashing the minute he promises Murph's mother he will look after Murph who is only 18. Sterling immediately tells him the bitter truth: "People are going to die...It's statistics."

Throughout the novel, individuals do not want to be responsible for anyone else. Even though Sterling says these are "his" men--he trains and prepares them for battle--he does not want to be responsible for their psychological state.

After Murph goes AWOL, Sterling and Bart take matters in their own hands. Both become entangled by a futile and morally dubious attempt to "fix" the situation.

The Yellow Birds will soon be a movie. 

I Think Continuously of Those Who Were Truly Great

I think continually of those who were truly great.
Who, from the womb, remembered the soul's history
Through corridors of light where the hours are suns
Endless and singing. Whose lovely ambition
Was that their lips, still touched with fire,
Should tell of the Spirit clothed from head to foot in song.
And who hoarded from the Spring branches
The desires falling across their bodies like blossoms.

What is precious is never to forget
The essential delight of the blood drawn from ageless springs
Breaking through rocks in worlds before our earth.
Never to deny its pleasure in the morning simple light
Nor its grave evening demand for love.
Never to allow gradually the traffic to smother
With noise and fog the flowering of the spirit.

Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields
See how these names are feted by the waving grass
And by the streamers of white cloud
And whispers of wind in the listening sky.
The names of those who in their lives fought for life
Who wore at their hearts the fire's centre.
Born of the sun they travelled a short while towards the sun,
And left the vivid air signed with their honour. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

I Carry Your Heart by E.E. Cummings

This beautiful poem will become a children's picture book.


i carry your heart with me
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go, my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                        i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Where you used to be, there is a hole in the
world, which I find myself constantly walking
around in the daytime, and falling in at night.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Kept by James Scott

The Kept is not a typical novel yet it kept me transfixed. Elspeth is a midwife who has stolen her children and they, in turn, were taken from her in a horrific act of violence. Her husband, Jorah, stays by her because he promised to stand by her no matter what even though he is troubled by what his wife does. 

Caleb moves to the barn after his father commits an inconceivable act. He alienates himself from his family and becomes more animal-like. When three strangers murder his family, though, he and his mother form a pact. The commit themselves to finding these men and seeking revenge. Much like a Western, the heroes of The Kept try to live honorable lives in a fallen world. 

Other books with similar themes: The Thicket by Joe Landsdale.
Non-fiction books with similar themes The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend by Glenn Frankel and Captured by Scott Zesch.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Lost Girls of Rome--Part 2

Lost Girls of Rome is a complicated mystery with several subplots and several story arcs. Even though both Marcus and Sandra Vega are both trying to solve the disappearance of Lara, they are each separately conducting additional investigations. 

A serial killer has been targeting Roman women. A rogue within a rogue organization has betrayed the Penitenzieri by giving victims access to the Penitenzieri files. Victims are beginning to exact vigilante justice.  A strange killer, a transformist, steals the identity of victims before killing again. An Interpol agent who has been helping Sandra may not be who he claims to be.

The central mystery, and the most intriguing one, is who is Marcus. Since Marcus has amnesia, he cannot remember his faith or what happened in a Prague hotel room while on assignment.

Carrisi has created an intriguing set of interlocking mysteries that will keep readers guessing. Though there are several time shifts, and though the plot is complicated, everything is resolved at a satisfying break-neck speed. Carrisi's novel is not to be missed. 

continued from Lost Girls of Rome--Part 1

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Small Hand by Susan Hill

On his way back from a client on the coast, Andrew Snow, a rare book dealer, cuts through the Downs and has an odd experience. After leaving the main road, he gets lost and finds himself inexplicably stopping at a dilapidated mansion. On The White House grounds, he feels the presence of a small hand gripping his own but yet there's no visible child. Is this a ghost or is he going mad like his brother, Hugo? Why do the gardens and pool fascinate him? Why does it all seem so achingly familiar?

Susan Hill (The Woman in Black) does a masterful job of creating tension and suspense in the marvelous ghost story. Hill is particularly good and creating psychological portraits that ring true. Infused with the supernatural, this novelette also revels how skillfully we deceive ourselves as adults. Grown-ups falsely believe their past is past--that their childhood fears and offenses are long buried. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Review of Lost Girls of Rome by Donato Carrisi

Don't miss Donato Carrisi's novel, Lost Girls of Rome.

 Forensic photographer Sandra Vega is still coping with her husband's accidental death. There’s something real and recognizable in Sandra’s grief. Sometimes she forgets he is dead and says, ‘I have to tell David.’

David's bags are in the storeroom at Headquarters. Vega found them too painful to look at. After she gets a call from an Interpol agent, however, she becomes alarmed.

Martyrdom of St Matthew Source: Wikipedia
Searching through his bags, at last, she finds his diary, a two-way radio, and photographs on his favorite camera, a Leica. The camera has photographs of the construction site (where David died) a detail from a Caravaggio painting, and a picture of a man with a scar on his temple. 

Vega finds more items at the construction site, including a recording device, which convinces her that her beloved David was murdered.

Did the man with the scar murder her husband?

The scar is the result of a gunshot wound to the head and it has left the mysterious man, Marcus, with amnesia. Clemente, head of a secret investigative unit, wants him to solve a case, the disappearance of architecture student Lara.  (continued)

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