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Anna’s Tears by Nathalie M. Holmes

8 Jul

 

I’ve been trying for some time to sum up how I reacted to this book. How do you review something when you have a reaction to something so moving and powerful. Someone recently asked me what the literary themes of the novel would be.

My mind drew a blank. Not because Anna’s Teas is a forgettable book. Quite the opposite, in fact; but how do you sum up such a literary jewel in a few words? I had to take a moment to think about that. However, before we begin, here’s the book blurb:

 

How deep do the scars on one family run, and can the wounded dare hope for healing?

Anna’s Tears, the stirring, starkly honest work of fiction by Nathalie M. Holmes, mines the inherited anguish of one family, which spans generations and countries. Throughout, the road to redemption is as hard-won as its matriarch Anna’s painfully absent tears. This elegant, hard-edged work is certain to resonate with readers seeking a masterfully written journey deep into the heart, which illuminates the tender mercies that emerge from the long-hidden damages of life.

In a cold stretch of Canada, Helene desperately tries to both overcome and suppress a childhood of trauma, alcoholism and sexual abuse. Through booze-fueled, foggy nights of high risk and deep regret, Helene leers through her early adulthood, fighting flashes of early memories that are too horrible to bear, and instead inflicting her own fresh pain. Beyond the painful miasma of her childhood, Helene is convinced that there is something even more disturbing in her family’s furtive past.

Helene seeks cold comfort in her paternal grandmother, Anna, whose taciturn, inarticulate sadness offers her a curious refuge. Anna’s tragic story starts before the Second World War in Holland and ends when she moves to Canada after having endured some of the most unimaginable ravages of war. Ernst, who is Helene’s father, is tormented by his own legacy of ghosts, which manifest themselves in a dysfunctional marriage to his wife Jolie, whose blatant narcissism and alcoholism submerge her own self-hatred. The die is cast to propagate an inherited despair, which only the fiercest of reckonings can combat.

A visceral, gripping foray into rough psychological terrain, Anna’s Tears travels to the heart of a family’s darkness to find its way toward the light of hope. With evocative detail of events both past and present, this stunning work guides readers through time and psyche, and ensures they emerge with transformative hope.

 

I should say two things before I forget: The book blurb doesn’t even come CLOSE to describing how amazing this book is; it doesn’t capture the realness of the characters or the beauty of the story. It also describes the story better than I could ever dream possible. I don’t have enough words to describe how incredible this book is.

If I were to come close, I would describe it as a patchwork quilt of time and secrets. However, that doesn’t talk about the depth of the characters, the quality of the novel nor the talent of first time author Nathalie M. Holmes.

I find it difficult to believe that it is her first book; she paints with words, rather than write with them; the result is a lovely kind of liquid poetry that plays with time, shadow and shared grief. Holmes has covered some dark territory in her novel, but ends up writing with an aplomb that many writers achieve. Time flows like water over the page and all you can do is keep reading, needing to know what happens.

I think that’s pretty close, but it does little to encapsulate my emotional response to Anna’s Tears. Anna may have not cried any tears, but I sure did. With grace and stark honesty, Holmes pens a story that will touch everyone that reads it and haunt them long after the last page has been turned.

Though the plights of Anna, Helen, Jolie and Ernst and their connections to each other, are difficult to read at times, it is only because the people that fill these pages are so real. You feel as if you know them (or at least I did) and grow to know them as you fall into their lives.

Anna’s Tears is a moving, emotionally provoking tale that is right up there with Ordinary People by Judith Guest, In Search of Adam by Caroline Smailes and The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Stark, brilliant and honest, Holmes uses multiple narrators and multiple times to weave her story.

The results are absolutely amazing. I only hope it’s not too long till the release of Holme’s next novel.

I can hardly wait to take another journey with her.

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Prelude to a Super Airplane by Brian Spaeth

22 Mar

 

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Almost everyone has flown on an airplane at least once in their lives. They are huge and intimidating, able to conquer the skies and the power of flight. Everyone has fantasized about being able to fly, about being able to fly through the clouds.

But none of us have flown on a super airplane: 47 floors high and able to fly at incredible speeds. But it is the people concerned with the airplane that are our focus here, the ones that think about airplanes constantly that draw our attention.

The year is 2012 and America is on the verge of Civil War. One side wants flying cars to be the main method of transportation; the other wants the new super airplane to be the only method of transport. At stake in this war? The entire future of transportation.

Our world as we know it will be forever changed…

Prelude to a Super Airplane is unlike anything you have read before. More literary experiment than a novel, Prelude to a Super Airplane is essentially one hundred and seven little stories about airplanes. Some follow the plot that you’ve just read above.

Others, well…did I mention that this was unlike anything you’ve read before?

Spaeth wrote Prelude to a Super Airplane over a period of seven days. And man what a ride! Though the book zooms along and sometimes you’re wondering who you’re reading about, it doesn’t matter.

This is a book with a sense of humour that never takes itself very seriously. It’s a quick, roller coaster of a ride that is anything but boring.

In fact, I laughed out loud several times and enjoyed every word. It really is unlike anything ever before attempted and this is part of the novels strengths.

Though sometimes the stories of the characters get lost amongst the more autobiographical portions of the book, you’re holding on for sheer life as the pages seem to flip themselves.

Even though Prelude to a Super Airplane is more literary experiment than a novel, it’s one hell of a good time. I’ve never had so much fun reading a book. From the first page, I was intrigued and, by the third page, I was hooked.

Prelude to a Super Airplane promises to be the first comedy-political thriller – mystery- drama-romance-action/adventure-science fiction-showbiz insider- horror-family energy drink- industry insider- holiday autobiography, Prelude to a Super Airplane is one hell of a great ride.

At times confusing, intriguing, hilarious, bizarre and all kinds of wonderful, Prelude to a Super Airplane is THE beach book for this summer.

Read it and feel like you’re flying.

Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession by Anne Rice

11 Jan

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In 2005, I witnessed one of the greatest changes in literary history.

Anne Rice, the woman known for writing about vampires, witches, mummies and spirits announced she was going to write books about the life of Jesus Christ.

I remember thinking that this was someone’s really great idea of a joke. But the joke was on me. The first book, Christ the Lord – Out of Egypt, was released shortly after the incredible announcement.

At the time, I worked in a bookstore. I had seen the book on the shelf and ignored it, largely because I thought it wouldn’t be any good. How could a woman who wrote such incredible books about legendary figures switch to writing about Christianity?

In the end, out of sheer curiosity, I bought the book. After the first page, I was held spellbound. Indeed, Anne Rice was writing about the most incredible legendary figure of our time: Jesus Christ.

I devoured the next book about Jesus Christ: Christ the Lord – The Road to Cana. I felt that Out of Egypt and The Road to Cana were Rice’s best work. The reserved, elegant prose read like liquid poetry and the passion and spark that had been lacking in some of her later books had returned in full force.

But I was still left wondering: why? Anne Rice did made a living out writing about characters that go about trying to prove God doesn’t exist. Her books had been incredibly angry towards God and Christianity in particular.

Now here she was writing about the life of Jesus Christ. There is a lengthy authors note in the back of Christ the Lord – Out of Egypt, but I was still left with questions. Though Out of Egypt and The Road to Cana were her best books in years, possibly the best books of her entire career, why did she make such a drastic change?

We finally have an answer.

That answer arrives in Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession. It is Rice’s first memoir and first work of non-fiction. It also seeks to explain her spiritual transformation that resulted in an incredible change in her literary career.

 Rice begins the memoir by telling us of her strict Catholic upbringing. How she was surrounded by God and the Church and Catholicism. How she was required to go to church every day and be thankful for God, though he was cruel and vengeful.

What is most interesting, however, is when Rice begins to talk of her years at college and how her strict Catholic upbringing does not fit into her new life away from home. The struggle that Rice goes through to hold on to her relationship with God while being confronted with the normalcy of life outside the Catholic church is truly harrowing.

You feel for her as she struggles internally with what she feels inside and what she sees and experiences all around her. I actually found myself moved emotionally when Rice decides there is no God, that there is no Christ, and becomes an atheist.

And yet, though she claimed not to believe in God, each of Rice’s novels prior to her new relationship with God as a Catholic, has to do with God and those who seek him. Each of her novels featured those who are constantly searching for a bliss they do not feel in their souls.

Through out all those years, she was really a closet Christian, a woman obsessed with God but unwilling to admit it to herself. It takes something miraculous to bring her back to the Catholic Church.

And back to God.

Now, I am not a Christian. I don’t normally read what I would call Christian books. They don’t appeal to me, they don’t interest me and I normally pass them by in the bookstore. In fact, they usually make me slightly uncomfortable.

There are a few reasons for this. Like Rice, I grew up in an incredibly religious home. I was subjected to rules and regulations that were all dictated by the Church. God seemed to be filled with more hate than love, more vengeance then forgiveness. My church at the time and my family were not able to show me a God capable of love.

I moved away from the Catholic Church as soon as I could.

After much searching, found a spirituality that suited me, that sated the need for spirituality I had. But I still get a sour taste in my mouth when I think of Christianity. Regretfully, it is my families’ skewed version of Christianity that always comes to the light first. 

All that to say: I don’t normally read what I would call Christian books. However, Called out of Darkness is beyond wonderful. The same beautiful writing that shines on the pages of Christ the Lord – Out of Egypt and Christ the Lord – The Road to Cana graces the pages of Called Out of Darkness in abundance.

But the most beautiful thing about Called Out of Darkness is that Rice makes the distinction between God and the Church. One of the most beautiful parts of Called Out of Darkness is when Rice laments her lost relationship with God and realizes that it has nothing to do with the Church. It all has to do with God and with God’s love.

Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession is an intimate account of Anne Rice’s journey back to Christianity, back to Catholicism. Back to God. It is a story of one woman’s search to find herself in a world that is often confusing.

Called Out of Darkness is an incredible, moving story of one woman’s search for who she is and what she believes. It is the story of one woman who searched for, and found, her spirit.

More than that, Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Journey is a beautiful, haunting book. Regardless of whether or not you are a Christian, or have even read any of Anne Rice’s books about Jesus Christ, read this book.

Your spirit will thank you for it.

From Zaftig to Aspie by DJ Kirkby

26 Dec

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How many of us take the life we live for granted? How many of us never stop to consider where we came from, what made us who we are? How many people never stop to think of what defines us, what shapes us into the people we grow to be?

Growing up in Canada in the 1960’s, DJ Kirkby experienced a life that many of us would have taken for granted. Living in and around Canada, Kirkby lived with her hippie mother and followed her mother wherever her whims took her.

Living with hippies, Kirkby was exposed to a world that was all around us but only few seemed able to see it. She lived with people who “recreated the rules”, who lived their own lives and shaped their own existence.

And what an existence it is.

From a young age, Kirkby knew she was different. She had a different way of looking at the world that had nothing to do with her hippie lifestyle and upbringing. She knew inside of herself that she was different than everyone else around her.

But there were no words to describe her condition, no words to explain what she felt inside of her.

Those words, those powerful words that would put her entire life into perspective, would not come until she was forty years old when she was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome.

From Zaftig to Aspie, Kirkby’s moving, incredible memoir of her life, is an incredible, emotional read. There is no way a mere review can recount the richness of Kirkby’s life, the emotion that crackles off the page or the experiences that shaped who she is today. There is no way I could sum up the life that Kirkby has lived in only a few words.

It is a moving, beautiful account of one woman’s fight to understand herself and come to grips with the world around her. It is part memoir, part life puzzle that, once put together, creates a stunning picture of a life in words.

From the first page, I was drawn into Kirkby’s story and just had to keep reading. I have never read something so honest, so moving and so incredibly captivating. More than a study of human nature, what Kirkby has given us is really a life map.

Using select memories to mark her progression from her younger years to the time she was diagnosed with Aspergers, Kirkby is really marking the path she has travelled with memories. She has given us a true gift of a life and has invited us to turn the page and look inside of her.

I could not read From Zaftig to Aspie fast enough. In fact, I’ve read it twice so far and am awed by it’s incredible beauty and it’s story of living life to the fullest and overcoming even the most difficult obstacles. More importantly, it is a portrait of a very misunderstood condition. More people need to read From Zaftig to Aspie so that more people can know about Aspergers Syndrome.

From Zaftig to Aspie is a moving, incredible story of one woman’s will to understand herself. It is an important book and everyone should read it so that they, too, can understand more about Aspergers Syndrome.

More importantly it is the best memoir I have read in years. I laughed, I cried, I laughed some more. And was awed by the power of Kirkby’s words.

Read From Zaftig to Aspie and be enchanted.

Accidential Enlightenment by Stephen Banick

25 Jul

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Normally, I hate travel books. 

 I know, I know. I can hear a lot of you saying: Now wait just a minute! What’s wrong with travel logs? Well, in my opinion, they’re boring, dull and quite often have as much life to them as a day old piece of toast.  

So I will admit that I was a bit weary of Accidental Enlightenment at first. A travel book AND a self help manual? How could such a thing be possible? I opened the cover to the first page and was prepared to be sceptical of anything and everything in the book.  To my chagrin, however, I was charmed and, oddly enough, enlightened.  

From the preface (where Banick makes his own comments about travel books) to the very last page, Accidental Enlightenment was a complete and utter joy.

Imagine, if you will, being discontent with your lot in life. You wonder where you’re going, what you’re meant to be doing. Are the answers to your questions to be found inside you, or out in the real world?  After being offered a high powered job at a software company, Banick decides to drive instead of fly to his destination. This choice starts him on a journey that will change his life.

Along the way, Banick picks up hitch hikers and learns, for the first time, to really talk to people honestly. But more importantly, he learns to listen.  

When he finally arrives at his job, he’s able to listen to his heart and he knows that his heart and soul aren’t in the job; that he no longer wanted the confining walls of an office building.

So than what is a man to do? Banick decides to continue the travels he started with that innocent road trip and, like so many before him, go exploring.  But what he explores is different from so many others.

While he travels across many different lands and places in Canada, the United States and countries all over the world, what Banick explores is the different cultures he encounters, the different people.  

And still he listens. While he listens, Banick learns and begins to discover things about himself he never thought possible. By listening and learning about others, he learns hidden truths about himself that shake his world and reform it into something wonderful…. 

Accidental Enlightenment is an amazing book from start to finish. My small summarization of the plot does not even come close to describing the wonders that Banick encounters in his fellow human beings. Humanity and the world around him are present in all of Banick’s words and I believe that this is what is missing from so many other travel books.  

While other authors give us an account of what they saw, Banick gives us an account of what he felt, what he sees and hears. We are with him on his many travels, breathing in the truths of others. What is so incredible about this book are the truths, the tid bits of wisdom and knowledge that you pick up while reading it. 

 I found myself quite often reading what I thought was a simple conversation only to have parts of what I read come back to me later once they had sunk in. The truths, the power of the human spirit, is right there; we just have to keep our eyes open while reading.  

Banick’s approach is fun, simple and light. It’s never preachy, never heavy handed and as we learn about Banick’s discoveries we can’t help but learn about ourselves. Accidental Enlightenment is an absolute joy. Banick should be applauded for sharing his journey’s with us.  For as the world changed him, he has changed me and my view of the world around me.

This is an incredible book and I know I won’t ever look at my surroundings in the same way again.  

Once a Brat by Marilyn Celeste Morris

20 May

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Life is not easy for an Army Brat.

 

 

After losing her father, Marilyn Morris is shocked to learn that he won’t be buried in his military uniform. Have spent more years retired than in the US Military, he would be buried as a civilian. For her entire life, her father lived and breathed the US Military; and, consequently, so did she.

 

 

From 1938 up until she finished college in 1958, Morris lived the life of a military brat, whether she wanted to or not. Always on the move, never able to make close friendships, never staying in one place for a long time. Such was the life of a military brat and Morris had no choice but to live in it.

 

 

Her father had called them gypsies; able to move at a moments notice to parts unknown, able to adapt to any given situation; able to survive. That is what life is for a military brat: survival. Morris was taught lessons in life that others never learn and she knew that these events shaped her, molded her into what she is today.

 

 

After her father’s death, these lessons, these memories, started to come to her, to come out from behind the locked doors of her mind. And so Morris had no choice but to write them down, to put pen to paper and let the memories come out.

 

 

Having never been a military brat, the scope of this book is incredible. It shows just how much will humans have to survive in any given situation. Not so much a memoir but instead a patchwork quilt of memories, Morris’ Once A Brat is a testament to the power of the human heart.

 

 

I found as I was reading this incredible piece of work that I would be pulled into the story, pulled into the life that Morris had to live because of her father. Then I would sit back and have to remind myself: all of this happened. All of this is real.

 

 

The concept was frightening to me, shocking. That a family could stick together and indeed become stronger for living a military life was incredible. Morris was taught values and morals that most don’t learn until well into their adult years.

 

 

When Morris talks of living in Korea, of having to learn to adapt to a whole new culture, a whole new way of life, you can feel her anguish pouring out onto the page. But you can also feel her wonder, her sheer delight at discovery of all things different.

 

 

Morris shines brightest, of course, when she talks of life then and compares it to life now. It’s as if she’s talking right to you, right into your heart, and you can do nothing but read her words and absorb them. They are not merely words, but true pieces of wisdom, pieces of knowledge that speak to your heart and spark your soul into being.

 

 

I am not normally so drawn in by non-fiction. I find that most memoirs are dry as day old toast and boring. I’ve tried to read several memoirs and failed mostly because there is no story, there is no life. With Once a Brat, Morris doesn’t just tell me a story; she helps me live her life while I read it. I felt, saw, experienced everything she did as I read one gorgeous page after another.

 

 

Once a Brat is no mere book. It is a case study of human strength, of the willingness to survive and the ability to love beyond all reason. It is a testament to the fact that, though the present seems bleak, there is hope in the future. I can’t stress how wonderful this memoir his; how, in its simplicity, it accomplished what so many memoirs fail to do. It helped me feel.

 

 

And it helped me believe that anything is possible. If you haven’t read Once a Brat yet, you have no idea what you’re missing.

It Had To Be Us by Harry and Elizabeth Lawrence

28 Feb

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What would you do for love?

After a marriage filled with hard times and harsh words, Harry and Elizabeth have been divorced for nearly twenty four years. One Christmas, they meet at their daughters, not knowing that they are both about to receive the best Christmas present of all: a lost love.

It has been nineteen years since they had seen each other and both Harry and Elizabeth are nervous at the prospect of meeting again. What will she think of me? Harry ponders. Does he still have feelings for me? Elizabeth muses. The two share an embrace that Christmas that starts a fire under the old feelings that are bubbling to the surface.

Another year goes by befor ethey see each other again and this time, the love they shared for each other is strong and neither can deny that it’s there. The walls they had put up to guard themselves against the feelings they were feeling were crumbling. Despite nervousness, the two agree to go to a movie on New Years Day and there, more of the old feelings come to light.

Later in the year, the two decide to go to Las Vagas together for the opening of the Debbie Reynolds museum. Little do they know that, in Las Vagas, their lives will change forever….

What can I say about IT HAD TO BE US except that it makes my heart sing? I have been a lover of romance novels for a long time but there is something in the realness of this true story that outshines all of those. IT HAD TO BE US is better than any novel by Nora Roberts because the love is real, it isn’t fiction. Harry and Elizabeth let their love for each other bloom again despite the years and hard feelings between them.

IT HAD TO BE US is the ultimate story of forgiveness, of letting yourself love again. I especially loved the way it was written with Elizabeth in first person and Harry writing in third person. The contrasting styles helped give the characters their own voices and their honest let you see right into them, let you love and breathe along with them. Thoug though this novellete is short (clocking in at a mere 56 pages) it packs quite the punch. I found myself thinking of past love and new love.

IT HAD TO BE US actually touched me, actually got under my skin and made me feel. It’s a rare accomplishment for an author to make their reader feel; Harry and Elizabeth accomplished this with aplomb. It also is one of the best love stories ever written. It’s clever, funny, charming and very heartfelt. I was sorry to see it end after only an hour or so. I wanted it to go on forever.

Do yourself and your heart a favour and read IT HAD TO BE US. For isn’t love one of the greatest things to read about?

Click here to read more about the book and to purchase a copy:
http://www.theromanceclub.com/authors/lawrence/