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review 2016-01-25 01:50
Glass Soup by Jonathan Carroll
Glass Soup - Jonathan Carroll

I mentioned in my previous review that I have spent the last month of year reading three novels by Jonathan Carroll. Glass Soup is the second of the Carroll novels and I will be posting a review on The Wooden Sea by the end of the year. These Carroll novels have given me a new perspective towards the fantasy genre and how far the boundaries can be extended outside of the Tolkien/Lewis/Jordan/Sanderson type of traditional fantasy.


Glass Soup is the sequel to White Apples and continues the story of the philanderer, Vincent Ettrich and his true love, Isabelle Neukor.  Both of them have crossed over from life to death and back to life again. Isabelle is carrying their special child, who can restore the balance between life and death. However, the agents of chaos are determined to keep Isabelle and the child in a place where that result can not happen.


Carroll gives a philosophical and surreal perspective on love, life, death, and the afterlife that kept this reader interested throughout the novel. I will admit I thought the plot in White Apples was better executed than in Glass Soup. However, I still felt that Glass Soup was rewarding to read and a novel that deserves my recommendation.  You can read Glass Soup as a standalone novel, but I would suggest that you read White Apples to get the full perspective of this duology.

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review 2016-01-25 01:47
The Wooden Sea by Jonathan Carroll
The Wooden Sea - Jonathan Carroll

I’ve spent the last month of 2015 reading three novels by Jonathan Carroll. The Wooden Sea is the third of the Carroll novels I’ve read. You can look at the reviews of the other two Carroll novels: White Apples and Glass Soup here.  I will admit after reading these novels that Jonathan Carroll has joined my must read author list. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading these works and they have shown me how far the boundaries of fantasy fiction can extend.


The Wooden Sea is the story of small town police chief, Frannie McCabe of Crane’s View, New York.  Chief McCabe has a three-legged dog that drops dead in front of him and the event takes him on a life-altering ride throughout the novel unveiling the true meaning of love and sacrifice.


I could not help but think of this passage of scripture from 1 Corinthians 13:


If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,

Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies. {1 Corinthians 13:1-8 The Message Bible}


The Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians in that passage of New Testament Scripture what the true meaning of love is in 1st century Greek Culture. It seems to me by happenstance that Carroll has woven the same theme in the Wooden Sea (as well as White Apples & Glass Soup). The Wooden Sea would never be mistaken for a Christian novel, but there is spiritual resonance along with touches of the surrealistic and fantastic interwoven together making it a surprising novel with emotion and depth.


The only issue I had with the novel was the ending.  The abrupt ending of the novel left me wanting more time with Chief McCabe and his wife, Magda.  However, this novel was my favorite of the Carroll novels and I will give it my highest recommendation as one of my best reads of 2015.

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review 2016-01-25 01:40
White Apples by Jonathan Carroll
White Apples - Jonathan Carroll

I have spent the last several weeks reading three novels from Jonathan Carroll.  This review of White Apples is the first of the Carroll novels I’ve read.  I had never heard of Jonathan Carroll before reading this post from Neil Gaiman about him.  Besides Gaiman, he has been endorsed by novelists as diverse as Stephen King to Pat Conroy to Katherine Dunn. Because of his reputation as a favorite of writers, I’ve decided to to check him out. I’m probably late to this party, but I’m glad to have discover the unique fiction of Jonathan Carroll.


White Apples is the story of Vincent Ettrich, a womanizer, who has died and been brought back to life.  He has no idea why that has happened to him or memories of the experience.  Eventually, Ettrich finds out he has been brought back to life by his former lover, Isabelle.  Isabelle is pregnant and the child she is carrying has an essential role in saying the universe.   However, Vincent can not remember what happened to him on the other side of life and the child needs to learn from him about that experience.


Carroll does an excellent job in taking a soap opera or telenovela type of love story and turning into a metaphysical, surreal work of fiction.  White Apples is surprisingly spiritual, thoughtful, and weird at the same time.  Carroll’s lucid prose grabbed me from the opening pages and kept me engaged until the end of the novel.  White Apples is one of my favorite reads of 2015 and Jonathan Carroll has become an author on my must read list.

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review 2016-01-25 01:38
Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami
Dance Dance Dance (The Rat, #4) - Haruki Murakami

I finally heard of Haruki Muramaki when his latest novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years Pilgrimage, was released in the summer 2014.  It was on the Books of the Nightstand podcast where several independent bookstores across the country were having Murakami parties upon its release. I thought this kind of fanfare was only reserved for writers like Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, or J.K. Rowling.  I was intrigued to find out about Haruki Murakami and why he’s beloved by so many readers.


I decided to start off my 2016 Reading Year with a Murakami novel.  Dance Dance Dance is a lesser known in the author’s ouevre.  The novel revolves around an unnamed protagonist who is searching for a former girlfriend that has suddenly vanished from his life.  The search takes him from Tokyo to Sapporo, Japan, and even to Honolulu as well.  Murakami shows readers through the lens of a detective novel how the late 1980s contemporary Japanese culture was dealing with the effects of hypercapitialism.


The unnamed protagonist begins to learn more about this former girlfriend through the connections of a thirteen year old girl with “psychic” abilities who has been abandoned by her artistic parents, a female employee from the hotel where he had last seen the woman, a troubled childhood friend who has become a famous actor and a mysterious person called the Sheep Man.  The intertwining relationships with the unnamed protagonist gave the novel a ethereal, surreal quality that did not totally convince me.  There was an aimlessness direction to the story that kept me offguard throughout the entire reading experience.


I connected with the teenage girl and her relationship with the unnamed protagonist and could have seen an entire novel written around those two characters.  The rest of characters (especially Sheep Man) seemed airy and distant.  I could not feel their presence in the novel.  Dance Dance Dance was not a bad novel by any means.  I loved Murakami’s pop culture references (especially his love of jazz) and his direct, abrupt prose.  But I will admit that the entire story did not fully grab my attention.  I would not recommend Dance Dance Dance for 1st time readers of Murakami, but suggest you try one of his more well known novels like Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, or the aforementioned Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years Pilgrimage instead.  Dance Dance Dance would be for Murakami readers who want to complete their collection.

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