Wonderless “Wonder”

Book Reviews, Random Musings

You’ve got to hand it to author Emma Donoghue. Crafting a novel based on the many cases of “fasting girls” reported across the world from the 16th to the 20th centuries is no easy task. These events wherein women and girls, often prepubescent, who claimed to live without food for months or even years. Whether it was anorexia, religious mania or entrepreneurial spirit that was driving them, they drew donations from curious visitors and fascination from doctors, scientists and priests, keen to discover if they could really be living on air, light or the love of God.

Sounds intriguing, right?

Too bad the story falls into a generic romantic dalliance between a well-trained, intelligent nurse (an underling of Florence Nightingale herself) and an overly ambitious reporter trying to crack the case of Anna O’Donnell, the local fasting girl. I fully support u-turns in narratives. I like being surprised by a characters unexpected flaw or a tragic event in their past. I’m even a fan of a surprise lost child or resurgence of a long since-considered dormant patriarchal figure. But when Donoghue veers her novel into a power struggle between a rigid nurses’ and her quest for love instead of focussing on the tragic tale of the fasting girl, I began to roll my eyes. And they kept rolling.

I’m sure I’m the only one of the few who’ve read “The Wonder” and didn’t like it. I’m ok with that. I think it’s cowardly of an author to fall into familiar and somewhat staid plot tropes to entertain the reader. If you’re brave enough to tackle a phenomenon entrenched in religion and superstition, then stick with it to the end.

Needless to say, I found “The Wonder” to be everything but wonderful. Cliched, tacky, and extremely regressive, Emma Donoghue’s newest novel gets no accolades from me.

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Some Thoughts on “The Lines of Union” By K.C. Bryce Fitzgerald

Book Reviews

It is a world you don’t ever want to live in, but it is also a world that is inevitable. Censorship is commonplace, omnipotent over freedom. Set only 7 years in the future, the world has become a mash up of apocalyptic suppression and simmering beliefs. Expressions of emotions are intense and sharp, and words are used like weapons.

In the superb “The Lines of Union”, author K.C. Bryce Fitzgerald ornately depicts a world that though different than modern day, is entirely familiar and believable. The novel’s opening immediately pulls in the reader with the descriptive representation of the books titular hero, John Herald. A man who is not so unlike other fictional characters that have come before him, John is wounded and torn. He is also beyond intelligent and driven to foster a world where politics can be used as a tool to unite the separate factions of the world, not to destroy them.

A Gift to Read “These Thy Gifts” By Vincent Panettiere

Book Reviews, Random Musings

Epic, uncomfortable, and, above all, important, “These Thy Gifts” by author Vincent Panettiere is a welcome addition to the canon of modern literature.

Told with an unabandoned ferocity that often does not accompany written pieces that deal with religion as its foremost subject matter, “These Thy Gifts” acts as a hybrid of the seriousness of literature and the whimsy of the human condition. Encompassing a period of 50 years, the books gifted author weaves a tale that is not only highly emotional, but extremely relevant to today’s world. With a tendency to act as both an omnipresent and intimate narrator, it’s clear from the book’s opening chapter (ominously titled “The Beginning of the End”) that the story that is to unfold before the readers’ eyes will be intense.

From a pedantic perspective, “These Thy Gifts” appears to have been written for the masses without losing its sense of affection for both the finely created characters or an all-too-familiar world. As someone who does not often review books that have religion and the institution of war as such a striking element, I was immediately engrossed by the author’s ability to weave the fine line of subtlety of the human experience to the contempt that so often follows the goings on of the Catholic Church.

Set in 2006 when the Catholic Church is embroiled in what appears to be controversy after controversy, the novel’s major character Monsignor Steven Trimboli is not only clearly affected by the tarnishing of his employer (so to speak), but also intent on fixing things that are within his sphere of influence. It becomes instantly evident that Trimboli is a deeply flawed but hopeful character. His interactions with the Catholic Church in 2006 act as a springboard to his life 50 years prior where Trimboli is doe-eyed and naïve, and fiercely intelligent.  The people he meets in his life act as the foundation for all of his future relationships, including the one he has with God.

Instead of writing a book that is knee-deep in dogma, the author of “These Thy Gifts” goes where the reader does not expect him to. The lens he chooses to wear is not steeped in ridicule or derision of the Catholic Church. Instead, he tackles the idea of Catholicism in America through an open mind, free of mockery. Atypical at best, Steven Trimboli’s long lasting friendship with a gangster’s wife and an extremely powerful tour of Vietnam as an Army Chaplain, sort of makes him not only incredibly endearing, but also incredibly real. He’s a hero you root for and wish the best for.

There is an inherent anger at the heart of “These Thy Gifts” that can perhaps be seen as one of the core flaws of modern society. Sometimes using religion as an excuse to act irresponsibly and kill in the name of a God, the violence, abuse and corruption that exist within many institutions of religion are coming to the forefront of the public consciousness. Here, the author really excels in enlightening the reader on the provocations of questioning the foundations of personal belief systems.

Yes, “These Thy Gifts” is a heavy read. The reader should expect as much by simply reading the book’s jacket. Where the narrative really shines is in the author Vincent Panettiere’s clear ability to share information without colluding it. The reader is encouraged to form their own standpoint on the many contentious topics written about in the book without being spoon-fed. It’s a talent to narrate without telling, and Pannetiere has clearly mastered it.

Pick up your copy of “These Thy Gifts” on Amazon @:

https://www.amazon.com/These-Thy-Gifts-Vincent-Panettiere/dp/1503199886

Learn more about the author and his other works at:

http://www.vincentpanettiere.com/index.html

 

 

Reading “The Inconsequential Child”

Book Reviews, Random Musings

We’ve all been there. Some of us have visited those dark places – those sensitive locales – more than others, but we’ve all at some time or another tasted the bleakness that accompanies the negative. What sets us apart from one another is how we handle the harrowing.

In the brave “The Inconsequential Child”, author Anthony Martino deftly but strongly tackles the emotional bellows that comprises the psyche. Presenting the reader with a stream of consciousness writing style, Martino writes with a sense of abandon that makes him endearing and vulnerable – a difficult combination to achieve.

The book unfolds like a moment in time. The reader quite literally is unsure what the next chapter will bring. What will Martino share with the reader now? What light will be shed on this courageous soul’s decision to share his true life?

You can’t change the past, no matter how hard you try. The facts that comprise the past are objective, but the subjective mind just won’t stop revisiting them, trying to alter the ultimate outcome. Martino attempts to overcome his vast emotional neglect as a child with his mature, adult mind and all of the resources that the young just don’t have. The book itself is composed of chapters that individually tackle lessons that the author has learned. Cumulatively, these lessons help to shed light on the constant quest for balancing one’s past with one’s present and future, and how the achievement of balance can be attained.

Sharp and enlightening, “The Inconsequential Child” might be the chronicle of one’s man’s psychology, but it’s the subtle complexities behind every carefully selected words that makes Martino a voice for us all.

 

Take This Walk: A Review of Creepy “The Road Cain Walks”

Book Reviews

It’s one thing to watch a horror film, and it’s a whole other thing to read one. Written words tend to spark something in the imagination that triggers such imagery that could never be recreated for the screen. This is precisely why I don’t tend to read them all too often (The Honorable Stephen King being the obvious exception). I’m glad, however,  I decided to read Matt Kilby’s “The Road Cain Walks”.

Tensely written, the novel is set in the picturesque, quiet and quaint town of Pine Haven, North Carolina. Seemingly out of nowhere and atypical of town behaviour, a horrendous murder occurs, giving instant infamy to Grady Perlson, convicted murdered and a complicated major character.

Perlson is serving his time at Starks County Prison, a place that certainly matches its namesake in terms of ambience and void of human empathy. Here, alone, Perlson suffers in reliving the awful tragedies of his past. But things around the world are starting to converge with Perlson’s despair. This is where the true horror of the novel comes into play.

The author cleverly denounces the typical horror trope formula wherein there is
a focus on one character, his or her horrific past, and either the continuance of horror or a redemption. Instead, the merging of inexplicable global events being documented by one ambitious psychologist who is trying to find an explanation to tie these apparently random events together. It is Joe Richard, the psychologist, who embarks the walk referenced in the book’s title. It’s both an allusion on the path of evil, and the quest for being understood.

Haunting History of the Barclay Hotel: A Review of J.M. Moore’s Work

Book Reviews

“The History of the Barclay Hotel: A collection of true short stories both epic and tragic” is an extremely interesting and well written piece from author J.M. Moore. As a whole, the book is a collection of the vast, sordid history of the Barclay Hotel, ranging from the structure’s historical past to its popularity amongst filmmakers as a set.

Immediately, I was entranced by the author’s approach to the depiction of the infamous hotel. Instead of presenting a straightforward historical retrospective of the location, J.M. Moore rather uniquely presents snippets of the past via newspaper articles and splices it with just enough back story to bring these isolated events in history alive to the reader.

Clearly, hours and hours of research was made into The Barclay by the author. Each carefully selected word is a veritable testimony to the historical facts that has befallen its walls. Is it haunted? Maybe. Have there been mysterious deaths and murders throughout the years? Uh huh. Is the novel riveting? OMG yes.

I have so many favorite parts, but the if I had to choose one, it would have to be the virtual tour of the hotel found at Barclay Hotel History.

You get chills from the stories that all of the walls speak.

 

Reading “Love’s Long Road”

Book Reviews
Nothing like an old-fashioned suicide to really mess up someone’s life? Am I right?

In G.D. Harper’s “Love’s Long Road”, the suicide of Bobbie Sinclair’s boyfriend leaves her in all kinds of despondency – and understandably so at that, especially given the fact that her now long-gone boyfriend blamed her for his final act. As a result, and only as a twenty-something can vow to do, Bobbie swears off love and decides to embrace a wanton lifestyle only in the PM hours. The ‘Day Time’ Bobbie is as boisterous and energetic as she was pre-suicide, but at night she turns into the epitome of debauchery.

As the reader continues through the book, it becomes very obvious that Bobbie cannot maintain this duality of existence, even if the book is set in the ‘anything goes’ sentiment of the 1970’s. Along her journey, Bobbie is thrown into some colorful situations, ranging from isolation to drug addiction, but author G.D. Harper eschews any propensity to making this just another story about a wayward girl on the arduous journey towards adulthood. Instead, alongside many cool cultural references of the 70’s, Harper craft a tale about the power of guilt and the long-lasting effects of young love.

Jason Tanamor’s “Drama Dolls”

Book Reviews

If you want to release a novel that maintains readers’ interests, it’d better have a LOT going on. Throw in a car chase, some crimes (both of the high and low kind), and some flawed heroes and you’ve got the key ingredients for modern fiction. Instead of losing his voice amongst conventions and familiarity, author Jason Tanamor puts a signature spin on a high-octane thriller and makes it both funny AND intense. Now that’s a combination that’s extremely rare these days.

A Review of the Sweet “Gingerbread” By Victor A. Davis

Book Reviews

Now here I go again, I see the crystal visions.  I keep my visions to myself.

Like the meaningful words sung by the legendary Fleetwood Mac, Victor A. DAvis’ “Gingerbread” is ethereal and born out of the dreams. Putting the essence of a dream into words is no easy task. In fact, it’s mostly an unsuccessful task. However, in Davis’ sinister reiteration of “Peter Rabbit”, it’s the chimerical imagery that makes this story better than your average re-imaginings.

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The plot has two friends, Edgar and Arainy, entering a candy factory under the pretense to steal some sugary gold. Despite reservations, Arainy accepts her friends’ challenge to get her hands on this candy, despite the looming threat of the ever-present Candy Man. One does not want to get caught by this being for reasons you can only infer.

 

Instead of becoming a tale of warning against crime and the inevitability of comeuppance, Davis’ weaves themes of guilt and the propensity to inflict pain upon another. There’s commentary on humanity and the balances that fatalism can bring, but also a presentation of style by an author that clearly knows his way with words.

Moving “Motions and Moments: More Essays on Tokyo”

Book Reviews

Adding to the burgeoning variety of reviews that Reading Other People has been posting, Michael Pronko’s refreshing “Motions and Moments More Essays on Tokyo” can best be described as a cultural reveal on one of the most fascinating parts of the modern world.

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The piece is collectively comprised of essays that brilliantly looks at fragments that, as a respective whole, help to identify and shed light on what life in Tokyo is really like. Instead of falling into the trap of focusing on the sensationalism of certain types of Tokyo life (I’m thinking the misappropriation by Americans of the Harajuku culture), Michael Pronko documents the many moving pieces of Japan’s capital city and sheds key insights and revelations into the ubiquity of Japanese living.

Among my favorites of the 42 essays is the state of cleanliness of Tokyo-ian construction sites where Pronko documents his experiences with the apparent constant state of cleaning in this mammoth city. In his words, it’s like Tokyo has been photoshopped for optimum beauty, including construction sites. Fascinating stuff. The author isn’t judging, analysing, or speculating here. He is merely an observer in a foreign country that operates on its own ideals and principles, and, simply put, is writing about what he sees without the rose-colored glasses that so often shades Western culture.