Friday, February 17, 2017

75 Habits for a Happy Marriage by Ashley Davis Bush


75 Habits for a Happy Marriage
by Ashley Davis Bush, LCSW and Daniel Arthur Bush, PhD

The authors both offered excellent insight into why certain things might be working, or not working, within a long term relationship then gave 75 fairly simple, and concrete, habits that can be instituted to increase harmony and a sense of connection in the relationship. Some require the cooperation of both partners but most can be done by just one half of the couple and may have a positive impact on the relationship, regardless of whether the second half of the couple actively participates or simply passively receives.

The book is separated into Fundamentals, Communication Building Habits, Connection Building Habits, and Intimacy Building Habits.

Though the explanations of why each habit works, how to do the item and sometimes an illustrative anecdote are given, the habits themselves are incredibly simple. Each one is prompted by something that is likely to happen during the course of the day so that you will be prompted to initiate the habit.

The authors claim that small moments of daily intimacy really can make a dramatic difference in your relationship. They pull in a wealth of research and information in choosing the habits in this book. Not every habit will resonate with each person. Some may not seem feasible, or desirable, at the moment. Depending on what is lacking in your relationship – Communication, Connection or Intimacy – some may be more immediately useful than others.

Connection Building Habits

When most couples say they have trouble communicating, the author asserts they actually may be having trouble feeling connected. These habits can help. Three of my favorite -

Touch Tone – When you’re having dinner together, make it a point to make contact with your spouse during your meal.

Thanks for the Memories – When you’re going to bed, take a moment to thank your spouse for some action, word or experience during the day.

Coast to Coast – when you see your lover sitting in front of a computer, walk behind them and gently sweep your hand across their back from one shoulder to the other.

Communication Building Habits

“When a couple tells me that they cannot communicate, usually what they mean is that they argue frequently, can’t be honest with each other.”

The Dating Game – Just before you go on a date, take a few minutes to close your eyes and remember your first meeting or early courtship with your beloved.

Better to Give – As you begin your date, give your beloved a compliment.

Through the Years – As you’re waiting for food, take turns sharing happy memories from your time together.

Intimacy Building Habits

Spoonful of Sugar – When you’re having dessert or a treat together, feed your spouse a bite of the food.

Angel Wings – When your spouse seems sad, tired or anxious, sit with them and sync up your breathing.

Penny – When you or your spouse is sitting in silence and you’d like to start a conversation, say penny, as in “for your thoughts” and the other has to answer with what they are thinking right that moment.

There are also habits for couples who are truly in conflict and suffering with criticism, contempt, defensiveness or stonewalling.

It can be hard to look at this type of information or focus on it because it points out what is going wrong but hopefully there are things going right too, which can be built upon. I personally think the small habits that can be done daily have more a trajectory changing power than the ones that are only triggered occasionally by something like a date. (Of course, some people may go out on dates more often than once every three months.) We have this book in digital format at our library and it was easy to bookmark pages then go back and make notes of the habits I liked. Over all, a very useful little book, I’d give it 4.5 stars.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Taming of the Shrew and Vinegar Girl


The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare 
and Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

According to this Washington Post article, Anne Tyler loathes Shakespeare so she decided to rewrite one of his plays.

Anne Tyler was asked by the Hogarth Shakespeare people to pick one of Shakespeare’s plays and write a modern version. (This is part of a series where Hogarth asked different authors to write a modern retelling of a classic Shakespeare play.) She was asked first so she got to choose any play, and her choice was The Taming of the Shrew.

Now, an author can acquit themselves adequately, even admirably, in such a venture, but it isn’t going to be something that sprang from their creative well with a feeling of “I must write this story!”

Most writers try to spend their time on the stories that they love, that they are inspired by, even if a large part of the time is nitty gritty, chain yourself to the desk and write work. For example, Neil Gaiman said that he spent nearly twenty years with the idea for a book. Each year, he would take the idea out, write a page, re-read it and think, “Nope, I’m not a good enough writer yet.” After twenty years, he said, he realized he wasn’t getting any better, and he wrote The Graveyard Book -  which went on to win several awards including a Newbery Medal, a Carnegie Medal and a Hugo Award for best novel.

So, The Taming of the Shrew. There have been many productions of this play over the years and a whole lot of conjecture about what it means. If you’re not familiar with it, check out this synopsis on Youtube. I don’t agree with all of her conclusions but the synopsis is good and a very funny retelling.

Should you wish to skip the video, the main gist of the story revolves around two sisters, Bianca and Katherine. Bianca is generally considered a sweet and beautiful young woman with many suitors but their father, Baptista, won’t allow her to marry until her angry, but still beautiful, older sister Katherine is married. The time in the play is divided between the comedy of Bianca’s various suitors pretending to be her tutor, in disguise, in order to woo her, and Petruchio trying to break Katherine to the yoke of marriage, through sleep deprivation and starvation etc., because he wants her dowry.

Now, the creator of the Youtube video does mention that it has been suggested that Shakespeare wrote this as a mirror to show people how awful women were treated. She denies this saying, most people would say it was perfectly normal up until a few decades ago. What? I mean, slavery was considered “normal” at one time in the U.S. but you still had large numbers of people working against it, right? And Shakespeare was not most men - he was the bard. Shakespeare accorded women in his plays with as much ability as men. There are weak women and strong women, and those of each gender who use their strength of will for good . . .  or not so good.

A couple key points in understanding Taming of the Shrew, to my mind, are that Katherine is kept from sleeping and starved by Petruchio but she still argues with him into Act 4, Scene 5 until Hortensio says in an aside to Katherine, “Say as he says, or we shall never go.” It suddenly clicks with Katherine, I have to play the game to get what I want. So she agrees with Petruchio that the sun is the moon and then that she was mistaken and it is the sun.

Skip to the last two lines.

Hortensio: “Now, go thy ways, thou hast tamed a curst shrew.”

(He KNOWS that’s not true! He’s the one who told her to play along!)

Lucentio: “’Tis a wonder, by your leave, she will be tamed so.”

(Huh, yeah, it’s strange that. Even Lucentio’s suspicious!)

She isn’t tamed! She’s just playing the game. Petruchio better straighten up or there may be some deadly nightshade in his food one of these days. (That did happen back then, you know.)

Now Tyler says of Taming of the Shrew, that it’s a crazy story and she wanted to figure out what happened. But she doesn’t. She doesn’t take the characters and delve into what might have made them act the way they did in Shakespeare’s play. Instead she changes the characters immensely and then looks at their motivations. They are no longer remotely the same people. The relationship between the play and this book is tenuous at best.

As with many productions and retellings, the story centers on Katherine, though in the play just as much time is given to the comedy of the various suitors for Bianca. Tyler all but leaves that out, giving Bunny only one “suitor” and a brief mention that she had many others.

Tyler herself calls Vinegar Girl a “meringue.” A meringue consists of egg whites and some sugar whipped until they are light and fluffy then baked so they maintain their shape, but there’s very little substance. I think “a meringue” perfectly captures this book.

This is still Anne Tyler, a master writer and Pulitzer Prize winner, so there are some very witty, and poignant, scenes in the book, but I had trouble getting started. I didn’t really begin enjoying the book until some third of the way in.

There are some correlating characters. Katherine becomes Kate, Baptista becomes Dr. Battista, her father. Bianca becomes Bunny. Petruchio becomes Pyotr and, well, Lucentio becomes Edward, sort of.

Vinegar Girl opens with Kate gardening, which is her kind of happy place, and being called by her father who asks her to bring his lunch to the lab. She replies grumpily but he assumes she will follow through, because she always does.

Her father has come up with a scheme to have Kate marry his lab assistant Pyotr Cherbakov, so he can stay in the country, because “All would be lost” without Pyotr and his work visa is about to run out. (Drama much?)

“To put it mildly, it had never been Kate’s plan to work in a preschool. However, during her sophomore year in college she had told her botany professor that his explanation of photosynthesis was ‘half-assed.’ One thing had led to another, and eventually she was invited to leave.”

“In theory Kate could have applied for readmission to her college the following year, but she somehow didn’t.”

Kate, for her part, is much more wishy washy than Shakespeare’s Katherine was. Katherine seems to hold a great deal of anger, even physically attacking her sister. Tyler’s Kate, just seems to be floating through life, doing what is easiest and not sure what she wants out of life.

Kate seems to be stuck caring for her sister and father, but she doesn’t DO anything to get out of her situation. She isn’t pressured to go back to college. Her father simply doesn’t push her to do so. She has settled into this situation for want of a clear direction in her life.

There are so many scenes that just aren’t that interesting. They advance the cause of the plot but they aren’t funny or poignant. *shrug* Just kind of lackluster for me. Like the meal where her father unexpectedly brings Pyotr home for dinner. It’s just there as a sort of bridge.

Later that evening, her father finally brings up the marriage again. Kate is shocked. “You’ve been throwing him at me all along and I was too dumb to see it. I guess I just couldn’t believe my own father would conceive of such a thing.”

Kate gets angry and brings up Bunny. Her father points out the difference between the two. “Bunny has all those young men chasing after her.”

Kate is terribly hurt.

“If she kept her expression impassive, if she didn’t blink or even open her mouth to say another word, she might be able to stop the tears from spilling over. So she was silent. By degrees she stood up, careful not to bump into anything, and she put down her calculator and turned and walked out of the dining room with her chin raised.

And we feel for her. Her father just told her she is inferior, second tier to Bunny. She thought so before, she might have even suspected he thought so, but she didn’t KNOW until he said it. Ouch.

Kate seems utterly broken by this.

“He must think she was of no value; she was nothing but a bargaining chip in his single-minded quest for a scientific miracle. After all, what real purpose did she have in her life? And she couldn’t possibly find a man who would love her for herself, he must think, so why not just palm her off on someone who would be useful to him?”
Kate tells him he can do his own taxes. It’s a small skirmish, but Bunny applauds her for it, which makes her feel a little better, some solidarity.

Pyotr shows up to apologize for offending Kate. “She felt both gratified and humiliated to know that he comprehended this.”

And they begin to connect, she realizes she underestimated him because of the language barrier.

Now, Pyotr and Petruchio are totally different characters. Petruchio is in it for the money and sets about to break Katherine’s spirit through starvation, sleep deprivation and “killing her with kindness.” Pyotr is not concerned with changing Kate. She is wonderful just the way she is in his eyes and he is only concerned that they should marry and find a way to live peacefully. Kate’s father is MUCH more involved in convincing Kate than Katherine’s father is.

At one point Pyotr says, “You are the only person I know who pronounces my name right.” It’s very wistful statement.

Then her father shows up acting as if everything is mended and thinking Kate is going to marry Pyotr. And FINALLY he really talks to her about it, about how he thought Pyotr would just move in to the extra room and how his work is going and how her mother was when she was a child. He really opens up. That is a poignant scene.

Kate comes around and agrees to the marriage, on paper, to help Pyotr stay.

She goes back to work and the people start treating her with more respect as she is going to be married, like she is suddenly a real legitimate person.

She has a crush of some sort on co-worker, Adam, but she just throws that over to marry Pyotr. Why? That relationship seems to be sprung on us then tossed aside just as quickly. It didn’t work for me.

Kate seems to become interested in marrying Pyotr as a way to build up some momentum in her life, to change the trajectory, though she still doesn’t know what she wants to do. She doesn’t have any goals. Now, there are a lot of people out there like that but I’ve never been one of them so I find it a little hard to relate.

Then Pyotr and Kate get to know each other and he grows on her and it begins to turn into a real marriage. She looks for the good in Pyotr and finds things to like about him. She comes to understand him, the way a woman might in an arranged marriage.

In fact, it reminded me of the story about one of my sets of great grandparents. Theirs was a marriage of convenience. She had been married previously and had two children. Her husband passed away and she became housekeeper for my great great grandparents. Then my great great grandmother passed away. The story goes that my great great grandfather, William Henry, looked at my great grandfather, Fred, and said, “Well, are you going to marry her or do I have to?” It wouldn’t have been proper to stay in the house with two men and no other adult female. So, Fred married Lizzie. They had my grandmother in 1921. A neighbor lady used to tell me that they were two of the kindest people she’d ever known. Perhaps that was why their marriage worked. Romance doesn’t necessarily last in a marriage, it has to be based on something more, and some people just skip that romance stage altogether.

So, Vinegar Girl comes to a strangely logical conclusion, with some more farce about Edward stealing the lab mice.

I would say Vinegar Girl is a book inspired by Taming of the Shrew, more than a re-telling of the play. It doesn’t have the weight of male/female politics that Shakespeare depicted, where men held the power and women had to fly under the radar, because, unlike Katherine, Kate has the right to refuse. In trying to bring this story forward in time, it might have worked better if the author had chosen a culture where Kate would have been more pressured to marrying, such as a traditional culture in the U.S. or even another country.

Vinegar Girl. It’s a meringue – light, fluffy and pleasant but lacking much substance.






Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Pretty Paper: A Christmas Story by Willie Nelson with (Guest Post by Tarren Young)


(The following is a guest post by author Tarren Young.)

Pretty Paper: A Christmas Tale
Willie Nelson with David Ritz

I have nothing against Willie Nelson, personally, but to say that I would read a book by him? Who even knew he had written any? But this book found me.
I believe books have an uncanny ability to find us at just the right time in our lives for one reason or another. Even if we have picked up the same book a thousand times before, if it’s not the right time, the story will not want to be read.
I was actually looking to read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love for our December theme of inspirational reading. I had several people offer to let me borrow their own copies, but I knew that it would be a book that I’d want to have for my own - to highlight, take notes in, and (gasp!) dog ear my favorite pages.
I was proceeding to the checkout, with yet a different book completely (I had a Frederick Backman book in my hand titled My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry) when this one stopped me with the title alone - Pretty Paper. Immediately the song popped into my head—Willie’s version, not the Roy Orbison version. I couldn’t help but open the front cover.
I read to page five.
I always have to read at least the first paragraph before I buy a book. If it keeps my interest longer than the first paragraph and past page one, two, even page three, the author usually has a chance with me. So I read.
I read about Willie running into a guy down on his luck at Christmas time.
Of course, we’ve all read about that. Who hasn’t? And who hasn’t been there? What was so different about this guy that made Willie want to tell his tale?
I managed to read the book, a three-hundred and four page book that would normally take me close to a month to read (I’m a slow reader and have children) in three days! It was surreal how fast I finished this book. Willie doesn’t write high literature but maybe it was the ease of his writing that actually pulled me into the story.
Or was it something else entirely?
I like a wonderful story with such imaginative description that I feel I am right there in that scene—behind the wheel of a car careening out of control or hearing the lonesome blues of a honky-tonk. Normally, I would never have picked up a book with such simple writing, and again, no offense to Willie.
But something grabbed my soul. It downright gave me the chills, and it all happened on page five.
See, we all see down and out, hard times in our lives. Times when the world doesn’t seem fair, and that’s just the way it is for Vernon Clay, who Willie writes about, and who ultimately becomes the inspiration for the hit song Pretty Paper.
Willie first meets Vernon outside a department store called Leonards in Texas in the 1960’s, hawking simple things like ribbons, wrapping paper and pencils for the holiday season. Vernon is a double amputee, and doesn’t even have a real wheelchair—just a homemade one. Willie is drawn to the man from a distance and doesn’t understand why, it’s certainly not pity (well, maybe it is at first) but when Willie hears the man singing out his song to sell his items, he knows the man is a singer at heart. And, at the bottom of his heart and the tune he sings, is not only a tale of heartbreak, but one of blues. Like one character we meet, Skeeter Jarvis, we learn that the blues are the bottom line of all music. “Scrape off the fancy dressing, cut out the fat and what do you got? You got the crux of true-life music, and that’s the blues.”
In Vernon’s diary, Skeeter Jarvis mentions how Lightnin’ Hopkins once told him ‘”You play the blues to lose the blues.”
Was that it? Was that the reason, right from page five, when Willie writes, “He sang like he meant it. In fact, he sang like a singer. He sang in tune. Sadly, he also seemed to be singing in vain. I didn’t see a single person stop to buy his wares. And yet that didn’t stop his singing. I sensed that he sang to lift his spirits and stay warm.”
And yet that didn’t stop his singing.” That was it! Those words grabbed me and shook me to the core. Those chills, that little glimmer of hope when I was not only feeling sick with a sinus infection, an asthma flare up and depressed over our circumstances in not having a real tree this year, and feeling anger, even bitterness, at how skinny our white fake tree looked. In one short, simple sentence, my whole Christmas outlook changed this year.
I certainly didn’t set out to read a Christmas story. I was just looking for an inspirational story and had my heart set on two other books, but the universe said no. This was the one I was meant to read because the book found me. There were many other life nuggets I took to heart from this book, such as Vernon interpreting Skeeter after having both a heart attack and a stroke as saying, “...that  you can live with anything long as you can write about it.”

To a writer who typically loves Christmas, and was starting to trudge down the curmudgeon path this year, these passages were refreshing water. I was a bruised and thirsty soul coming out of the NaNoWriMo battle a physical winner, but a now seemingly purposeless soul in the writing arena. I can’t thank the universe enough for this book landing in my life.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Orchid Beach by Stuart Woods




Orchid Beach (Holly Barker Series Book 1)
by Stuart Woods

Holly Barker has decided to leave the Army after twenty years and take a civilian police position. Her father, Ham, has an old Army buddy who is looking for someone with her experience to be his Deputy Chief but when she arrives a month later to take up the position, the Chief has been shot and is in a coma.

Holly already has a contract and her first goals are clear - take down the Chief’s assailant and clear out the corruption the Chief had been investigating in his own force. When she arrives, Holly finds there has been no announcement about her coming to take up the Deputy Chief position and now she is the acting Chief.

This is a very straightforward police procedural that moves quickly on dialogue and clean action with minimal description. It’s not deep but it is intriguing. I would call it a fun summer read and I’ll probably read another.

It’s got a simple cast. There’s Holly, twenty years in the Army as an MP, working her way up to a command, but now moving into civilian life as a cop. There’s her father Ham, about ready to retire from the Army himself. (Holly’s mom died some time ago.) There’s the police chief, Chet, who appears only briefly. Wallace Hurd expected is the acting Chief for a few hours, until Holly arrives, but he seems to take it all in stride. He does not let his emotions show at all, which makes Holly wonder. Bob Hurst is the detective sergeant and main homicide investigator. Jane was the Chief’s secretary and he apparently confided in her regularly.

Hank Doherty, a friend of Holly’s dad and the Chief is also found dead. Holly adopts Hank’s Doberman Pinscher, Daisy. Daisy is very well trained and becomes instrumental in a lot of action.

They make an arrest quickly, a young couple who whose van was seen in the vicinity and are found to have the Chief’s gun. He claims to have had a punctured tire and found the gun. They prosecute but the public defender, Jackson Oxenhandler, is able to show more than reasonable doubt. He and Holly take a shine to each other and quickly become an item. Then her father arrives, and Holly becomes interested in the goings on at a local high end housing development, gated community. Things develop in an unexpected direction from there.

I can genuinely say I did not see who the mole on the police force was until the end, and there were actually two. This book kept me guessing.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier


Jamaica Inn
By Daphne du Maurier

It is Cornwall in the 1820s. Mary Yellan’s mother dies after a particularly hard year on their farm in Helford but, before she does, she makes Mary promise to go to her Aunt Patience, whose husband owns the Jamaica Inn. It has been some time since they have seen her, but Mary remembers her Aunt Patience as a bright and cheerful person. She isn’t anymore. Under the brutal hand of her husband, Joss Merlyn, Patience constantly trembles and wrings her hands.

“The lovely giggling Aunt Patience is now a gaunt, shaky wreck, her spirit destroyed by abuse, and her husband, Joss Merlyn, is a monster: physically overwhelming, lumbering, violent and drunk.”

The first night she is there, Mary thinks she must leave but stays on because of her aunt, thinking she can help her or get her away from Joss Merlyn. It isn’t long before Mary suspects she overhears a murder but cannot be sure. There is no evidence of it except a rope left hanging from a beam.

Mary meets the local vicar when she gets lost following Joss one day and he is kind to her so she thinks she can confide in him. “There was always Francis Davey and his promise; there would be peace and shelter for her at the house in Altarnun.”

I can’t help thinking that this is the wrong direction. Where does the minister get his money for the horses and his fine clothes?

It isn’t until a while later that Mary finds out what her stepfather really is, as he confesses when he is drunk.

“… I have dreams, nightmares; I see things that never scare me when I’m sober. Damn it, Mary, I’ve killed men with my own hands, trampled them under water, beaten them with rocks and stones; and I’ve never thought no more about it; I’ve slept in my bed like a child. But when I’m drunk I see them in my dreams…”

Mary is properly horrified and thinks Joss’s brother Jem, who she has become somewhat enamored of, must be in on it too. She had known he was somewhat of a rogue and a horse thief but didn’t know this.

“No, Mary had no illusions about romance. Falling in love was a pretty name for it, that was all. Jem Merlyn was a man, and she was a woman, and whether it was his hands or his skin or his smile she did not know, but something inside her responded to him, and the very thought of him was an irritant and a stimulant at the same time. It nagged at her and would not let her be. She knew she would have to see him again.”

I watched the Alfred Hitchcock adaptation of the book into a movie recently and found some very large departures as well as some troubling inconsistencies.

In the movie, there is a point where the squire is kidnapping Mary, which never happens in the book. As directed by Hitchcock, Mary, played by Maureen O’Hara struggles very weakly, all but tickling the guy’s fingers while he ties her up.
Contrast that with this passage in the book –

“He nodded at her, reassuring her, smiling still, smirking and sly, and she felt his furtive hand fasten itself upon her. She moved swiftly, lashing out at him, and her fist caught him underneath the chin, shutting his mouth like a trap, with his tongue caught between his teeth . . . she jabbed at him swiftly with the full force of her knee, at the same time thrusting her fingers in his eyes. He doubled up at once, rolling onto his side in agony, and in a second she had struggled from under him and pulled herself to her feet, kicking at him once more as he rocked defenseless, his hands clasped to his belly. 
She grabbed in the ditch for a stone to fling at him, finding nothing but loose earth and sand, and she dug handfuls of this, scattering it in his face and in his eyes, so that he was blinded momentarily and could make no return.”

No, Mary is no delicate lady, but a strong farm woman who will take action to deal with the events and situations she finds herself embroiled in.

The book itself is very atmospheric. There are long passages of description interspersed with action. It can be a bit difficult to set down and pick up if time is limited, but an interesting read and worth the time.


Daphne du Maurier (1907 – 1989) published Jamaica Inn in 1936, when she was just 29. I’ll probably read another of her books in the future but they are definitely time intensive and I wouldn’t call them fast reads.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Beyond The Cliffs of Kerry by Amanda Hughes


Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry
By Amanda Hughes
Reviewed by Tarren Young

The writing of this book does not flow smoothly like any of the three main rivers of Ireland mentioned in the story, it is harsh and choppy. Perhaps this is done because of the environment Darcy McBride, the main character, lives in – and has had to live in since she was a young child, facing and surviving a famine in Ireland in the 1740’s. If Ms. Hughes chose to use choppy sentence structure for the time periods purpose, I could potentially understand, but I still feel that it doesn’t work and makes for a more difficult and less enjoyable read.

There are a few plot twists that I didn’t expect, which is cool, and I was getting into the romance part toward the end. (Literally, like page 320 or something.) Despite how uneven, sometimes awkward and clumsy the romance writing is, I do not appreciate how long it took me to get into the romance.

As a reader, I also don’t appreciate wasting my time on reading something that doesn’t draw me in right from the beginning. The story starts in Ireland but, other than a beating by her brother, there is no real action taking place until two years later – about 120 pages into the story. As a writer of mainly historical romance myself, I stuck with it to see what I could learn about the time period and the general character roles/thoughts/actions of the time.

I am also very disappointed with this story because it is written in third person and, although I typically don’t have a problem with third person, the author gives us what every character says and thinks. For example, in one paragraph we have Darcy’s point of view, then Nathan’s, then Jean-Michel, then another character. Sometimes it is within very short paragraphs in succession, so that we never really get to know the characters. We just have surface driven ambitions. This, to me as a reader, is very distracting and there are very little transitions at all in the story.

As both a reader and a writer, I understand that, considering the time frame of Darcy’s story, (it spans roughly five years of her life) and the scenarios she is thrown into, there is a need for a lot of characters. Darcy and her brother, her friends and family in Ireland, her best friend and her husband and all of their children, the Catholic Father they smuggle in, and the British military that is stationed there for a while (we learn all the top men’s names.) We hear of names from towns one or two over, we learn names from the ship she is on while being transported to the colonies and, of course, the people she meets in the colonies. Having to keep track of all the characters was a bit maddening. I honestly felt there were too many characters in this story and, if we heard ninety-percent of it from Darcy’s view only, then we wouldn’t have had the need for so many characters. She could have just called them the British guards or British Generals.


I am rating this story as 1.5 stars because this story could have been told in 150 pages instead of 390, and the writing feels more like a first draft than a final draft.

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell


The Bone Clocks
By David Mitchell

The latest novel from the author of Cloud Atlas, The Bone Clocks is divided into six sections with very different voices. It covers the period 1984 to 2043, and blends genres beautifully, with a little bit of horror and science fiction, into a literary masterpiece.

It is 1984 and Holly Sykes is a typical fifteen-year-old British teenager, positive she is wildly in love with her boyfriend, Vinny, who is twenty-four. “I fling open my bedroom curtains, and there’s the thirsty sky and the wide river full of ships and boats and stuff, but I’m already thinking of Vinny’s chocolaty eyes, shampoo down Vinny’s back, beads of sweat on Vinny’s shoulders, and Vinny’s sly laugh, and by now my heart’s going mental and, God, I wish I was waking up at Vinny’s place in Peacock Street and not in my own stupid bedroom.”

Her mother finds out about it and goes ballistic. Holly decides to leave home and go live with Vinny but ends up looking for an abandoned building where she can camp out for a bit. She’s about to find more adventure than she bargains for because there’s one particular thing that is different about Holly, she used to hear voices. She called them “Radio People,” which she means she has a gift that some very nasty people, called Anchorites, would like to use her for.

The second part comes from the perspective of a young man at Kings College, Hugo Lamb. Hugo seems to be rather amoral, or even psychopathic. It is somewhat surprising the lengths he’ll go to in accumulating a hefty bank account, most of them not legal, and definitely detrimental to those around him. Eventually, he crosses paths with a slightly older Holly Sykes in 1991 and things get even more interesting.

The next section is told from the perspective of Ed Brubeck in 2004, now a journalist who reports mainly from war torn Iraq and is home visiting Holly and their daughter Aoife. Could he be addicted to the action? There’s definitely something he isn’t telling Holly, and they’re about to deal with one of a parent’s worst fears.

In 2015, best-selling author Crispin Hershey is not so best-selling anymore when he meets Holly, who is now a best-selling author. Their paths converge and then diverge again for a while before coming back together. They become fast friends and support each other through some difficult times.

Through the first four books runs the vein of a sort of Time Lord, called the Horologists, and their fight against the predatory Anchorites. In 2025, we finally meet an Horologist from their view point, one who has lived many, many lives – the name is Marinus. The Horologists have a plan to defeat the anchorites. It’s a long term plan. It may also be something of a long shot. It also involves Holly Sykes.

Finally, we return to the viewpoint of a much older Holly Sykes, in 2043 on Sheep’s Head in Ireland during a time period referred to as the Endarkenment, after the environment is beyond broken and society has broken down too, and it’s only getting worse. Is there any hope to be had?

I enjoyed this book tremendously. It is a long journey and well worth taking. The people who gave it voice in audio did a fantastic job. I highly recommend it.