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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Humanity in the dark and in the light




When I read a publisher’s description about their books, I take it with a grain of salt. After all, the publisher is doing what they should be doing, which is promoting their book, so when I read Night Publishing’s promotional blurb, I shrugged it off. And then I read the book. Here is what Night Publishing has to say about it:
Once in every while a unique vision emerges without warning and without precedent, that follows no trends, is virtually impossible to copy, and that has a resonance that grows and grows until it risks taking you over entirely.
Such a book is 'Not a Man'.
At its core, it's the story of a ten year old boy, Shuki Bolkiah, who is so grossly abused that he will never grow up to be a normal adult human being.
But it is so much more than that …..
Firstly, there is the writing that is almost like a whispered prayer, a sacred text.
Then there is the abuser who really does love the boy he abuses and wishes to care for him forever.
…. and there is the country, harsh and magnificent, where deadly feuds spring from nowhere and many women are treated far worse than Shuki, ill-used and left to starve.
Finally, there is Shuki himself, so irresistibly beautiful, so vulnerable, so intelligent, and so deadly in his turn.”
I could write many more words about this book, but I won’t, other than to add these few comments: This is a very well-written book by an exceptionally talented writer, but it you are not likely to find it an easy book to read. Like life, some of it is very hard to bear. And finally, there are these words by the publisher that says it all: “This is not a man. This is not a book. This is humanity in the dark and in the light. This is hope.” Eloquently said, and very true.
“Not a Man” is an unforgettable book, and I give it a definite 5 star rating. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

A wonderful collection of stories by a masterful storyteller








I enjoy reading short stories, and Heikki Hietala’s “Filtered Light” is one of the best collections I have read in a long time. One of the things I find so magical about this author is his ability to tell a story, tell it well, and tell it in a way that the story and its characters linger. A wise old Sami shaman, an elderly priest in an English village during the 2nd world war, a haunted pipe organ, a boy and his imaginary friend (but is his friend really imaginary?), a Moroccan souk, in the skies over Germany during the war, a Russian peasant in Siberia during the early days of Stalin’s reign, and a small Finnish theme park in which one of the park employees has the last laugh. That particular story has one of the best laugh-out-loud lines in it that I have read anywhere. 
I could go on and on, but won’t. Pick up a copy of this collection of wonderful stories. It’s available in paperback and Kindle, from Pfoxmoor Publishing.
5 stars 



Saturday, March 10, 2012

A hauntingly unforgettable story of tragedy and love





J. Eric Laing’s debut novel, Cicada is a remarkable story of love, hardship, guilt and racial tension in America’s deep south. It is a page-turner from the opening scene all the way to the end. In the opening scene, farmer John Sayre sits in his truck with the barrel of a gun in his mouth. Should he kill himself or shouldn’t he? The scene is so cinematic that I could taste the oil and feel the metal of the gun barrel in my own mouth. One reviewer calls the book a “tense Southern Gothic page-turner”, which it is. Another says it reminded him of William Faulkner, one of the best writers around sixty years ago. It reminds me of Faulkner as well, yet it is far more. It is so real that I could hear the whir of the cicadas and feel the oppressive summer heat.
It is the story of a man who is guilt-ridden over his older brother’s death when they were schoolboys. It is the story of racial conflicts in a changing South, where some of the local Good Old Boys are active in the Klan and lynch a local black man “to teach them folks a lesson.” it is a scene so chilling that I still see and feel it. It is the story of changes in a small Southern town where traditions die hard. It is a story about a man’s love for his young son and his wife, and the affair he has with Cicada, a beautiful young black woman. Cicada will run you through the gamut of emotion, lifting you up and sometimes causing you to burst into tears.  it is the story of heartbreak and, justice and, ultimately, forgiveness told by a master storyteller. 
I see it as a major motion picture, a blockbuster of a movie that will linger. I hope Cicada receives all the attention it so richly deserves. I understand the author has several more novels somewhere in the pipeline. If they’re anywhere close to being as good as this one, we’re seeing the birth of a major American writer.
A definite 5 Star read.  


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A magical thriller




One reviewer writes that The Prodigal’s Foole is “X-men plus Harry Potter for adults”, which I think is pretty accurate. Instead of Potter, we have Symon Bryson, Father Bill, the twins Eden and Eve, Symon’s friend Aaron, a native American shaman named Janice, Father Peter, and Monsignor Charles DuBarry as the good guys, Symon’s old nemesis Cardinal Maguire as questionable, and a host of demons on the other side who have kidnapped the Monsignor, bringing Symon back from a ten year self-imposed exile in Dublin. To top it off, the FBI is involved.
What has caused all this havoc? That takes us back ten years to .... you’ll have to read the rest of this fascinating, fast-paced novel to find out. There is plenty of magic here, spells to cast and zombies and devils to dispose of. And a sequel in the works that I’ll be looking for. 

R. B. Wood is an excellent story-teller, and this is a wonderfully fast-paced read.
A clear 5 start for this one.