Wednesday, December 23, 2015

First Lines 2015


It's the most wonderful time, of the year.  Created by Melwyk from The Indextrious Reader, A Year in First Lines is a once-a-year, end-of-year meme.  The idea of this meme intrigued me right away.  The basic idea is "to take the first line of each month's first post over the past year and see what it tells you about your blogging year". 

As many of you know, I haven't been blogging much this past year.  In fact, I skipped a few months  completely this year (the first time since I started this blog), so those months will not have "first lines".  This year, I've added images from the featured posts.  (I truly have not been blogging enough! When did it become possible to simply drag and drop images, from my blog, onto my Desktop, and into new posts?  It's certainly easy. Way to go, Blogger!)

This is my seventh time to post this meme, which creates a unique collage or summary of your blog over the past year.  It reminds me all year long to try to write interesting opening lines.  Below are my "first lines" from the past year.  If you're interested in reading more, simply click on the month above them.




January
I am a master at slow reading.










February
It's time to give thanks.  Thank you, CoolText!
(I'm usually such a stickler--one line only-- but I included this second line because CoolText really deserves thanks and kudos.  I use CoolText to create original graphics quite often, including the First Lines logos above, and the Book Winner logo below.)




March
How do you entice a reluctant young reader?




April
Three may be a crowd, but it's also the magic number in this novel.




May
Pleasant Day is Southern fiction, published in 2015, the eighth novel by author Vera Jane Cook




June
These very hungry caterpillars are on a restricted diet.




July
(I didn't post.)

August
Finally!




September
(I didn't post.)

October
(I didn't post.)


November
Thanks, Amy!




December
Don't hate me because I'm a book blogger. 

 


My year in reading and blogging was, once again, quite eclectic, and as already noted, I posted rather infrequently.  I've cut back on book tours, but I'm glad I chose to participate in some, because that "forced" me to write up a few posts.  I enjoy this meme, and look forward to it all year long.  Please feel free to try it if the idea appeals to you as well.  Tracy from Pen and Paper also does this special meme, and she posted her brilliant First Lines recently.   

I do wish I had posted more often over the past nine months.  It's been harder to post now that I'm at the office full-time.  Perhaps next year I'll be able to post more frequently again.  Thanks very much for reading, and have a wonderful holiday season!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Nagasaki

Don't hate me because I'm a book blogger.  Like many book bloggers, I get a lot of books in the mail (if only there were more hours in each day, I could read more, and write more); a book on my stacks may not be read for a long, long while, even a book I truly want to read.  Additionally, after I read a book, I may not post about it, or I may not post about it immediately.  My posting has been sporadic for many months now.  This review is long overdue.

I read Nagasaki by Éric Faye in July, so I had to skim the book this week to refresh my memory in order to share some thoughts about it.  Éric Faye is a French journalist and the author of many books; this book was translated from French by Emily Boyce, but the book is set in Nagasaki, Japan.  It is based on a story that appeared in several Japanese newspapers in May 2008, and it has a distinct Japanese feel to it, so I think it qualifies as Japanese literature.  Thankfully, it's not too late to add my post to Dolce Bellezza's Japanese Literature Challenge 9.  I received Nagasaki in the mail over a year ago from Meryl Zegarek Public Relations.

If you take a good look at the book cover above (click to enlargen it), you'll see that the book is described as brief and understated (two qualities which added to its appeal for me) by L'Express, a French weekly news magazine headquartered in Paris.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I chose to read this mystery novella during the weekend that my daughter, Jasmine, was leaving for Japan, to teach English.  We headed up to Los Angeles together before her departure, and I brought along a book set in Japan, in her honor.  Nagasaki is just over 100 pages, so it was the right length to read in my sparse spare time that weekend.  (Jasmine told me quite recently that she went to a library in Japan that is near her.  Of course, this pleases me.)

Nagasaki centers around the main character, a 56-year-old, unmarried meteorologist, Shimura Kobo,  who lives a simple life in a modest house in a suburb of Nagasaki.  He is comfortable in his solitude. His neighborhood is safe, and he often left his front door unlocked.  His life has been ordinary and predictable, perhaps dull even, up until now.  Suddenly, he notices that certain things in his orderly house are missing, or have been slightly moved.  At least he thinks this is the case--he is not sure.  Shimura becomes uneasy.  He wonders if has an unseen, uninvited house guest, or if he's just imagining or forgetting things.  For example, there is less juice in the container (from the back cover : "Only eight centimetres of juice remained, compared to fifteen when I had left for work").

"I had new evidence that something really was going on, the third such sign in the last fortnight, and bear in mind that I'm a very rational person, not someone who would believe a ghost was popping in in to quench his thirst and polish off the leftovers."
Nagasaki, Éric Faye

Much of the book is written from the point of view of the main character.  Shimura's inner thoughts, his internal monologue, and his numerous questions are presented.  He doubts what he sees, and he questions what is happening in his house.  He's puzzled and repulsed by the possibility that a stranger, an intruder, may be living in his home.  Determined to solve this troubling mystery, Shimura sets up a webcam so that he can "spy" on his house while he's at work. 

Though quiet and contemplative, Nagasaki holds your attention firmly.  As I read this novel, I became entranced.  I imagined myself experiencing this odd scenario.  If I lived alone, I would be alarmed if I thought someone else was eating the food in my refrigerator, or otherwise using my personal stuff.  It would feel creepy.  As mentioned above, I skimmed the book before I wrote this post, and reread parts.  Now I want to reread the whole book again, slowly.  This thoughtful novella is beautifully written.  It is simply sublime.

Thanks to Meryl Zegarek Public Relations for sending me a complimentary copy of this book, and to Bellezza from Dolce Bellezza for hosting the Japanese Literature Reading Challenge 9.   It has been a joy to participate.  Although I've only read a handful of Japanese novels over the past few years, I've deeply enjoyed them.  I've also shared several with Jasmine, who's now able to read some of them in Japanese!

Thanks for reading!  I hope you are having a wonderful holiday season.  Your comments are a valuable addition to this post.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Her Lost Love

This is the most romantic book I've read in the series so far!

Her Lost Love is the fifth book in the Amelia Moore Detective series, a cozy mystery series by a very prolific author, Linda Weaver Clarke. This book features an attractive and successful lawyer in her mid-forties, Julie Anderson, who hires detective Amelia Moore to find her lost love, Joseph Yancey Witherbee.  When they were children, Julie nicknamed him "Joey".  They became great friends, and fell in love when they were older, but they lost track of each other during their college years, when Julie was studying to become a lawyer.  Twenty-four years have passed since they last saw each other!  Julie wants to try to find Joey before she agrees to marry her current suitor, Senator Fox.  

In Her Lost Love, Julie gives Amelia a bundle of her love letters from Joey, which may provide clues for the detective. 

"Please know that you are the only girl meant for me.  Believe me, Julie! I mean it from the depths of my heart."
 ~ Her Lost Love, Linda Weaver Clarke

His letters are quite passionate, and Amelia is touched by their romantic nature; this makes Joey's disappearance all the more puzzling; she wonders why he stopped writing to Julie, what has happened to him, and where he may be, if he's still alive.  With the help of her partner, Rick Benito, Amelia is determined to find Joey.  

There is plenty of good, "old-fashioned" romance in this cozy, which features lost love, love letters, and more.  Her Lost Love also focuses on the ongoing, growing romantic relationship between Amelia and Rick, who work together.

'I'll always be by your side, Amelia.  You can't get rid of me that easy.  So please do some serious thinking about our relationship.'
 ~ Her Lost Love, Linda Weaver Clarke 

These main characters show restraint rather than rushing into a physical relationship; Rick respects Amelia's feelings, and is willing to take it slow.  I enjoyed this book very much.  It's romantic and exciting, and the ending of the book is altogether perfect.  I look forward to reading the next book in the series, Mystery on the Bayou (although I cannot promise I'll read it in a timely manner).

Warm thanks to Linda Weaver Clarke for her patience with me!  Linda sent me this book several months ago, and has waited quietly for me to read it.  I also appreciate the patience of my readers.  For the past six months, I have featured numerous book giveaways here, but I haven't posted many reviews, although I've continued to read for pleasure.

As always, I welcome your comments, which help create brief, book-related conversations.  Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto


Thanks, Amy!  Several years ago, Amy, my youngest sister, urged me to read Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom, which tells the story of Morrie Schwartz, who was a college professor of the author.  I read it, and like many others, was incredibly touched by the book.  It is, I've learned recently, the bestselling memoir of all time.

Have you read any books by Mitch Albom?  If so, which ones did you enjoy the most?  I've read quite a few of them, including The Five People You Meet in HeavenFor One More Day, Have a Little Faith, and The First Phone Call from Heaven.  I reviewed Have a Little Faith and The First Phone Call from Heaven on this blog.  Obviously, I'm a fan of the author's work.  Books written by Mitch Albom take hold of my emotions, of my heart.  Naturally, I was eager to read an advance reader's edition of Mitch Albom's new novel, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, which will be released very soon, on November 10.


The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto is the story of a very talented singer and guitarist.  The book begins by noting the death of the main character, Francisco de Asisi Pascual Presto, known as Frankie Presto, who was born in Spain in the city of Villareal in 1936.  The novel goes back and forth in time to tell the story of Frankie's life, and the lives he changed with his music and his six blue strings.  The story is told by various narrators, including real musicians and singers such as Darlene Love, Roger McGuinn (the Byrds), Paul Stanley (KISS), Tony Bennett, and Wynton Marsalis, and by the most essential and prevalent narrator, Music.  It's a bold way to present the story, using the voice of Music, but it works because Mitch Albom is such a talented and creative writer (I also learned that he's a talented, lifelong musician himself).


"All humans are musical.  Why else would the Lord give you a beating heart?"
"Here is what I know of love.  It changes the way you treat me.  I feel it in your hands.  Your fingers. Your compositions. The sudden rush of peppy phrases, major sevenths, melody lines that resolve neatly and sweetly, like a valentine tucked in an envelope."
~ The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, Mitch Albom 

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto makes numerous wonderful statements about music (please note that the quotations above may change, as they are not from the final edition of the book).  Music is certainly one of life's great pleasures as far as I'm concerned.  The older I get, the more I appreciate (many different kinds of) music.  When I listen to music, I feel it deeply.

In addition to the music in this book, there's a wonderful love story, between Frankie and Aurora York, and there is more magic as well, sprinkled throughout the pages. And there are many "little touches" in this book that I enjoyed a great deal, such as a "cameo appearance" by Hank Williams (I adore his music). 

Like his other books, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto reminds us and inspires us to live with passion and purpose, and to love deeply.  Although it's fiction, there's some true history in this book, and many musicians and musical events, such as Woodstock, are depicted, in a realistic manner.  The author met with many of the musician "characters" in this book, and the result is an imaginative yet believable, thoroughly entertaining novel.  I LOVED this book!

Special thanks to Trish from TLC for including me on this tour.  For more reviews of this book, please visit the other stops on TLC's blog tour for The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto.  Thanks for reading!  Your comments are welcomed.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Wet Silence

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Sweta Srivastava Vikram.  I've read and reviewed many of her books, including: Because All is Not Lost, Kaleidoscope: An Asian Journey of Colors, Beyond the Scent of Sorrow, No Ocean Here, and her terrific novel, Perfectly Untraditional. When I discovered that she had a new collection of poetry, Wet Silence: Poems about Hindu Widows, published in July 2015 by Modern History Press, I was thrilled.  I couldn't wait to read it, and luckily, I didn't have to, because Serena from Poetic Book Tours asked me to participate in the tour for this book. 

This collection begins with an insightful and eloquent foreword  by author  Shaila Abdullah, whose work I've reviewed and also adore.  As Shaila says in the foreword, Sweta's poetry deals with the many faces of widowhood in India.  Shaila calls it a "startling account of Indian widows"--and I agree.  My knowledge of Hindu widows in India was scant before reading this book.  I've learned that in India (and in other places), when a woman loses her husband, she also loses many rights.  She is not allowed to remarry, to eat certain foods, or to wear colorful clothing.  Widows are supposed to wear white saris, remain celibate, and mourn for the rest of their lives.  According to Shaila, widows are "blamed for bringing death to the family's doorstep", and "shamed into silence".  Wet Silence features poems that depict the varying emotions of Hindu widows (and other women) in India.


Dear husband: try to leave your scent behind.

I know
your Old Spice on my pillowcase will drive me insane.
(from Ghazal, p. 8)


Some of the widows featured in this book loved their husbands and miss them.  Others are relieved when their husbands are gone; they'd lived in fear or loathing of their husbands, because the men were abusive or unfaithful.  According to Sweta, all of the poems are based on or inspired by true stories.  This makes them even more poignant. The women in these poems are telling the truth, which is often painful.

From a poetic standpoint, this collection is remarkable.  These poems are honest, profound, beautiful, and brilliant. They courageously depict compelling stories with dignity and grace, although many of them are disturbing.  I must admit that while reading this book I was often angered and saddened.  I tended to focus on the terrible ways that the men treated the women, and asked my usual question, "why?".  (Even if cheating is "merely" the byproduct of a greater sex drive on the part of men, it's still devastating to women, particularly to wives, who've often invested great time and energy into their marriages.)  Some of the women in these poems were stuck in abusive marriages. They suffered quietly. The  lines below are from the poem Wet Silence.  It's heartbreaking.


You dragged me by my throat,
I knew it wasn't the right way
for a husband to treat his wife.
(from Wet Silence, p. 47)


However, the women featured in Wet Silence are not asking for pity.  They are simply telling their stories.  They are simply speaking out loud.  And they are simply making themselves heard, maybe for the first time ever.  These poems break the silence.

The final poem in this collection is particularly powerful and positive and empowering to women, and is the perfect ending for this collection. 


Willpower

I am a woman
who can be left in a desert,
and I'll come back smelling of jasmine.

********************

In the YouTube video below, Sweta reads four poems from Wet Silence at the Queens Literary Festival: Craving you, What does a servant girl know?, Your wife, and A widow's confession. Watching the video is a great way to sample her work.



Please do yourself a favor and listen to this poetry reading when you have some time.  It's very worthwhile.  I've watched it several times.  Poetry should be read out loud, and hearing Sweta read her own poetry is a real treat.  Sweta is a talented writer, and she's an expressive speaker.  She also has great warmth and a sense of humor, even though the poems are serious in nature.  I enjoyed this video, and felt as if I were at the event.

********************


Thanks to Serena from Poetic Book Tours for inviting me to be a part of this tour.  For more reviews of this poetry collection, please visit the other stops on the tour for Wet Silence.  Thanks for reading! Your thoughts and comments are welcomed.
Willpower, a poem, originally appeared on page 50 in Sweta Srivastava Vikram's poetry book: Wet Silence (Modern History Press: July 1, 2015. ISBN-13: 978-1615992560)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sunday Salon: Back at Last!


Finally!  I am back after my longest yet posting hiatus.  I've been reading, but at a relaxed pace.  The past few months I've been extra busy with my family and work, so I took a much needed break from blogging this summer, although I did visit other blogs, and posted numerous book giveaways hosted by others.  Anyway, I've had a good summer, and I hope you have, too.  I spent a lot of time with my eldest daughter, who is now in Japan. We went on many morning runs together, and she also helped out at the office.  Our time together is priceless to me.  My younger daughter will be leaving for college soon, so I've also felt the need to spend time with her, although she's often out of the house, making the most of her summer with friends who live nearby.

********************

Reading Nagasaki

Last month, I read Nagasaki by Éric Faye.  I chose this novella to read during the weekend that my daughter was leaving for Japan.  I plan to post a brief review of this book for Dolce Bellezza's Japanese Literature Challenge fairly soon.

I also read The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Meyers recently, which I enjoyed a great deal.  I'd read so much about this book, and it was even better than I thought it would be.  I'm "friends" with the author on Facebook, which is very cool (Facebook is great in some ways).  How times change!  This type of communication or connection is still pretty remarkable to me, because when I grew up, it was a huge deal to have any contact with authors.  Many years ago, my younger sister, Amy, wrote to Maurice Sendak, and when he wrote her back and included an illustration, it was an exciting event.  I can't speak for the whole family, but my sister, mother, and I loved his work, and I still do.

********************


This is my first Sunday Salon post. Thanks for tuning in with me!  I hope to post a review soon. :)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Really Random Tuesday #95: Very Hungry Caterpillars and a Book Winner


These very hungry caterpillars are on a restricted diet.  Yesterday morning, I was pleased to find many caterpillars feasting on my milkweed plants, their only source of nutrition.  They devour the plants, which become quite bare after a while (though the leaves will grow back for future larvae, as long as the plants get some water).  A couple of years ago, while I was reading Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, I became keenly interested in monarch butterflies, as the book features them prominently; at the same time, my sister-in-law, Kristine, was posting on Facebook about monarch butterflies and her milkweed plants.  I was intrigued, and found plants for my garden from a local nursery and from Home Depot, and I also purchased milkweed seeds.  I  grow milkweed in pots now, though, because many of the plants I'd put into the earth would mysteriously disappear after a few days.  I learned at the nursery that gophers were probably stealing the milkweed I planted in the ground, pulling them underground by their roots.  Anyway, the hungry caterpillars start out as adorable, tiny creatures, and grow larger and plumper as they eat.  They're a bit cartoonish, as if they belong in a Dr. Seuss story, but some of them will form exquisite chrysalises, and the most fortunate ones will become beautiful monarch butterflies.

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Please help me to congratulate Pat from Posting For Now. She's won a copy of The Antigone Poems, a collection of poetry by Marie Slaight, with illustrations by Terrence Tasker.  Many congratulations, Pat!  I hope you will relish this book, which features striking poems and drawings.  Thanks to everyone who entered this giveaway.  Please stay tuned for more giveaways, which I list on the right side of my blog.






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Appearing on random Tuesdays, Really Random Tuesday is a way to post odds and ends--announcements, musings, quotes, photos--any blogging and book-related things you can think of. Often I announce my book giveaway winners in these posts.  If you have miscellaneous book news to gather up and are inspired by this idea, "grab" the button for use on your own blog, and add your link to the "master" Mister Linky on the Really Random Tuesday page.  Thanks for stopping by!  Your comments are welcomed.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Aoléon: The Martian Girl - Part Five

Published in 2015, Aoléon: The Martian Girl (Part 5: The Great Pyramid of Cydonia), written and illustrated by Brent LeVasseur, is the final part of this series.  This last Aoléon review is also a general, wrap-up post of sorts, as I have read each of the five parts of this middle-grade sci-fi series.  Although I am not really a huge fan of ebooks, I didn't mind reading them on my iPad mini, computer, and phone.  In fact, it kind of felt like the right way to read them given the futuristic nature of the stories, and the colorful graphics looked fantastic on each of these devices.   


Part Five is of course a continuation of the other parts of the book (each part of this story should be read in order).  It begins with Chapter 20, and features three action-packed sections: The Great Pyramid of Cydonia, Sphaira, and Terra Firma.  Like the other parts, it's fast-paced, and will hold the attention of readers of all ages.  Not surprisingly, there are plenty of imaginative obstacles and challenges (such as sentrybots) when Aoléon, Gilbert, Helios, Bizwat, and Zoot travel to Cydonia, where Aoléon's parents are being held captive.  Gilbert and Aoléon have a special, two-fold mission: they need to rescue Aoléon's parents, and they must also save the Earth from invasion by the Luminon and his destructive forces.  They meet Pax and make some important discoveries in Part Five.  And of course, at the end of the book, Gilbert needs to return home to Earth, to Terra Firma, which will mean parting from his lovely, blue-skinned friend, Aoléon, the Martian Girl.  She is solid proof that an "aoléon" can be friendly. ;)





What a terrific series!  The length of the parts of each book is just right for young readers.  There's a helpful glossary of scientific terms at the end of this book.  The vibrant graphics are incredible and add a lot to the story.  All in all, I enjoyed this series very much.  Many thanks to Laura from iRead Book Tours for sending me each of the parts of this ebook, and to the author as well, for writing this fun sci-fi series!  For more reviews, please stop by iRead's book blog tour for Aoléon: The Martian Girl (Part Five).  Thank you for reading!  Please feel free to add a comment to this post. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Antigone Poems: Review and Giveaway

"I was born to join in love, not hate--that is my nature.”
~ Antigone, Sophocles


The Antigone Poems is a collection of poems written by Marie Slaight between 1972 - 1981, which was published in 2014.  This collection is a poetic interpretation of the Sophocles tragedy, and the poems are loosely based on the Greek myth of Antigone.  The author dedicates this book to Terrence Tasker (1947-1992), whose charcoal drawings are featured in this poetry collection.


Antigone, a Greek tragedy by Sophocles.  Hmm...  I looked in my bookshelves because I wondered if I still had a copy of Sophocles: The Theban Plays.  I did (complete with some of my in-book notes and scribbles).  This is the description on the back of my book, a Penguin classic: "Antigone is the tragedy of a woman ruled by conscience, an over-confident king, and a young man tormented by conflicting loyalties".  I read some of the erudite introduction by E.F. Watling, then parts of the play, Antigone, in my tattered volume, to reacquaint myself with this ancient Greek tragedy by Sophocles (496 - 406 B.C.).  In the play, the female protagonist, Antigone, is tormented because she mourns the death of her brother, Polynices, and wants to give him a proper burial, which defies the order of the King of Thebes, Creon, an offense that's punishable by death. 


Divided into five brief chapters, the poems are accompanied by several charcoal drawings by Terrence Tasker, which are interspersed throughout the book.  The drawings are quite remarkable.  Together, poems and pictures depict emotional torment, physical anguish, and spiritual darkness.




Many of the poems in this book are short and sparing; they're bold and dramatic, and they deftly delineate an original, poetic portrait of a woman's severe suffering, pain, and heartbreak.  I think the author chose Antigone as a symbol of struggle and agony, which may be meant to represent the universal or collective suffering of women.  

Gypsy shackle sacred.
Wrists bound in blood.
Chains
Burnt in anguish
Of daemon ancestry.
(in Chapter Two)

The poems are deceptively simple yet evocative, and the art complements these qualities.  Often the poems are very short and sparing, like this one in Chapter Four. 

...gods speak to the wind and winds whip through me...

The look of this prose on the page is quite stark and dramatic.  A handful of words make their appearance on the right side only; they pierce and provoke.  Pages on the left are blank; the sparsity of words makes this work even more profound and disturbing.




Although short, The Antigone Poems is a powerful and profound collection that deserves to be read, relished, and reread.  This would be a great choice for readers with an interest in both poetry and Greek tragedy, although you don't need to have extensive knowledge of Antigone to understand this work.  Altaire Productions & Publications and TLC  are generously offering a copy of this striking volume, The Antigone Poems, as a giveaway to one of my readers (U.S./Canada only).

  • To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment.
  • For another chance at winning, become a follower of this blog, or let me know that you're already a follower.
  • For an additional chance, post about this giveaway on your blog, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.
  • For yet another chance, mention if you've read Antigone (even if it was years ago, like me).

Enter by 5 PM PDT on Monday, June 1.  One winner will be selected randomly and announced on Tuesday, June 2.  Good luck! 

Special thanks to Lisa from TLC for sending me a copy of this book.  For additional reviews and other features, please visit the other stops on TLC's book tour for The Antigone Poems.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Pleasant Day

Pleasant Day is Southern fiction, published in 2015, the eighth novel by author Vera Jane Cook.  I chose to read this book because I'm drawn in by the idea of this geographical genre, which has captured my imagination.  This story is set in a small town in South Carolina, Hollow Creek.

This novel is the story of Pleasant Day, a girl growing up in Hollow Creek.  Fifteen years old and pretty, she is starting to be noticed by the teenage boys in town, including Angus and Bodean.  Pleasant's very close to her father, who she loves in spite of his imperfections (I thought less of him, because he cheats on his wife), and would like to feel closer to her mother, Martha, who seems to favor Sawyer, Pleasant's handsome, older brother.  Pleasant has just learned that her one armed best friend, Millie Grady, has been killed, and that the girl's dead body was discovered  in the box-spring mattress of her friend, John Peter Clottey.  Pleasant is very distraught.  She doesn't think that John Peter killed her; she thinks he's a gentle and sensitive boy, who wouldn't hurt a fly (or kill a frog without undue anguish), and desperately wants to talk to him to find out what happened.

"I wanted to see John Peter real bad, get the story straight from the horse's mouth about poor Millie Grady's dead body showing up in his box-spring.  He'd never paid any attention to her.  He wasn't one of those goons that made fun of her either."
~ Pleasant Day, Vera Jane Cook

Soon after receiving the news about Millie, Pleasant is riding her bike on a summer day when she crashes into sixty-year-old Clarissa Blackwell, not far from The Fine Fettle café in Hollow Creek.  Clarissa notices Pleasant's strong resemblance to her goddaughter, Chloe, who had been killed many years earlier.  Clarissa possesses some unique psychic abilities, and senses that this meeting is somehow meaningful.  This is the beginning of a relationship between Pleasant and Clarissa, and a very absorbing novel.

Pleasant is a terrific protagonist.  Smart, sensitive, and sassy, she cares about people, and she cares about knowing the truth.  She's determined to find out what happened to her friend, Millie, the girl who was killed.  In chapters headed by the names of the characters, the book is told in the first person by Pleasant, and also in the third person by Clarissa (there are a few other characters as well who are the focus of other chapters, toward the back of the book).  Pleasant Day is full of dialogue between various characters, informal and believable dialogue which seems natural, written the way people really speak (it includes some cursing).

This book held my unwavering attention.  It is charming, funny, and altogether fabulous. As I read Pleasant Day, I tried (unsuccessfully) to figure out who killed Millie (and there is another mystery that comes up as well).  The book features flawed characters and "messy" relationships, and has many references to sex, and violence, including bullying and murder, so it's most appropriate for mature readers.  Many of the characters are likable, including Pleasant and Clarissa, who share a love of literature.  Initially somewhat wary of Clarissa, Pleasant becomes more fond of her after she learns that Clarissa is a retired English teacher; they play Jeopardy with literature as the subject (this will resonate with readers as well).  Members of the Day family, Clarissa, the neighborhood boys, and other characters, are brought to life by the author's brilliant writing.

Pleasant Day is definitely a:

page-turn·er

(pāj′tûr′nər)n. Informal
A very interesting, exciting, or suspenseful book, usually a novel.
(From The Free Dictionary)

This was my first book by Vera Jane Cook, but it will not be my last.




Thanks to Teddy from Premier Virtual Author Book Tours for sending me a complimentary copy of Pleasant Day.  For more reviews and giveaways, please visit the other stops on Vera Jane Cook's Pleasant Day book tour.  Thanks for reading!  Have you read any books by this author?  I think I want to read The Story of Sassy Sweetwater next.  Your comments are welcomed.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

For National Poetry Month: The Robot Scientist's Daughter

Created by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, April is National Poetry Month.  During this month, schools, libraries, poets, bloggers, and others in the U.S. celebrate poetry in a variety of ways.  I'm doing my very small part to help keep the art of poetry alive, posting just in the nick of time (like last year), near the conclusion of National Poetry Month, with a review of The Robot Scientist's Daughter by poet and writer Jeannine Hall Gailey.



Jeannine Hall Gailey served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington.  She's the author of three other books of poetry, Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, and Unexplained Fevers.  She started writing her fourth book of poems soon after she completed her second book, She Returns to the Floating World, because the disaster at Fukushima occurred during the week that her book went to print, which was an impetus for her work.

"I'm waking up to ash and dust
I wipe my brow and I sweat my rust
I'm breathing in the chemicals. . ."
~ Radioactive, Imagine Dragons

She also reviewed EPA reports from her rural hometown of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, known as "The Atomic City", and thought about how her own exposure to toxic waste has affected her health over the years.  Oak Ridge was a production site for the Manhattan Project of 1942, the massive operation that developed the atomic bomb, and scientific development is still an integral part of the city's economy and culture.  Additionally, she wanted to write about the influence of her father, a robotics professor and researcher, and about his contributions to science in the nuclear field. 

In the interview I received along with this book, the author says that The Robot Scientist's Daughter is her attempt to create a fairy tale from her autobiography.  Published in 2015 by Mayapple Press, Jeannine also says that it's her most personal book to date, and she calls the composite character "The Robot Scientist's Daughter " a sci-fi version of herself.  (Many of the poems include the words "The Robot Scientist's Daughter" in their titles, and then a word or phrase in parentheses.)  Although the title of this collection is certainly unusual, in all of the poems, the poet describes herself, and her experience, in a clear and compelling manner.  These poems possess style, substance--and science.  She describes the white-tailed deer, catfish, and other creatures, as being full of hot particles (microscopic pieces of radioactive material that can become lodged in living tissue), and her background in science is evident in this work in countless ways.  These poems create vivid images of the effects of radiation, which are terrifying and touching.  Through her work, she wants to raise awareness that nuclear research is never harmless.  Overall, The Robot Scientist's Daughter is a startling, commanding, and beautiful collection of poetry.  Her use of language is exquisite and extraordinary.  Here's a poem I found particularly powerful.


The Robot Scientist's Daughter (Polonium-210)

is a tightly-controlled molecule.
Sometimes she threatens
to explode into antimatter,
to shatter the equilibrium.
Other times she teeters at the edge of decay, a half-life
of skin and soul.  Shake her if you will:
you don't want to stand too close.
She is extremely unstable.  She is toxic;
inhaling or consumption can lead to death.
She is considered fairly volatile.
She can be contained within paper.
She glows bright blue.  She is a showstopper.


This poem is one of my favorites in the book, although I could have easily chosen a different one, as many others are equally affecting and potent.   This collection of poetry is truly a profound "investigation of the beauties and dangers of science and nature", about "a girl in search of the secrets of survival", who loves life and discovers glimmers of hope ("nevertheless, there were violets to pick"). These poems touched me deeply, and made me more aware about the environmental, ethical, and social perils of nuclear power. 

Many thanks to Serena from Poetic Book Tours for sending me a copy of this book and the intriguing author interview.  For other reviews and features, please visit the previous stops on Poetic Book Tours' blog tour for The Robot Scientist's Daughter.  Comments welcomed.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Really Random Tuesday #94: Spring Garden Notes, and a Book Winner

"No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow."
~ Proverbs

I know that winter was pretty harsh for many of you.  At last, the lovely season of spring is here!

"I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden."
~ Ruth Stout  
Outdoor Orchids

Many herbs grow in my garden, in pots as well as in the ground, including:


Mexican Sage

Lavender

Thai Basil

Rosemary

"There's rosemary, that's for remembrance."
~ Hamlet, William Shakespeare

Pleased as punch: a few cherry tomato plants that I'd forgotten about (because I planted them in a new, out-of-view spot) thrived on my neglect! 

Cherry Tomatoes

What's  growing in your spring garden?

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Congratulations to Julianne from Outlandish Lit!   She has won The Tusk that Did the Damage by Tania James.  Julianne, I hope that you'll enjoy reading this book, which features an unusual narrator (one of three), an elephant called the Gravedigger, as mentioned in my review. 







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Appearing on random Tuesdays, Really Random Tuesday is a way to post odds and ends--announcements, musings, quotes, photos--any blogging and book-related things you can think of.  I often announce my book giveaway winners in these posts.  If you have miscellaneous book news to gather up and are inspired by this idea, "grab" the button for use on your own blog, and add your link to the "master" Mister Linky on the Really Random Tuesday page.

Have a terrific Tuesday!  Thanks for stopping by. Your comments are appreciated. 

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