I have had the pleasure of reading Jessica Mehta’s fine collection of poetry, Secret-Telling Bones. This is a collection of incredibly personal poems; I felt Ms. Mehta's soul as I read each one. They are deep poems, with layers of meaning. I found myself re-reading them at different times of the day and in different moods and each time the words told a different story. And yet, they are easily read; you grasp the first story, whatever it is, in the first reading, the first breath. They are also, deeply connected poems, connected to their objects, their experiences, their secret-tellings.
Ms. Mehta tells of experiences I can only imagine. They become real. Her NDN heritage is front and center, you can feel the emotion of identity and heritage, pride and shame, and hope and triumph. The poems bring a cross-culturalism, with humans and animals that is intense, honest, and unique. The emotions are often raw, the telling unvarnished and for that, all the more powerful and real and compelling. My favorite was “Landmarks Made of Stone”.
Importantly, this collection is published by the operating system which is dedicated to keeping books in print, on paper. I whole-heartedly recommend Secret-Telling Bones. Follow the link buy new from an Indie bookseller recommended by Ms. Mehta.
Molly Katz started writing for the Candlelight Ecstasy Romance series in 1984. Worth His Weight in Gold was her 5th novel for that imprint. She had some success in the serial romance genre but stopped in 1987 when the series shut down and pursued a career in stand-up comedy. She penned two psychological thrillers in the 1990s but is best known for her humor books, most notably Jewish as a Second Language.
Worth His Weight in Gold is a typical Ecstasy Romance, the woman falling for the man improbably and deeply. Ecstasy was a competitor to Silhouette and Harlequin in the 1980s, during the heyday of the serial romance. If you like the classic sereial romance novel from the 1980s, relatively clean and short. this is a good one, and much of Katz's humor comes through.
Ecstasy series are highly collectible and rare, especially in good condition. The series had strong authors but could never break through against the larger series, despite the backing of Dell.
From the jacket: "He was waiting for her--and she ran into his trap! Ruth Barrett was being held at gunpoint for trespassing when Frank Gordon, chief of the police force she'd publicly embarrassed, came to arrest her. But the real trouble began when the lithe blond runner passed the handsome giant on a country path and fell into the lake in surprise. Suddenly she was in his strong arms, unexpectedly warm on that cold February day. Why did she yield to his masterful embrace? Why couldn't she say 'No!' before he swept her off her feet, filling her with desire for everything she'd tried to reject?"
The Long Way Home was originally published as a serial novel with the title No World of Their Own in the magazine Astounding in 1955. It was printed in book form in 1978 with the return of some parts that had been edited out of the serial version by Tor.
The story revolves around a crew of four humans who had embarked on an experimental hyperspace-drive equipped spaceship for a one year mission. They find many planets and aliens in their journey and even add one alien to the crew - the feline-looking humanoid on the cover. However, upon their return they find that the premise of the drive was false and that 5000 years have passed since their departure.
Most of the novel concentrates on the crew and the alien, Saris, and how they manage to unwind a cold war between Earth and its Centauri colonies (with aliens of their own) and the oppressive rule of a computer known as the Technon. There is a significant part of the story told from the alien perspective of Saris making it one of the first with that kind of plot line.
It was written over half a century ago. Despite that it still has over 160 ratings on Goodreads. It does get poor marks, generally, for the characters; with the caveat that Anderson's characters usually have more depth. It does get high marks for premise and plot and the science, though not perfect, has a lot of elements that are still believable (or actual) in the current state.
Overall it is a recommended hard science fiction read from the "classic" era. It can be snatched up on Biblio for as little as $3.97 including shipping.
Pawn of Prophecy is the first of a ten-volume epic fantasy first published in 1982. The set is broken into two five-volume groups The Belgariad and The Mallorean. It is high fantasy and quite literally designed around the concept of a Game of Destiny.
It does have many concepts of classic fantasy - a protagonist who does not know his destiny, swords, shapechangers, magic, gods, prophecy, and destiny. It does have multi-faceted characters as well like Kheldar who presents as a merchant but who is a spy, a prince, and a thief all wrapped into one.
Eddings paints a rich world with political intrigue, religion, and interaction between gods, humans, and magic. It lacks the language that Tolkien provides to his trilogy - no elvish or orcish - but in other aspects the world is perhaps even fuller.
Pawn of Prophecy is the coming of age story of Garion and introduces the full pantheon, including the evil antithesis Torak, and the varied "fellowship" that will carry through, with additions and subtractions, the next nine volumes in the battle between good (who sometimes have rifts to overcome) and evil.
David Eddings did have Tolkien in mind when he wrote the series; he was consciously trying to add elements to the classic epic fantasy of Tolkien. One sees this in the world of Aloria. One sees this in the story of Torak. And one sees it in the interplay of the characters and the religions.
This book has over 77,000 ratings on Goodreads with an average of 4.16. The other books of the series are also highly rated, all between 4.1 and 4.2. It is available on Biblio for as little as $3.94 including shipping.
Constantine Pleshakov's book is subtitled "The Epic Voyage to the Battle of Tsushima" and is truly a book of the 18,000+ nautical mile journey of the main Russian fleet under Admiral Rozhestvensky from the Baltic to its fateful meeting with Admiral Togo and the Japanese fleet.
Pleshakov concentrates on the personalities of Rozhestvensky and his subordinates as well as the top members of the Russian government. He hints that if the leaders in St. Petersburg had allowed Rozhestvensky to do what he wished the outcome may have been different.
Far from the classical story of ships who left Russia piled high with coal and sailing urgently around the world to plunge unprepared into a hopeless battle, Pleshakov tells of long delays and lost opportunities, of bungled intelligence, and of political weakness and indecision. He also seems to share Rozhestvensky's view that the reinforcements he was forced to wait for actually weakened the squadron instead of strengthening it and that the level of talent in the upper naval officers of the Tsar's navy was minimal with very few competent leaders of rank captain or above.
There is also a fair handling of the wide class distinctions and the resulting political unrest in Russia as a whole, in the navy in general, and the "last armada" particularly. Pleshakov discusses this discrepancy in each situation the fleet found itself in, from forming to its ultimate destruction and the aftermath for the survivors. In the end even Rozhestvensky comes off wanting.
I found the book interesting and found it debunked, as noted above, some long-held misconceptions. It pays scant attention to the battle itself; if you want a battle history you do need to go elsewhere. It is a good stand-alone historical story; one needs no previous knowledge of the Russo-Japanese War, Tsushima, or the period to get the full impact of the book.
It is also inexpensive. Copies are available on Biblio for as little as $3.97 including shipping.
The Candlelight Ecstasy Supreme series was published by Dell during the heyday of the serial romance. They were longer than the original Candlelight Ecstasy series and thus the stories could have more depth. This was the third book in a series that would eventually run to 188 titles.
Donna Kimel Vitek wrote 34 romance novels between 1979 and 1987, starting with four short romances for Macfadden Encore (as Donna Alexander), then ten for Silhouette (as Donna Vitek) before moving on to Candlelight (as Donna Kimel Vitek). When Dell shut down the Candlelight series she stopped writing. Her popularity is shown by being one of the authors being invited to step up from the base Ecstasy series to the Ecstasy Supreme series.
Synopsis: "She'd worked hard to get to the top--to become an associate producer. When a malicious scandal forced her to switch networks, Juliet York swore that unfounded rumors would never threaten her reputation again.
"But she'd no sooner arrived at Union Broadcasting than superstar anchorman Marc Tyner made it clear that he wanted more than a working relationship. Being thrown together on a dangerous investigative assignment in a small town meant double jeopardy: Marc would use every wile to get his story--and his way. How could she protect herself when his merest touch triggered her deepest desires? How could she know if this was the love of a lifetime or a dangerous diversion--no rumor but a real affair that could break her heart and destroy her career?"
Warmed by the Fire is available on Biblio for as little as $5.99.
So Christmas is always a time for matching books to people. Not always easy when personal libraries in my immediate circle run into the thousands of volumes. However there is a private little warm spot in my heart for buying children's books, especially books I enjoyed as a child. This is one such. And, even though I didn't buy a copy this year my musings about it did spark some interesting discussion.
Millions of Cats won the Newbery Award in 1929 and is one of very few picture books to have done so. In fact, the controversy about awarding the literature prize to a picture book at least indirectly brought about the introduction of the Caldecott Medal in 1938. Millions of Cats has the distinction of being the oldest American picture book still in print.
The story itself is rather grim but the repetitive rhyming text is irresistible. I remember myself giggling when it was read to me and the same reaction from my children: "Hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats!"
It was that line I repeated at work in front of some more junior colleagues eliciting both smiles of remembrance and smiles of hooked confusion from those without an American childhood who had never heard that lilting cadence.
I recommend this book not for the story, nor for Ms. Gag's art (which is also somewhat busy and grim) but for the smiles and giggles the rhythmic jingle of the text is sure to bring forth.
I read this book when I was a teen and it must have made an impression because I still remember it. Unlike some of the other books featured on Throwback, Snow Bound has had a lot of buzz on Goodreads with 317 ratings and 57 reviews.
I felt it appropos, given the massive snowstorm across the eastern half of the country today, to feature this book. The basic plot is two teens become stranded in a remote area of upstate New York in a snowstorm and must find a way to cooperate with each other to survive. Both are woefully unprepared but somehow find out a lot about themselves.
This is a survival story but it is also a finding yourself and personal growth story. The protagonists, Tony and Cindy, find out a lot about themselves and grow significantly over the course of their experiences. The book is short (144 pages in the paperback) but is gripping and, from multiple reviews, accurately describes the perils of upstate New York in winter if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Harry Mazer wrote 22 novels for young adults, all of which can be characterized as "realistic" fiction. His wife was Norma Fox Mazer, also a prolific author of young adult fiction, including a Newbery Award. Their daughter, Anne Mazer, is also an author.
Snow Bound is recommended for reading in front of a warm fire with the wind howling outside and the snow deep on the yard and fields. It is available on Biblio.com for as little as $3.97.
Romance and Mystery are by far the two largest genres of fiction. Harlequin capitalized on this with their Intrigue series.
Romantic Suspense was first popularized in the 1950s and 1960s with the likes of Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, and Phyllis Whitney. Harlequin launched Intrigue, with contemporary timelines and characters, in 1984.
The Intrigue series, like other "harlequin" series, developed subseries within, usually based on a family (The McKenna Legacy), an organization (The Colby Agency) or a location (The Rose Tattoo). The subseries could be written by a single author, as our example today where all 12 volumes in The Rose Tattoo subseries were written by Kelsey Roberts, or multi-author, like the Colby Agency subseries.
Her Mother's Arms combines an adopted heroine looking for her biological mother, a sexy ex-CIA agent, and someone looking to kill the heroine for the truths she may uncover. As with most serial romances the story unrolls quickly and ends predictably but it is a fun ride. Intrigues run to about 250 pages, still well within a single evening's sitting.
Her Mother's Arms is a typical example of the genre and the series. It gets a 4.0 rating on Goodreads. Her Mother's Arms is available on Biblio for as little as $3.97.
Redding Walters brings a unique, intriguing, and fascinating perspective and story-line to the romance novel.
Even Seahorses are Free traces the love history of Dr. Rebecca Beisonig, through the rather ingenious devices of a long drive up the Pacific Coast with a dead cell phone. As she drives she recounts her past loves and their shortcomings, as well as their high points.
At her destination, she plunges into her work while re-discovering the depth of friendship with other women and fending off the advances of a "young stud" in which she knows she has no interest. In her rediscovery and soul searching she finally comes to terms with the lost love of her life, the value of female friends, and the end of her marriage that was never really fulfilling.
Ms. Walters brings freshness to the novel. Her characters, from the very pregnant Barbie to the aloof Howard, are full and lively. They jump off the page to the point you can almost touch them. The story is both unique in the interplay of environmental science and the livelihoods that are often in conflict and in the love, lust, and conflict of Rebecca.
The energy of the novel starts at a high level and allows the reader to briefly recover before driving to a new peak. Continuing to build as the story progresses with each peak being higher than the last. The ending is both satisfying and not quite how one expects.
Even Seahorses are Free is highly recommended. Available on Amazon in paperback and eBook.
Me as a critic (be careful! the harshness will be well concealed!)