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review 2018-07-12 19:32
Living and Dying
The Bright Hour - Nina Riggs
When Breath Becomes Air - Paul Kalanithi,Abraham Verghese
The Year of Magical Thinking - Joan Didion
Blue Nights by Didion, Joan 1st (first) Edition [Hardcover(2011)] - Joan Didion
A Widow's Story - Joyce Carol Oates
Missing Mom - Joyce Carol Oates
About Alice - Calvin Trillin
How We Die: Reflections of Life's Final Chapter - Sherwin B. Nuland

So, I've been off BL for a long, long time. A lot has happened, I got pregnant and had a daughter. My mom got sick and passed away. I had to clear out and sell my childhood home and all the contents while trying to balance all of that and my full time job. It's been...something.

 

For a while, not long after my mom died (3 days before Christmas 2016 when my daughter was only 5 months old) I started searching out and reading books that dealt with death and grief. I read a lot of Joan Didion The Year of Magical ThinkingBlue Nights. I read When Breath Becomes Air and About Alice and A Widow's Story. I started Missing Mom and couldn't go any further because it was too hard and How We Die.

 

The Bright Hour is one of the most beautiful books I've read, ever. I can't possibly describe it except to use it's full title--The Bright Hour: a memoir of living and dying. It is so full of life, all the messiness and happiness and tragedy and humor and it faces death and mortality head on, unflinching. 

 

I recently reread it, now a year and a half since my mother passed, it still has such power and peace. I can't recommend it enough.

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review 2018-07-04 23:05
Something Bright, Then Holes
Something Bright, Then Holes - Maggie Nelson

Nelson's collection is divided into three distinct sections, but almost all of the poems included have a sense of vulnerability and melancholy. There is a focus on loss - lost love, lost mobility, lost time - the wreckage of broken relationships, hearts, and bodies. The first section, field journals written about the canal, captures this essence and distills it. She uses minutia to highlight entropy. The tension between beauty and decay, treasure and refuse. A time capsule of a single summer that simultaneously has a timelessness that extends to every summer. The stretch of endless afternoons, summer heat, and isolation. Written mostly in couplets this collection is sparse, raw, observant, and pensive.

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review 2018-06-15 22:55
All Things Bright & Strange by James Markert
All Things Bright and Strange - James Markert

In the wake of World War I in the small, Southern town of Bellhaven, South Carolina, the town folk believe they’ve found a little slice of heaven in a mysterious chapel in the woods. But they soon realize that evil can come in the most beautiful of forms.The people of Bellhaven have always looked to Ellsworth Newberry for guidance, but after losing his wife and his future as a professional pitcher, he is moments away from testing his mortality once and for all. Until he finally takes notice of the changes in his town . . . and the cardinals that have returned. Upon the discovery of a small chapel deep in the Bellhaven woods, healing seems to fall upon the townspeople, bringing peace after several years of mourning. But as they visit the “healing floor” more frequently, the people begin to turn on one another, and the unusually tolerant town becomes anything but.The cracks between the natural and supernatural begin to widen, and tensions rise. Before the town crumbles, Ellsworth must pull himself from the brink of suicide, overcome his demons, and face the truth of who he was born to be by leading the town into the woods to face the evil threatening Bellhaven.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

POTENTIAL TRIGGER WARNING: This novel includes scenes of lynching and other hate crimes, suicide, suicide attempts, and demonic possession / exorcism.

 

 

Post-World War I, there is a special little chapel in the woods behind the quaint town of Bellhaven, South Carolina. This chapel provides visitors with an otherworldly kind of peace and healing as well as offering the opportunity to communicate with deceased loved ones. But as people start to, shall we say "overvisit", the citizens of Bellhaven actually begin to turn on one another. The shimmer of the place starts to wear off, leading people to act out in varying degrees of animosity and violence... and it all seems to be connected to the arrival of Lou Eddington, the new owner of the previously abandoned Bellhaven plantation.

 

Lifelong resident Ellsworth Newberry, scouted by the Brooklyn Dodgers in his youth, once looked forward to a shot at becoming a MLB pitcher. After fighting in the war, Ellsworth returns home an amputee. Not long after, his wife, Eliza, is tragically killed in a church fire while trying to save a mother and child from the flames set by the KKK. Raphael, the little boy, survives, but his mother does not so Raphael is taken in to be raised by Eliza's best friend, Anna Belle. 

 

Ellsworth does notice odd occurrences around town -- namely plants everywhere blooming all at once and out of season -- but he is hesitant to fall in with the chapel adoration crowd. Maybe it's his military experience, but he can't help but be guarded around that which he can't quite understand or logically explain. Such is the case with Lou Eddington. While Anna Belle finds the man nice enough, Ellsworth isn't so convinced. Will time prove Ellsworth's suspicions correct? All I'll say is that the stunt Lou pulls with the "gift"... yeah, pretty jerk maneuver in my book. 

 

Then there's young Raphael. "No last name, just Raphael", as he explains. Ellsworth starts off having a bit of a grudge against Raphael, as Ellsworth sees the child as the reason for his wife's death. Raphael is aware of this wall, but he is determined to develop a relationship with Ellsworth. Over time, Ellsworth grudgingly begins to accept Raphael's presence and does start to converse with him, allowing for important healing conversations to begin.

 

Raphael continues to remind the townspeople that the chapel is "bad medicine" (thanks Raph, now I can't get Bon Jovi out of my head). With the help of Anna Belle and Raphael, Ellsworth works to push through his sometimes suicidal depression to come forth and lead his neighbors away from the "fools gold" chapel (as some dubb it), urging them to find strength in numbers so that they may fight the evil that has consumed the once peaceful town. 

 

"Our town gathering place was burned down three years ago because of hatred. Then we got muddled up with the war and its repercussions. It's long past time now that we find a way to gather again. Our beliefs may be different. Some may not believe at all. But we have the same questions, the same needs, the same desire for good to prevail. And it's time to focus again on what brings us together instead of what could tear us apart." ~Ellsworth

Within its plot, All Things Bright and Strange incorporates historical topics such as 17th-18th century slavery, racism / race riots throughout the 1920s, and the long running fight against the hate crimes of the KKK. Portions of the story also touch upon Prohibition and labor union issues. Additionally, the book quietly interjects important topics such as the aftermath illnesses and struggles -- emotional and societal -- of war veterans (in this case, WW1 vets, but much of what is described is still very much a reality for modern day vets). 

 

Keeping in mind that the character Ellsworth is a military veteran, be aware that portions of the story do depict some graphic violence. In fact, in terms of plot, I'd even say this novel skims the borders of the horror genre (even being published by a Christian publishing house). It's still tame compared to the darker works of Ted Dekker or Frank Peretti, but still. 

 

Markert keeps on with his trend of crafting wonderfully unique plots with just the right touch of otherworldly, magical realism-style storytelling that stir up that sense of wonder in me and make me eagerly anticipate any new release from him. 

 

 

FTC Disclaimer: TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own. 

 

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text 2018-04-28 12:46
#readathon. Launched! Planned TBR
Terminal Alliance (Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse) - Jim C. Hines
Heroes In Training - Martin H. Greenberg,Jim C. Hines
Nevertheless, She Persisted: A Book View Cafe Anthology - Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff,Mindy Klasky,Vonda N. McIntyre,Nancy Jane Moore,P. G. Nagle,Gillian Polack,Irene Radford,Deborah J. Ross,Dave Smeds,Sara Stamey,Jennifer Stevenson,Judith Tarr,Marie Brennan,Amy Sterling Casil,Brenda Clough,Leah Cutter,Marissa Doyle,
Lake Silence - Anne Bishop
Dark Heir - Faith Hunter
Burn Bright - Patricia Briggs
Cress - Marissa Meyer

It's starting to be a tradition with me to open with a Jim C. Hines book.  Unplanned until this time.  Terminal Alliance (Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse) - Jim C. Hines  kept getting bumped by library waitlist books, not fitting a reading challenge and other borrows.

 

I've got two anthologies handy for quicker stories, Heroes In Training - Martin H. Greenberg,Jim C. Hines  and Nevertheless, She Persisted.  Mostly next in series books.  Lots of not pictured variety in downloaded freebies and kindle unlimited borrows in case mood changes.

 

Nope, no way am I getting through all shown.  I do good to complete 1-3 books if I socialize and do all the activities.  Planning the TBR is half the fun!

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review 2018-04-21 18:31
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore - average
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore: A Novel - Matthew J. Sullivan

An intricate story of many people all connected through a bookstore and/or their pasts. Lydia has changed her last name and moved back to the city of her childhood, deciding to start over and having somewhat unrealistic ideas that nobody will uncover her secret (including the man she lives with.) That all starts to unravel when Joey, a patron of the Bright Ideas Bookstore, kills himself among the books. Lydia finds him and subsequently inherits all of his earthly possessions - most of which are books.

 

Through these books Joey enlists Lydia in unraveling the mysteries of his death and life. Meanwhile news from the suicide in the store pulls Lydia's past into her present. Through flashbacks and a lot of foreshadowing we learn along with Lydia about surprising and extremely coincidental connections among a cast of characters that previously seemed unconnected. Meanwhile there's this suicide and a baroque bunch of messages from beyond  the grave to unravel. While figuring out Joey's actions, Lydia is forced to face her own past whether she wants to or not. (She doesn't.)

 

There are some real coincidences in this book, but they didn't bother me enough to make me put it down. It becomes pretty clear early on who the villain is, even if his motives remain unclear. Lydia, the main character, can be quite frustrating but I accepted everyone on their own terms and read on. It's a quick read and the mystery changes through the book. Some of the characters are lovely, sadly these aren't the main characters. It is a decent read with a great title. However, I don't know who I might recommend this to, and in the final examination, I just didn't care enough about any of the characters or find their story very compelling.

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