Thursday, March 15, 2018

A Penny's Worth by Cynthia Austin

A Penny's WorthA Penny's Worth by Cynthia Austin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The main character in A Penny's Worth reminded me of the line “Hell is other people” from Jean-Paul Sartre's play No Exit. Sara is a weak woman, who struggles to assert herself throughout the story, but is defined instead, by what others think of her. Here's a quote from the point of view of the favorite mistress of Sara's husband:

Carmela rolled her eyes dramatically and fell against the sofa. “Here we go again with Sara's pathetic attempt to gain respect. Next thing you know, she'll be threatening all of us with the wrath of her big brother. Give it up already, Sara. Your style is stale.”

The trouble is, Carmela is right. Sara has trouble sticking with her goals, whether they are struggles for romance or for self preservation.

Before he died, Sara's father ran a successful strip club in Las Vegas, which is where she works now. She tries to act like the club's boss, but no one pays attention. Instead the club is run by her brother Luke and her husband Ezra. Sara believes they are both increasing the club's profit margin through criminal activities and she knows they are both partying regularly with the club's dancers, which seems to be common practice in their workplace.

Sara wavers between supporting her husband despite his wayward ways and wanting to leave him. These conflicting goals come out in strange ways, including bigoted language. Her husband is, in her thoughts, “a non-conforming Jew,” although he does know the religion well enough to understand terms such as “Shema Yisrael.” Sara fell in love with Ezra and married him. Yet she demonstrates a dislike of Jews in general through her language, by using terms like “The Jewish nymph” and “some Jewish floozy.” Also, despite wanting to leave her husband, Sara responds to the way Carmela flaunts her relationship with Ezra by proving she's all the woman Ezra needs sexually. She thinks of this type of inconsistent behavior as a reaction to “the roller coaster of emotions she was riding,” but it felt more like a personality flaw.

I liked the way Cynthia Austin used pop culture in her writing with references to things like “the Dos Equis man” and Margaret Keane's paintings. Those choices drew me into her novel. There were also some tense moments in the story that kept me turning the pages.

This book has adult themes and sexually graphic scenes.

Steve Lindahl – author of Under a Warped Cross, Hopatcong Vision Quest, White Horse Regressions, and Motherless Soul

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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Sister Witch: The Life of Moll Dyer by David W. Thompson

Sister Witch: The Life of Moll Dyer (Legends of the Family Dyer #1)Sister Witch: The Life of Moll Dyer by David W.  Thompson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Moll Dyer was, according to Wikipedia, “...a legendary 17th-century resident of Leonardtown, Maryland, who was said to have been accused of witchcraft and chased out of her home by the local townsfolk on a winter night... Stories say her spirit haunts the land, looking for the men who forced her from her home.”

David Thompson's book, Sister Witch: the Life of Moll Dyer, is written from the point of view of Moll, with a couple of chapters from her son, Zachary's, perspective. It begins in Kinsale in County Cork, Ireland, but moves for the majority of the story to Newtown, Maryland. (I assume this is the same place Wikipedia refers to as Leonardtown.) Moll is a typical young woman who makes the mistake of trusting the wrong person and is soon forced to flee her home. She joins her Uncle Sean, who has his own set of problems, on a boat headed to America. Here's an excerpt:

Her name was the Mary Regina, and she carried four masts with square rigging. With multiple decks below, she carried 120 tons of cargo. Uncle seemed impressed describing her, but Father said she was just a foreign galleon, and little more than a low riding carrack built for speed.

The scenes in America provide an excellent picture of life in the colonies, not only for the new arrivals, but also the Native Americans of the Conoy, Chaptico, and Susquehannock tribes. There's also a supernatural side to the story with spells and demons. I won't get into this aspect of the book for fear of giving too much away. Suffice it to say this makes the novel a fun read.

Steve Lindahl – author of Hopatcong Vision Quest, White Horse Regressions, and Motherless Soul

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