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review 2017-06-25 15:04
Fountain of Drowned Memories by Erik Hofstatter
Fountain of Drowned Memories - Erik Hofstatter

 

Fountain of Drowned Memories is a short story that touched my heart.

 

Lorcan is a man obsessed with the stains in the ceiling and someone, (or something?), trying to steal from him. Is this real or is there something else going on? For a story that is only 18 pages long, this one packs a powerful punch and I highly recommend it.

 

Oh, and did I mention it's free? (Or you can donate $1.00 if you like it!) Here's a link, (what do you have to lose?):Fountain of Drowned Memories

 

*I received this short story free, in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

 

 

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review 2017-05-08 17:07
Blood Memories / Barb Hendee
Blood Memories - Barb Hendee

Eleisha, a vampire, is far older than she looks and makes men yearn to care for her. Then she usually kills them, since self-preservation comes first. So when an old vampire friend kills himself, Eleisha is shocked. And what she finds in his home shows how world-weary he had become; hoarding corpses and keeping records of vampires actual names and addresses. Now the police know who Eleisha is, and more alarmingly, what she is. But she soon realizes that being known may have its uses, even if it puts her and her kind at risk.

 

A pretty good vampire yarn. Great for those looking for just vampires. No annoying werewolves, faeries, or other supernatural creatures. The vamps are after blood, not sexy times, and have limited abilities. The main character has been made a vampire (against her will) to do a specific task and left without instruction or assistance from her maker.

It would seem that there are only half a dozen vampires in her world and that number is shrinking, as Eleisha’s current companion commits suicide. Chances to learn from another are limited and her abilities are changing in ways that startle her.

Reminiscent of Anne Rice’s vampires, as there is a fair bit of angst about the need to kill to survive. There are also hints that vampire history may become a focus, as it does for the Vampire Lestat. However, without the same powers as Rice’s vamps, these characters must learn human skills like driving, managing money, and renting hotel rooms.

Eleisha is in many ways an abused woman who is learning to own her power and to run her own life. I wasn’t crazy about her at first, as she starts out timid and overly dependent on others, but she gains momentum during the course of the book, eventually leaving her in a much more independent place.

An interesting exploration of the concept of immortality—what will keep an immortal being engaged & interested in life? What interests or skills will keep them anchored in their society and in sanity? So many speculative fiction books deal with enormously long human lives, but don’t really consider this problem.

It looks like I will have to request book 2 by interlibrary loan if I am to continue the series.

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review 2017-05-03 11:00
The Unpopular Genius: Gustav Mahler by Alma Mahler-Werfel
Gustav Mahler: Memories and Letters - Alma Mahler-Werfel,Donald Mitchell,Knud Martner
Gustav Mahler (German Edition) - Alma Mahler-Werfel

As beautiful, highly educated and endowed for the arts as Alma Mahler-Werfel (1879-1964) was, she could have achieved a lot in the world, but during most of her life she remained in the shadows of her famous husbands and lovers. She had the bad luck to have been born at a time, when women only made their first tentative steps to claim their rights and their own place in society. Although her family and the circles that they frequented were among the most liberal of the fin de siècle, young and shy Alma quite naturally obeyed the command of her much older first husband Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) to give up for good all her own musical ambitions and activities. In 1939, when the Nazi regime defamed his work because he had been a Jew converted to Protestantism and refused him his place in the world of music, she brought out her very personal tribute to him under the title Gustav Mahler. Memories and Letters.

 

Alma Mahler-Werfel begins her largely admiring memories of her late husband with their first encounter at a dinner party in November 1901. Although frequenting the same circles, until then she had managed to avoid meeting the controversial conductor and composer Gustav Mahler against whom public opinion and malicious gossip had biased her. Moreover, Alma had been to a performance of his First Symphony and – like most music lovers of the time – she loathed it because even she as a student of composition couldn’t understand his modern approach. However, the middle-aged musician was immediately attracted to the young woman and quite naturally she was impressed by the man and flattered by his attentions. Passionate and used to getting what he wanted, Gustav Mahler didn’t take long to make Alma his bride and he expected of her no less than giving up her own life as well as identity. For her it was a great sacrifice to abandon her music studies and composing, but she was convinced that it was worth it. And she never lost this conviction although she acknowledges to have been too young as well as too inexperienced and romantic to have known better. On their wedding day in March 1902 – scarce four months after their first encounter – Alma was already with child, but her condition changed nothing. He and his needs were all that counted even after their daughter was born and then another daughter. She never once reproached him for his egotism and lack of regard for her because she felt that as a musical genius he stood so much above her. Besides, she was aware that he needed the stability of home and her support since he had to cope with opposition from all sides – for his Jewish descent, for his modernist understanding of music, and for his tempers and idiosyncrasies. At the cost of her own health, she stayed by his side on his travels until his untimely death in May 1911.

 

Every word of Alma Mahler-Werfel shows her unshakable awe of her ingenious husband and of his music although she didn’t go far beyond summarising the facts of their life together. I can’t help thinking that she left out quite a lot in order to paint as positive a picture of the man Gustav Mahler as she could. Maybe this was also due to her innate reserve and delicacy. It seems that she wasn’t actually a woman who wished to spread out her private life in public and in the foreword from 1939 she says herself that she hadn’t intended to publish her memories of Gustav Mahler or his letters to her during her lifetime. Seeing the Nazi regime talking ill of her late husband and denying his musical genius urged her to bring out the book in the dawn of World War Two. Although her portrait is necessarily biased and moreover incomplete, Gustav Mahler. Memories and Letters by Alma Mahler-Werfel is a partly forgotten read that definitely deserves my recommendation.

 

 

Gustav Mahler: Memories and Letters - Alma Mahler-Werfel,Donald Mitchell,Knud Martner  Gustav Mahler (German Edition) - Alma Mahler-Werfel  

 

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review 2017-04-26 17:58
The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories - Celeste Fletcher McHale

I absolutely loved this book. A man and a woman find something (love?) during three days spent on a roof after a flood. For Jacey and Colin, that was a year ago and they haven't seen each other since despite their promises to get in touch after everything was normal again.

The story of what happened during that year to each of them was emotional, sad and perplexing for at least one of the couple. The other one left in a coma with amnesia, but they remembered they had the other's number. Which unfortunately got lost in the shuffle.

The story continues on placing this couple together and apart and then over again. There are other plots going on also. Such as what happened to the mother and her three boys that were also on the roof.

A great love story between all of the characters who just happened to be on that roof for three days together during the flood with storms, thunder and lightning. A story that I thoroughly enjoyed and would most certainly recommend.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson-Fiction and Net Galley for approving and allowing me to read and review this book.

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review 2017-04-20 20:01
For those interested in history from the point of view of the people in the street and a reminder of why this should not happen to any children.
Children in the Second World War: Memories from the Home Front - Amanda Herbert-Davies

Thanks to Pen & Sword Books for offering me a copy of this book that I freely choose to review.

This book is the product of the author’s work in the archival collection of the Home Front at that Second World War Experience Centre in Yorkshire. It is easy to imagine what fascinating material the collection must contain, and how difficult it must be to choose some witness testimonies over others, but this collection offers a unique point of view, that of boys and girls who lived through the war in Britain. As the author explains, over 200 personal accounts have been used in its creation and they offer as many different points of view as children there were.

The book is divided into several chapters by themes. Although some are chronological (like the beginning, the end and the one about the bombing), some are more general and cover the whole period.

 The Beginning talks about the initial thoughts about the war and how life changed (many of the things were surprising to me although I’m sure many people will have heard stories about it. For instance, I knew about the blackouts, but it never occurred to me that the names of train stops would be removed and travelling at night with nothing to help you orient yourself in a city [no lit shop windows, names…] was not only difficult but also dangerous [light coloured cars were forbidden and pedestrians couldn’t be easily seen either]. The chapter ‘Air-Raid Shelters’ shows the steps the government took (steel shelters, Andersons, Morrisons…) and also what individuals themselves did (hide in the cupboard under the stairs, which saved quite a few people, simply ignore the alarms, dig underground trenches [especially soldiers who’d been in WWI], fortify a room, go to the underground in London) to try and keep safe. The pictures that accompany the paperback are an eye-opener to anybody who didn’t live through it. The chapter on evacuation is one of the most heart-wrenching, with a whole range of experiences, from the kids who left the city to face prejudice in rural areas, to those who found a second family and were made feel like royalty. In ‘invasion’ there is discussion of the plans families made in case of invasion (some determined to die rather than be taken prisoner) and also their home-spun anti-spy activities. ‘Shortages’ will probably be familiar to those with relatives who lived through the war, and it is a tribute in particular to mothers’ imagination and inventive when trying to make up for the things that were missing (I loved the mock banana sandwiches made by boiling and mashing up parsnip and mixing up some banana essence). ‘Schools’ emphasises the difficult experiences of those children who missed schooling or had to try and learn in classrooms with neither roofs nor materials, with children of all ages mixed together and hardly any teachers. ‘Entertainment’ shows that children can see opportunities to have fun anywhere. While some children were terrified, many others felt inspired and made use of shrapnel, diffused bombs, ruins of buildings, to role play or to design games and bombs. ‘War Effort’ shares the work older children (some as young as 12) did to help, including running messages, working for the post office bringing the dreaded bad news, girls helping in hospitals, and how many of them moved on to join the armed forces when they grew up. ‘The Bombing of Britain’ will bring memories to many and it covers not only London but many of the other cities, and phenomena such as the families who would leave the cities every night and go back in the morning. The resolution and the population and the way people took everything in their stride come across clear in these accounts. People who survived would dust themselves off and carry on. ‘The End’, talks about the celebrations for those who could celebrate and the sad moments of those who couldn’t.

The book has very funny moments, and sad and hard to read ones too, some inspiring and some not so much. The author is very good at remaining invisible, choosing passages that illustrate different angles of the same theme and letting speak for themselves, without interfering, and the approach increases the power of the accounts. I marked passages and quotes as I went along, but I ended up with so many it was very difficult to choose. But here are a few, to give you a flavour of the book:

Here, talking about taking refuge in cellars:

There was an element of risk sheltering in that cellar with an open fire considering they were ‘within six feet of an operating gas main and visible pipes’, but the general thinking in Charles’s cellar was that it was better to ‘be bombed in comfort’. (17)

Talking about the bombings and the state of disrepair of the houses:

Pamela had her house windows broken, then repaired and covered in sticky tape, and then had the lot of them blown out again. Her mother, being practical, merely commented, ‘Oh well, I will not have to clean them.’

And talking about the VE Day celebrations:

To Irene’s astonishment, one of the elderly church ladies ‘of staid and sober habits’ turned up resplendent in an eye-catching red dress and was later seen leading the conga up the street. (171) It seems the conga was pretty popular.

I am not a big reader of conventional military history (battles, strategy or detailed fight scenes) but I’m always intrigued by what happens back home during any wars and how the world carries on in some fashion for the rest of population while the fighting goes on elsewhere (at least in conventional wars). The memories of those children and their accounts of their experiences at the time might be tinged with nostalgia in some cases, but in others, it reflects the long-term effects of experiences lived so long ago and that have not been forgotten. It is impossible to read this book and not think about those children who, still today, live in a constant state of war and danger, and how disruptive this will be to their lives if they reach adulthood.

I recommend this book to anybody interested in the home front angle of the war (World War II in Britain in particular, but any wars), in stories about children’s subject to extreme situations, and anybody who enjoys history as told not by politicians and big names, but by the people in the street. A great and important book that should be required reading for school-age children.

 

 

 

 

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