Wednesday, September 28, 2011
“Edge of Extinction” is a charmer. A story about a hidden Indian tribe in Brazil’s Amazonian jungles is interesting enough. The fact that it is led by an unusual young man named Kianda Mala (”Mala” meaning “man” in the Chachinka language), the son of an English woman and a large monkey, makes it not only a unique story, but an unusual one. In most societies, an infant with a long, prehensile tail would be immediately killed as a demon. In this community, he is not only not killed, he is elevated to the position of Chaka (monkey god), and becomes the principle leader among his people.
This idyllic scene comes to an end when people begin dying, babies are born dead, and Kianda Mala discovers many dead fish floating downstream in the river that is their source of food and water. Seeking answers, Kianda Mala and two friends head upstream. Answers they do find, but they do not come easily. One of the men is shot to death, Kianda is captured, and the third escapes.
What becomes of Kianda Mala and his people? What do his captors make of this strange young monkey man? Surely such a being cannot be ... yet he is. Finding out what happens to Kianda Mala, his people, and the polluters is an adventure you won’t want to miss. Heart-warming and at times poignant, it is one of the most enjoyable adventure tales I’ve read.
A definite ***** read.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Arizona writer Harvey Stanbrough's two little books are gems. Set in Mexico in tiny villages.
The Cycle of Ramon tells the story of a young man named Ramon and his sweetheart Maria Elena. You know from the book's cover that this is a lament, for there it says "sometimes letting go just isn't possible." The story itself begins like this: "The world had been sad for three days. The sky wept steadily, softly, the water drip, drip, dripping from limbs and leaves of trees and eaves of houses, trickling into rivulets and streams that whispered their way east, to the ocean. There was only the overcast and mist and rain, but no thunder. Only the gentle pattering of drops that seemed almost to hush each other as they washed houses and fences and gardens and roads and paths. Only the cool, mute darkness" of a young widow's grief.
And that is what pulled me in, and will pull you in, too. From childhood, Ramon and Maria Elena have known each other, and from childhood Ramon has known in his heart that she one day will be his wife and the mother of his children. And then something awful intervenes and you are with her in her grief.
~ ~ ~
Stories from the Cantina are what you would expect from the owner of an old cantina in a tiny village most anywhere: tall tales about people and strange happenings, people passing through, a strange young man named José Dominguez de Silva and his wife Eufemia, both the 13th child of a 13th child going back for 13 generations, their 13th child, whom his mother curses at his birth with the name "Maldito" meaning cursed, damned, chastened by Divine justice and (if those are not bad enough "the Devil"). Little Maldito is a most intriguing little boy: sensitive, bright, an outstanding artist. I think we can expect to hear a lot more about Maldito from the pen of Harvey Stanbrough; he is one of the most fascinating characters I've encountered in a while.
Published by StoneThread Publications, 2011. Available from Smashwords www.smashwords.com and Amazon www.amazon.com
Very definite 5 star reads.
Monday, September 19, 2011
If you’re looking for a delightful, romantic read that can be read in a day, this is a very clear choice. Set in England in the time of Angles, Saxons, Danes and invading Vikings, it is the story of a young Angle woman named Aelfwyn and a red-haired Dane named Ragnar, their clandestine love affair and their eventual wedding. It’s also the story of uneasy relations between Aelfwyn’s Angle community and a nearby community of Danes, whom they accuse of stealing their eligible women. And it’s a story of a murder, with Ragnar as the accused.
But did he do the dastardly deed. Aelfwyn doesn’t believe it, and neither does Ragnar’s best friend Bjarni. But who did, and what is the outcome?
As with every romance novel I’ve reviewed, the sexual scenes are explicit ... and very well written. “[L]onging accompanied them, shadowing them like a spirit;” not only very well said, like the story itself, it lingers in one’s memory.
Delightful book. A very definite 5 star read.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
“I was reminded of where I was once I heard the soldiers making noises in the yard of the camp.
Another day in Helmand.
“My senses opened hesitantly yet again to the mud-ceilinged room, and my heart seemed to lose all is saddened beats ...”
So begins Shah Wali Fazli’s remarkable novel about the life of an Afghan interpreter assigned to American soldiers fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. He knows well what he writes about, as he was once one of the interpreters about whom he writes so eloquently and with such sympathy.
It is not, as they say, “a cake walk.” It is a nightmare, especially when the main Taliban group you’re fighting is led by a man known as Mullah Dozakhi, a killer with a personal vendetta of hate against you because you once bested one of his men in a karate match in Kabul. What kind kind of person is this Mullah Dozakhi? “He had lived his entire life dealing out retribution, death and destruction. How could he stop all that? [He] had built a reputation for destroying other people’s lives. Why should he stop now?” And he is out to kill you and your American friends.
Having read Khaled Husseini’s The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, and Ahmed Rashid’s Taliban, the story is a familiar one. Schooled in a doctrine soaked in resentment and hate, the Taliban are poisonous. But so are the warlords, many of whom dominate the Karzai government in Kabul.
The Interpreter is a book I won’t soon forget, and neither will you. Very well told, it is a book to treasure. I left it knowing the bond that exists between soldiers and their interpreters and between the interpreters who do such dangerous work. I have a lot of respect and admiration for Shah Wali Fazli for writing it, and for Night Publishing for publishing it so that we can all read it.
A definite 5 star read.
Friday, September 2, 2011
If you enjoy a well-told story that sucks you in, grabs you by the heart strings and has you holding your breath and gripping the armrests of the chair you’re sitting on, The Last American Martyr gives you all of that and more as the protagonist flees across America trying to evade those who want to kill him. In one particularly hair-raising scene, he drives into a huge Texas tornado hoping to hide under an overpass that was so real I could hear the roaring of the storm.
How did he get himself into such a mess? “Had I, an unemployed doorman, never written that book, my life wouldn’t have taken such a harrowing turn. Had it not sold so well I wouldn’t have needed to be on the lam like I have for so many months now. But I did write my book, and I’ll pay for that until the last shovel of cold dirt is dumped over my grave. ... On the other side of the coin, the words I strung together did have at least one positive effect. They seem to have broadened the ... world’s perception of selfishness and greed.” And enraged those who felt threatened by it and set out to kill him.
The story opens with a hermit named Darius McClure which, it turns out, isn’t his real name. His real name is Thomas Soles, Vietnam veteran and the author of the book in question. What was his crime? Telling his readers why their jobs have vanished, their dreams dashed, and who is responsible. (Think this is pure fiction? It isn't. A blogger I follow recently published an article suggesting that billionaire's ought to pay higher taxes. One of his readers called him "scum" and unsubscribed his posts.)
When Tom and his wife return to New York City from Oslo, Norway where he’s received a Nobel Prize in Literature, then find a grisly mess in their apartment. It gets worse from there as they set out across country trying to evade the posse, his wife is killed in a “hunting accident”, and Tom ends up as a hermit named Darius McClure living in a trailer home outside of tiny White Pine, Maine. Or does he end up there? That question still has me smiling. I think the answer is pure writing genius.
Tom Winton is one of the finest new writers of popular fiction on the market. His debut novel, Beyond Nostalgia, is one of my favorite novels. In my opinion, he’s one of the best.
A definite ***** read.