Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Lighthouse at the End of the World by Stephen Marlowe...Review

The Lighthouse at the End of the World

Stephen Marlowe

Copyright 1995

Where to begin...I guess I will start with what was good about Stephen Marlowe's book. I liked the parts of the book that were realistic, and at least mostly factual about Edgar Allan Poe. It was interesting to read about him, not just from him (Poe is a favorite author and poet of mine). There were even a few good quotes I drew out of the book.
"Those nights I wrote were often still. Sometimes I would hear a soft footstep on the stair.
"What do you want?"
"I like to watch you."
The scratching of the pen fascinated her.
"I can hear the words." she said."
     When I was reading the parts of the book that were interesting and good to me, I felt Marlowe was a great writer. I could picture his Poe, Virginia, Muddy, and other characters. I could empathize with them, and felt like I agreed with his take and observations on what they might have been like. That can be hard to do when one is writing about people that once lived.
     In this story we get many chapters that are based on Edgar Allan Poe's life, and what we know about it, as well as the other people that were a part it. He has put them in story form, but followed the details that are known, and written about a theory of what might have happened to Poe at the end of his life, as no one is sure what happened to him. Then, he also adds a hmmmm... this is where he lost me. Alternate world? Strange thoughts that show Poe sinking into madness? Imaginary dimension that some people believe and others don't? I'm not sure if I am being honest.
     These unrealistic, real or imaginary parts of the book were interspersed throughout. There were more and more the further you read until they make up about the last fifty pages. They were boring, confusing, and I dare say a bit ridiculous to me. I was tired of it and had to force myself to finish.
     If you are looking to read something about Edgar Allan Poe, I would recommend reading a biography. I wish I had.


Thursday, May 19, 2016

the history of a Major obsession

Something Wild Thing One and I love to do is find television series on Netflix and watch all the episodes, the historical series are our favorites. So, recently I came across AMC's Turn: Washington's Spies, and immediately knew it was one we would like. It chronicles the lives and events surrounding the Culper Ring. A ring of spies during the American Revolutionary War that gathered intelligence about the British Army for The Continental Army led by George Washington. After watching all the episodes from season one and two I wanted to do some research about the characters and events that are portrayed in the series. One of my favorite characters was Major John Andre, a Red Coat.

I like his character, partly because the actor that plays him is super handsome J.J. Feild, but also because he is portrayed as being very charming, kind, artistic, and compassionate. Everyone seems to like him, the British and Americans alike. I wanted to know if that was a true portrayal, or if they had just given him those traits to make a good character for the show.
Anon. miniature of John André
As soon as I started reading about him I fell in love with the real Major Andre. The characters personality and traits were taken from the true persons characteristics and talents. Some of the events, and relationships are over dramatized with added content, but his nature matches historical record. He was artistic, good-natured, intelligent (spoke four languages), kind, handsome, well liked by both sides of the conflict, brave, and loyal to his country. He was also a spy, for the British. He was caught sneaking information to the Red Coats from Benedict Arnold. He was then hung by order of George Washington. Even the Americans were sad to see Major Andre go, but felt it was a necessary evil of warfare. He was brave to the end, drawing a self portrait the day before he died, and putting the noose around his own neck. So tragical!!!

     His self portrait is housed in the Yale Museum of Art in Connecticut.

After learning all of this about him, and more, I liked him even more. I found a fellow Major fan on Instagram, she had a Major doll and book collection....what?! I wanted a book collection and doll! So, I searched and found a 1909 edition of "An Authentic Narrative of the causes which led to the death of Major Andre, Adjutant - General of his Majesty's Forces in North America" by Joshua Hett Smith. It was Smith's house that Major Andre and Benedict Arnold met at when Arnold gave the Major the intelligence about West Point that he would then be caught with and hung for possessing.
The portrait on the left is another self portrait done by Major Andre when he was a younger man.
     So, my book collection is started!! Then, I talked to my oh-so-creative mom, and she made me a doll!!
He is so cute!! I can't wait to have many historical adventures with my Major, and keep growing my book collection.

Friday, May 13, 2016

to Finish, or Not to Finish

I think all of us at one time or another have started a book only to find it is not to our liking. It may be poorly written, boring, silly, too this or not enough that. There are any number of reasons that one could find a book hard to continue and want to quit on it. I have on many occasions found myself inside a book I didn't like, but I very rarely quit. It has to be bad, I mean REALLY bad, for me to give up on it once I have started.
Image result for book images
     By started I mean at least a hundred pages in. If I can't get through the first chapter it's gone, but if I've read a hundred pages before I've started to feel the tingle of 'this isn't going well', I will usually continue. It's not easy, and it usually takes me a lot longer to read them than it should, but I do try to keep pushing through to the end. I just set myself a goal of how much I want to read each day, or vow to read every time I have even ten minutes to spare so that I can get finished with it.
Image result for book images
     I feel like I committed when I sat down and got to that hundredth page, something made me think I would like it, and I never know what I might find if I just keep hiking through. There may be a beautiful waterfall, or majestic scenery around one of the pages. Maybe an inspiring quote that goes perfectly in my quote book, or an unforgettable character that stays with me when I am done. At the very least it will give me some fresh insight into what DOESN'T work when writing a book. I have a hard time knowing that if I don't finish there will be an orphan story floating around in my mind that I will never know the ending to, even if I did find it boring or poorly written.
Image result for book images
     Sometimes I leave and come back to it. There has been more than one book that I read half of it at one time, then several months later went back and read the rest. Sometimes that break is all I need to push myself through the rest, it can even help me find a little more enjoyment out of the remaining story. I don't like feeling like a quitter, and I guess that's how not finishing a book, even if I don't really like it, makes me feel. Like a quitter.
     How about you? Do you push yourself through hoping to find a treasure in there some where if you just keep putting your eyes one word in front of the other, or do you have no qualms at all about tossing it aside and choosing a different path to walk?
                                       May all your books be magical!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron...Review

The Dark Unwinding

Sharon Cameron

Copyright 2012

This Young Adult novel by Sharon Cameron caught me completely by surprise. I bought this flippantly from a Young Adult authors festival Wild Thing One and I went to a couple months back. I don't read much in this genre. I think most of the ones that get mega popular are a bit silly, and once one author hits on something that becomes celebrated it gets repeated so many times it becomes over done and dull. Plus, I like meat in my reading, and I find much of the Young Adult genre is vegetarian. I may almost be a vegetarian in my eating habits (pollotarian), but I am all carnivore where reading is concerned. Yet, while we were walking around the festival and perusing books this one, and another by her entitled "Rook", caught my eye. As I am working on my own book that may end up fitting into this category, I decided to try it. I am SO glad I did!
     In June of 1852 Katharine Tulman is 17 and the ward of an aunt that hates her. She is forced to travel to the enormous and wealthy estate of her uncle, because her aunt thinks he is insane and squandering the family fortune. When Katharine arrives ready to have him committed to an asylum, she finds a genius that is employing  a village of nine hundred people rescued from the workhouses of London. As she meets different inhabitants of the manor and village, and strange things start happening to her, she becomes more and more unsure about what she should do. Her future is entirely dependent on what happens to her Uncle Tully and Stranwyne Keep. She has big decisions to make that effect hundreds of people, but she can't seem to trust anyone, not even herself.
     Besides being Young Adult, this novel was predominately historical gothic with elements of steam punk and psychological thriller. Once I got about halfway in I couldn't put it down, I had to know what was going to happen next. It was imaginative, believable, and unique. I liked the characters, especially Mr. Tully, and fell in love with Stranwyne. The writing was well thought out, and not corny, self indulgent, or over romanticized as I have found others of this type. It was on the lean side being a Young Adult, but that didn't stand out to me so much. I think the enjoyment I got out of the story gave it a meatier texture, so I was able to forget I was reading a vegetarian novel.
     Although "The Dark Unwinding" could stand on it's own, there is a second book that continues the story of the characters at Stranwyne Keep entitled "A Spark Unseen". I have already ordered it! So, the moral of this review is: try things outside your favorite genres sometimes regardless of your prejudices, and don't be afraid to choose a book at's lovely when you are rewarded with a page turner!!!