Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith

The Price of SaltThe Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The beginning of The Price of Salt didn't appeal to me and nearly kept me from reading on. Therese seemed a shallow character. Her relationship with Mrs. Robichek was odd and, after she accepted an invitation to the woman's home she responded in a way that was quite rude. On top of that she has a relationship with Richard that is one sided. She doesn't lie about it, but she does take advantage of what he has to offer. I didn't think I wanted to spend hours reading about this woman. But the strength of this novel is in the way Therese matures. She has to discover how to feel and act while dealing with same sex desires during an era when they are condemned. I love the fact that this book wasn't just set in the fifties, it was written back then. Reading it at a time when the acceptance of same sex couples has become a civil rights issue makes it very powerful.

The book is written from the point of view of Therese, so all the characters are filtered through her perspective. Patricia Highsmith made her a sensitive character who pays attention to detail. Here's a sample:

The young man slid all the bundles across the counter, and took Carol's twenty-dollar bill. And Therese thought of Mrs. Robicheck tremulously pushing her single dollar bill and a quarter across the counter that evening.

Here's another:

Later, in the car, Carol asked her about Mrs. Robichek, and Therese answered as she always did, succinctly, and with the involuntary and absolute honesty that always depressed her afterward.

In both these short descriptions we learn something about Therese, something about Carol, and something about Mrs. Robicheck.

The Price of Salt is very well written. I wasn't hooked at first, but once it got going I couldn't put it down. I'm looking forward to seeing the film.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

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Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

The Heart is a Lonely HunterThe Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is wonderfully written. It covers big topics, such as racism in the depression era south, but never seems to force the author's views on the reader. Most of the African-American characters speak with broken English and one responds to a brutal act with ignorance, but Carson McCullers also included an educated African-American man in her narrative and in the process avoided the stereotypes so common in work from that period. Although a depiction of southern racism is included, it is not the sole topic of the novel. Other subjects covered include poverty and the politics of the time, but the primary theme is the loneliness of human existence.

The book starts with two mutes, John Singer and Spiros Antonapoulos. It goes on to cover their relationship and also Singer's relationships with Mick Kelly, a young girl whose family runs a boarding house, Biff Brannon, the owner of a diner, Jake Blount, an alcoholic advocate for communism, and Dr. Benedict Mady Copeland, the educated African-American I mentioned previously. All of these people seek out Singer's friendship and, because the conversations with a mute are primarily one sided, they mold their image of him into the various personalities each of them wants. They don't take the time to learn what Singer is feeling. This observation of human nature is my favorite aspect of the novel.

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is enough of a classic to be translated into other languages. This is important to me because I liked the novel enough to recommend it to my wife. She prefers to read in French, so I ordered her a copy of Le Coeur est un Chasseur Solitaire. I know she'll enjoy it.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

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Friday, December 18, 2015

One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson

One Good Turn (Jackson Brodie, #2)One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson is a light read. It can be fun for someone willing to suspend disbelief, someone who likes the writing on a typical TV crime show, such as Bones or the old Columbo series. (I like both of those, so that comment isn't meant to be disparaging.) Martin, a character in the novel who is a mild mannered crime writer, longs to write something serious and I wonder if that might be a comment Atkinson is making about her own desires.

The character relationships in One Good Turn are interesting. Jackson Brodie is a wealthy, ex-cop whose acquaintances include the aforementioned crime writer, a crazed thug, a dominatrix, a single mom/police woman, and the self-centered actress he's dating. Their dialogue is well written and consistently shows the personalities of the characters in unique ways. The plot has enough edgy moments to keep it moving forward, but it also has countless moments that I had trouble believing even in the fictitious world Atkinson created. There are so many chance events that at times the book seems to be a parody of its genre. Weapons appear out of nowhere, people are connected in unexpected ways, and in one case Brodie escapes a predicament with a sudden death that is so unrealistic Atkinson must have intended it to be funny. (If so, she didn't succeed.)

I would recommend this to someone looking for a light book to pass the time in places where it is difficult to concentrate, such as at an airport or on a train.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship EssexIn the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex is pure non-fiction. It reads somewhere in between a list of facts and a story. In fact, the last third of the book is exactly that, a huge list with graphics.

The book lacks fully developed characters, because the author avoided conjecture unless he identified the statements as his own opinion. All the descriptions of the people were carefully documented and the dialogue was copied from writings by the survivors, with tags like Nickerson remembered or Chase was, in his own words.” Discussions that are critical to the story, such as the decision about the direction to sail, were explained rather than shown.

The book contains constant references to other events such as Captain Bligh's sail after the mutiny on The Bounty and [Ernest] Shackleton's feat of delivering all twenty-seven men of his Antarctic expedition to safety.... There are also many references to Melville's Moby Dick throughout the book because that novel was inspired by the facts of this tragedy.

In the Praise for... section, there is a quote from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that says “the author takes the reader and makes him part of the crew.” I disagree with that, but I do believe this would be a good read for people who enjoy non-fiction, survivor stories.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Bloodroot by Amy Greene

BloodrootBloodroot by Amy Greene
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bloodroot is a novel that needs some tightening, but tells an interesting story. The best part of the novel is the feel for life among the poor in backwoods Tennessee. I listened to the audio version, done with six narrators who were all excellent. Some of that success is to their credit. The author knows the culture well and created Byrdie, who is a fascinating and loveable character.

The book is structured in three parts which center around Myra Lamb and her family. It is written in first person with each part having two narrators, Part one covers the time when Myra is a teenager living with Byrdie, her grandmother. Doug Cotter, one of her neighbors, spends many hours with her on the mountain where they live. He and his brother, Mark, have both fallen in love with her, but Myra's interest lies elsewhere.

Part two jumps forward in time and centers on Myra's twin children, John and Laura. Part three moves back in time to cover the period between one and two. I suppose Amy Greene chose to arrange the novel this way because it's mainly Myra's story and wouldn't have worked well if her part was effectively over when the book still had a third to go. But I believe Greene would have been better off dropping most of part two or just including the highlights in a few reflections toward the end of the novel. There were some interesting sections of part two, but most of it didn't add to Myra's story. There were also some loose ends that didn't get resolved along with a large number that waited until the epilogue to get their resolution.

I noticed in some of the other reviews that a few readers objected to a lack of characters they could care about. I didn't agree with that comment. Although most of them had issues, there were some wonderful ones, such as Byrdie. As the story progressed it became centered on an abusive relationship which spiraled down as the novel moved forward. This aspect was hard to read because it was very well written. Overall, the story held my interest and presented ideas I thought about after I was done.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

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Monday, December 7, 2015

The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler

The Long GoodbyeThe Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Long Goodbye is a book I should have read years ago. It was published in 1953 and has been very popular since it came out. Since most people who will read this review already know who Philip Marlowe is either from the books or the classic films, this will be just a brief reflection on my own impressions.

I love Raymond Chandler's style. He writes with detail and a rough attitude that is in most of the characters, but ultimately belongs to Marlowe because the book is from his point of view.

Here's a dialogue example:
“Talk it up. Who wants him?”
“The name's Marlowe.”
“Who's Marlowe?”
“This Chick Agostino?”
“No, this ain't Chick. Come on, let's have the password.”
“Go fry your face.”

And here's a narration example:
He handled the second slug with one hand. I did a fast washup in the bathroom and the bell of the timer went just as I got back. I cut the flame and set the coffee maker on a straw mat on the table. Why did I go into such detail? Because the charged atmosphere made every little thing stand out as a performance, a movement distinct and vastly important. It was one of those hypersensitive moments when all your automatic movements, however long established, however habitual, become separate acts of will. You are like a man learning to walk after polio. You take nothing for granted, absolutely nothing at all.

But it isn't just the Chandler style that appeals to me. His plot is complex and interesting. I had my theories as the book progressed. Most of them didn't turn out to be right, but some did. I like a detective story that's logical enough to figure out, but doesn't hit you over the head.

There were a few coincidences that weren't believable, I didn't like the way Marlowe met Terry Lennox in the beginning of the novel because they became too friendly too soon, and I thought it a bit implausible that there were so many drunken philanderers in Idle Valley. But those were minor gripes. This is a great book that everyone who likes crime stories should read.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

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Friday, November 27, 2015

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

BrooklynBrooklyn by Colm Tóibín
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book, but was disappointed by the ending and lowered my rating for that reason. There's no resolution to the only real conflict in the book. Eilis makes a decision and starts out on that path, but she's changed her mind before and might change it again. Also, we only get a chance to see how one person reacts to her decision and that reaction is both strange and limited. I skimmed through a few other reviews and discovered that there are people who enjoy a story that leaves its readers up in the air, but when so much is left to tell, I'm a reader who feels cheated.

Brooklyn is all about one character, Eilis, and all written from her point of view. She was born and raised in Ireland, but when she is a young woman she travels to America to find opportunity. Eilis draws conclusions about other people she knows, but often finds that her assumptions are wrong. Other reviewers have called Eilis spineless and it is true that she doesn't like to make her own life choices. Still, I would call her too nice for her own good rather than weak. She reminded me of Ado Annie from Oklahoma!, a girl “who cain't say no.”

I liked the focus on relationships in Colm Toibin's writing and the careful portrayal of Eilis' feelings, such as her homesickness and her jealousy of her sister. It's a beautiful picture of a young woman's life.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

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Monday, November 9, 2015

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Still AliceStill Alice by Lisa Genova
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are many different qualities that can make a novel wonderful. Some books introduce new ideas, some use careful, poetic language, and some describe settings so well their readers feel as if they've been on journeys. But Still Alice has the quality I consider the most important in a work of fiction. The characters in Lisa Genova's book are real enough for me to identify with their ambitions, joys, concerns, and tragedies. I have had a number of relatives and friends who have suffered with dementia and this fact helps me connect with the subject, but Genova's writing is what brings the people to life.

The book is about an accomplished woman, a Harvard psychology professor, who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease. Alice is an expert in linguistics, which makes the progression of her disease even more tragic. But the story isn't all negative. There's one important relationship in her life that improves as Alice is forced to learn to accept other people's opinions and to live in the moment.

Even though the book is written from Alice's point of view, it is about her friends and family almost as much as it is about her. Alice's ability to understand non-verbal communication grows as she loses her capacity to process language. In some ways this makes her a more attentive person, at least for a short period of time until she loses additional abilities. Here's a quote from a scene where Alice is watching her daughter, Lydia, rehearse a role in a play.

“Alice watched and listened and focused beyond the words the actress spoke. She saw her eyes become desperate, searching, pleading for truth. She saw them land softly and gratefully on it. Her voice felt at first tentative and scared. Slowly, and without getting louder, it grew more confident and then joyful, playing sometimes like a song. Her eyebrows and shoulders and hands softened and opened, asking for acceptance and offering forgiveness. Her voice and body created an energy that filled Alice and moved her to tears. She squeezed the beautiful baby in her lap and kissed his sweet-smelling head.
The actress stopped and came back into herself. She looked at Alice and waited.
“Okay, what do you feel?”
“I feel love. It’s about love.”

I loved the way I could feel what Alice was feeling. That process not only helped me enjoy the book, but I believe it will make me a better caretaker.

Recommending Still Alice is tricky, because some people who are or have been caretakers will benefit from seeing the process through Alice's eyes, while others will not be able to handle the emotions the story can reawaken.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Signature of All ThingsThe Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Signature of All Things follows the Whittaker family through two generations. The first portion is about Henry Whittaker and the second is his daughter, Alma's story. I found Henry to be interesting and Alma fascinating. They both want what they don't have. Henry, who was born to a working class family, wants riches and respect. Alma, who was born to wealth, wants love, companionship, and sex. Although both stories are complicated and have many different elements, I found that Henry's story reads more like an adventure, while Alma's reads more like a character study.

As a child, Alma is isolated. She was born in 1800, in Philadelphia, where her family has more land and riches than any other family. The other children in her area treat her with deference, so Alma has little to do with them. But she has a brilliant mind and finds solace in study. Alma doesn't have anyone she can call a friend until Retta, a young girl from another wealthy family, becomes her neighbor. The relationship between Alma, Retta, and Alma's adopted sister, Prudence is critical to how the plot unfolds. One of my favorite aspects of this book is how Alma's opinion of the other two girls changes over time. There are a few surprises and, since this portion of the book is written mostly from Alma's point of view, readers don't discover these until Alma does.

There are times when the discussions of botany may get a bit tedious for some readers. (I noticed this was a common complaint in other reviews.) But I listened to the audio version and found Juliet Stevenson's narration moved well enough to keep my attention throughout the long novel. This is an excellent choice for readers who enjoy historical fiction.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

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Saturday, October 24, 2015

My Father Moves Through Time Like a Dirigible by Gregg Cusick

The stories in Gregg Cusick's My Father Moves Through Time Like a Dirigible often reveal themes that aren't evident until the reader is well into the text. The title story is one of those, starting with an elderly man trying to convince a school principal to produce a play based on the 1925 wreck of the Shenandoah, an American blimp. Slowly, through conversations with the principal, the man's background is revealed and reasons for his interest in that tragedy become evident. Dozen Wheelbarrows is another work that uses a slow reveal to let the reader understand its theme. Cusick writes each story from the point of view of a limited number of characters and generally keeps to the present tense. He handles these techniques beautifully, providing an intense picture of his characters' thoughts, which wander and circle, but always wind back to where they need to be.

In Welding Girl, one of my favorites in the collection, a young woman uses the experience of learning a new skill to deal with her insecurities and with a family tragedy. The details of the welding process serve as a metaphor for her life in ways that are unique and fascinating. This story, like all the others, works on multiple levels that come together powerfully. Another story, Ghosts of Doubt, has a teacher, the main character, leading his class in a study of Joseph Conrad's Lord Jim. During the process he internally relates the pivotal event of his own life to the experience of Conrad's title character, losing himself in the power of that comparison while his students watch and worry.

Every story in this collection builds at a perfect pace and creates the intense, emotional impact that makes reading fiction so wonderful.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Dead on the Trail by Susan Williamson

Dead on the TrailDead on the Trail by Susan Williamson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dead on the Trail is a fun whodunit that becomes a great read due to the fascinating details of its setting.

The novel takes place on a horse farm run by Molly Lewis and her husband John. Molly is exercising her horse, Kip, on a trail partially owned by the couple from whom they rent the farm and partially by their neighbor. Molly's dog, Bingo, is following her when he senses something off to the side of the trail. It turns out to be a dead body. Once the victim is identified, he turns out to be someone who was almost universally disliked, which means there are plenty of people with motives. The police show up, but they are fairly useless, so it falls on Molly to investigate. All the characters are interesting whether they are friends of Molly, suspects, or police.

For the first part of the book Molly's husband is out of town, judging a horse show. Molly needs to take care of their farm while she looks into the murder. She's spending time cleaning stalls, feeding and exercising horses, dealing with sick horses, giving riding lessons, working on ways to increase the farm's income, and playing nursemaid to her landlord's troubled daughter, Sarah. All these tasks increase the pressure on Molly and the tension in the plot. Here's a sample of the detail:

First up was Betsy in a walk, trot canter class for riders 14-17. The practice show started with the more advanced riders in hopes that the horses would be tired and slow by the time the little riders came along. The classes were judged on the rider, not the horse, but a good horse always made the rider look better. Betsy was showing Honey for the first time. Honey, a former show mare, would be up for the class, the challenge would be to make her walk. Molly gave her a leg up and they went to the make-up ring early. The mare looked around, but settled quickly to work.

Most people who know something about the horse industry know it from the side of the customers. These are people who love animals, love competition, and love being outdoors. It's a pricey hobby, but one that can provide an escape from day to day stress. Dead on the Trail shows the horse industry from the side of the farm managers. These are people who have to learn how to market their lessons, their horses for sale, and their boarding facilities. They have to work hard, physically. They have to be willing to give up a horse they care about if someone offers the right price. And they have to understand horse health enough to call the vet when necessary, but not to waste money on calls that aren't needed. This is a 24/7 occupation, but these people wouldn't be in the industry if they didn't love the animals. They make sacrifices for that love.

Dead on the Trail is a perfect book for readers who like mysteries and horses.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Benediction by Kent Haruf

Benediction (Plainsong, #3)Benediction by Kent Haruf
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The main plot in Benediction by Kent Haruf is the story of Dad Lewis at the end of his life. He's been diagnosed with terminal cancer. We follow him through his last days. There are a few scenes about the indignity of dying from a debilitating disease, but the novel focuses mainly on Dad's reflections on his life. Dad has been a hard-working, successful man. He owns a hardware store with a few employees and has made enough money to be a good provider. He's been a good family man in his relationship with his wife, Mary, and his daughter, Lorraine. However, his son, Frank, did not turn out to be the exact son Dad wanted and this had led to a conflict. This is one of the two main issues Dad reflects on as he awaits his fate. The second issue is his treatment of an employee who committed a fireable offense. I don't want to discuss specifics in this review, but I can say that Haruf has not passed judgment on these issues. He's left that to Dad and to the book's readers.

The two other plots running through the novel are the story of a minister who seems to be either extremely moral or self-righteous, depending on one's point of view, and the story of a woman who has an affair with a married man. The characters within each of these plots interact, but their conflicts rarely overlap. I found that choice interesting and I believe it made the novel better.

Benediction has been called a “quiet” novel by a number of reviewers who look at its focus on small details. I think that's accurate, but I would add both “moral” and “self-evaluating” to the description. It's about choices, small and large, that sometimes go the way one expects, but sometimes take unusual turns. Whether the evaluating is done by a dying man, a man whose career is in a downward spiral, or a woman whose life hasn't gone the way she'd hoped, the process of appraising moral decisions after the results are known is fascinating.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

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Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

I count on Jodi Picoult to write books I enjoy and Leaving Time was no exception. The last one of her books I read was The Storyteller, which is my favorite so far, but this was also a good read. I thought the elephant anecdotes were a bit overdone because many of them made the same points about these beautiful animals (that they are loving animals with long memories, a sense of family loyalty, and an ability to grieve). Also, the novel's beginning was a little slow for my taste, but once relationships were established the story drew me in.

Jodi Picoult always has believable, flawed characters in her novels. Alice, Thomas, Gideon, Nevvie, and Grace all have substantial flaws that make them interesting and so do Serenity and Virgil. Jenna also has her flaws, ones that are common among teenagers. She acts in ways that disrespect her grandmother's authority and she is impulsive. It isn't her mother she seeks as much as it is the assurance that her mother always loved her.

Serenity is a psychic who has had some problems, but has a long history of using her abilities to help police solve crimes. Jodi Picoult treated her abilities with respect, something I believe is important in any story that has a paranormal aspect.

The elephant stories are fascinating even if they are a little redundant. These animals seemed to have the traits of dogs. (Anyone who has ever loved a dog will know what a compliment that is.) I was surprised by some of the points made in the book, specifically how clueless the wildlife caretakers were concerning the reactions of elephants to the culling of their herds. But I wasn't surprised by how elephants care about each other and have very unique personalities.

Overall, this is another interesting novel from Jodi Picoult.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Remains of the Day starts in the 1950s. It is the story of Stevens, a butler on an English estate owned by a rich American named Mr. Farraday. Stevens' position has become a parody of what it used to be. The staff of the estate is down to four people whose main purpose seems to be allowing their employer to show off. But that said, Farraday is a decent person. When he feels Stevens has been under too much pressure, he suggests that his butler borrow his car and take an extended tour of the countryside. Stevens decides to accept this offer because he wants to visit and talk to a former member of the estates' staff, Miss Kenton. He's hoping to convince her to return.

Stevens spends much of the time on his road trip, reminiscing about his past, mostly about the years leading up to World War II. During that time the estate was owned by Lord Darlington, a member of the English nobility who sympathized with the Germans because he believed that the Treaty of Versailles was too brutal. This belief allowed Darlington to be manipulated by the Nazis.

But the story belongs to Stevens, not Darlington. He is a butler who is the son of a butler, so his role is deeply ingrained. Stevens believes that a good butler subjugates his own opinions to his lord's opinions. Whenever he was asked to do something, he did it. It wasn't so much that he would do things he didn't believe in. Rather, he switched his beliefs to go along with whatever was requested. He becomes a master at having no opinions at all.

Stevens also becomes a master at avoiding answers to questions which may force him to express an opinion. This affects his relationships with people he encounters during his road trip and with Miss Kenton. This damaged, personal side of Stevens is what makes his character so fascinating.

The Remains of the Day is a wonderful character study and an excellent glimpse into a period of English history.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The stories in Jen Knox's After the Gazebo are eclectic, but unified in tone. They are stories of people who have been beaten up by a hard world, but have been left with a sense of hope. Sometimes the characters make bad decisions, but often these are tales of circumstances that build up and overwhelm. The subjects include topics such as substance abuse, the problems of aging, abusive relationships, raging storms, car accidents, and so many others. But the writing is character oriented with the focus not on what happens as much as it is on how it impacts the people.

Knox's writing style is wonderful. Here are a couple of first sentences:

From Disengaged:
The closest I've come to a passionate encounter in the last two decades was with Henry, and he died soon after we met.

From Types of Circus:
The last day I saw Michelle, she weighed 325.2 pounds.

Both of these sentences captured me as soon as I read them. In the first case the death draws me in. In the second the .2 pounds intrigues me. I could go on and on with examples of how Knox subtly and carefully holds her readers' attention.

Two stories in the collection are particularly intriguing because they may or may not be connected. These are Scratching the Silver and Lying to Old Men. Both are about a man named Rattle who has a one night stand with an underage exotic dancer. The first one is written from Rattle's point of view. The second is from the point of view of the woman. But the stories play out in very different ways, leaving me wondering if they are about two different men with the same unusual name and affair, or about the same man with two different dancers (she's named in the first story, but not in the second), or if this is a case of looking at the results of the same event with two very different choices. Knox placed Scratching the Silver early in the collection and Lying to Old Men late, so she wasn't pushing this connection. Still, if she did not want them to be considered as a pair, I believe she would have changed Rattle's name.

Both of the two “Rattle” stories stand own. In fact, according to the acknowledgments: Scratching the Silver first appeared in Per Contra and Lying to Old Men received finalist status for the 2013 Fulton Prize and was introduced in The Adirondack Review. But together they are even more powerful. Like all the stories in After the Gazebo they made me think and feel.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Street of a Thousand Blossoms by Gail Tsukiyama

When I started The Street of a Thousand Blossoms I thought I was going to have some issues with it. The characters seemed stiff and distant. My reaction might have had more to do with Japanese culture than with Gail Tsukiyama's writing, but either way it took me awhile to get to know and care for the people in her story. But I couldn't stop listening (I had the audio version of the book read by Stephen Park). The novel is filled with careful descriptions of aspects of Japanese culture, creating a picture of life in Japan during and after World War II that is fascinating.

Then, as I read further, the characters began to come alive. I read another review that criticized the novel for going on too long after the war, but I found the personal tragedies that occurred at the end to be the best part. The characters had interesting reactions to the events they experienced, which made me care for them.

The story is about two brothers whose parents are killed in a ferry accident, so they are raised by their grandparents. One of the brothers, Hiroshi, is a talented sumo wrestler. The other, Kenji, is drawn to make Noh theater masks. Because the brothers are both interested in careers that are important to Japanese culture, Tsukiyama can spend a great deal of time describing those pastimes. Sumo wrestling gets a little more space than Noh theater, which disappointed me a bit. But all the descriptions were interesting to me.

I had some trouble with the names. I don't speak Japanese, so the sounds didn't stick with me as well as English names would. Combine that with the fact that the author used nicknames, surnames, and titles as well as the common names for some of the characters and I was confused. But after I listened to the narrative for awhile, the story always straightened itself out.

I would recommend this novel to anyone who would like to learn more about Japanese culture, especially around World War II.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian tells the story of a high school age, Native American boy who is an excellent student and is advised by one of his teachers to leave the reservation. “You kept your hope. And now, you have to take your hope and go somewhere where other people have hope.” This means leaving his school to attend an all white school. Arnold (or Junior as he is called on the reservation) knows the teacher is right. The reservation school is underfunded and staffed by teachers who have low expectations for their students. So Arnold requests a transfer.

Sherman Alexie's novel takes an interesting approach to Arnold's situation. There are some anecdotes about his problems adjusting to his new school, but after a few uncomfortable situations, the students seem to accept him. The focus for Alexie is more on the reactions of Arnold's friends on the reservation. The students at his former school feel betrayed and sometimes react with violence. The problem with Alexie's choice is that the picture a reader is left with, is that the Native Americans are the ones who can't accept someone who wants to make his own way in life. Alexie must have realized this issue, because he started the Red Versus White chapter with the following excerpt:

You probably think I've completely fallen in love with white people and that I don't see anything good in Indians.

Well, that's false.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a YA book with a great deal to teach its readers about the struggles of Native Americans on reservations in today's world. Some of the issues were ones I was already familiar with, but learned a different perspective. Others were problems I hadn't realized existed.

I think this book would make an excellent source for a classroom study.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

I've never been much of a memoir fan, but I decided to read The Glass Castle because I've seen it on so many lists of great books. I thought it was an interesting read. This is the story of four children raised by a mother, Rose Mary Walls, who is self centered and optimistic to a fault and a father, Rex Walls, who is a drunk with big dreams. Jeannette Walls, the author and narrator, is one of those children.

I loved the way Walls managed to slowly move the story from quirky and fun to sad and pathetic. It could have been boring if it was just a simple list of bad parenting choices, but the story has a general arc that works. I also liked the connection between the children, in particular between Jeannette and Brian. They protect each other and support each other when nobody else is there for them. I also enjoyed the fact that aspects of the parents' issues could be admired, if they weren't so extreme. In her Acknowledgments section Jeannette Walls says “...grateful to my mother for believing in art and truth...” and “...to my father, Rex. S. Walls, for dreaming all those big dreams.” Their dreams were admirable. Their decisions to put their dreams over the needs of their children were not.

The one issue I had with the memoir was the way the children were portrayed. It did not seem as if they were looked at as critically as the parents. Maureen's flaws were pointed out, especially late in the book, but Lori, Brian, and Jeannette all seemed to have it together as much as possible. Even their problems, such as Jeannette's early fascination with fire, seemed to be a result of their parents' choices. The story is about survival, but I had trouble believing the children didn't have more of their own issues.

I can see aspects of Rex and Rose Mary Walls in people I know and judging by other reactions to The Glass Castle others make the same type of connections. This is what makes the character strong and I like to think it is what makes the memoir appealing.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle

I'm writing this review in July of 2015, so there is still more than a year before the next US Presidential election. The issue of people crossing into the USA from Mexico has already been raised and I assume will become a subject all the candidates will talk about, especially as we move out of the primary season and into the general election. This is the reason I chose to read The Tortilla Curtain. It is the story of two couples: Delaney and Kyra Mossbacher, a writer and a real estate agent who live in Southern California, and Candido and America Rincon, two Mexican nationals who have crossed the border illegally in hopes of working where the economy is better and, in the process, improving their lives. It was published in 1995, so some parts are a bit dated, but the main issue hasn't changed.

I skimmed through other reviews before writing my own and felt most of the people who didn't like this book were on one side or the other of the political argument. That's the trouble with writing about an issue such as this. But a writer's job is to make us think and I felt T.C. Boyle did a good job of showing the problems of both the couples and in the process showing both sides of the political issue. When the problems of a couple who are trying to protect their home and lifestyle are compared with the problems of a couple who are trying to find food and shelter, the latter couple's issues seem more serious. But the Mossbachers' problems are very serious as well and include more than one situation which could result in death. All four of the people at the center of this novel have their own dreams. The people also change as the story is told, making them all seem real and flawed.

The interactions between the residents of the development where the Mossbachers live and the Mexican immigrants is the core of the story. But it isn't the only issue. Some of the immigrants react in negative ways that cause additional problems for the other immigrants. And there are disagreements among the suburban home owners as to how to deal with the issues affecting their community.

I would recommend this novel to anyone who wants a better understanding of the border issue, but also to anyone who just wants to enjoy a good read.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

Monday, July 27, 2015

In Times to Try the Soul of Man Kenneth Weene takes the facts from two major tragedies/crimes that occurred in the New York area and links them through fiction, producing a well written page turner. The first crime involves political corruption and a scheme to build high rise condominiums on land that can't support the weight. The second I won't mention because it would be a spoiler. This novel includes murder, political intrigue, and lots of sex.

Nick, the narrator of the novel, has a few redeeming qualities. He's loyal and respects people with ethics, such as Jose Figurés, the president of the Lower East Side Latino Community Center. But Nick has some real issues. He has a lack of respect for women that verges on misogyny. He's drawn to them when masturbation “is just not enough” and his private nickname for the woman he seems to like the most is “Lard-Ass.” He's a reporter for a local newspaper, but hates his job and doesn't respect his boss (a woman of course). He longs for top level recognition (a Pulitzer) but doesn't like the process of writing. The book contains flashbacks to a horrible upbringing that explains some of his problems, but most seem to come from a lack of maturity.

Despite all of Nick's internal problems, the most serious issues he faces have to do with the corrupt and powerful people whose toes he has stepped on. Fortunately, he receives some help with these from Mo, a friend in the Mossad (Israel's version of the CIA). Espionage is what keeps the pages turning, but the best books are about characters who change and in this one we get to watch Nick grow. He has major problems and we're never sure how many of them he'll solve. That's what makes the book a great read.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

Monday, July 20, 2015

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See is a World War II novel primarily about two people. The first is Marie-Laure LeBlanc, a blind French girl who grew up in Paris and moved, with her father to Saint-Malo, a port city in northwest France that was bombed by American and British forces as part of the invasion of France. The second is Werner Pfennig, a German orphan who has an amazing ability to understand the workings of radios as well as an ability to track down transmitters, a skill that is important to the German army. The idea of a book about an orphan and a blind child on opposite sides of WWII sounds as if it might turn sappy, but it never does. Anthony Doerr never lets his characters feel sorry for themselves, disappointed at times, but never sorry.

I didn't understand Doerr's choice to tell the story in a non-chronological way, or I should say partially chronological. For a good portion of the novel the book was moving between three stories. The first two took place at the same time, the stories of Marie-Laure and Werner as children and teenagers. The third was Werner's story, set when he was a little older and part of the war effort. It was easy enough to follow these story lines and the chapters were often dated, so this didn't bother me. But I didn't understand the advantage, either. The one time the odd trajectory of the story did bother me was late in the book when a sergeant-major is looking for a house. From the perspective of the reader he shows up at the house before he discovers where it is.

What I loved about this book were the two main characters, especially Werner. He observed the people around him and admired the ones who deserved his admiration. His actions grew out of the type of person he was and the situations in which he was placed. I also loved the way Doerr added interest to his plot through the wartime setting, the curse on a jewel, and the use of radios as both weapons and lifelines.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

Thursday, July 16, 2015

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Gods is a long and complex book, a book where the reader's interpretation is as important as the story itself. There's a war coming, between the old gods and the new gods of technology. Religion is at the core of this novel, through both history and philosophy. I can't imagine a reader who doesn't have an opinion on that.

I listened to the audio of the 10th anniversary special edition. It's extremely well done, with a cast of readers. I would recommend this version, but with a couple of caveats. First, there are a large number of obscenities, especially in the beginning. It would not be appropriate to listen when small children are near. Secondly, the readers bring their own interpretations to the novel, so the audio can push a reader in a direction he or she might not have gone.

The story is about Shadow, a man who is just coming out of a three year stint in prison which he earned in a barroom fight over his wife, Laura. Circumstances limit Shadow's options and connect him with a strange character who calls himself Wednesday. Through this connection Shadow meets a series of people and gods who are choosing sides. Many odd things happen during the course of Shadow's journey. They can all be explained after some thought. I think this novel is best for people who enjoy that process.

Shadow's story is the main plot of the novel, but Neil Gaiman included a number of back stories of gods and the people who worship them. These seemed out of place at times, because I wasn't ready for a break from Shadow. But they made sense in the long run.

There are references to Christianity in the text, but no more than any other religion. When the god Easter plays a role in the story, this is the pagan Easter from which the Christian holiday took its name. The religions emphasized the most seem to be from Native American traditions.

American Gods is a perfect book to discuss after reading, so it would be a good choice for a book club.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Montpelier Tomorrow by Mary Lee MacDonald

Montpelier Tomorrow by Mary Lee MacDonald is a novel that should be read by anyone who has ever been, or will soon be, a caretaker. This is an honest portrayal told from the point of view of a mother whose son-in-law is diagnosed with a rapid form of ALS, a disease sometimes referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease where neurons fail causing different muscle groups to stop functioning. Eventually ALS patients can't do anything for themselves, including feeding and using the bathroom.

Colleen (the mother/narrator) leaves her home and her job to help her daughter. What makes this book special is the way her emotions and the emotions of the other caretakers are portrayed. It's one thing to hear that being a caretaker can make you angry. It is quite another to get into the mind of someone who has reached that state.

At one point in the book a substitute nurse speaks about PLC (Pathological Laughing Crying) which many ALS patients have. She says, “With PLC, there's frontal lobe involvement. They lose the capacity for empathy. Like sociopaths.” This was certainly clear in the way Tony (the patient) was portrayed, but at times it seems as if all the caretakers lack empathy as well. The relationship between Colleen and Sandy (the daughter/wife) is as important as Colleen's relationship with Tony. In some ways more important. Yet they both have difficulty understanding what the other one is going through.

This is a family where everyone seems to say exactly what is on their mind, but those thoughts never seem to be “thank you for what you do” or “I understand how hard this is on you,” which is why I think the single word “honest” is the best description of this story. Caretaking is generally one sided giving. Maybe, if the caretaker is lucky, the patient will be grateful or at least happy. Or maybe Karma is a reality and the caretaker will be rewarded at some later time. But quite often caretakers have a thankless job that is way too difficult to complete without mistakes along the way. They take on this task for one reason alone – love. This book shows real love, love that is often distracted by resentment and anger, but is always there.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

The Paying Guests is the only Sarah Waters' novel I've read so far. I intend to read more. I skimmed other reviews before writing my own and was surprised by the fact that the main criticism was that this book didn't come up to her others. I'm looking forward to those.

I felt the book took a little while to get going. But once the relationship between Frances and Lilian began, the plot took off. I suppose it's necessary to understand Frances' relationship with her mother, with Christina, with the memory of her brother, and, of course, with Leonard as she gets to know the new tenants, but I think the early parts could have been a bit shorter.

The descriptions are wonderful. They give us readers a clear picture of what is being described while also letting us know what the characters think about the items. Here's an example when Frances sees the dress Lilian will be wearing to a party:

She found Lilian's bedroom door ajar, and could just glimpse Lilian beyond it: she was at the mirror, dressed in a frock that Frances had never seen before, the frock that she must have made for the party, a striking thing of white silk with a gauze overskirt, and with slender shoulder straps that left her arms and upper back bare. She was pushing a gold snake bangle over her wrists when she caught sight of Frances; she paused with it part-way up her arm as their gazes met through the glass. But at once she looked away, lowering her kohl-darkened eyelids, sliding the bangle higher, And what she said was, 'Here's Frances. Doesn't she look nice?”

The language is captivating, the attention to detail is wonderful, and enough of what the characters are thinking comes through to be intriguing.

The world we live in today is very different from the world of 1922. I loved the way this novel has characters with a 21st century perspective living in an early 20th century world. I also loved the way some of the characters couldn't live up to their best intentions. It's what makes them human.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian has become one of my favorite writers. The Double Bind, The Sandcastle Girls, and Skeletons at the Feast were about topics as diverse as a horrible assault on a biker, the Armenian Genocide, and problems facing German citizens on the eastern side of their country as World War II ends. The latest one of his I've read is The Night Strangers published in 2011. This one takes another direction entirely. It's about Chip Linton, a commercial airplane pilot, whose jet crashes in Lake Champlain. Thirty-nine people die in the wreck, so his wife, Emily, and he decide to move with their twin daughters from Pennsylvania to New Hampshire to make a new start. The problem is they move to a place that has its own malevolent history.

Bohjalian has shown he can write historical fiction and he's shown he can weave his characters into the plots of other classic writers without losing a sense of reality. So it should come as no surprise that he can bring ghosts and witches into this novel while still having his readers believe in and care about his characters.

At its core this story is about Chip and Emily's relationship after they've suffered through a major trauma and their relationship with their daughters. It's about psychology as much as it's about paranormal events and that's what makes it a good novel. But there are some interesting aspects to their relationship with their new house as well:

The items that left Emily troubled were the crowbar, the knife, and the ax. She found their presence alarming and was relieved that it was she who had come across them, rather than Hallie or Garnet. She found the crowbar in the back of the closet of the second-floor bedroom that once had belonged to one of the Dunmore boys, a room that was going to be a guest bedroom now. It was upright in a corner and might merely have been there for years, forgotten. The knife was a carving knife with a pearl handle, and while the handle was discolored with age, the blade, though rusted, was sharp as new. Emily found it underneath a wrought-iron heating grate in the master bedroom – what was now her and Chip's bedroom – and she only noticed it because she was considering replacing the dingy black grille with something more attractive from a home restoration catalog And so she happened to spin the grate and there it was. Some of the metal latticework had been sawed off, allowing the knife to be slipped into place – and quickly removed. And, finally, there was that ax – a hatchet, really. She found it behind some ancient (and scarily toxic) cleaning supplies that Hewitt Dunmore had left underneath the kitchen sink. It was the length of her arm from her elbow to the tip of her finger.

Steve Lindahl – author of White Horse Regressions and Motherless Soul

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Ghosts and Trauma in Silence of the Dead by Simone St. James

Silence for the Dead is a ghost story mixed with a story of veterans suffering from PTSD at the end of World War I. Simone St. James' writing emphasizes the characters and the plot rather than the language, a great style for a good storyteller.

The novel is set in England in an era that was not easy for the average person. The soldiers that come back from the war with issues are hidden away. And that luxury is expensive, so it is only available to the men from wealthy families. Instead of compassion, society pushes shame on these warriors. But the military veterans are not the only ones who suffer from a hard culture. Kitty Weekes has nowhere to turn when facing an abusive situation. To survive she has to use her wits and her ability to lie.

The strong characters are the best part of this book. Kitty is impulsive, but caring, a wonderful center for the story. The other nurses have their quirks, but are also interesting and often caring people. Jack Yates, the lead male character, is a bit cliché at times, but I like the way their romance progresses. Some of the patients are wounded physically, but all are dealing with trauma as well as a situation that is unique to the hospital set up in Portis House, an isolated, old mansion that had once been luxurious but is now falling apart.

We live in a time of ongoing wars which makes post-traumatic stress disorder a current and important issue. The best aspect to this novel is how Simone St. James brought this out while telling an interesting story.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

Monday, April 20, 2015

Thoughts on Love, Sex, and Past Lives

My first novel Motherless Soul came out in audio form recently. Listening to the narrator, Michelle Haynes, has reawakened my interest in some of the subjects I touched on in that book. One of those is timeless, romantic love. In this case “timeless” means life after life.

The basic concept behind a belief in past lives is that souls return many times. A person's next incarnation will have different genetics (sometimes including race, gender, or even species), a different upbringing (generally including friends and community, as well as parents), but always the same core or soul.

Most novels based on past lives also include the ability to recall memories from other lives. Some works of past life fiction, such as David Mitchell's book, Cloud Atlas do not include that ability. But my two novels, Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions do. They use a hypnotist, Glen Wiley, to bring out those memories.

There must be as many different ideas about the connection between sex and love as there are couples on this planet. That's why there are so many types of relationships from open to monogamous. And it's also why people talk about finding a soulmate.

When writing a past life novel, there is an additional disconnect between love and sex because sex is physical and each incarnation of a single soul is different physically. Yet love is a connection between two souls. So it is possible for a couple to have their first sexual experience when they were physically different people. I love this concept because it makes readers (and writers) think.

In a radio interview on the internet radio show, Angels and Warriors, Kerra, the book reviewer, called Motherless Soul a “Journey of love through lifetime after lifetime.” (Click here to hear the interview.) I think Kerra's description is right on. I hope my readers do as well.

Click here to get more information about the audio version of Motherless Soul.

Friday, March 27, 2015

new ideas and fresh voices

Last night I watched the film Stuck In Love and was struck by how different the real world of writing is from the world portrayed in films. In that story a nineteen year old girl writes a novel with the editing help of her father who is a successful novelist (a winner of the Pen Faulkner award for fiction and the author of a best seller). She is frustrated by how much influence her father had on the final product, so she tosses the first book and writes a second in her spare time. She submits the book under a false name to be certain her father's reputation won't influence the response. The book is immediately picked up by Scribner (a major publishing firm known for publishing Hemingway, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Kurt Vonnegut, and others just as famous).

Yeah, right.

The truth is that the publishing industry has for years functioned like most of the other industries in America. Who you know was as important as what you wrote, possibly more important. Hemingway went to Europe where he could gain the influence of people such as Ezra Pound. If he hadn't done that, would his name be as well known today? It's impossible to know for sure.

Later, in the film Stuck In Love there is another first publication mentioned, this one based on a recommendation from a major author who knows the author's father. That example is much closer to the truth.

However, technology has changed the publishing industry. There are still major publishers and best seller lists. Readers who want the books that everyone else is talking about should get their “to read” lists from those places. But every year there are more small presses, some producing high quality work. Readers who want new ideas and fresh voices, should go to those sources when picking their next book.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Listening to Motherless Soul

People often label the process of writing a novel as a solitary task. But there are stages along the way when the task opens up in ways that are amazing.

I'm a member of a critique group that helps me find the sections that don't work as well as I hoped they would, so I can make them work. My wife is a great reader and also helps me polish the work. My publisher edits my work before bringing it out. And when it's read by people I know, I get the joy of discussing what they discovered in my words. All of those moments are fun.

And I just had another one.

The audio version of Motherless Soul was just released. It's read by a young woman from Florida named Michelle Haynes, who happens to have a lovely voice.

The process of creating this work was handled by my publisher, so I wasn't involved. But I listened to the entire reading as soon as I could. It's wonderful to hear someone take my words and make them her own. She always reads clearly and changes her voice for different characters in ways that are subtle, but effective. She puts emotion in areas that are different from the places I would have chosen, so it became a different story than it would have been had I read it. I love that.

I've never met Michelle, but I've shared a project with her and it's one that I take pride in. A sample of her reading is available on the Amazon site. Click here to hear then click on Sample.

Monday, March 2, 2015

New Blog interview and an upcoming reading

I'll be reading from my novels at Scuppernong Books in Greensboro on Thursday, March 5, 7:00 PM. It's a great place to hold a reading with a wonderful atmosphere as well as sandwich plates, craft beer, wine and coffee. Also I've just had a new interview go on line at Marina Neary's site -- Click here to read it.

March is starting out great.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Black Dwarf and 19th Century Literature

I reviewed The Black Dwarf by Sir Walter Scott this week. You can read the review here.

I thought it was a good story, but not a great one. I may try some of Scott's other works, so I can compare. Scott wrote a companion book to this one entitled Old Mortality which received better reviews. That might be a good choice.

There are coincidences in the plot and an ending that's a little too pat, but strong characters are the most important aspect of any novel and this book has a great one. In the introduction Scott explains that Elshie is based on a real man, David Ritchie, who "...was the son of a labourer in the slate-quarries of Stobo, and must have been born in the misshapen form which he exhibited, though he sometimes imputed it to ill-usage when in infancy."

My daughter is a huge fan of 19th century literature and has influence my taste. It's fun to step back into another era, which must be why Jane Austen is so popular.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Summerland and writing to a formula

Summerland by Michael Chabon is the book I reviewed this week. Click here to see the review.

Books that have target audiences of children from 9 to 12 always seem to be a bit formulaic and this one was no exception. There were mystical creatures, baseball games, and gooey, gross smelling things encountered along a journey to save the main character's father. The important things came through: Jennifer T. Rideout's empathy for Taffy, Ethan's love for his father, Thor Wignutt's feelings about being different, and others. But they weren't emphasized enough for my taste. Instead there always seemed to be another odd creature or another game of baseball.

I don't think writing to a formula is bad unless the human element isn't there. In the case of Summerland (and most other tween books I've read) the human element is a kid element. For this reason I gave the book a good rating (four stars) and wrote about the story's influences rather than the story itself.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Wink of an Eye and Thoughts on revising

I just reviewed Wink of an Eye by Lynn Chandler-Willis and was taken by how careful her writing is. (Click here to see my review.)

I took a workshop with J.A. Jance, another mystery author, about a half a year ago. Jance is very prolific, but I was struck by her response to a question I raised about rewriting. She writes a chapter then will revise it while working on the next chapter. Once she finishes that second chapter, she will never go back to the first. She keeps to that pattern as she writes and said she'd never finish her books if she kept going back. I like Jance's books. They are exciting and kept my attention, but Wink of an Eye includes more foreshadowing and never seems to leave questions unanswered.

Although my gut reaction to the issue of rewriting is that authors should do it until the work is perfect, that response is simplistic. The body of work produced by a writer is important and, given that assumption, how many books a writer produces is a factor. Comparing a prolific writer with a careful, exact writer is a bit like comparing a film with a TV series. There are qualities they share, but differences as well.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Time Traveler's Wife

Judging by the reviews of The Time Traveler's Wife, this is a book that is either loved or hated. My own review is available by clicking here: The Time Traveler's Wife. My reaction is mixed, but overall I fall in the "loved it" column. The idea behind it is worthy of five stars, especially the way Henry is so much older than Clare at times and not at others. To fall in love with someone when she's a child and have a relationship when she's an adult is romantic, but also a little creepy. It's been done before (for example: The Thorn Birds), but this book's time shifts cause the age differences to keep shifting as well. It is definitely a book to keep thinking about after finishing the read.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Goodbye for Now and Someone

The holiday season has kept me away from posting for a couple of weeks, so this time I'm sending out links to two book reviews.

The first, Goodbye for Now, is what I would call a science fiction, because the plot is based on the main character having programming abilities that are beyond the reach of today's programmers. But it is still realistic enough to be believable. At times it is fun, but at other times it is very serious. Laurie Frankel talks about grief in ways that would apply to anyone who has experienced a loss. People need to remember, even when the sensation is painful. Sometimes the memories can be addicting.

The second book review I've included in this post is for Alice McDermott's Someone. This book is beautifully written and does an excellent job of portraying the life of an ordinary woman in Brooklyn, NY. I loved the atmosphere and the poetry of the words. There are interesting relationships and interesting things that happen along the way as Marie lives her life, but the plot doesn't seem important to the writer.

These two books are as different as day and night, but I enjoyed them both.

Hope everyone has a great 2015!