Tag Archive | love

Book review: The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry

The Map of True PlacesThe Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

After the suicide of a client, Zee Finch leaves her fiancé and her Boston psychology practice to care for her ailing father in their Salem family home. Very little drama ensues. Really.

Honestly, I didn’t see any point in this novel. I didn’t particularly like Zee (although I loved the fact that her given name was Hepzibah) or her eventual love interest, Hawk; the emphasis on navigating by the stars was weird and contrived; in fact, the whole of the story felt contrived and weird and and incoherent, like a series of set pieces linked together only because they involved the same characters. Zee traveled some small distance as a character, but in the end I felt she was little different from the wishy-washy human being that began the story.

Sophomore novels are often a let down after brilliant debuts. The Lace Reader was brilliant. This? Not so much.

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Book review: NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

NOS4A2NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“She breathed deeply of the scent of decaying fiction, disintegrating history, and forgotten verse, and she observed for the first time that a room full of books smelled like dessert: a sweet snack made of figs, vanilla, glue, and cleverness.”
~~~
Pause for a moment and ponder that quote.
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.
.
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I’d substitute cardamom for vanilla (because I’m not overly fond of vanilla), but otherwise, yes. This is what books smell like. Imminently satisfactory, is it not?

Charles Manx loves children. He wants children to be happy all the time. He seeks out special children so he can take them to Christmasland where, as you may have guessed, it’s always Christmas and children are always happy. Taking these children to Christmasland and leaving them there has the side effect of keeping Manx young and vigorous, but that’s merely an inconsequential bonus to Manx’s generosity of spirit.

Victoria McQueen, usually called Vic, rides her bicycle as an escape from her tense home atmosphere and warring parents. One day when she is still quite young, she discovers her bicycle gives her the ability to travel across a non-existent bridge and find things. She finds jewelry, and scarves, and photographs, and all manner of lost things. She tells the grownups cover stories about where she finds these items, and as she grows older, eventually comes to believe these stories herself. Because riding a bicycle across a non-existent bridge and coming out miles or even whole states away would be crazy, right?

On one of these excursions, Vic encounters Charles Manx. Manx recognizes Vic’s special talent and wants to take her to Christmasland. Of course, her talent will fuel his continued youth, but that’s not his primary motivation, of course. He has true compassion for Vic’s unhappy life and wants to alleviate her pain and suffering. Really, he means nothing but the best for these special children.

Vic manages to escape Manx. She grows up, grows older, has a child, endures multiple hospitalizations and medications (both doctor-ordered and self-prescribed) to deal with the trauma of her kidnapping and the constant murmur of voices in her head.

Then Charles Manx takes her son. And Vic must summon all her courage to go after him.

That’s the story. But this book is really about love. Vic’s love for her son and for Lou, the father of her son; Lou’s love for Vic and their child; Vic’s parents’ love for her, although she didn’t recognize such love until nearly too late; the sacrifices all parents make to keep their children safe; even Manx’s twisted version of love for the children he “saves”: all of it, every word of this novel turns on love in its many-splendoured and sometimes malformed manifestations.

NOS4A2 isn’t the best book ever, but it’s well worthy of the multiple award nominations it received and it’s certainly worth the time one spends delving into its nearly 700 pages.

Hint: Make sure you read to the very last page. Really. The VERY last page. Otherwise, you miss out.

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This book was read as part of the 2017 Award-Winning Science Fiction/Fantasy Reading Challenge.  Click that badge on the right to see what other participants have read.

Book review, sort of: Wizard and Glass by Stephen King

RIP 9 Peril the Second

Call this a testament to the reason I keep books I love and re-read them again and again.

1081372For R.I.P. XI, I intended to read, finally, The Dark Tower, the last volume of Stephen King’s epic Gunslinger* series.  I got 65 pages into it and realized I remembered next to nothing about its immediate predecessor, Song of Susannah.  Okay, let’s get that one down off the shelf.  41 pages into Susannah, I realized I remembered nothing about its predecessor, Wolves of the Calla.  I picked Wolves up, turned to the last few pages and recognized….nothing.

Oh bother.

So I went all the way back to Wizard and Glass, looked at its last few pages, shook my head in dismay and started at the beginning.  After re-reading the first section, the nightmare trip with Blaine the Mono, and reading enough of the middle section, the flashback to Roland’s teenage travels, to sufficiently reacquaint myself with the high and low points, I then skipped ahead to join up with the ka-tet once more, where they sit by the side of I-70 outside Topeka, after the end of Roland’s tale of young love, loss, and exile.  A quick trip to Oz later (read it: you’ll see what I mean), and now we’re back on the Path of the Beam.

I love Wizard and Glass.  I love it.  And I love it for all the reasons other readers of this series hate it:  that novel-length interlude where Roland tells the story of his trip West to the Barony of Mejis when he was 14 years old, where he fell in love for the first time, and how that love led to unexpected consequences and set his foot on the path that will lead inexorably to the Dark Tower.  I don’t want to say much more about it because of spoilers, but here’s the truth:  Roland is who he is because of that fateful journey and the story of the Tower couldn’t be told without it.

RIP 11This non-review was written for the R.I.P. XI Reading Challenge.  Click that badge to learn more about it.  You’ve got a few more days to join in, if you haven’t joined us already.

2016SFFChallengeAnd it’s also part of the Award-Winning SF/Fantasy Challenge.  Click that other badge to find out about that challenge.  You have until the end of 2016 to join in.

*Yes, I know, it’s really “The Dark Tower” series, but I’ve always called it the “Gunslinger” series after the title of the first volume and the mythic characters King brought to life.

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Book review: The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

The Book of Strange New ThingsThe Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Blessed are you, Simon bar Jonah…you are Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it.” Matthew 16:17-18, excerpted

Peter, a Christian pastor from England — denomination unnamed but probably Anglican or Methodist — is selected out of many applicants to go to a distant planet as a missionary. After much discussion with his wife, Bea, Peter accepts the challenge and rockets away to Oasis to preach the Gospel to the natives.

Upon arrival, Peter quickly makes the acquaintance of the Oasans, as he calls them, and decides to live among them to better deliver God’s Word daily, rather than stay at the human settlement and visit the Oasans once or twice a week. He commences leading Bible studies; he oversees the construction of a church; he starts translating the Bible, known by the Oasans as The Book of Strange New Things, into the Oasan language; and he begins losing all but the most tenuous contact with his fellow humans, even his wife. Meanwhile, Bea is sending increasingly frantic and frightening messages from Earth, where all Hell seems to be breaking loose.

Let’s talk about Peter for just a moment. A former drug addict and alcoholic, he turned his life around when he met Bea; he became a Christian under her influence, and not just a Christian but an ordained minister. His name is no coincidence: like Simon bar Jonah above, he became a different person when he met Christ, and literally built a new church in a new world, despite facing opposition and misunderstanding and prejudice on nearly all sides.

Allegorical characterization aside, this is not a “Christian” novel by any stretch of the imagination and non-religious folks should not hesitate to dive right in. It’s a fish-out-of-water story. It’s a do-the-best-that-you-can-with-what-you-have story. It’s a character study of a man under extraordinary stress. The parts of the story that focus on Peter’s missionary work aren’t intended to evangelize the reader: this is simply what Peter does and who he is, and his story couldn’t be told without discussing the teachings of Christ.

Michel Faber leaves a few dangling threads in his narrative. For example, it seems odd that USIC, the multinational conglomerate funding the Oasis expedition, would want a minister as part of their team until one discovers that the native population of the planet in question demands it, and is withholding the food supply from the humans currently on the planet until said missionary arrives. So, Peter as replacement is easily understood, but why was a missionary — specifically, a Christian missionary — included in the first place? That question is left unanswered. And the grim foreboding that seemed to be building up about the planet, its climate, and its natives, was left completely unresolved. The plot didn’t take the direction I expected, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it did leave me wondering if I had misinterpreted all that foreshadowing. The ambivalent ending left me somewhat dissatisfied, even as I realized there was no other way to resolve the storyline: thus, the three-star rating rather than a four-star. Regardless, writing and characterization were excellent, and for a non-traditional SF writer, Faber did a pretty good job with his world-building. While I still regard The Crimson Petal and the White as Faber’s best work, The Book of Strange New Things showcases his versatility.

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Love wins. Sing glory hallelujah!

Two friends got a marriage license yesterday.

They have been together for decades.  They’ve owned houses together, ran a business together, participated in their community and held responsible and highly visible civic positions; they contribute to charity and take part in fundraisers for local organizations; they have been upstanding citizens of their small Southern city and the very definition of the committed, devoted couple for all to see.

Photo copyright: The Hot Springs Sentinel-Record, 2015

Photo copyright: The Hot Springs Sentinel-Record, 2015

But they couldn’t get married.

Then, yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States decided they could.  And they hotfooted it down to the courthouse and managed to be the first same sex couple issued a marriage license in Garland County, Arkansas.  Take a look at those faces in that photograph.  That’s pure joy.

Congratulations, Alan and Joe!  It’s been a long time coming.  I expect your upcoming nuptials will be nothing short of fabulous!

Book review: Fated by S.G. Browne

FatedFated by S.G. Browne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Did you know that various immortals watch us at every moment? They do, and they report to God, who prefers being called Jerry, by the way. But they’re not supposed to interfere with us humans. In fact, Rule Number One is Don’t Get Involved.

Fate, however, has broken Rule Number One. He’s fallen in love.

Fate, who prefers being called Fabio, has grown tired of watching all of us screw up and wander off the paths he assigned us when we were born. This creates new work for him, assigning us each new fates, which we proceed to blithely ignore as well. Jerry damn that free will thing. But every now and then, Fabio runs into an individual whose path he cannot see. And when he runs into Sara repeatedly — by Chance, at first, and then deliberately — he knows she’s on the Path of Destiny, and he can’t see her future, but that doesn’t matter. In fact, it makes her even more appealing….

And so, there goes Rule Number One. Which subsequently leads to breaking other rules, such as Rule Number Five, Never Materialize In Front Of Humans, followed closely by Rule Number Six, Never Dematerialize In Front Of Humans. And so forth.

But it’s when Fabio breaks Rule Number Two, Don’t Improve Anyone’s Assigned Future, that things really start to get hairy.

The thing about Destiny is she’s a nymphomaniac.
The thing about Lady Luck is she has ADD.
The thing about Jerry is he’s omnipotent. But busy.
The thing about Gossip is…well, you know.

And the thing about S.G. Browne is he’s following in Christopher Moore’s footsteps, and doing a bang-up job of it. Which is why I hadn’t even finished this book before I went out and bought his other title, Breathers.

Many thanks to LibraryThing‘s Early Reviewers Club for the opportunity to read this book.

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Book review: In The Company Of Angels by Thomas E. Kennedy

In the Company of Angels: A NovelIn the Company of Angels: A Novel by Thomas E. Kennedy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Bernardo Greene is a survivor of torture. Michela Ibsen is a survivor of domestic abuse. In The Company of Angels is the story of their respective healing journeys, alone, and then together. Thomas Kennedy’s spare elegant prose touches lightly on their sorrow, their pain, but this light touch reveals the depth of their damaged lives, and the damaged lives of the people who surround them. Bernardo struggles in solitude, opening up slowly, in fits and starts, only to his psychiatrist, and only to retreat once again when he feels he has revealed too much, until a chance meeting with Michela elicits a moment of hope, and this moment is a seed in frozen soil, until the spring when it thaws and pushes its tender shoots out of the ground into the light. Michela, on the other hand, has a lover, has a father, has a mother, all of whom hurt and continue to cause hurt, whether intentional or by happenstance, until her meeting with Bernardo allows a solitary ray of hope to enter her dark existence, and she begins to find her true self beneath the layers of lies she’s accepted as truth. And in the end, no one is too damaged to find some measure of salvation, some measure of peace, even if it’s only for a brief moment of clarity.

This book received through the Early Reviewers Giveaway at LibraryThing.

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