Monday, June 29, 2009

Of Bees and Mist - A Novel of Magical Realism

I've just finished an advance reading copy of Erick Setiawan's debut novel "Of Bees and Mist," an allegorical fantasy spanning three generations of women in two families. The last time I was this enchanted by a novel was when I read "Life of Pi" by Yann Martel. Both books tell stories that weave the ordinary with the extraordinary.

Meridia has a lonely childhood. Her mother, Ravenna, is a woman who dresses in black, mutters to herself and on most days forgets she has a daughter. Her father, Gabriel, is cold and cruel. A mysterious mist carries him away each night and delivers him in the morning. It soon becomes apparent that her father is spending his nights with another woman. Meridia has dreams of something that happened when she was a baby, something that drove her parents apart and fractured their family.

When Meridia reaches the age of sixteen she falls in love with Daniel and wants to marry him. Gabriel disapproves but Ravenna surprises everyone by arguing for the marriage and the young couple moves in with the groom's family. At first Daniel's mother, Eva, is warm and jovial, everything that Ravenna is not. But her true nature is soon revealed. The sound of buzzing bees signals her mother-in-law's nagging and sly cunning. She tries to manipulate and control Meridia as she does her family. And Meridia must find a way to become independent or risk losing Daniel.

I've heard magical realism defined as "what happens when a realistic setting is invaded by something 'too strange to believe'." I think that applies here. Setiawan uses visible symbols and metaphors to represent emotions and abstract ideas. Each reader will come away with a different interpretation and understanding of the setting and characters. Those who like everything wrapped up in a tidy package will be disappointed; most of the book is open to interpretation. Even the cover was a tantalizing puzzle with hidden pictures to be ferreted out by eagle eyed readers.

I was thoroughly intrigued. It's always a joy to discover a story that's unique, thought provoking and entertaining at the same time. I highly recommend it.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (August 4, 2009)
ISBN: 978-1416596240
Hardcover: Pages 416
Price: $25.00

Gail Pruszkowski reviews for "Romantic Times BOOKreviews" magazine and her work has been published in the "Cup of Comfort" Anthologies.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday Giveaway - The Note Book by Nicholas Sparks

Congratulations Carol! You are the winner of the Friday June 19th giveaway for "My Lord Vampire."

There's a new giveaway today. I'm trying to clear out my book shelves so a paperback copy of "The Notebook" is up for grabs. Is there anyone out there who hasn't read this shamelessly sentimental love conquers all story. Leave me a post and I'll pick a winner next Friday.

From the author's website:
". . . is an achingly tender story about the enduring power of love, a story of miracles that will stay with you forever. Set amid the austere beauty of coastal North Carolina in 1946, THE NOTEBOOK begins with the story of Noah Calhoun, a rural Southerner returned home from World War II. Noah, thirty-one, is restoring a plantation home to its former glory, and he is haunted by images of the beautiful girl he met fourteen years earlier, a girl he loved like no other. Unable to find her, yet unwilling to forget the summer they spent together, Noah is content to live with only memories. . . until she unexpectedly returns to his town to see him once again. Allie Nelson, twenty-nine, is now engaged to another man, but realizes that the original passion she felt for Noah has not dimmed with the passage of time. Still, the obstacles that once ended their previous relationship remain, and the gulf between their worlds is too vast to ignore. With her impending marriage only weeks away, Allie is forced to confront her hopes and dreams for the future, a future that only she can shape.

Like a puzzle within a puzzle, the story of Noah and Allie is just beginning. As it unfolds, their tale miraculously becomes something different, with much higher stakes. The result is a deeply moving portrait of love itself, the tender moments, and fundamental changes that affect us all. Shining with a beauty that is rarely found in current literature, THE NOTEBOOK establishes Nicholas Sparks as a classic storyteller with a unique insight into the only emotion that really matters."


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rogue Justice - The Review

Having recently been enthralled by the classic cat and mouse thriller "Rogue Male" by Geoffrey Household, I was anxious to read the sequel. I knew the reviews were mixed but I had to know the end of the story. First I had to find a copy. It's out of print, but I was able to buy an old library book online. Although it was written in 1982, some forty years after the first, and the plot is dated "Rogue Justice" provides a worthy conclusion to the story.

The book begins with a preface by Saul Harding, the protagonist's legal advisor which brings new readers up to date. He relates how Raymond Ingelram (unnamed in "Rogue Male") took a passport from Major Quive-Smith, after killing him, and used it to return to Germany, in the hopes of successfully assassinating Hitler. When the Gestapo learns about his false passport he's apprehended and held in Rostock. The prison is destroyed in a British air raid and he escapes. This is where Raymond's further adventures begin as he eludes capture and travels into occupied Poland.

There are major differences between this book and "Rogue Male." The first book focuses on the hunter and the hunted - the hero pitting his intelligence and stamina against the worthy opponent, Major Quive-Smith. The battle of wits between these two, how they try to outfox each other, is truly engrossing. In the second book there is no one antagonist, it's Ingelram fleeing the Nazis with the hope of another chance to kill Hitler. The sequel has more adventure, different locations and interesting secondary characters, and yet much of the suspense is gone. Having the hero and his target remain unnamed provides an aura of heightened mystery in "Rogue Male" that doesn't come through in "Rogue Justice." That being said this is still a great story. Espionage, intrigue and betrayal lead to an unexpected and haunting conclusion.

Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics) (July 3, 1984)
ISBN: 978-0140068535
Pages: 208

Gail Pruszkowski reviews for "Romantic Times BOOKreviews" magazine and her work has been published in the "Cup of Comfort" Anthologies.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

It Happened In Italy by Elizabeth Bettina

The destructive legacy of the Holocaust affected not only those who lived through the persecution, evacuations and internments but their future generations as well. Memoirs written by the children of survivors relate stories of how the atrocities suffered by their parents fractured family relationships for years afterwards. When I learned there was a book that presented a different side of the Holocaust I was anxious to read it.

"It Happened in Italy," lovingly written by Elizabeth Bettina, is an account of how she found out that her grandparent's village, Campagna in southern Italy, had aided Jews during the Holocaust. She discovered that Italian run internment camps were not death camps, but detainment camps where Jews were given a certain amount of freedom and treated with dignity and respect. It led her to look further and inspired her to chronicle the stories of survivors who were helped by the Italian people during World War II.

Jewish families were kept together and fake documents provided. They wore their own clothes, ate well, played cards and were permitted to practice their religion. Those who were from Italy often returned to their homes after the war and found their belongings waiting for them, taken care of by neighbors. It made me wonder why this didn't happen in other countries, it's a great testament to the Italian people.

The book was written in a warm easy to read style with short chapters. The survivor's recollections, documents and photographs were interesting and deserving of preservation. But I came away feeling like something was missing. It seemed the focus of the book was more on how the author researched the stories and gathered her information. The survivor's stories were short and mainly expressions of their gratitude toward the Italian people. I would have liked more detail about lives before the war, how things changed during and after, and whether there were Italian people who were not so willing to help. Despite the flaws I was glad for the opportunity to read book, it certainly whet my appetite for more.

Publisher: Thomas Nelson (April 21, 2009)
ISBN: 978-1595551023
Hardcover: Pages 384
Price: $24.99


Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday Giveaway - My Lord Vampire

Today's Friday Freebie is a book giveaway. If you love vampires as much as I do post a comment for a chance to win a copy of "My Lord Vampire" by Debbie Raleigh. I'll select the winner next Friday, so come back and check the post. If you see your name email me your address and I'll send the book out ASAP.

"My Lord Vampire" is a Zebra Regency Romance, the first of a trilogy. Here's a bit to whet your appetite.

Lady Simone Gilbert throws parties for society's elite and they're always by invitation only. At one of her soirees she spots a handsome man she didn't invite. There's attraction between these two but she has no idea he's a vampire who is several hundred years old. Gideon Ravel has come from beyond the veil to protect her because she wears one of three Medallions that figure prominently in the story. He's not the only one who's interested in the amulet that hangs around her neck. Tristan Soltern, the leader of a group of vampires who want to take over the world, wants it as well. Of course everyone hides dark secrets from their past.

This supernatural thriller is a quick easy read - a little suspense, a little romance and a happy ending.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Shhh! I'm reading Rogue Justice

I was reading my DVD Savant newsletter this morning and lo and behold they reviewed "Man Hunt," a 1941 film directed by Fritz Lang and starring Walter Pidgeon and Joan Bennett. It caught my eye because I watched the film recently. After reading "Rogue Male" by Geoffrey Household I had to see the movie based on the book. Maybe if I hadn't read the book first I would have enjoyed the movie more. It was a bold political statement for the time and certainly worth a viewing but I was disappointed that it deviated from Household's story. The addition of Joan Bennett's character and the comedic overtones didn't do it justice. If you want to read the Savant's review check it out here: Man Hunt.

The DVD is available at Amazon - Man Hunt

At the same time I watched "Rogue Male," filmed in 1976 for British television. It was directed by Clive Donner and stars Peter O'Toole and Alastair Sim. I liked it much better. Although not as detailed as the novel, it stayed much closer to the story.

The DVD is available at Amazon - Rogue Male

"Rogue Justice" is Geoffrey Household's follow-up to "Rogue Male." The story is dated but after relishing the first book I have to read the sequel. Review to follow of course.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Ocean City Maryland Air Show 2009 - Sunday was Awesome!

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds headlined the 2009 OC Air Show!

I spent Saturday and Sunday watching the OC air show. It was awesome!! The air show was visible along the majority of the Boardwalk but we had a premium spot on the beach. We parked at the Convention Center and took the shuttle to 17th Street where we set up chairs and had access to food, beverage and bathroom facilities. Here's the thrilling line-up.

US Coast Guard (USCG) performed a search and rescue demonstration using a Sikorsky HH-52A Seaguard helicopter showing how the USCG locates and retrieves people in distress far out at sea, often in fierce storms and the worst of weather conditions.

The U.S. Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier Demo

Army Golden Knights
U.S. Navy Seals Leap Frogs
Navy F-18 Hornet Demo
Air Force A-10 Warthog, better known as the "Tank Killer"
Matt Chapman and the Eagle 580
Naval Reserve Biplane Demo
Yak-9 Demo
GEICO SkyTypers
KC-135 Air Refueling Tankard Flyby

Mark June 5 & 6, 2010 on your calendar and come down to beautiful Ocean City, MD for next year's air show.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday Freebies

New Short Story on "The City Quiet as Death" by Steven Utley and Michael Bishop

Here are 3 New Titles on
Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith: Precipice by John Jackson Miller
Magic Kingdom for Sale--Sold! by Terry Brooks
For Love of Mother-Not by Alan Dean Foster not only has research tools but you can also read books on their site, including classics like:
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Jane Eyre by Charoltte Bronte


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Giveaway Winner

Congratulations Patricia! You are the winner of my "Benjamin Button" giveaway. Please send me your snail mail address and I will mail the book ASAP. I hope you enjoy it.

As for me I'm totally captivated by "Of Bees and Mist" by Erick Setiawan. I'm reading it for the Barnes and Noble Book Club and its one of those books you just can't put down.

This is from Erick's website:
"Raised in a sepulchral house where ghosts dwell in mirrors, Meridia grows up lonely and miserable. But at age sixteen, a chance at happiness comes her way when she falls in love with Daniel—a caring and na├»ve young man. Soon, they marry and Meridia can finally escape to live with her husband’s family, unaware that they harbor dark secrets of their own. There is a grave hidden in the garden, there are two sisters groomed from birth to despise each other, and there is Eva—the formidable matriarch and the wickedest mother-in-law imaginable—whose grievances swarm the air in an army of bees. As Meridia struggles to keep her life and marriage together, she discovers long-buried secrets about her own past as well as shocking truths about her new family that inexorably push her love, courage, and sanity to the brink."

Simon & Schuster

August 2009Hardcover
416 pages
ISBN-10: 1416596240
ISBN-13: 9781416596240


Monday, June 8, 2009

Giveaway and Review

There's still time to enter the book giveaway for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Other Tales of the Jazz Age." Just leave a comment and I'll choose a winner on Wednesday.

And in case you missed my review of "Prayers for Sale" on EzineArticles I'm posting it here.

Prayers For Sale by Sandra Dallas
Gail Pruszkowski

"Prayers For Sale" by Sandra Dallas is the heart-warming story of a cross generational friendship between two women. The title grabbed my attention right away and when I read an excerpt I knew I had to read the entire story. The premise is similar to "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe" by Fannie Flagg. If you enjoyed that book you will probably like this one as well.

It's 1936 and Hennie Comfort is living in the isolated mining town of Middle Swan, Colorado. She has an old sign outside of her home that says Prayers for Sale and one day she sees a young girl looking at it. That's how she meets Nit Spindle. Nit is grieving and she asks Hennie to pray for her baby Effie, who was stillborn and buried back in Kentucky. Hennie in turn tells her the story of the baby she lost. They both share a love of quilting and a great friendship grows between them despite their age difference. Nit is seventeen and Hennie is eighty-six. Hennie tells stories about her life and the history of Middle Swan and they share their deepest secrets.

The women are very sympathetic and the conversations between them are so real I had to grab my box of tissues several times. Sandra Dallas writes in a remarkable voice with an excellent ear for dialect, giving each woman their own personality and making it easy to picture where they are from. Her descriptions of the setting are equally well done. She effectively paints a picture of the hardscrabble mining town in Colorado that is modeled on Breckenridge. Hennie's tales are full of hardship, loss and survival. It's a moving story with a good ending. I highly recommend it.

Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (April 14, 2009)
ISBN: 978-0312385187
Hardcover Pages: 320
Price: $24.95

Gail Pruszkowski reviews for "Romantic Times BOOKreviews" magazine and her work has been published in the "Cup of Comfort" Anthologies.

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Interview, Review and Giveaway!

Today I'm being interviewed at Jo's Fantasy Book Reviews, Ink and Paper. Please stop by at book blogger interview and leave a comment.

Today I'm posting a recent review of
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The book is very different from the movie. Leave a comment for a chance to win my copy of the book. Next Wednesday I'll choose the lucky winner and you can decide for yourself if the movie improved on the original story.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Other Tales of the Jazz Age by F Scott Fitzgerald
Gail Pruszkowski

I saw "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" recently. The film, starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett is almost three hours long. It's an astonishing film that explores themes of life, death and love in the context of a man who ages backwards. It's unique and thought provoking, diverting and depressing. I knew it was adapted from F. Scott Fitzgerald's book, I decided it was high time I read it. The book turned out to be a short story first published in Colliers Magazine in 1921. In an introduction to his story, Fitzgerald reflected that a quote by Mark Twain gave him the idea. This quote could be the one that inspired him, it certainly fits the premise.

"Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of eighty and gradually approach eighteen." --Mark Twain

The movie differs from Fitzgerald's story. The title is the same, as is Benjamin's name, and the concept of aging backwards. Benjamin is born an old man. His father is horrified when he first sees him in the hospital - a seventy year old man with a beard who can actually talk. Benjamin's mother does not appear in the story at all. And unlike the movie, his father takes him home and raises him. He makes him shave, dye his hair and buys him toys so he can try and pass him off as a child. Years pass and its apparent Benjamin is looking younger and feeling better as he ages.

Eventually he attends a party with his father. The two look more like brothers than father and son and he attracts the attention of young Hildegarde, who likes older men. They fall in love and get married. Benjamin takes over his father's business, makes a lot of money and has a son. Unfortunately the younger/older he gets the less attracted he is to his wife and he goes off to fight in the Spanish-American War. Things are no better when he returns and he parties while his wife stays home.

Now looking twenty years old, he hands the business over to his son and enrolls in Harvard. But after a few years he can't keep up with his studies. When he's forced to come home his wife is gone, having moved to Italy. Benjamin moves in with his son and gets younger and younger.

This is an easy one hour read. Large chunks of time are skipped and a lot of years are covered for a short story. I enjoy fantasy and fables but this one bothered me from page one. What happened to the woman who gave birth to a grown man and was never heard from again? The other characters that appear in the story are never fully developed and none are particularly likeable, including Benjamin. The enduring love story in the movie is not in the book. The relationship between Benjamin and his wife is full of distain and intolerance. After reading the book it's understandable why it was changed for the film. A movie needs a hero everyone can sympathize with. And casting Brad Pitt didn't hurt either.

This may not be one of his best but Fitzgerald is a wonderful writer. And there are three others included in this collection that I enjoyed more.

"Bernice Bobs Her Hair" is a coming-of-age story. Bernice visits her cousin Marjorie who transforms her from a dull and unpopular young woman to the belle of the ball. Things go well until she captures the interest of Marjorie's boyfriend.
In "The Jelly-Bean" Jim Powell is an idler, but an encounter with a beautiful woman makes him think about a better life - until alcohol destroys his dreams.

"Dalyrimple Goes Wrong," is the story of man who comes home from war a hero and becomes torn between working hard and taking the easy way out.

Publisher: Coyote Canyon Press (January 18, 2008)
ISBN: 978-0979660771
Pages: 108
Price: $6.95

Gail Pruszkowski reviews for "Romantic Times BOOKreviews" magazine and her work has been published in the "Cup of Comfort" Anthologies.

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Monday, June 1, 2009

EzineArticles Marathon Update

EzineArticles Cartoon

Today is June 1. With one month left to go of the EzineArticles 100 Article Marathon, things are looking pretty good. As of today I have 80 of the 100 articles submitted and published.

What is EzineArticles?
" is a matching service -- bringing real-world experts and ezine publishers together.
Expert Authors & Writers are able to post their articles to be featured within the site. Our searchable database of hundreds of thousands of quality original articles allows email newsletter publishers hungry for fresh content to find articles that they can use for inclusion within their next newsletter (up to 25 articles per year per our Publisher TOS)."