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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog FIVE TIMES LUCKY by P. David Temple The perfect antidote for these colourless times #comedy

Hi all:

I bring you a funny book. I needed a change, and I thought you might enjoy it as well.

Five Times Lucky by P. David Temple

Five Times Lucky by P. David Temple The perfect antidote for these colourless times

In FIVE TIMES LUCKY, an intrepid traveler gets more than her share of tabloid celebrity. Who hasn’t wondered what life was like inside the velvet rope of the Hollywood in-crowd? In this fast-moving comedy by P. David Temple, the quest for fame has no boundaries…but celebrity has its downside. We follow ex-actress BunnyLee Welles, who returns to Los Angeles for her best friend’s wedding and finds that she is instantly recognizable. From the customs officer to the baggage clerk to the Lyft driver, everyone knows her single-dimple smile. They mimic her. They take selfies with her. They hand her unsolicited film scripts. In the four years she has been traveling abroad, her sole commercial role for Dial-a-Denture has recently become an online meme. Like it or not, BunnyLee is now famous.

It seems like everyone BunnyLee crosses paths with is seeking to exploit her notoriety. An old boyfriend from college is using material gleaned from their relationship to further his stand-up career. Another college acquaintance, a burgeoning local TV news reporter, trades on her friendship with BunnyLee for a scoop on the evening news. BunnyLee seeks shelter in the rambling estate of an aging Hollywood heartthrob whose own career has been derailed by a years-old altercation with Kermit the Frog on Sesame Street. He can relate to BunnyLee’s plight as others in his sphere—a duplicitous chauffeur, a social-climbing cook—vie for a piece of his fame. But as much as BunnyLee strives to keep things platonic, romance is a snake lurking in the underbrush. BunnyLee borrows Buck’s vintage Mustang and hits the road with her new puppy on what begins an odyssey through a culturally conflicted modern-day America. Along the way, car trouble leads to her rescue by an injured professional wrestler whose career is a cautionary tale about trading everything meaningful in life for the chance to bask in the limelight of fame.

“An engaging tale about celebrity, love, and the search for one’s place in the world. Temple’s prose is exact and full of color, capable of both madcap humor and wistful lyricism.” — Kirkus Review

“P. David Temple’s story provides numerous laugh-out-loud moments. Its special blend of humor, philosophy, romance and adventure will keep readers involved and guessing about the outcome to the end. The story ultimately questions the price and goal of fame and fortune, using a tongue-in-cheek observational style that is simply unforgettable.” — Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review

“A delightful and skilled writer, I enjoyed every moment. The whole thing went down as easily as a glass of bubbly.“ — Mitchell Levin, Senior Script Analyst, DreamWorks.

“I love the way the characters are drawn. [Temple] has a way of crafting characters who are human—flawed and real and dimensional. And so funny.”—Shanna McNair, Founder of the New Guard

“A delicious comic novel through the underside of Hollywood’s fame game. With a sure hand for deft cinematic prose and a remarkable ear for dialogue, Temple has crafted vivid characters that are often zany, sometimes seedy and always hilarious.”—Jerelle Kraus, Art Director, The New York Times

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08PQ6Y1YR/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08PQ6Y1YR/

https://www.amazon.es/dp/B08PQ6Y1YR/

Author P. David Temple


About the author:
New York-based author P. David Temple has worked in the entertainment industry in numerous capacities including director and director of photography, was a judge for the Emmys, and traveled for a stint as a cameraman for the World Wrestling Federation in the days of Hulk Hogan and André the Giant. He is a proud member of IATSE Local 52 film union. Temple has witnessed scores of Americans scaling the steps of fame. One piece of advice that he learned early on and is willing to share with the dauntless: “Be nice to the people you meet on the way up, because you will be meeting them again on your way down.”

https://www.amazon.com/P-David-Temple/e/B08RCWK25Q/

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you’d like to have your book reviewed, check here), and I was provided an ARC copy of the novel, which I freely chose to review.

I didn’t know the author before I came across this novel but after checking a sample of it, I thought it would be the perfect antidote to the dreary mood that seems to hang over everything these days. I looked forward to a light read. This is a funny book (laugh-out-funny at times), but it comes with its share of serious moments as well. And I enjoyed both aspects of it.

What to say about the plot of this novel… Well, I’ve said it’s funny, and it is a comedy, or rather, it touches on several comedy genres at once: a soap opera; a romantic comedy (yes, there is a central love story and other possible ones hovering around the edges); a quasi stand-up comedy routine full of jokes; a madcap comedy at times; there are elements of physical comedy; we have big spectacle as well (and it’s easy to see how handy the author’s experience with the World Wrestling Federation has been); a more intellectual/phylosophical-style comedy, and everything in between. The description of the novel does a pretty job at providing some semblance of a plot, and the story starts with BunnyLee, a —no longer so young— woman who after trying to become an actress has been working as an English teacher in Thailand for several years and is on her way back to LA to attend the wedding of one of her best friends. She is also going to stay at her friend’s apartment for a couple of weeks while she’s away on her honeymoon, but as her luck (she’s been told by a shaman priest that she is five-times-lucky) would have it, through a series of misunderstandings (I forgot to mention the farce, didn’t I?), she ends up staying as a guest in the house of an ageing Hollywood star, Buck LeGrande, who isn’t quite ready to become a has-been yet, and their friendship/perhaps-something-else falls victim to further misunderstandings and more than a fair bit of paranoia and jealousy. Somehow, the novel becomes a road trip for a while, and a whole host of new characters join the motley crew of BunnyLee, Buck, Buck’s chauffeur (and aspiring scriptwriter), Buck’s Chinese cook (for whom popular culture, media, and his Chinese relatives seem to be the source of all knowledge), and Puddles, the dog, a labradoodle and a true star. Austin, a cowboy and WWF celebrity on his way down, is also on the road, running away from a couple of women on a pink camper van, and their paths are, of course, set to cross. Characters from the world of professional wrestling, a local cowboy, a waiter, a Native American fish and game warden, staff at a Zen spa… also come into the story, don’t ask me to explain how. If you want to know, I invite you to read the book.

Fame, the world of TV and acting, Hollywood, celebrity culture, grief and loss, philosophy and the search for meaning, family relationships… these themes and more make it into the novel as well, and as I’ve said, despite the comedic elements I felt quite touched by the story at times.

I’ve mentioned some of the characters we come across, and although a few of them play small parts, all of them are pretty memorable. The book might be written as a comedy, and we might laugh at the characters at times, but they are not mere caricatures, rather all too human, and no matter how distant they might be from our everyday experience, they are universally recognisable and have endearing and redeeming qualities, even when (or because of) they are making total fools of themselves. Because, who hasn’t been there, especially when there are toupees and tight Spandex leggings involved? (If I had to choose one character, I admit to having a soft spot for Austin, the wrestler, although it’s difficult to top Puddles).

The book is narrated in the third person from a number of different points of view, which are clearly separated in the novel, so there’s no risk of getting confused about whose perspective we are following. This is a very self-aware novel, and an omniscient narrative voice sometimes pokes fun at the whole enterprise, in an interesting exercise of metafiction. It is a very visual novel with scenes that scream to be turned into set pieces in a movie or TV series, and this is combined with digressions where characters and/or author wonder about all kind of weighty subjects, from fate, to the nature of love and life itself. We have contemplative moments interspersed with scenes that explode in a whirlwind of action, energy, and laughter creating a perfect combination of light fun and reflection.

I have highlighted many jokes, insightful and crackwise comments, and many of the scenes, but some are far too long to share. As usual, I’d recommend readers to check a sample of the novel before deciding if it is a good fit for them, but I couldn’t resist sharing a few examples of what you might find.

Like the reader of fiction, one needed to have faith in his or her author, faith in the belief that the narrator knew how best to tell the story, faith that what may have seemed like irrelevant philosophical digressions were in fact well-crafted artifices both necessay and sufficient to the telling of a compelling story.

He wasn’t afraid of heights per se. It was the depths surrounding them that gave him pause —gravity being the one law you should never tempt breaking.

Like so many icons afoot these days in the pantheon of emerging American heroes, Chief Tenaya was a confluence of mixed metaphors. He was an icon in search of a meaning.

The ending fits both the comedy and the romance conventions. It ends up in a high note, and that’s exactly what most of us need right now.

So, if you’re looking for a fun/crazy read, with a bizarre catalogue of characters, are prepared to put your faith in the author and his criteria, are happy to follow him down some unusual and unexpected paths, and are looking for a break from the grey and dreary reality, this is your antidote. I hope this turns into a TV series or a movie, because it will be a hoot.

Thanks to the author for his novel, to Rosie and her team for all their support, to all of you for reading, and remember to keep smiling, to keep safe, and to keep reading!  

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview Malibu Motel: A novel about the colossal cost of free cash by Chaunceton Bird (@JHPsocial). A modern A Rake’s Progress facilitated by a lottery win

Hi all:

I bring you a book that’s very modern but tells a very old tale.

Malibu Motel by Chaunceton Bird
Malibu Motel by Chaunceton Bird

Malibu Motel: A novel about the colossal cost of free cash by Chaunceton Bird

Based on the incredible true story of a hapless lottery winner, Malibu Motel is a raw, timeless novel exploring the undercurrents of capitalism. Caish Calloway is struggling to maintain a stake in the land of limitless privilege. Blinded by pride and fueled by greed, Caish is slave to the wiles of a moneyed mind, as only one who has tasted wealth’s powerful fruit can be. ‘A stunning and visceral look into the high stakes world of big money and the risks taken by the wealthy elite.’ Anthony Avina, Edge of Sanity

https://www.amazon.com/Malibu-Motel-novel-colossal-20190426-ebook/dp/B07W4DN5MT/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Malibu-Motel-novel-colossal-20190426-ebook/dp/B07W4DN5MT/

https://www.amazon.es/Malibu-Motel-novel-colossal-20190426-ebook/dp/B07W4DN5MT/

Editorial Reviews

“Absolutely Fantastic! Definitely worth the read!” -Erik McManus, Breakeven Books

“Brilliantly entertaining.” -Stacy Garrity, Whispering Stories

“Chaunceton Bird has created a fantastic story in Malibu Motel… A stunning and visceral look into the high stakes world of big money and the risks taken by the wealthy elite.” -Anthony Avina, Edge of Sanity

“An intensely readable riches-to-rags story, Malibu Motel will have you gripped till the last page.” -Bridget McNulty, Now Novel

“Malibu Motel explores the darkest places one is willing to go to when all they care about is money. Having it. Possessing it. Living a good life and not wanting to work for it. Dark and seedy, this is a cautionary tale and the writing portrays that mood perfectly… This isn’t a story you read to your children at night. This is a story I would recommend only to those brave enough to delve into the dark.” -Southern Today Gone Tomorrow

Author Chaunceton Bird
Author Chaunceton Bird

About the author:

Chaunceton Bird is an attorney and author. While in law school, Bird published an award winning academic article and won several awards for exceptional writing. Following graduation, he clerked for the Utah Supreme Court, entered into private practice, and began writing. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

https://www.amazon.com/Chaunceton-Bird/e/B07L4Z9Q42

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and John Hunt/Zero Books for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

I’ve seen this book described as a cautionary tale (that it is), although it also reminded me of the morality plays of old (or even Hogarth’s series A Harlot’s Progress and A Rake’s Progress, their pictorial equivalent), where you have a character that does not learn from life’s lessons and at each step of the way makes the wrong decision, setting the course of his/her life into a downward spiral that the protagonists seem unwilling and/or unable to stop. This novel (although based or inspired on a real case it is a novel nonetheless) is set in modern times (although the time, like many other details are not specified), and therefore, the choice of vices is slightly different, but not by much. Yes, Caish, the protagonist, loves expensive cars (there were no cars in Hogarth’s time, but there would have been expensive houses, carriages,…), some of the drugs and illnesses the character falls for are relatively new, and the fact that the character keeps checking social media is also a novelty, but that’s a change in setting, rather than the spirit of the piece and its message.

As I have mentioned, the author keeps some details vague. Is Caish a man or a woman? (According to what I’ve read, the lottery winner the novel is based on is a male). Much is made, at the beginning of this long book (yes, it is quite long and much of the content feels repetitive, because the main character is self-obsessed and obsessed with money, possessions and social status, and the story is narrated in the first-person, so we get a lot of that) of the fact that people keep getting the name wrong (Cash, of course, but other combinations of sounds as well), although at some point Caish has other problems and things to worry about and stops correcting people’s pronunciation. I assumed, at first, the character was male (the way of talking, the hobbies and some of the behaviours seemed quite typical, at least of male characters in books), then at some point I became convinced the character was a woman, and finally, I thought that the author left it intentionally vague, perhaps to show that it could happen to anybody and everybody, and rather than making readers think that what happens is the fault of a particular character, we should conclude that huge amounts of money that come too easy to somebody can destroy them (in fact, Caish is not the only one in the book to suffer a similar fate).

Caish is self-centred, egotistical, vain, selfish, big-headed, rush, lacking in any kind of insight, has no self-control, no common-sense, and no redeeming features. We do get to know a bit some members of his/her family, but there is no depth to the character, and despite the way things go, Caish never learns anything. As I have mentioned, the story is told in the first-person, and being inside of the character’s head is not comfortable. There are hilarious moments (because the character’s behaviour is so extreme that it’s a bit like watching a person tripping over the same obstacle or slipping on the same banana skin over and over), there are turns of phrase that are very funny, and the way the character misconstrues everything  and insists on talking about statistics and claiming to being an authority on all kinds of things s/he knows nothing about is hilarious (and yes, it does bring to mind some people in authority as well). If we stop and think, it is terribly sad as well, not so much what happens to the character (for somebody who loves the lottery so much, Caish should know that there are chances we shouldn’t take), but the destruction s/he spreads around, that of course, is never his/her fault, is appalling, and, worse still, s/he never has a kind thought for anybody else. If you are looking for a novel where you can empathise with the main character, this is not it. There is nothing likeable about Caish, other than some wit, but…

One of the things that bothered me as I read the novel was the fact that the character seemed quite articulate (if not well-informed or truly literate) when commenting on things, but the few times when Caish quoted her own conversations with others, s/he could hardly string a sentence together. In fact, most of the characters seem to speak in the same way, at least if we are to judge by the quoted conversations we read (it could be a problem of reporting the dialogue, evidently), no matter who they are, their different backgrounds or circumstances. Then, towards the end of the book, Caish comes upon a new scheme to make money — writing a memoir/life-story— and then we learn that s/he gets some assistance with editing. That could explain the different registers, although it undermines somewhat the whole of the story. Is the character truly as awful as s/he appears to be or is it an exaggeration introduced by the editor? Oh, well… If you read it, you can make your own mind up.

By the way, at the end of the book there are a number of documents included: what seems to be the results of the toxicology report and the medical reports following the discovery of a dead body at a motel. All the details fit in with the story and are realistic, down to blacking out the specific details, but I am not sure if they are real or not or whom they belong to.

I thought I’d share a few jewels from the book with you:

When I’m making money again, I think I’ll hire a butler. I have a small house staff, but they mostly just clean. What I need is somebody who can go get my Zippo when I leave it inside. Seems like the type of job for a butler. And if I’m buying a butler, I might as well buy a Batmobile too. No halfmeasures.

The standard of living around the world is higher now than ever before. Just check Facebook for proof of that.

Would I recommend this book? Well, you’ll know from the very beginning where the book is headed, and although there are some surprises in the way, these are mostly small details that don’t derail the story from its course. The novel depicts scenes of drug use (in plenty of detail, including how to go about getting scripts for painkillers, for example), sex (this not graphically or in any detail), homelessness, and a variety of crimes (including arson). There is always a fine line with these kinds of books between sharing enough of the behaviours to put people off and not making them too attractive or too easy to copy. Yes, I know it’s very easy to find information on all those subjects nowadays, but I thought I’d warn you. As I said, if you want to find a character to root for or to empathise with, this is not your book. There are also some issues of consistency that are, possibly, explained towards the end of the novel, but I am sure that the choices the author makes and the style chosen to tell the story will not work for everybody and might put some people off, so do check a sample before making a decision.

Personally, I laughed reading it (yes, I have a pretty dark sense of humour), I was appalled most of the time, and although I knew (more or less) how it would end, I couldn’t stop reading, but I’d recommend caution as some of the topics and the blasé attitude of the character towards them can be upsetting to readers personally affected by them.  I’ll be curious to see what the author writes next. And, I will carry on not buying lottery tickets.

Thanks to NetGalley, to the publisher and to the author for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling! 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookblog POINTE PATROL: HOW NINE PEOPLE (AND DOG) SAVED THEIR NEIGHBORHOOD FROM THE MOST DESTRUCTIVE FIRE IN CALIFORNIA’S HISTORY by Earik Beann (Earik Beann) #RBRT An inspiring true story

Hi all:

Today I bring you another non-fiction book, although totally different to yesterday’s (well, there are trees as well but…)

Pointe Patrol by Earik Beann
Pointe Patrol by Earik Beann

Pointe Patrol: How nine people (and a dog) saved their neighborhood from the most destructive fire in California’s history by Earik Beann. An inspiring real story about the power of true community spirit.

On October 9, 2017, California suffered one of the most destructive fires in its history. The Tubbs Fire burned 5,643 structures and killed twenty-two people in Sonoma County. The fire department was completely overwhelmed and was so busy trying to save lives that they had to let many houses burn rather than waste resources in trying to protect them. During this chaos, nine of us snuck back into our neighborhood in the mandatory evacuation zone and formed a vigilante fire force. We called ourselves the Pointe Patrol, and saved our neighborhood, as well as an apartment complex across the street from certain destruction. As if the fires weren’t enough, we found ourselves in the midst of anarchy, with looters running unchecked through the streets. We chased them out of houses with shovels, confronted them when they showed up in disguise, and patrolled the area with a completely over-the-top Doberman. The other neighbors who had evacuated organized themselves into our support network and supplied us with food and equipment, which they passed through to us across the police lines. My wife and I were part of that nine-person team and experienced all of this firsthand. This is the story of what happened at Viewpointe Circle during those two weeks in October.

*** 100% of profits from the sale of this book go to support fire victims and families of fallen first responders ***

What Amazon readers are saying…

★★★★★ “I can tell you his description of everything is so vivid I felt like I was there again reliving that night of terror.” ★★★★★ “An amazing true story that everyone should read!” ★★★★★ “I found myself in tears a few times while reading from the sheer excitement of their accomplishments, and grief from the fire’s fury.” ★★★★★ “A great story of how a neighborhood becomes just that, a true neighborhood, looking out for each other and working to keep it strong and safe.” ★★★★★ “This is a nail-biting account of everyday heroes coming together in an impossible situation, to try and save their community.” ★★★★★ “I read it in a day.” ★★★★★ “Earik’s book was great, very inspiring. I live in Penngrove and the fire was a half mile from our house, I cannot fathom what his neighborhood went through.”

https://www.amazon.com/Pointe-Patrol-neighborhood-destructive-Californias-ebook/dp/B07K6X3JFQ/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pointe-Patrol-neighborhood-destructive-Californias-ebook/dp/B07K6X3JFQ/

Editorial Reviews

“While working to gain perimeter control, I found the neighbors who had formed Pointe Patrol right in the middle of unprecedented destruction, protecting homes. The combination of hurricane force winds and tinderbox-dry conditions created a perfect storm for the fire that they battled against.”

– Battalion Chief Jason Jenkins, SRFD

From the Author

NOVEMBER 8, 2018: The sky is hazy today, and there is a heavy smell of smoke that is getting worse by the hour. As I stepped outside, I was greeted by that all-too-familiar smell, and was met with swirling pieces of white ash. There’s a fire in Butte County, and the smoke has been pushed down into Sonoma by the wind. As I took a moment to stand alone in the street before getting into my car, I had a flashback to what happened exactly 13 months ago, when the Tubbs Fire came barreling into Santa Rosa and destroyed 5% of the housing stock overnight. During that chaos, nine of us stayed in our neighborhood and formed a vigilante fire force. We spent the next two weeks putting out fires, chasing off looters, and bonding in a way that doesn’t happen in regular times. The other neighbors called us the Pointe Patrol, coining the term from Viewpointe Circle, our street name.

To this day, I am frequently reminded of that time thirteen months ago. It happens not only when I wave to the neighbors, but also every time I drive home. The neighborhood to the west is gone, the neighborhood to the north is gone, and the neighborhood to the south is gone. All burned to the ground. A house here or there has been rebuilt, swarmed over by the countless construction companies that have moved into the area. Most are still just empty lots, the silent witnesses to what happened here in 2017. But our neighborhood stands, because Pointe Patrol saved it. And the apartment complex to the east also stands. Pointe Patrol saved that too.

After going through something like that, people decompress in a lot of ways. For me, I started writing. I started with the night when I woke up to my neighbor banging on my door in the wee hours of the morning, and I kept going until the evacuation was finally lifted and our neighbors were allowed to come back. I wrote about putting the fire in my backyard out with the garden hose, and about the hours we spent putting out smoldering mulch at the apartment complex, and about all the looters that tried to sneak into our neighborhood, sometimes in masks, and more often with elaborate disguises. I wrote about Oscar, my Doberman, who became the guard dog for an entire street. I wrote about exhausted firemen, passed out on our lawns that first night, and the amazing heart of Sonoma County, where gas stations lowered prices rather than raised them. I wrote about everything. And it became a book.

Today, exactly thirteen months after the event, that book finally got registered on Amazon. It goes live on Monday. I don’t know what will happen with it now that I’ve put it out in the world. I only know that what happened in those two weeks changed my life. Stories like that shouldn’t be forgotten. Stories like that need to be told. And so, in this case, I’m going to do my best to tell it. This is dedicated to you, Pointe Patrol. You know who you are.

Author Earik Beann
Author Earik Beann

About the author:

Over the years I’ve been involved in many small businesses, including software development, an online vitamin store, specialty pet products, a commodity pool, and a publishing house. You could say I’ve got a bad case of serial entrepreneurism. But above and beyond all that, my original love has always been writing and telling stories.

As a teenager, I wrote two fantasy novels during summer break. Neither were published–which is probably for the best!–but I loved working on those books, and learned a lot by writing them. Later, I authored six technical books on very esoteric subjects related to financial markets. Those were meant for an extremely niche audience, and would be insanely boring to anyone outside that specific group of people.

In October 2017, I found myself at ground zero in the middle of the Tubbs Fire. A group of nine of us snuck back into our neighborhood in the middle of a mandatory evacuation zone, formed a vigilante fire fighting force, and saved our block (and an apartment complex!) from certain destruction. Working on my memoir of those experiences brought me back to those summers as a teenager spent working on my fantasy novels, and rekindled a deep love for writing that I had somehow forgotten about. Now it’s all I really want to do anymore.

I live in California with my wife, Laura, and our Doberman and two Tennessee barn cats. When not thinking of stories, I enjoy practicing yoga, riding my bike, and playing the Didgeridoo.

https://www.amazon.com/Earik-Beann/e/B001K8RRKW/

My review:

I am writing this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you’re looking for reviews, I recommend you check her amazing site here), and I thank her and the author for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Earlier this year I read and reviewed a novel by Earik Beann (you can check my review of Killing Adam here), the author of this book, and I noticed he had published a non-fictional account of something he had experienced first-hand, the 2017 Tubbs Fire in California. I kept thinking about that in light of more recent fires, and having enjoyed his other book, I decided to read this one. It is definitely different, but then, non-fictional writing and especially memoirs, always are. I don’t mean I didn’t enjoy it, that I did, but it was a different experience. So, for those who don’t enjoy science-fiction but were curious about the author’s work, well, this is a great option.

This is an inspiring book and a fascinating account of what happened to a group of people who were fortunate enough (with a fair amount of human help as well) to have their houses survive a terrible fire that killed forty-four people, burned over 245000 acres and cost at least $9.5 billion in insured damages (and around $85 billion to the US economy). As the author notes, these group of people were not all house owners (he and his wife, Laura, were renting, and so were a number of the people who formed the #Pointe Patrol), but they somehow took it upon themselves to keep the neighbourhood safe.

The story reads like one of those fiction books (or movies) where a bunch of people —who have little in common and are pretty normal— discover their inner heroes and come together achieving great things. Only, this is not a fictional account. Yes, these are pretty normal people, and although some knew each other from before, the author makes the point more than once that due to his job, mostly online, he did not have much contact with the neighbours, and it is his wife who comes up with the idea of creating a chat group for the neighbours that they use to keep everybody informed of what is happening, both the people who have managed to return to the evacuated area, like they have, and also those who are outside and whose houses are still standing. As we read, we learn information about the neighbours, although not necessarily in a lot of detail (some are stubborn, some are control freaks, other have an interesting sense of humour, they are not always truthful…), and we also hear some of their opinions and prejudices (yes, we might not always agree with their politics, with their ideas on certain subjects) and, thankfully, they are not perfect. Earik and his wife are ‘the yoga people’, and other than some regular get-togethers, many of them knew each other only superficially, if at all. There is also a couple who remain in the area and never participate in any of the general efforts, and they sound quite disagreeable. So this is not an idealised version of reality, although it is an inspiring story that illustrates that people can get on when they have a sense of purpose and a mission higher than themselves, and they all work together towards a goal.

Saying that, it is difficult to read the book and not think that it would make a good TV movie. You have the retired fire-fighter, stubborn and determined, who ends up being known as Chief, you have another neighbour who works in the SQUAT team, Wayne, Eddie, who turns his garage into the neighbourhood coffee-shop and bar, two Mikes, the police and the national guard, Oscar —Earik’s Doberman, who loves his new role as proper guard dog—, their two cats, and also the people outside who keep in touch via text and provide as much support as they can with food supplies, medications, and also updates on news and life in general.

I was surprised at times at how vivid a picture the book portrays of the situation, and how, despite the fact that they are pretty much isolated and become, as the author describes it more than once, ‘a tribe’, the bigger society and its trappings interferes every so often, giving everybody reason to pause. There are the looters, always trying to get in and rob whatever they can, there are times when the reactions of the police to different individuals vary a lot depending on who they are (yes, race do matters, even in emergency situations, it seems), and although in this case the emergency seems to get the best out of this group of people, that is not the case with everybody involved.

Is there anything I didn’t enjoy? Well, the story is told from the author’s perspective, and as can happen with memoirs, it is not written as a thriller where action is everything and no extraneous information is offered. The author sometimes goes off on tangents, including information about his and his wife’s personal circumstances (they had moved very often up to that point), stories about their cats and dogs, also about how to handle a big dog, his point of view on firearms (not one I share, and the arguments he uses to try to convince his wife would definitely not convince me), a long dissertation on a particular local beer and its merits, and some pretty personal things, and although I mostly enjoyed those and they made it come more alive for me, I suspect they might be frustrating for some people, and I’ve read some reviews that mention those.

My other worry was the fact that, no matter how well they did and the amazing thing they achieved, their circumstances were very special, and it is not something that everybody should consider if faced with a similar situation. They had a retired fireman living in the neighbourhood, and they were lucky enough to have a sufficient number of neighbours taking part, with necessary materials, water, and enough outside support to manage to pull it off. (I could not help but wonder what would have happened if that was not the case and how different the results might have been in a neighbourhood without resources, financial and otherwise). Basically, keep safe and follow advice. Readers might take issue with other things: there is no gender equality at work here (Laura is the only woman there, she leaves at some point, and the rest of the women are supporting from outside, although there are policewomen and a woman member of the National Guard as well, but not members of the group), and, as I mentioned, some of the personal attitudes and comments might not be to everybody’s taste, but that is understandable when we are reading a true account, rather than a fictional one.

I enjoyed the narration, and felt as if I had shared in some of the sense of community and joint purpose of the group. I also enjoyed the off-track comments (some), learning more about how the emergency services work and are organised, and I loved Oscar and the cats as well. The fact that the profits for the sale of the book will go to support fire victims and to the families of fallen first-responders is another good reason to recommend the book. If you’re looking for an inspiring true-account of people dealing with an emergency situation, and you are fascinated by community spirit, I definitely recommend this.

Thanks to the author and to Rosie and her team, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and keep reading and smiling! And of course, thanks to the emergency teams all the world over.

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreviews Two romances: NO PLACE LIKE YOU by Emma Douglas and A WEDDING AT TWO LOVE LANE by Kieran Kramer (@KieranKramer) (@StMartinsPress)

Hi all:

I must confess that my list of books is an avalanche, rather than a list at the moment. I have a long list of books from NetGalley pending reviews (and quite a few independent as well, and I intend to read them all) and I am grateful for reminders of the dates of publication of books. And as both romances are from the same publisher, I thought I’d share both of them together.

 

No Place Like You by Emma Douglas
No Place Like You by Emma Douglas

No Place Like You: A Cloud Bay Novel by Emma Douglas

In Emma Douglas’ new novel, No Place Like You, home—the island village of Cloud Bay—is where the heart is. . .

Leah Santelli always knew that Zach Harper, son of a rock legend and her best friend’s brother, was painfully out of reach. Then, on the night of her eighteenth birthday, Leah shocked herself by asking for—and receiving—the gift she wanted: one night of passion with Zach before he left town to pursue his rock star dreams. Now, years later, Zach is back in Cloud Bay to record his first solo album. His return could also be Leah’s big chance to step up her own music career. But getting the producing credit she needs means spending long hours with Zach in the recording studio…and falling back into the habit of longing for him, for better or worse.

Zach used to believe that a man must put his past behind him. But coming back home for Cloud Bay’s famed music festival has allowed him to finally make amends with his family and, much to his surprise, reunite with Leah. He might have left her once but now it seems he can’t stay away. Trouble is, even though the heat between them burns hotter than ever, Leah has old wounds in need of healing before she can give Zach a real chance. Can he find a way to convince her that they can make more than just great music together—and that she’s the one that he wants for all time?

https://www.amazon.com/No-Place-Like-You-Cloud-ebook/dp/B071HT66KL/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/No-Place-Like-You-Cloud-ebook/dp/B071HT66KL/

Author Emma Douglas
Author Emma Douglas

About the author:

Emma Douglas has read like a wild thing since she was small. She discovered romance novels at an age that way probably way too young but she survived unscathed. When she realized you could make up stories as well as read them, she started taking notes about what the characters wandering through her head were telling her and then, eventually, books happened. Before the books happened she did the usual things (was a band geek (and a geek generally), had crushes on rock stars and fictional characters, spent chunks of her summers on an island beach, got a degree in something sensible that doesn’t involve writing about kissing, became a black belt in internet procrastination, fell down the rabbit-hole of craft, traveled a bit, indulged her love of baked goods, got bossed around by cats, began a quest for the perfect margarita, and napped to recover from all of the above. She still does most of that plus the writing thing from a tiny house in Melbourne Australia which her feline overlords have kindly agreed to share with her.

https://www.amazon.com/Emma-Douglas/e/B06WGRYQ84/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to St. Martin’s Press for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

Although I am not a big reader of romance, this novel is an example of what I think is a subgenre of it, the romance that takes place in the world of music and musicians. The setting of the novel is a small imaginary American island called Cloud Bay, off the coast of California, best known for a music festival and for being home to the musicians of a well-known band and their families. Grey Harper, the singer and leader of the band, passed away a few years back, and his family members and associates have been keeping the music festival and the studio going, quite successfully, but although the business is going well, their personal lives have seen a fair amount of turmoil.

The story centres on the second generation of the family, on Zach, Grey’s son, and Leah, a good friend of his sister Faith, and daughter of the sound engineer of the band. She also does sound engineering and producing now, and has had a crush on Zach since they were teenagers, and they have a bit of a history together. Their professional and personal lives get entangled in a way that seems impossible to avoid in Cloud Bay, and no matter how determined they are not to allow things to get complicated, they do.

The author manages to create a good sense of place and of the strange and slightly incestuous relationships that happen in such a setting, where everybody knows everybody and nobody can step outside of the house without somebody knowing about it. Nothing is private and the actions of one person have far-reaching consequences. I particularly enjoyed the exchanges between the female friends (Faith and Leah in particular) and the wedding preparations (Leah is due to get married after the festival, at the end of the summer), as their friendship is portrayed in an easy and natural way and the way they support and care for each other is heart-warming and feels real. Those and other elements of the novel reminded me of a chick-flick (there are plenty of cakes, pastry, and ice-creams as well) but the fact that half of the story is told from the point of view of Zach gives it a different emphasis.

As for the romance, although both of the characters are gorgeous, as is to be expected, this is not a love-at-first-sight story, as Leah and Zach know each other and have a bit of a history (however brief) together. I found it interesting that their behaviour at times goes counter to the traditionally expected male and female roles, as Leah is the one to initiate their relationship (both in the past and now), and she is the one to suggest a no-strings-attached sexual relationship, while he initially resists (although his resistance doesn’t last long). I don’t think you need to be an eager reader of romance novels to suspect how things are going to go from the beginning, and although there are some twists and turns, there are no major surprises. There is sex, but it is not very explicit (described in a lyrical and poetic manner), and although I do not like erotica or sex scenes, as I feel they slow the action, I don’t think many readers would feel offended by it (but I would not class it as “sweet” or “clean” either). The ending… I think romance readers will enjoy it, and there is a hook to keep people coming to read the next novel, although it is a side-story not directly related to the romance.

The story is told in the third-person from the alternating points of view of Leah and Zach. This is not always separated into chapters, but the transitions are clear and not confusing. As mentioned above, the division between the characters is not down to standard gender roles, and they both seem to behave more in keeping with their characters and their history (that we get snippets of thanks to their conversations and memories throughout the book) than with traditional male or female roles. There is a moment of crisis towards the end of the book, and I felt that the novel’s pace grew faster at that point, while until then it had moved steadily. I realised later that this is the third book in the series (for some reason I thought it was the first) so I am not sure how well it fits in with the whole series, although I had no difficulty following the novel (but I imagine the background story would increase the expectations and enjoyment). I must admit that I did not think there was much depth to the characters and they seemed to act younger than they were (Leah had been married, and Mina, Zach and Leah’s sister, is a widow), but perhaps they have developed slowly and it is unfair to judge them by the events in a single book. Leah is a fairly rounded and sympathetic character, and I felt she behaved in a consistent manner, although I was not as convinced about Zach, who has much to atone for.

The music business background will be of interest to those who enjoy that genre, and the descriptions of the way the characters feel about music are inspiring, but it is not as detailed or technical as to interfere with the enjoyment of readers of other types of romance.

In sum, a romance set in the background of the rock music business and in a lovely setting, which will be enjoyed by lovers of the genre and followers of the series, but with few surprises for the rest of readers.

And…

A Wedding at Two Love Lane by Kieran Kramer
A Wedding at Two Love Lane by Kieran Kramer

A Wedding At Two Love Lane by Kieran Kramer

Never say never when it comes to love.

Greer Jones has made a real name for herself at the elegant matchmaking agency Two Love Lane. For a lot of reasons―including a past engagement she broke off―practical tech expert Greer is more interested in the business of love than the experience of it, but she can’t help but covet a gorgeous wedding gown that’s the prize in an upcoming cocktail-party contest. In a moment of brazen inspiration, Greer asks a handsome Brit she’s only just met to accompany her to the party. He agrees―and Greer believes her date is a starving artist. Little does she know the truth. . .

Ford Smith, as he calls himself, is actually Stanford Elliott Wentworth Smythe, the Eighth Baron of Wickshire. Fresh off a breakup with a money-grubbing siren who deceived him all the way to the altar, Ford has no desire to fall in love―especially with Greer who, like the desired wedding gown, is beautiful but only skin-deep. But soon Ford realizes that there’s more to Greer than meets the eye. Her professionalism is matched only by her passion for life and love. .and, best of all, she has no idea that he’s to the manor born. Could it be that true love is priceless after all?

https://www.amazon.com/Wedding-At-Two-Love-Lane/dp/1250111064/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wedding-Two-Love-Lane/dp/1250111064/

Author Kieran Kramer
Author Kieran Kramer

About the author:

USA Today bestselling author Kieran Kramer is a former journalist and English teacher who lives in the Lowcountry of South Carolina with her family. She’s a game show veteran, karaoke enthusiast, and general adventurer.

UNUSUAL FACTS (From the author’s blog)

~I’m a $34,000 winner on The Wheel of Fortune. A decade before that, I won on Family Feud. Yes, I kissed Richard Dawson. He was a real sweetheart!

~I ran with the bulls at Pamplona in Spain, one of the craziest and most exciting things I’ve ever done.

~I scooped The New York Times from my computer at home as a freelance journalist for The Charlotte Observer by accidentally inciting a feud between John Rosemond, family psychologist, and parenting expert, and the renowned pediatrician Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, over the topic of potty training; the story was picked up by The New York Times and Dr. Dean Edell of talk radio fame.

~I spent my entire junior year in college at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, where I pulled pints of ale as a barmaid at the university pub and listened to bagpipes a lot from my dorm window.

~I grew up one of seven kids on Johns Island, a rural sea island near Charleston, SC, and helped build my family’s log home. I also played in the pluff mud, sat on docks daydreaming, rode below the bowsprit on my parents’ sailboat and watched dolphins swim mere feet away, and in general, lived an idyllic Lowcountry life.

~A certified English teacher, I subbed regularly at the local high school while writing my first book, When Harry Met Molly. I love teenagers because they’re so misunderstood.

~I’ve been married for twenty-eight years to a great guy named Chuck, a Commander in the US Navy Reserves, and we have three kind, musically-inclined kids, all of whom have been brought up on the Beatles as the family’s go-to band.

~I’m obsessed with almost every Real Housewives franchise, and of course, I love Southern Charm, even though almost no one on the show is from Charleston. I appeared with my daughter in one episode at a ball.

~I’m in my second year of a full-time, on-campus MFA in Creative Writing program at The College of Charleston. I’m loving being a student again with all the twenty-somethings! This semester, one of my classes is on Oscar Wilde–how I love that guy. It’s a true joy and privilege to be learning…don’t ever stop, ladies and gents! Keep challenging yourselves!

~I’ve occasionally rescued vulnerable cats and dogs and gotten them safely situated…I seem to stumble into those situations. It’s a never-ending problem, isn’t it? I think the most good I can do is take care of my own pets well. I love our two tabby cats, Benny and Joon, so much that my kids call me a crazy cat lady, and our sweet old black lab mix, Striker, is my constant companion.

https://kierankramer.com/

My review:

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and to NetGalley for offering me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

Although this is book two in The Two Love Lane series (a series about the owners of a matchmaking agency), I have not read the first one and can confirm it can be enjoyed as a standalone read, although I’m sure that knowing the set-up and the characters would add to the reading experience.

I don’t want to discuss in too much detail the plot, as the description introduces the main characters and some of the main themes. There is  a contest for a wedding dress, that ends up becoming a reality show, an English baron (quite a few of the reviewers have commented that considering his father and his older brother are alive and well, that does not make sense), a nasty store owner and his side-kick who become the villains of the piece (well, perhaps), several side-plots (a designer with an interesting idea and a hidden love story, the background stories of both protagonists and their families, the stories of the other couples involved in the contest, and  a big win at the TV quiz show The Price Is Right), and Charleston. The Charleston of the book is a genteel and lovely place, full of great restaurants, fascinating shops, and lively characters. It is also a welcoming place where people from all over are made to feel at home, and where everybody feels inspired.

Many of the usual tropes and themes of romantic novels are at play here, and also quite a few typical of chick-lit. Greer is alone and very good at finding love for others but not so good at getting finding her own. She is obsessed with creating the perfect wedding, not only for her clients but for herself, and has been collecting wedding scrapbooks since she was a child. Although she is supposed to be the logical one in charge of the technical side of things at the agency and the ever important algorithms, she plunges head first into crazy situations and keeps denying what is plain to see. We have an English nobleman, who is, of course, very attractive and also a talented painter, but needs a muse to find his true art. He’s been jilted at the altar but still offers to play Greer’s fake partner. We have pretend relationships, secrets, will they won’t they, not quite love-at-first-sight, but close enough, and a good cast of secondary characters that all sound interesting enough in their own right (Personally, I’d love to hear more about Miss Thing). Ah, and donuts, cakes, wonderful wedding dresses, intrigue, and misunderstandings galore. There are plenty of fun moments, some sad ones, and some inspiring ones (I was particularly interested in Ford’s struggle to connect with his art), and the book is an easy and light read, although I agree with some reviewers that it tries to pack so many things in that at times it feels too busy, and some of the side-stories deserve more time and development than what they get.

The characters are likable enough (I’ve never been obsessed about weddings, but quite liked Greer’s idea of entering the contest as a single participant), and although the novel stretches our suspension of disbelief on occasions, I don’t think it goes beyond genre expectations. The writing is fluid, with nice local touches and British expressions, and includes descriptions that put readers right in the middle of the action, without overdoing it.

After spending a fair amount of time with the characters, the ending felt a bit rushed, and I agree with reviewers that felt there should have been another chapter to clarify matters (I think we all felt as if they had banged the door on our faces), although perhaps the author has something up her sleeve and it has something to do with the next book. (Let me clarify. It does not end up on a cliff-hanger, but we miss the big event, perhaps because after talking about it so much, it could never have lived up to everyone’s expectations).

A light and fun read, recommended if you need an injection of sun and romance, in a great setting, with many secondary stories to keep you occupied if you easily get bored.

Thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press and both authors, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW!

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview AT THE EDGE OF THE ORCHARD by Tracy Chevalier (@Tracy_Chevalier) I enjoyed the story, the characters, the historical detail, the beautiful language and yes, the trees too

Hi all:

My list of books to read from NetGalley is very long (I’m sure any day they’ll stop approving me because I can’t keep up) but I’m very greedy when it comes to books (not so much for other things, thankfully) and often I just see on offer a book by a writer that I’ve always felt curious about but never quite got round to reading and… Yes, I can’t resist. This is one of those and it was well-worth it.

At The Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier. Cover 1
At The Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier

At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier

·         Hardcover
$18.36

 

·         Paperback
$11.27
1 New from $11.27

 

·         Audible
$24.94

 

·         Audio CD
$33.28

“With impeccable research and flawless prose, Chevalier perfectly conjures the grandeur of the pristine Wild West . . . and the everyday adventurers—male and female—who were bold enough or foolish enough to be drawn to the unknown. She crafts for us an excellent experience.”
USA Today

From internationally bestselling author Tracy Chevalier, a riveting drama of a pioneer family on the American frontier

1838: James and Sadie Goodenough have settled where their wagon got stuck – in the muddy, stagnant swamps of northwest Ohio. They and their five children work relentlessly to tame their patch of land, buying saplings from a local tree man known as John Appleseed so they can cultivate the fifty apple trees required to stake their claim on the property. But the orchard they plant sows the seeds of a long battle. James loves the apples, reminders of an easier life back in Connecticut; while Sadie prefers the applejack they make, an alcoholic refuge from brutal frontier life.

1853: Their youngest child Robert is wandering through Gold Rush California. Restless and haunted by the broken family he left behind, he has made his way alone across the country. In the redwood and giant sequoia groves he finds some solace, collecting seeds for a naturalist who sells plants from the new world to the gardeners of England. But you can run only so far, even in America, and when Robert’s past makes an unexpected appearance he must decide whether to strike out again or stake his own claim to a home at last.

Chevalier tells a fierce, beautifully crafted story in At the Edge of the Orchard, her most graceful and richly imagined work yet.

About the author:

Author Tracy Chevalier
Author Tracy Chevalier

Tracy Chevalier is the author of nine novels, including the international bestseller GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING, which has sold over 5 million copies and been made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth. American by birth, British by geography, she lives in London with her husband and son. Her latest novel, AT THE EDGE OF THE ORCHARD, is set among the apple trees in Ohio and the redwoods and sequoias of California. Her next book NEW BOY is a re-telling of Othello, set in a Washington DC playground in the 1970s. It’s part of the Hogarth Shakespeare Project in which various writers take a Shakespeare play and write what Jeanette Winterson described as a “cover version.” Tracy is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and has honorary doctorates from her alma maters Oberlin College and the University of East Anglia. Her website www.tchevalier.com will tell you more about her and her books.

https://www.amazon.com/Tracy-Chevalier/e/B000APQH6G/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to HarperCollins UK, HarperFiction, The Borough Press for providing me with an ARC copy of this book that I voluntarily choose to review.

Tracy Chevalier was one of the authors that I had wanted to read for a long while but somehow never got around to it. When I saw this title on offer I decided it was now or never. For me, it was well-worth the wait, but more about that later.

The book follows the story of a family who moves from Connecticut to Ohio in the XIX century and later of their youngest son, Robert and his adventures. It is divided into several parts, and it is symmetrical and beautifully composed. We first get to know the parents, James and Sarah (Sadie), whose first-person narrations alternate, and whose points of view and personalities couldn’t be more different. Then there are the letters that Robert, their youngest son, writes back home, which give us a brief insight into his adventures, without narrating every little detail. Then there is the narration of Robert’s adventures, this time in the third person, and how he goes full circle and after trying many things ends up working with trees, his father’s life mission. There follow the letters from his youngest sister, Martha, who tries to find him, and also tell a story that would have been much more difficult to read if it had been told in detail. (I’m trying to avoid spoilers, but let’s say her way of talking about her experiences make them more poignant for me. Robert was right when he told her she was stronger than she thought she was.) Then we go back to James and Sadie’s story, picking it up at the time where it had been disrupted, and by the end of the novel, we’re back to Robert’s story. Although the story goes backwards and forwards in time, I did not find it difficult as the times and the narrative voices are well and clearly delineated.

Life in the swamp is vividly described as harsh and demanding. It kills animals, people, and crops. It also can destroy the spirits of some individuals. The only bright spot are the apples (be the sweetness and the joy of growing them, for James, or the cider and Applejack for Sadie). Here I found myself fascinated by the description of the trees, the process of looking after them, what they came to represent, the fights over the different types of apple trees, and later about the love of people for the sequoias and the business involved in exporting trees. It has happened to me more than once that when I read about a subject I’d never thought much about; I become entranced by it, not because of the subject itself, but of the passion and beauty with which it was written about. I remember, as an example of this, American Pastoral by Philip Roth. I’d never given a second thought to glove making before reading that book, but I the way the craft was described, so lovingly. In this case, to Chevalier’s advantage, I like apples and trees, although I’ve never studied them in depth, but I loved the factual knowledge, the beauty of the language, and the use of true historical figures, as the author explains in her notes. As a note of warning, having read some of the reviews, not everybody found that part interesting. I guess I’m more of a James (or a Robert) than a Sadie in that respect.

The characters are not immediately relatable to or even likeable, but they do ring true. Both parents seem to be trapped in relationships and roles not of their liking but unable to do anything else, at a time when survival was the main object and most people had to put up with their lot in life, like it or not. Robert is a quiet man, who prefers nature to the company of others, but he is also loyal and more attached to people than he likes to acknowledge, even to himself. The book is built around a secret he keeps, although for me that was incidental and not the hook that kept me reading. He ends up becoming fonder of people and, like the trees of the story, gets to move around and see the world. Martha, his sister, is a great character (she would have made an interesting protagonist too, but perhaps her story would have been too bleak) but does not get a lot of space in the book. Some of the secondary characters, based on historical ones, like John Chapman and William Lobb, deserve whole volumes dedicated to their endeavours, and some fictional characters, like the housekeeper and Molly, are larger than life.

I can’t compare it to any other of Chevalier’s books, but I enjoyed the story, the characters, the historical detail, the beautiful language and yes, the trees too. I recommend it to lovers of historical fiction who are happy to delve into the texture and the feel of an era or an occupation. And now I have to try and catch up with the rest of her books.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publishers and the author for this wonderful book, thanks to all of you for reading, and please, like, share, comment and CLICK!

Categories
Book review Book reviews New books

#BookReview and new book The Other Side of Philip K. Dick: A Tale of Two Friends by Maer Wilson (@MaerWilson) , Tim Powers (Foreword). A portray of a time, a man and a dear friend. (And some free books)

Hi all:

Today I bring you a new book (the author belongs to one of the groups of authors I joined early on in my career and where I learned the little I know, ASMSG, Authors Social Media Support Group) by Maer Wilson. Although I’ve known her for a while, I hadn’t managed to read any of her books, but when she offered an ARC of her newest and I read what it was about, I couldn’t resist. And don’t worry, the book was published earlier this week (on the 9th of August) so you won’t have to wait. Ah, and read until the end, as another author of the book reminded me that in the ASMSG website readers can access free books by the authors in the group, and some of mine are there too!

Maer Wilson was very kind and sent an excerpt and extra material, so you can get a better sense of what her book is like.

The Other Side of Philip K. Dick by Maer Wilson
The Other Side of Philip K. Dick by Maer Wilson

The Other Side of Philip K. Dick: A Tale of Two Friends by Maer Wilson  (Author), Tim Powers (Foreword)

“As a literary figure, Philip K. Dick is popularly perceived as a crazed, drug-addled mystic with a sinister Third Eye. Nothing could be further from the truth – the Phil I knew was a warm, humane, very funny man. Maer Wilson understands these truths far better than I, and The Other Side of Philip K. Dick casts a welcome shaft of daylight upon the real PKD, as opposed to the dark, distorted caricature Dick has become.” Paul M. Sammon, Author of Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner

PKDteaser1

What is the truth behind the legend of Science Fiction great, Philip K. Dick?

 

In spring, 1972, Phil Dick moved to Fullerton, CA, where he met Theatre student Mary (Maer) Wilson. Amid marriage proposals, marathon talk-fests and a love for music and films, they forged a strong friendship that would last the rest of his life.

 

Wilson’s quirky, yet unflinchingly honest, memoir reveals a funny, compassionate and generous man. She captures an inside view of one of our literary greats – a brilliant writer who gave the world some of its most revered Science Fiction.

 

“I found this book engrossing and authentic – a truthful and serious account of the last part of Phil Dick’s life by someone who was a fundamental part of it and who has the skill to write about it. There is evident love and friendship in this book, but also honesty. This was the Phil Dick I knew.” James P. Blaylock, World Fantasy Award-Winning Author

 

You can pre-order ebook versions now.
The paperback will be available on August 9, 2016

 

Amazon Kindle – https://goo.gl/nQ12tW

Amazon Paperback – https://goo.gl/Nvx1H0

Barnes & Noble Paperback – http://goo.gl/GzEVxz

Barnes & Noble Nook – http://goo.gl/o92tkr
iTunes – https://goo.gl/LDArxc
Kobo – https://goo.gl/uax6Fm

Goodreads – https://goo.gl/WFdQZy

Smashwords – https://goo.gl/zbBGE9

 

 

Maer Wilson Author Pic

 

Maer Wilson’s Bio

After a successful career being other people, and later teaching others the many tricks of that trade, Maer Wilson has decided to be herself for a while. Turns out she’s a writer.

Maer first met Philip K. Dick in 1972 when he moved into the apartment across the hall from her in Fullerton, California. They remained close friends until his death in 1982. Maer was always an avid reader, but it was Phil who introduced her to science fiction, and she fell in love with the genre, later expanding into most aspects of Spec Fic.

When she’s not writing, Maer plays online video games, teaches college and reads. Maer is a partner in Ellysian Press, a small publishing house. She lives in the high desert of Southern Nevada with her two poodles.

Named 2015 Fantasy Author of the Year by AuthorClassifieds.com, Maer’s books include the recent Apocalypta Z. Her Modern Magics series includes the novels Relics, Portals, and Magics, as well as novelettes and stories set in that universe. Maer recently contributed to, compiled and published the charity anthology, The Dark Dozen. She is currently working on a science fiction novel, Truthsayer.

You can find all Maer’s books and novelettes at Amazon and other online retailers. For more info, you can visit Maer’s website at http://maerwilson.com/.

A few links so you can check other books by the author:

 

Maer’s Website:  http://maerwilson.com/

The Other Side of Philip K. Dick Website:  http://goo.gl/C4fWp8

Maer on Amazon:  http://goo.gl/a2BiU2

Maer on Barnes & Noble: http://goo.gl/YGe8ug

Maer on Facebook:  https://goo.gl/KRgX2k

Maer on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/MaerWilson

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Excerpt

“But first let’s set the scene.

It’s April, 1972 in Fullerton, California around 7:00 PM. The sun has set and the night is cool, balanced between full spring and hints of summer. Can you feel the slight breeze?

The street is Quartz Lane. Some of the many apartment buildings in the area line the short road. We’re going to go to the first complex on the right, just past the church. There’s a small courtyard and the residents all have their curtains drawn. Most are translucent and clearly show the light from the apartments. But there. That first apartment on our right? The one upstairs. Yes, that one with the light shining through a gap in the curtains.

And the one across from it. The light isn’t as bright, but we need to note that one, too.

We can almost hear the giggles of two girls as we make our way up the stairs and fade through their door. Shhh… We’ll be as quiet as the ghosts from the future that we are.

The scene is set. The actors and orchestra are in their places as the curtain rises.

The stage lights come up.

The conductor taps his baton on the music stand.

 

The music begins.

 

 

Chapter 1 – At First

“It happened back when I was still immortal.”

 

Praise for The Other Side of Philip K. Dick

“I found this book engrossing and authentic – a truthful and serious account of the last part of Phil Dick’s life by someone who was a fundamental part of it and who has the skill to write about it. There is evident love and friendship in this book, but also honesty. This was the Phil Dick I knew.” James P. Blaylock, World Fantasy Award-winning Author

 

“As a literary figure, Philip K. Dick is popularly perceived as a crazed, drug-addled mystic with a sinister Third Eye. Nothing could be further from the truth – the Phil I knew was a warm, humane, very funny man. Maer Wilson understands these truths far better than I, and The Other Side of Philip K. Dick casts a welcome shaft of daylight upon the real PKD, as opposed to the dark, distorted caricature Dick has become.” Paul M. Sammon, Author of Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner

 

“The strongest piece of writing I’ve read in years. Wilson’s pacing is perfection. The Other Side of Philip K. Dick is filled with laughter and the kind of love only true friends can share. Even if, for some reason, you’ve never heard of Philip K. Dick, you will fall in love with him and Wilson. The ending had me crying, like “end of the Notebook” crying. Utter perfection.” M. Joseph Murphy, Author of the Activation series

 

“There are many tales of epic friendships, but there is one huge difference here: The Other Side of Philip K. Dick is real. Wilson’s prose gives us an inside view into two minds, a genius and a young girl. Through her eyes I am left with one thought — this is a man I wish I had known.” –Danielle DeVor, author of the Marker Chronicles.

 

“Frank and revealing. One part faithful memoir, one part a wonderful evocation of Phil’s final 10 years. Writing with crisp clarity, Maer’s humorous anecdotes wonderfully evoke both the times and the man. Her conversational prose sparkles with truth and winning story-telling. Best of all, this warm tribute replaces the oft-told myths about Phil with unique insights into his caring, compassionate and generous nature.” Daniel Gilbertson, Friend of PKD

 

“As a fan of Dick’s fiction, I was engrossed by these amusing, insightful, and poignant reminiscences of the last ten years of his life. Wilson evokes a human portrait of a warm, funny, unassuming man who was a good friend to a young student. This memoir is well-written and heart-felt. It illustrates not only the private world of a great writer but what it was like to be young in the seventies in California.” Carol Holland March, Author of The Dreamwalkers of Larreta

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My review:

I received an ARC copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

I thought I’d get a couple of things out of the way before I gave my opinion of the book. This is the first book by Maer Wilson that I’ve read. I’m aware she writes fiction but haven’t read any of her novels yet. The second thing is that I’ve read some of Philip K. Dick’s novels, but I’m not a connoisseur of his work and I have but a passing acquaintance with his life. Like a lot of people I’m more familiar with some of the film adaptations of his science-fiction novels than I am with the original books (but I must say one doesn’t forget easily reading one of his books and notwithstanding my undying love for Blade Runner, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is imprinted in my brain).

This book is not a biography of Philip K. Dick, or a memoir of Mary (Maer) Wilson, although it does have elements of both. The author sets up the scene and explains clearly what she intends to do at the opening of the book. This is the story of her friendship with the writer that spanned the last ten years of his life. She does not justify his behaviour, she does not provide a critical analysis of his work, and she does not go on a research digging expedition trying to discover who the true Philip K. Dick was. After many years of reading works about the man she got to know quite closely, and not recognising the versions of her friend those books created, she decided to share the man she knew. She acknowledges that he might have been different when he was younger and that perhaps he presented differently with different people. (In fact she has an interesting theory about the matter that makes perfect sense to me, but although not a true spoiler, I’ll leave you to read it yourselves).

Mary Wilson met Philip K. Dick when she was a young theatre student, and although she goes to great pains to try and remember and record the things as they happened at the time (and as her young-self experienced them), the older (and of course wiser) Maer Wilson can’t help but sometimes despair of her younger counterpart. As all young people, and especially somebody preparing from a young age for an acting career, the young Mary thinks she is immortal and the centre of the universe. She accepts friendships as they come and does not question either motives or reasons. She does not inquire why an older man (when they meet she doesn’t even know he’s a writer) is living with a young student or why he would want to make friends with people who are twenty five years his juniors. The way she writes about the young Mary reminded me of Herman Melville’s Redburn, where the older writer can’t help but reflect on the naïveté and inexperience of his younger self. (Not that she is all that naïve as she acknowledges that the writer had a crush on her and she handled it remarkably well, but she’s neither humble nor always wise).

The author does not aim to discover where Philip K. Dick was coming from or what happened during the periods when they lost contact, for example when he got married and his wife wasn’t keen on his younger friends, or when Mary was living with a boyfriend and so busy with her theatrical performances that she couldn’t always make time for a social life. She does not try to make up for gaps or recreate things that she was not witness too. She does include photographs of events relevant to the narration, drawings, etc., and has obtained some of the correspondence a common friend had kept, but in its majority, the book is made up of anecdotes, conversations and events that the writer remembers in plenty of detail, as would be expected of somebody talking about a close and dear friend. I also got the sense, from the book and the foreword, that Dick had remained a topic of conversation for his group of friends and some of the episodes mentioned have been reminisced upon more than once.

As it has been noted often (and is also mentioned in the foreword of the book), anybody who attempts to tell somebody else’s story, ends up telling his or her own, and the author gives us a wonderful insight into ten years of her life, from her years as a student, performing and putting on plays, to having her own theatre company, and working herself to exhaustion. It is a vivid portrayal of a type of life, a place and a period, that will make readers wish they were there, going to watch A Clockwork Orange with Philip K. Dick, or meeting Ridley Scott to talk about Blade Runner. It isn’t a glamorous story or a celebrity autobiography (thankfully!), and it has ups and downs, moments of enlightenment and regrets, happy moments and doubts and what ifs, but that’s what real life is like.  The author writes as if she was telling her memories of Dick to a close friend, or perhaps as if she was retelling herself the episodes she recalls, trying to puzzle together and order her thoughts, to grab hold of her experience and not let go. It is an intimate and reflective style of writing that makes the reader feel close to both actors and events.

I personally enjoyed getting to know both the author of the book and a bit more about Philip K. Dick, the friend of his friends. This is not a book for somebody looking to acquire facts and figures about Dick, or a comprehensive biography, warts and all. It isn’t a book that talks in detail about his writing (although there are references to his comments at the time and the stories he shared), and it isn’t a gossip column trying to settle grudges (and sadly this is not the first non-fiction book I read where the people really close to somebody are pushed aside by the individual’s official family when s/he is no longer able to do anything to prevent it). This book will be of interest to people who want to find a new dimension, a more personal one, to Dick the man rather than the myth. And also to readers who want to experience the era of the 1970s (and early 80s) in California as it would have been for a very talented and artistic group of friends. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall at some of those meetings. That’s not possible but at least I have this book.

Thanks to Maer Wilson for giving me the opportunity of reading and reviewing her new book, thanks to all of you for reading, and if you’ve enjoyed it, like, share, comment, and CLICK!

Ah, and another author from the group, Carolynne Raymond (from Lady Maverick Publishing) has written a great post for readers so they can access some books by this talented group, and all for FREE! Check it here! (And yes, one of mine is available there).

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