Saturday, June 26, 2010

Love in La Mancha

One of the most fascinating aspects of reading Don Quixote is the chance to take a journey into a different time. Much of the book is about love and it is very different from the way a love story (or stories) would be written today.

Although Don Quixote professes his love for Dulcinea, he is more in love with love than he is with the woman he has chosen to hold in his heart. But that aspect of his character could be unique to him rather than an indication of life in the sixteenth century.

But Cervantes has told a number of love stories in his novel and they all have common threads. For example, there is the story of Cardenio, Luscinda, Don Fernando, and Dorotea. These are people Don Quixote encounters while he and Sancho Panza are traveling about, seeking out adventures. Cardenio is engaged and in love with Luscinda, but Don Fernando tries to steal the fiancé away. The Don drops his own love, Dorotea, to do this. And Cardenio is so upset he ends up wandering in the wilderness dressed in rags.

What's interesting here is that Cardenio and Don Fernando both seem to fall in love with Luscinda due to her great beauty. This is common in the book. Beautiful women are wonderful, while plain women are not so worthy. I suppose this says a great deal about attitudes among men throughout history rather than just in the sixteenth century (at least in literature). I recently read Oral History by Lee Smith and that same assumption about women was in that book.

Women in Don Quixote seem to be more concerned with the marriage contract than they are with love. Don Fernando might have proven himself to be a cad, but Dorotea still wants to marry him. This happens throughout the book. If marriage has been promised the woman still wants it no matter how her fiancĂ©’s attitude has changed or what character flaws he has demonstrated. Again, it would be nice to know how much of this is a literary device and how much is true to the times.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Don Quixote

I didn't read Don Quixote in school and I have always regretted that. So for quite awhile it has been a goal of mine to take on that huge book. I've tried reading it previously, but my busy life has always kept me from completing it. Now by combining reading a printed copy with listening to an MP3 version from Project Gutenberg, I'm well on my way to getting through. (I'm on page 668 of 891.)

My impression is that it is a fairly interesting book that could have used some serious editing. Every character who says anything seems to follow his comments with a dissertation on the reasons and moral implications of whatever he has just said. Yes, I'm fairly certain that Don Quixote is on more lists of best novels ever written than any other book. But I believe that opinion has come from people who have studied it rather than people who have just decided to read it. And that most of those people have taken it on in a classroom situation. There is no question that a discussion group improves the experience of reading because it changes it from passive to active. The story of Don Quixote also has the advantage of having been translated into other forms. The song "To Dream and Impossible Dream" is often in my mind as I'm reading the book. Of course, that might again be due to the challenge of its length.

When I'm listening in my car I often think how amazing it is that I'm hearing the thoughts of a man who lived in Spain in the sixteenth century and that for me to understand his thoughts they had to be translated from Spanish and eventually recorded in a digital form that will play on my MP3 player. That alone is awe inspiring.

The thing that surprised me the most about Cervantes' novel is that it is not entirely about Don Quixote. There are many stories within the larger story, although it constantly comes back to the man who attacks windmills and wineskins. There is a romantic aspect throughout the novel that is probably what has kept it alive for so many centuries.

Love is valued for its own sake. Don Quixote constantly talks of the wonderful attributes of his lady, Dulcinea, who hasn't appeared in the book yet. There are also other characters who have lost their ways because of impediments to the satisfaction of their loves. The story of Cardenio, Lucinda, Ferdinand, and Dorothea tells of arrogance and betrayal, but everyone eventually ends up with the lover they want. In a novel set in modern times the discovery that the man a woman loves has betrayed her would send her packing, but in this story Dorothea wants to be married to Ferdinand and the small fact that he dumped her for someone he considered to be better looking doesn't dissuade her.

I'm still not through with this novel (actually two books in one), so I'll probably be writing about it some more. It's been a wonderful experience so far. I should finish it up in a couple of weeks.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

THE GREER AGENCY by Harris Tobias

This week's book is a light detective novel by Harris Tobias. It's a fun read. Each chapter reads like a short story but they are all interwoven to present a larger story. There is a link to my review later on in this blog entry. Check that out.

An exciting new approach to detective novels, 15 interconnected short stories
involving a different kind of private eye.

The Greer Agency is 75k words of gritty detective fiction presented in 15
separate but connected stories. The reader follows the development of private
detective Mike Greer, the only PI in the Altoona, PA phone book. It’s tough to
make a living in a decaying old railroad town, but with the help of an
anonymous benefactor, Greer lands some interesting cases—cases that he
solves with guts and determination. Throughout the stories, his budding
romance with Susan grows. Eventually they realize they are right for each

Readers will find Mike Greer an accessible everyman with luck, pluck, smarts
and a host of interesting friends. He finds his way into and out of problems
large and small. Greer narrates the stories in a refreshing and original voice.
Each story has its own plot and can stand on its own but, as the book
progresses, the mysteries pile up and the plots get more complex until the
explosive last story.

Mike Greer is a protagonist with a low tolerance for bullshit and an easy
touch for the emotional pleas of the downtrodden. He works alone and
struggles against an uncaring world. But throw no pity party for the man, he
will have none of it. His melancholy is tightly wrapped inside his tough guy
exterior, and pity just bounces off as he walks away, down the dark sidewalks
of Altoona into the next story.

Now available in print and e-book format from All Things That matter Press:

or from from Amazon: Tobias/dp/098425949X

You can read what others are saying about The Greer Agency by clicking here.

To learn more about Harris Tobias, The Greer Agency and his other exciting novels, you can go here, here, or here.

Friday, June 4, 2010

“The Swindler” by Michelle Kaye Malsbury

Like many other baby boomers I've been watching the stock market with much more intensity that I ever did before. How I live the rest of my life has a great deal to do with how my investments perform. So when Bernie Madoff hit the headlines I felt a great deal of empathy for his victims. The Swindler is a book that is right for the times because I am far from alone in my concerns. A financial consultant is anyone who decides to give himself that title. If he also happens to be unethical, God help his clients

“The Swindler” by Michelle Kaye Malsbury
Publisher: All Things That Matter Press
ISBN 978-0-9844219-4-7
Genre: suspense, thriller, mystery, fiction
How easy is it for an investment broker to deceive clients? Very, particularly if his personal hero is Bernie Madoff. Skip Horowitz, along with his old pal A.J., has created what they believe is a foolproof scheme using commodities trading, bookmaking, and various other businesses as covers. Their plan has served them well for decades, surviving the scrutiny of government agencies lacking solid proof to support any allegations of wrongdoing. But luck can't hold forever...or can it? Catherine O'Reilley, newly sponsored in the high-risk world of investment strategy by Skip Horowitz, is about to find out.
About the Author
Michelle Malsbury was born and raised in Champaign, Illinois. Currently she resides in Florida. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Business Management and a Masters Degree in Business Management. She has just completed her first year of doctoral studies in the discipline of Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies with high hopes of helping to build nations and sustain peaceful interactions around the globe.

Here’s What Others Are Saying About “The Swindler”:
1. Judy Ramsook from the Austin News Service, Austin, TX 4/9/10 Review for “The Swindler”:
In The Swindler, by Michelle Malsbury, you will find yourself being pulled in to a fictional tale of romance and a lot commodities swindling through the eyes of a third person narrator.

So come along and meet true to life and memorable characters such as: Catherine, The Realtor/Commodities Broker, Connie, Catherine’s best friend, Shamus, Real Estate Broker and the man who thinks he is the right man for Catherine and last but not least, Skip Horowitz, a ruthless Ponzi Schemer who is being investigated by the Feds.
It’s a gripping tale that will make you want to keep turning those pages to see what happens next.

Set in Key West, Florida, the author displays her vast love for and knowledge of the area so well, that if you have not been there and know nothing about Key West, perusing The Swindler by Michelle Malsbury will indeed give you a rich education into that paradise.
So come on and enjoy this well written and detailed tale and see if Catherine really thinks Shamus is the right man for her, and if the elusive Skip Horowitz gets the justice he so deserves.
I enjoyed it and I think you will too.
2. Mike Fentem, longtime friend of Michelle Kaye Malsbury, review for The Swindler on 5/21/10:

I've known Michelle since she was fifteen or sixteen years old. We grew up in the same small town in Illinois and went to the same schools, pools, and parks. She was always fun and had a good imagination. I'll be the first to admit that back then who would have thunk that she would become a author? However, I have had the pleasure of reading both of her books and have found them to be well written and fun reading! The characters are inventive and interesting. The stories take places in fun and exotic locales. The plot builds from chapter to chapter keeping the reader engaged in what may occur next and how it will all end. The main character, Skip, is a enigma himself with a ego larger than life. His thirst for money and fast women was second to none, but I liked getting to know him while reading this book. Besides having little, to no, scruples, he does manage to keep his ponzi scheme and other illigitimate business endeavors pretty secret for a number of years while he rakes in oodles of cash and stashes it all around the globe. However, can he outlast the SEC and other regulatory agencies, who is hot on his tail or is his time up? I truly enjoyed The Swindler and I believe you will too!
3. Thomas Keyes Review for The Swindler by Michelle Kaye Malsbury, 5/14/2010:

The Swindler is a fast-moving, hard-hitting account of a swindler who, with his batch of subalterns, ran a Ponzi scheme in Key West and elsewhere. The tale is so realistic and convincing that you can hardly believe that it didn’t really happen and that the authoress is not in there somewhere, perhaps as Catherine, the honest realtor who gets embroiled in the mess.

The racket consisted of selling counterfeit commodities futures mostly to fairly well-heeled middle class types, and following up by generating bogus statements showing earnings. It may be difficult to feel overly compassionate for someone worth several hundred thousand dollars who gets stung for fifty, but there are a lot of smaller victims too.

The most touching was a young girl in Central America whom Skip, the swindler, got pregnant. She was hoping this pregnancy would bind them together and enable them to live a beautiful life. Then the blow fell. Skip was arrested and prosecuted, and the girl’s dreams flowed away in tears.

The pages are full of unsavory characters, and the action moves from Florida to the Bahamas to Costa Rica to Las Vegas.

The language is earthy. Read it, you’ll like it.

4. Billy O’Toole Pre-review for The Swindler by Michelle Kaye Malsbury, BSBM, MM
All Things That Matter’s Press, ISBN 978-0-9844219-4-7: 2/22/10
Hi Michelle,

During a long and successful career in the trucking business, I always carried a stack of books to entertain myself and hopefully learn a little something also. One of my favorites was Steven Frey because he always had some insights into the dark side of finance along with great characters. Move over Frey and make room for Michelle Malsbury!

The Swindler has great characters, some lovable, and some not, but all believable. Indeed, I felt like I already knew many and were acquainted with several others. There were the obvious evil ones but the mindset of good ones being led along and seduced by money and the good life was particularly poignant.

When my business blew up because I had no customers anymore, I began to study finance moved to being a Senior Financial Consultant. In the process of interviews and study I felt like I met many of her characters, things just didn't feel right, but oh so seductive!

All this set in quirky and sultry southern Florida, I could feel the humidity, see the pastels, and revel in the ambience. What more could anyone want in book?

Bill O'Toole
Senior Financial Consultant
Southern Commercial Corp
Columbia, Mo.

573 808 2122
5. Marilou Trask-Curtin Review for TheSwindler:

Michelle: First of all, congrats on an absolutely incredible book!!! Have you also written this as a screenplay????!!!! Would be amazing to watch and the timing seems right as well.

I only found a couple of blips but after I wrote them down lost the note where I had written the page numbers. The main one: There was mention of the basketball team the had it written as the NICKS...that would need to be corrected as we New Yorker's who are KNICKS fans would probably retaliate by throwing soggy basketballs your way--LOL...otherwise, an incredible story...!!!

The Review: "The Swindler" - an incredibly fast-paced roller-coaster ride through the world of illegal commodities trading with enough sun and sin to heat up every reader's day (and night.) Michelle Malsbury at her finest! A definite must read!
Marilou Trask-Curtin, Author of "In My Grandfather's House:
A Catskill Journal"

Thanks again for the opportunity to read "The Swindler" and I wish you all the best with it. Also, sorry it took so long....

Take care,

PS: I love the way you got MJ into the story with the crotch grabbing episode :-]

Purchase Information: link for The Swindler and Kindle Reader orders (see above)

Author Links: