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review 2017-06-07 21:55
Our Short History
Our Short History - Lauren Grodstein

Title:  Our Short History

Author:  Lauren Grodstein 

Publisher:  Algonquin Books

Reviewed By:  Arlena Dean

Rating: Five



"Our Short History" by Lauren Grodstein


My Thoughts....


"Our Short History" really deals with a subject that is somewhat hard to talk about...dying.  This author does a very good job in presenting this mesmerizing, hear wrenching told story. What will a mother do when she finds out that she doesn't have long to live [fighting stage IV ovarian cancer] and she has a son who was just six year old.  Karen writes a book for her son who was just six year old to be read by his older self.   This was definitely one of those 'tearjerker' reads.


What will happen when Jake ask hims mother to find his dad?  Now Jake wants to meet his father which presents problems for the mother,  Karen.  What will she do because there is a history that did not turn out well between Karen and Jake's father?  Will her sister still be able to take care of Jake as it had been planned now that the father has come into the picture.  This is a very emotional read that will give the reader quite one complicated relationships with all of these characters: from Karen, Jake, Jake's father [Dave] and Karen's sister. Now, I did say that this is sad story however, do be ready for a little humor at times, very absorbing and so memorable and even thought provoking in this mother-son relationship.


This author really gives the reader one beautifully well written story that is so very raw as her son 'resonates and Karen's bravery in facing her illness is so very admirable.  With that all I can say is that this story "Our Short History" was one story that I will not forget anytime soon.   I will say after all that had gone with between Karen and her ex boyfriend [Dave], her illness and her life she had not chosen for herself I could definitely  understand why she felt the way she did about this whole situation.  In the end we see that this wasn't about the 'life Karen had given her son but the live he had given her.'


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url 2017-03-21 15:14
The Soundtrack of a Novel


“All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music” 

Walter Pater’s said that. It’s a famous quote of his, more famous than he is. When I first heard it, I checked him out, to find he was a nineteenth-century art critic and literary theorist who was born in the East End of London.


Some think that this quote is bunkum, and that art doesn’t move towards being music, but the idea resonates with me. Why else would Leonard Cohen have moved his writing sideways from prose and poetry to lyrics (oh! the money, maybe…).  Music often enhances reading; I played Bob Marley all the time when I was consumed by A Brief History of Seven Killings 


When I write, I’m always aware that certain scenes make a sort of music in my head. My characters, right from before I had anything published, always listened to music, often (this is possibly why these stories weren't published!) for long, closely-described scenes.


Then I read the critically acclaimed Teddy Wayne, and heard about how he created a ‘soundtrack’ to his most recent novel Loneran unsettling story of obsessive desire. In his article, Wayne says…A great deal of pop songs are also about romantic obsession and loneliness (often in the same breath), and many ostensible love songs, when you examine the lyrics, are really avowals of stalker-like pursuit or thoughts of the object of desire; the British seem to have a particular fondness for this kind of ballad


Wayne chose ten tracks that informed his portrayal of his protagonist. I’m writing book four of the Shaman Mysteries, Flood Gate, and I'm doing the same thing. My chosen tracks each represent a character, and I’m finding wonderful inspiration from listening to these songs. Follow the links to hear the music.


In order of appearance:


Larry Waish is a small-time poultry farmer who recently lost all his hens in one of the many floods that plague the Somerset Levels. What he’s discovered, is that his neighbour is to blame for his loss, and he’s hopping mad. Larry really loves Country and Western and plays The Eagles Heartache Tonight  a lot, while he’s trying to cope with what happened between him and Jack Spicer at Harper’s Coombe 


Jack Spicer, who’s real name is John, farms 200 acres of Somerset land, as his family has for generations. He's recently lost his daughter, and is helping bring up her daughter, baby Olivia. He knows he's been driven to do wrong, and t’s tormenting him. He's a bit of a classical buff, and listening to the slightly sinister tones of Shostakovich’s first piano concerto helped me build his character. By the end of chapter one, Jack is dead.


Sabbie Dare is a young shamanic practitioner and therapist who knows it is her destiny to be of service to people on the very edge of life. The victims of evil…the perpetrators of it.  Sabbie’s mad about Pet Shop Boys and pagan music which can vary from folksy to rocking, and includes groups like IncubuSucubus, Dahm the Bard and The Dolmen 


Kelly King was 28 when she threw herself off the Clifton Suspension Bridge. She’d never really recovered from her life in The Willows, a local authority children’s home where Kelly, Sabbie and Debs Hitchings all lived when they were children. Kelly was depressed, directionless, and addicted to chocolate cookies. In her last days, she plugged into the music of her childhood, such as Pink’s There you go.


Debs Hitchings is a beautician who wanders from boyfriend to boyfriend and job to job. Debs turned up at the very end of In the Moors, (Book One) where she cuts Sabbie’s tortured hair, and has a small part in Unraveled Visions. In this book Debs, and the story of her past, takes centre stage. She’s known for cracking out Beyoncés Crazy in Love 

at the top of her voice as her heels skittered across nighttime pavements.




Quentin Lachapelle is a thirty-five year old photographer with a nice studio, a pretty wife, and a flourishing career. He meets Sabbie and Debs at Kelly King's funeral, where he offers to take some glamour shots of Debs, although he finds Sabbie’s dark skin tones and angled face interesting. There is more to Quentin that meets the eye…or the lens of his cameras. Quentin is a Miles Davis fan, of course. 


DI Reynard Buckely. Fans of the Shaman Mysteries will be delighted to hear that and Rey and Sabbie are still an item. In fact, things hot up between them considerably! Rey made his musical preferences clear in In the Moors, so there’s only one group I could play, and that’s the Stones


Fenella Waish is Larry’s sister. Now in her forties, but still living in their childhood home, Fen seeks help from Sabbie for longterm Ornithophobia, her paralysing fear of birds which prevents her going anywhere near Larry’s poultry shed. Fenella loves her laptop, which is her window on the world. Scared to be Lonely might bring tears to her eyes, but she plays it again and again.


Tara Yorkman. Before she died, Kelly was fruitlessly searching for her friend Tara, who lived at The Willows from when she was little. Kelly, in need of someone to care for, always looked out for Tara, until she was a teenager. Then she disappeared. When Kelly’s spirit comes to Sabbie in a dream, she feels indebted to continue the quest for the missing girl. I listen to Taylor Swift and other noughties music to get in touch with Tara.


Victor Doyle is a successful Bristol business man, a builder of local housing. Now 55, he's loaded, charming and still handsome in a chiselled way, although he’s put on a bit of weight. In the community, he’s a well-loved philanthropist, but underneath, the man is pure, unadulterated evil. I think he’d be rivitted by Pretty Women from Sweeny Todd.


If you're writing a novel, or a series of short stories, try finding and playing the soundtrack that perfectly accompanies the story and the characters. It can make a tremendous difference to the outcome. 

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review 2016-07-04 21:27
Forbidden Love In Timbuktu: Woman From Another Land
Forbidden Love in Timbuktu - Brenda Smith

Title: Forbidden Love In Timbuktu: Woman From Another Land
Author: Brenda Smith
Publisher: Xlibris U. S.
Reviewed By: Arlena Dean
Rating: Five

"Forbidden Love In Timbuktu: Woman From Another Land" by Brenda Smith

My Thoughts.....

"Forbidden Love In Timbuktu: Woman From Another Land" will keep your attention till the very end and will leave you wanting to know more. This author did a excellent job at giving the reader one good story of Kieta Toura, a native from Timbuktu. Ms Toura did not have the greatest life but after her father took her from her home to the Soyinka's to live with them under the watchful eye of Wakesa maybe life would not be so bad for her. Becoming friends to the Soyinka daughter Marissa life was going good and even greater meeting a certain person. But would her life be the same after something horrible happens to her though the dealings with the 'new rules of citizens to follow?' The characters in this read were all very well developed, portrayed and so believable that you find yourself feeling you are right there in the mist of what all is happening. The story really picks up as we find Kieta being taken from one country to another and to some good people. Now how did that come about for Kieta? It looked like finally Kieta was going well with her new family, in school and even having found a good friend. However, there was always the desire for Kieta to know what had happen to her friend in Timbuktu and how did she get to where she was now in Florida. As life goes on for Kieta she is now in law school in New York having been blessed to do so by her new family but still Kieta wanted to know how she had gotten to America from Timbuktu and what had happened to her dear fellow whom she had loved so very much. The way this author brings this out to the reader was very well done and with saying that I don't want to tell to much more because believe me there is another part of this story that centers around what Kieta's friend Charlotte brings to the table. Who would have ever thought this would happen for Kieta but I started to get the idea of something was happening with Kieta's girlfriend Charlotte boyfriend [Jason]...who was a detective. Now, I really will really stop here and say this is definitely one of those story that you will not be able to put down and in the end well, you will see for yourself what I am talking about. Would I recommend this novel? YES for it will have you turning the pages rapidly to the end to find out how this will all come out!

Thank you to the author for the gift of a signed copy "Forbidden Love in Timbuktu" for my giving my honest opinion of the read. I enjoyed it so well I brought a Kindle copy so I could listen to it too!


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review 2015-07-21 01:52
It's You
It's You - Jane Porter

Title: It's You
Author: Jane Porter
Publisher: Berkley
Reviewed By: Arlena Dean
Rating: Five

"It's You" by Jane Porter

What I liked about this novel....

I really like how this author was able to give the reader such a good story of healing as it was for Ali especially after she left for Napa after the death of her mother and untimely death of her finance Andrew, who had committed suicide in Arizona. Truly life for Ali had been 'turned upside down.' Now she was in Napa looking after her father due to falling and injuring his arm who now lived in a retirement community. Would she be able to find some peace after all of her painful memories that had haunted her from Arizona? It was in Napa where Ali opens up to new friendships and trying to decide what would be best for her life now that she is alone and feeling very angry. What will happen after Ali meets a cantankerous old women named Edie who lad lost her husband in W W II? I liked how this author was able was able to let one see that there are some many pains and losses in our world. This history was indeed interesting! From meeting Edie why would a journey to Berlin give Ali answers about not only Edie but herself also? Who would have known that both of these women had endured tremendous emotional pain. In the end would there be a way for Ali to heal and yet not forget? I liked how this author was able to show through another person story how Ali will be able to find the courage she needed to want to live again. I found the characters were beautiful written being so well developed, defined, some humor and so believable giving this story such a heart wrenching detailed story that I wasn't able to put down until the end...often finding myself tearing up at parts of the read. Be ready for a good story of personal growth and self discover....also there is a backstory from a Edie's diary...but I don't want to spoil it for you...only to say you will have to pick up the good read to see for yourself what that is about.

"It's You" was a well written story by this author that told two stories of two women of different generations that showed raw powerful emotions. For Ali.... love and loss, recovered from heart break and healing to being able to pick up the broken pieces of the heart and the strength to make some new choices and hope again. I will go farther in saying that this is one novel that will stay with you long after you have read it.

I received a copy through NOR in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2015-01-27 18:40
Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel
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