Monday, June 29, 2009

Book Review - Convent of the Pure by Sara M. Harvey

Sara Harvey’s novella The Convent of the Pure is a welcomed addition to the growing Steampunk literary genre, a breath of fresh air to delight the literary palette of many a reader. The novella is first in a trilogy that centers on the characters Portia and her ghost lover Imogen, hunters of demons and other creatures viewed evil in the eyes of their Order. As a result of badly timed Fate several years ago, Imogen died a horrible death but later came back as a ghost through a powerful magical bond, binding spirit to the body. The two rely upon each other as partners in their trade but soon they will come face to face with an investigation that not only reveals hidden and ugly truths about their own lives but also their world and their idea of truth. Lies are revealed and everything is not what it appears to be, but it is through said web that leads those affected by it further down the rabbit hole, leading them to a greater purpose and possible future.

Harvey is one of those writers that grabs you by the throat on the first page and does not let go until the very last word is read; she weaves her words well, skipping the “purple” style and delivering punch after punch of can’t-put-it-down writing. Although Convent is set in the Steampunk world, those who are not familiar with the genre/lifestyle will still find her words to be enjoyable and a pleasure to read. The only problem with her novella is that the next one is not due out until December 2009. Many readers, with me included, were frustrated at the piece of news, for it meant waiting for several months for the next installment.

The first time I met Harvey was during MidSouth Con in Memphis TN earlier this year; after talking with her for several minutes, I knew were going to get along quite well for we had similar qualities/quirks: we were both eccentric/eclectic women with a flair for the creative, writers with a touch of fantasy and/or weird, and Steampunkers. Seeing her again at her book signing at Davis Kidd Memphis on 19 June 2009 prompted me to finally read my copy of her novella, thereby confirming her as one hell of a storyteller.

Way to go, my Steam Sister!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Library Project - Universities in Memphis, TN

Ah, there is nothing finer than walking on the campus of a college or university; hallowed halls seeking to enrich the hungry minds of students ready to make a difference (or not!) in the world of the past, present, and hopefully future. Being the literary nerd, walking on a university/college campus reminds me of my days as a wet behind the ears college student at American University, ready to tackle the world as well as immerse myself in knowledge. I also enjoy universities and colleges for another reason . . . . their LIBRARIES!

As many of you know, I simply drool whenever I walk by a library or bookstore. They are one of many keys in Life whose purpose is to unlock minds, furthering their capacities and potentials for a better way of life. Several years ago, I decided to begin a Library Project; taking photos of libraries both near and far as a way of archiving what sadly might become extinct. As we live in the Digital Age, the need for books is slowly being replaced with the Internet. I wanted to share with others my love for the Library as well as possibly offer some good places to stop by and visit if one is visiting said town.

Today, I decided to crawl through the streets of my city, Memphis, TN, and give readers a view of not only some of our universities but their libraries as well. Featured in my Myspace photo album is Christian Brothers University, University of Memphis (another alma mater of mine! GO TIGERS!), and The Georgetown of the South – Rhodes College. So, sit back with nice cup of tea or cold glass of water, and enjoy my photos!

For the record: I am GLOWING from this morning.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Book Review - Love Begins In Winter by Simon Van Booy

Love is one of the most complex emotions we humans have to face and undergo. It is simply amazing how one four letter word can cause such intense emotions in people, giving them reason to commit extreme acts in the name of their own version of love. Love, like Time, waits for no one, and we are all subjected to it several times during the span of our lives. Simon Van Booy, author of the short story collection Love Begins In Winter, writes with lyrical magic about the different forms of love and the range of result feelings it produces. The five stories that make up this book are written with a unique style all their own that also show just how talented Van Booy is as an author. The first story, the title of the book, tells of the love between a young cellist who collects stones and a young woman who collects acorns. Both collect items stemmed from their memories of a lost loved one while they continue to search the earth for them, knowing that their searches are futile. It is through their mutual desperation to reclaim what can never be that leads them to each other and a love that is at once subdued yet fiery, simple yet complex, tame yet full of passion. They knew they were meant to be together, ready to share each others'pain and hope for a better future.
The second story entitled Tiger, Tiger is of a woman and her boyfriend and their love that is transformed through the boyfriend’s parents undergoing a divorce and the discovery of a book that opens the mind of the girlfriend. Through this discovery of the book, the woman remembers a moment in her childhood in which she bit the arm of a little boy while playing at a park. This act, of which she repeated many years later, reflected her own passion, allowing herself to express her love in the only way she knew how. The third story entitled The Missing Statues tells the story of a man who, while seeing several missing statues while visiting Rome, comes to confess a sad and yet happy moment in which he touched the life of another person who needed it but did not realize it. A young woman named Molly and her son Max were waiting for a man to pick them up from their waiting spot in Las Vegas. While waiting, they meet a gondolier from another casino, who gives them a reason to smile even when all is lost – a love of beauty, in all forms, in the midst of sadness. The forth story entitled The Coming and Going of Strangers is of a young man who burns with passion for a young woman but instead marries her younger sister due to a fateful night and encounter between the two. The passion felt by the young man is carried through his life with his object of desire’s sister, revealing to the reader the joy and later destruction that one can feel when one is consumed with love for another. Finally, the fifth story entitled The City of Windy Trees tells the story of George, an ordinary man living an ordinary life until he receives a photograph of a little girl sent from Sweden. The past comes alive once more, giving him reason to change the course of his life as well as experience the newfound emotions felt from the photograph. His form of love comes in the form of completion and a purpose for his existence; it gives him a reason to breathe.
Through these stories, Van Booy shows us the power of love and the effect it has on people from all walks of life and from all different backgrounds. His stories sing with a maturity and desire that only few authors are capable of doing today, weaving in personal experiences and giving them a life of their own. Van Booy is quite capable of making his readers believe in love while exposed to today’s society filled with apathy, emotional blindness, and spiritual impotence. He shows us through his stories that hope is there even in the worst of circumstances, and that we can love, no matter our own past faults and regrets. It may not take the form that is so readily accepted by the majority but the love felt and expressed is possible; in fact, Van Booy’s written forms of love are more realistic than what we have experienced in our lives. His definitions of love are archaic, complex, gritty, and strange, smelling of fruit not yet ripe and wine barely tasted. But, the final outcome of loss and eventual gain, thereby leading to love, is quite worth it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

17 June 2009 Book Review - Brideshead Revisited

British writers seem to have such a penchant for giving readers a view of a world thought hidden to most; a world full of high manners, well played roles, and lives hanging on a single word, threat, or understood promise. This world is for the privileged few and outsiders are rarely welcomed in unless invited. Those of the majority must rely upon novels and diaries of said folk so as to gain a better understanding of what being privileged truly means. One of the better examples of a novel – made – window is Evelyn Waugh’s classic Brideshead Revisited. Woven though the pages is the life of Charles Ryder, a man who evolves from middle class Oxford student to slightly jaded Army officer who is also an artist. He begins his words to us as a young man with no ideas, ambition, or character. He is a blank piece of paper ready to be stained with the “ink” of Life that comes in the form of Sebastian Flyte, a dandy and fellow Oxford student. Flyte represents hedonism, wealth, beauty, and Art, all of which Ryder desires in his own boring life. The two become fast friends, leading them both towards major adjustments of their lives and the people who are affected by it. Ryder also becomes enamoured of Sebastian’s sister, Julia, a woman who reflects Sebastian’s own ennui with the world she was born into but with her own twist to the matter at hand. While Ryder is seduced with the completeness that Julia emits, he is also seduced by Sebastian’s recklessness and homosexual arousal that throws caution to the wind. In the end, his choice reflects what he had felt all along but it is up to the reader to decide what to do with said realization.
Waugh’s writing is clear and precise, not laden down with “purple” adjectives and unnecessary descriptions; along with Ryder’s words, the characters provide their own worth and depth with their movements and interactions with Ryder. The character Anthony Blanche is a clear example as to what Ryder wants in life and dislikes at the same time; the hedonists of Oxford have no shame in what they love to do for it is their nature to be desired and repulsed at the same time. Blanche, the “leader” of the group, is in love with the world but hates himself and his background, calling himself a dago on many an occasion. He draws Ryder in with tales of Sebastian and his many not so discreet adventures, most of which include drinking, then leaves him with doubts as to how much of his tales were comprised of truth. Are we to trust the leader of the sybarites? Are we to even trust Ryder once he decides to follow Sebastian down the road of recklessness, alcoholism, and later, sadness?
I wanted to read this novel after watching the 2008 movie release starring Emma Thompson and was glad to do so; I have always had a soft spot for anything British and will gladly admit that I am an Anglophile. To me, the British have always represented class and style, history and pride, drinking tea and reformed society, and an undercurrent of sex, taboos, and sybaritic behavior that they can do so well. Brideshead Revisited is one of the most quintessential novels of British life, one that should not be discarded and treated as poetic dribble but rather given its fair share of praise and admiration. Ryder is the Everyman, exposing himself to new desires and pleasures through a rough current of repression and endless questions of not only the situations surrounding him but of himself. While reading, I too asked myself what I would have done if I was suddenly thrown into a world where champagne is served to me every morning, every desire handed to me on a silver platter, and sexual tastes and pleasures are merely a snap of the fingers. Is Ryder an example of what artists must go through in order to “find” themselves? Or, perhaps he is an exception, considering his “blank” slate and naïveté on the ways of the world? As a writer/artist, I found myself understanding Ryder’s actions in the world of Sebastian and Julia; a feeling of living in two different yet parallel worlds while learning from both in pursuit of an artistic lifestyle. Through Ryder, the readers see a man torn between wanting it all and leaving with nothing; in the end, there is no happiness, only lessons learned and regrets understood. Thanks to Waugh’s words, the scars from the mistakes made will heal in time.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Musing - 1 June 2009

Seven black homeless men
Sit on a corner stoop,
Waiting for the day to begin.
Their scarred faces
Tell various stories of loves
And reunions,
Of disappointments and failures,
What they could have been
And what they turned into.
They sit like pensive crows,
Viewing the world with
Old and archaic eyes.
They receive no respect
Only wary glances from afar
And still they sit, waiting
For the sun to finally set.