Monday, July 25, 2016

The Truth about Fragile Things

The Truth about Fragile Things
Regina Sirois
Create Space Publishing Platform
Amazon Digital Services
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-1505407600
2016
$ 14.95
308 pages

"I'm here to forgive you.  It wasn't my idea---to forgive you.  
It was my dad's."
What has made you fragile?  What event in your life left you so scarred emotionally that you could break?  That feeling as if you are made of glass is terrifying for each person, always wondering when you will shatter.
For Megan Riddick, she carries the memory of her two-year-old self. As a toddler, she was following a butterfly when she ran out onto the road in front of an oncoming vehicle.   Miraculously, a man pushed her out of the way, giving his life for hers.   The guilt of his death and hers being spared still hangs on her like an albatross around her neck.
Megan is a junior in high-school and enjoys being the prize of the drama department.  She loves becoming someone else.  That is much easier than being herself.
Her life changes when a new girl enrolls at her school. This new girl glares at her.   Why would this freshman show Megan such contempt?
Charlotte Exby is the daughter of the man who died saving Megan's life.  As a lowly freshman, she is scared of nothing.   It's obvious that she blames Megan for her father's death.
What can Megan do?   
The Truth about Fragile Things excels in characterization.   Having a character burdened with guilt as a teenager shows an authentic protagonist who feels as if she were the antagonist.    Learning to forgive others and yourself is an issue every human being struggles at some time in their lives.  How does anyone move beyond the guilt and learn to take chances, have fun, to feel the joy of living?
Besides guilt, Megan along with the other characters learn about the value of trust and developing friendships that last a lifetime. 
Through great examples of maturity with solving problems, each character views life through their individual perspective learning how best to become the person they each dream of becoming.
Due to these overlapping themes, this book is appropriate for all ages, having no inappropriate scenes or language.  The intended audience is for eleven to eighteen-year-olds, but every reader can easily find this a novel, a gem.
Regina Sirois has previously written the novel, On Little Wings while currently residing in Kansas with her family.
The Truth about Fragile Things is a phenomenal journey of a teenager but for readers of all ages.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Dream Lover

The Dream Lover
A Novel of George Sand
Elizabeth Berg
Random House Book
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-081299152
2015
$ 28.00
368 pages

"There is only one happiness in life, to loved and to be loved."
George Sand was of the few women throughout history who followed her dreams and desires without consideration of society's rules.   She liberated herself at a time when females were considered property.   She wore trousers, left her children, wrote books that were admired even by Balzac, lost her inheritance to her husband when she divorced him, how could this person survive in the world of France in mid-1800s?   This woman who wrote under the name of a man while living with her personal standards and not society's.  I was curious about any woman who held Chopin spellbound.
George Sand was born Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin but usually was called Aurore. Her mother had been beautiful attracting the attention of many men.   Unfortunately, she was not of the class of people of her father creating animosity between her mother and grandmother.
Living in the French countryside, she grew up as a daughter of privilege.  Her father came from a well-respected family who fell in love with a beautiful woman.  Aurore was the result of their marriage.
Aurore's  mother was not well accepted by her husband's family, especially after his death.  While her mother pursued a new life in Paris,  Aurore lived with her grandmother.
Although brilliant and rebellious, Aurore married a man who gave her the expected status of prosperous French wife.  Quickly she became the mother of a son, Maurice and a daughter, Solange.
Aurore quickly learned that she was given a brilliance mind with her gift for creating realistic characters in her writing which completely opposed her life as a wife and mother.  Added to that was her daringness to write what no other female had ever written even pushing her contemporaries to higher levels.
"It is expected that people who are not artists might not understand the need for one to immerse oneself totally in one's work, but it also sometimes happens that other artists feel no compunctions about interrupting, or in feeling slighted that one's attention is not focused on them first and foremost.  What jealousy can be inspired by a person's singular devotion to something the other cannot share!  It was a concern for Liszt, I knew, who had once confided to me that it was difficult to play the piano with a woman's arms around his neck."
George Sand changed literature with her writing while at the same time influencing much of the writers of her time and memorably, her time with Chopin.
"Music is limited, too: to the power of the instrument, to the power
the musician's imagination, to one's ability to let go of conscious thought in favor of an unseen power."
The Dream Lover is a fictional account based on George Sand who and her with her rebellious attitude socially, even being accused of a lesbian relationship, who strongly influenced the world through her writings.   Elizabeth Berg beautifully captures both the objectivity of this larger than life personality along with her beautiful gift of writing.


Lethal Boundaries

Lethal Boundaries
S. M. Senden
Dagger Books
Second Wind Publishing
Kernersville, North Carolina
ISBN: 978-1-938101-46-5
2013
$ 14.95
279 pages

"You cannot save the world and you cannot go back and change what has already been done.  All we can do is go forward and hope to see there will be some good to come of all this tragedy."
These are wise words for any horrific event.
The year was 1912 in Red Oak, Iowa when a young girl met her lover in an abandoned theater to confront him about her troubling condition.  Yes, she was four months pregnant and planned on forcing the boy to marry her.   Unfortunately, the boy had other plans since he was promised to another girl from a wealthy family.
More than twenty-five years later, the theater is now a hardware store with the upper floors abandoned. Only the main floor is used to occupy the hardware store.
Paul Newberg is an idealist eager to join in the impending war in Europe.  He dreams of heroic actions and is frustrated with Canada joining the Allied forces whereas the United States is remaining neutral. 
Paul enters the store in a bad mood.  He had been arguing with his father about whether or not America should enter the impending challenge.
Mr. Milledge, the owner, quickly recognizes the situation and wisely send Paul away from people for another, somewhat useful task.  He has considered expanding into the upper level and sent Paul upstairs to evaluate the possibility.
What Paul discovers is a dead woman's remains from years ago.
This death changes many unfortunate lives twenty-five years later.
Lethal Boundaries is a journey into 1912 with the present day being 1939.  S.M. Senden is masterful at placing the reader into this time segments in Red Oak, Iowa.  The laid-back Andy Griffith-like character of Lieutenant Nigel Lockhart even following him to his home and allowing the reader just a glimpse at middle America before the U.S. entering World War II.  
S. M. Senden currently lives in the metropolitan area.  She is currently writing a series involving a forensic artist, Dr. Kate Ahston, a series in the fictional city of Lemmington, and historical murder mysteries.
Lethal Boundaries is appropriate for all adult readers.  It has many short chapters which make reading easier for those with very busy lives. 
Senden's writing is magical.  She has the masterful gift of weaving words into a coherent and addictive manner of a legendary storyteller.  
Unquestionably read Lethal Boundaries by S. M. Senden.




Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Maestro Wore Mohair

The Maestro Wore Mohair: A Liturgical Mystery
Mark Schweizer
St. James Music Press Books
Tryon, North Carolina
ISBN: 978-0-9844846-8-3
July 2015
$ 13.95
206 pages

"The Maestro was a terror: a choral genius with an AA, a BME, an MME, a Ph.D., and a DMA in conducting from Florida State, which is not a diploma mill.  I don't care what they say.  The letters trailed after her name like educated baby ducks, waddling advertisements of her brilliance.  When she sneezed ( as she often did, being allergic to Eric Whitacre) all the letters flew out her nose and nearby singers gleefully wiped them up with bath towels and sold them on eBay.  This case was coming together like two things come together and make one thing, and there you have it, one final thing. "
These are the words written by Hayden Konig on his old 1939 Underwood typewriter that was once owned by the legendary Raymond Chandler.  Among his many artistic gifts, he writes these almost undecipherable short mysteries to keep his choir members entertained during the sermons on Sunday mornings at St. Barnabas Episcopalian Church in St. Germaine, North Carolina.
Hayden is the police chief of a small law enforcement department in this little Southern town.
St. Germaine does attract one unusual crime.  Murder at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church.   To prove it, he has a loaded gun hidden in the organ bench.
A skull is discovered by two teenaged boys.   One of the boys picked it up, brought it home and even ran it through the dishwasher before placing it on his bookshelf, still having hair hanging off of it.
It would still be there if the other boy hadn't revealed the discovery to his prayer group at St. Barnabas.
Logically, law enforcement went back to the site to reveal most of the skeleton. The local doctor decided the body had been killed about thirty years previously.
How do you solve a thirty-year-old mystery?  The first thing is to identify the body and to figure out what life was like during that time.  With diligence and patience, the police of St. Germaine always solve their cases.
The Maestro Wore Mohair is the thirteenth no.vel in Mark Schweizer's Liturgical Mystery series featuring Hayden Konig and the community of St. Germaine.   Yes, I have read every one of these musically based mysteries.
The author, Mark Schweizer is a musician, composer, author and publisher while residing in Tryon, North Carolina.  He earned a Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Arizona.
Throughout the years, the characters have grown and aged, similar to real life, so it is not a good idea to read these books without understanding the characters.  I highly recommend, to begin the first one in this series, The Alto Wore Tweed.
Part of the reason I enjoy these books is the interweaving of musical history, a light mystery, characters who are unusual and memorable enough to feel like family and I care about how they have changed,  superb choral and organ music suggestions, humor all gathered into a reading event that is fun.

Station Eleven

Station Eleven
Emily St. John Mandel
Vintage Books
Penguin Random House
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-0-8041-7244-8
Trade Paperback
2014
$ 15. 95
352 pages


"I'm talking about these people who've ended up in one life instead of another and they are just so disappointed.  Do you know what I mean?  They've done what's expected of them.  They want to do something different but it's impossible now, there's a mortgage, kids, whatever, they're trapped...You probably encounter people like him all the time.  High-functioning sleepwalkers, essentially."
And so it begins.
How often is the world we live in one step away from annihilation?   No, not a comet hitting the Yucatan peninsula, but one choice, one small event or virus that could change the way we live.
Have you ever seen an actor who left a lifetime impression on you?  For Kirsten Raymonde, that person is Arthur Leander, who is a famous Hollywood actor.  Unfortunately, she remembers Leander having a heart attack during a production of King Lear. 
That same night was an unlucky night for many.  As Leander is dying, many are just receiving a flu bug that will quickly become a global pandemic, ending the world as we know it, leaving alive only 1% of the global population.
After twenty years, Kirsten is part of a traveling group of actors and musicians sharing their art with the chosen ones who have survived.  Life has changed substantially in twenty-years, deteriorating from a global world of communication and travel to basic day-to-day survival with the influence of a prophet.
Station Eleven is the fourth novel written by Emily St. John Martel and was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Pen/Faulkner Award.
Station Eleven is about the people in how they interact in attempting to rebuild civilization.  The idea of sharing music and theater in a survivalist society provides a bit of hope and light in this dim post-apocryphal tale.
The characterization in Station Eleven, I found hopeful with these diverse people who are often shallow to incredibly deep while learning to rebuild humanity, transportation, civilization, and a sense of belonging.   The importance of being a part of a community and the need to be needed are embedded as the story alters between the past and the present.