Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘readers’

From the Depths

51+ATsTqTWL._UY250_She’s Gone: Broken, Battered and Bruised
by JAnn Bowers. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

You wouldn’t think  that poems awash in sadness, heartbreak, loneliness, and darkness, would be interesting to read, but this collection is. The poet, JAnn Bowers, has used this form of writing as a catharsis, without any filter, or concern, for sharing her deepest hurt and pain.

She’s Gone is not for the faint of heart, or someone who wants to read happy, lyrical poetry filled with flowers, love, and sweetness. Though there is nothing wrong with that poetry, this is different. Here’s her poem Such A Fool which speaks of friendship and loss with insight and clarity.

As I sit here wiping the tears from my eyes

Knowing that I have lost you as a friend

You meant the world to me

My heart breaks because I know I will miss you

But then I know it’s time to move on

To deal with this loss

And bury the hatchet

That broke us apart

As I say my goodbyes

With tears in my eyes

I will walk away with my head up high

For I know you will always be there in the back of my mind.

And in my heart

For I know you are

Fighting it to

So take care, my friend

I will always cherish you.

Ms. Bowers states in the book that she has moved on and found some solace and breaks, from episodes of depression and hopelessness, but felt that the poems in She’s Gone were needed, for her, at the time they were written. Readers can identify with times in there lives when they too may have touched the edges, or were inundated, with such feelings of despair and pain themselves.

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It’s All Good

Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts. From New York Journal of Books.

51gfDegqlHLRight from the start, you know what’s going to happen. The short paragraph on the back cover gives the ending away without saying it. Every lover of romance will instantly understand what the story is about, how the plot will unfold, and what will probably happen with the characters. In spite of the lack of mystery or suspense, millions of readers will devour it anyway. Why? Because it makes you feel good and takes you to a world where everyone meets the perfect mate, has a job they love, and engages in fantastic sex.

A little piece of the book’s best-selling author, Nora Roberts, seeps into the pages when Parker Brown (the main character) says the following about her parents: “The Browns worked. They built and they produced and never, never sat back to laze on accomplishment.” This line seems most apropos for Ms. Roberts, who has published 29 novels, 10 series (with 3 to 4 books in each), The Remember When Collection with J. D. Robb (with 30 titles), 11 anthologies, and has contributed to 7 other compilations. That is close to 100 works of the written word! Ms. Roberts either has a winning formula she pulls out of a hat to produce one title after another, loves writing and/or works her ass off, never stopping to “laze on accomplishment.” Perhaps it is a combination of all three.

Devoted voyeurs will not care what motivates the author, they will simply want to plunge into Happy Ever After and go for the ride with Parker Brown and her best friends Laurel, Emma, and Mac, as they start their wedding event business and look for love. Introduce the fiery, handsome, and unpredictable mechanic, Malcolm Kavanaugh, and you have the makings of a romantic dream come true. There are, of course, ups and downs, separations and coming back together, but the happy ending is never in doubt.

The book is like a Disney movie for grown-ups. The motherly cook to the girls, Mrs. Grady, has all the answers and insights one would expect for her years and having known and worked for the Brown family since Parker and her friends were all little girls; and the four girlfriends are always helping one another and understanding what the other needs, before they do themselves. At one point in the story, Parker sums up this pervading sentiment when she realizes, “Her family, everyone she loved and cherished, would soon be together. And that, she knew, was what made a home.”

There is no need to have read the previous titles in this series, The Bride Quartet. It stands well enough on its own. The work situations at Vow (Parker’s wedding company) seem spot on, and a painful experience from Malcolm’s childhood is beautifully conveyed. Much like Parker, who is the last to see that she is falling for Malcolm, you may find yourself halfway through the book before you realize that it has sucked you in for the ride, in spite of or perhaps because of, its predictability or undisguised happy climax. As Mrs. Grady says about her girl Parker, “The girl wants love, and with it the rest she grew up with; that kind of partnership, respect, friendship. She’ll never settle for less, and shouldn’t.”

For Nora Robert’s fans, Happy Ever After is a story that provides exactly what you want and expect in your relationship with her books. And for the few who are new to this genre or author, it wouldn’t hurt to pick up a copy and let yourself dream of all the good things to come.

What She Left Behind

61bLHO4EiELWhat She Left Behind
by Ellen Marie Wiseman
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans
New York Journal of Books
12 December 2013

“What She Left Behind screams with authenticity, depth, and understanding.”

She’s done it again. At this time last year, Ms. Wiseman’s first novel The Plum Tree was released. It was excellent and received deservedly wonderful reviews. It is rare that a writer’s follow up work is as good as their first. Such a rarity has been accomplished with What She Left Behind. The author has once again delved into the lives of teenage girls, albeit in different circumstances than her first work, yet with the same insight, nuance, and raw emotion readers can appreciate and enjoy.

One of the girls in the story is 18 and is living in the 1930s (Clara) and the other (Izzy), lives in the 1990s. Clara is sent to a state mental institution (Willard State), because she challenges her father’s wishes for whom she should marry and Izzy must adapt to a new set of foster parents and her last year in high school, as a result of her mother having killed her father when she was seven. The girls’ lives intersect when Izzy gets involved in a project that unearths suitcases in the now defunct mental institution in which Clara was captive—she finds Clara’s journal and photo inside.

The scenes of Clara’s experience and travails at Willard State are all too real and affecting in part because many similar circumstances actually took place at that mental facility and others around the country for many decades. Izzy’s struggle with a school bully, harming herself, and learning who and how to accept love and whom to trust, is no less impactful than Clara’s chapters.

What She Left Behind screams with authenticity, depth, and understanding of human behavior and what can and has been done to others to maintain control.

Read entire review and more at New York Journal of Books.

Lambda Literary Awards

26th Annual Lambda Literary Awards

“I work best after the deadline has passed, when I’m in a panic.” – Tony Kushner

For our authors and publishers: Don’t panic yet, but the December 1st deadline for Lammy submissions is less than a month away. If you want your book to be considered for a Lambda Literary Award, please review the Guidelines here and complete the online submission process TODAY.

LammySeal-actualsize_2013-e1377558848107

The 26th Annual Lambda Literary Awards are open to works published in 2013, so if your book will be published after December 1 but on or before December 31, it is still eligible for Lammy consideration. You just need to complete the initial submission process before the December 1st deadline and send a request to awards@lambdaliterary.org for an extension so that you will have time to send your books to our office as soon as they are printed.

If you believe your work has already been submitted for Lammy consideration, it’s still a good idea to go to our online submissions list and make sure that your book is listed and that it has been entered in the correct Lammy category. Sometimes a form is correctly filled out, but for some reason never gets sent. Sometimes an author believes the publisher has submitted the book and the publisher believes the publicist has submitted the book and the publicist… well, you know the rest.

For our readers: We’ve received more than 300 submissions from 170 publishers, but the bulk of the submissions will come in right before the deadline (like, one minute before…). You can help us ensure that every eligible book has the opportunity to be considered for a Lammy by checking out the Lammy submissions list and making sure that your 2013 favorites are all accounted for. If they aren’t, please let the authors know right away so they can submit their books before the December 1st deadline. Or write to us at awards@lambdaliterary.org and we will contact the author/publisher.

Send comments or queries to awards@lambdaliterary.org.

Kathleen DeBold, Administrator
Lambda Literary Awards

Three Strong Women

Three Strong Women by Marie Ndiaye
Review by Gabriel Constans
New York Journal of Books

These stories torment readers with the possibilities and unfulfilled potential . . .

Three Strong Women is tormenting. Its characters are tormented, their lives are tormented, and some of the writing linguistically torments readers with its languid, insightful, and idiosyncratic nuances of internal dialogue and character description.

Three Strong Women is good, bad, and indifferent, as are Norah, Fanta, and Khady, its three antagonists. The story takes place in three parts or acts. Each story lands us inside the head of one of these Senegalese women.

The title is somewhat misleading for these women are not strong, in a traditional sense—in body, mind, or spirit—but are strong in self-doubt, remorse, and hopelessness.

Long wandering sentences and stories within and of themselves are not necessarily a trait of all African writers, but tend to dominate much of the language, as it does with Ms. NDiaye’s, even though she was raised in France and now lives in Germany.

Here is a brief and—believe it or not—a brief example. When Norah is visiting her father’s home in Senegal:

“She found herself adopting the tone of peremptory volubility that she never used with anyone but her father, the tone intended to forestall his attempt to have Masseck, and before Masseck Mansour, do what she insisted on doing herself, insisted out of an awareness that he so hated seeing his guests perform the slightest labor in his house, thereby casting doubt on the competence of his servants, that he was quite capable of saying to her, ‘Masseck will wash your hands for you,’ without for a moment imaging that she would fail to obey him as those around him, young and old, had always done.”

This first section about Norah sounds the most autobiographical in its tone, though there is no indication that it has any resemblance to the author’s personal life.

Norah is urgently asked by her father in Senegal to leave her home in France and come immediately, without any explanation. She does so reluctantly and is caught up in a family drama involving her brother that plays out and comes to an abrupt end, as if everyone is at peace with the situation, though nothing could be further from the truth.

It is the truth of Norah’s loathing for her father that shines most brightly from this story.

The second story is about Fanta and her boyfriend, Rudy, whom she follows to France. The emotional and intellectual complexities that are portrayed in this chapter are quite astonishing, but often feel as if they are being told instead of shown. The internal thoughts and messages we indulge in in response to our environment or previous experiences and memories, are superbly revealed through the minds of Fanta and Rudy, but soon override any external sense of action, reaction, or movement. Thus the internal dialogue grows tedious and self-absorbed.

In this section of the story, Rudy feels inadequate, out of touch, and incompetent, taking out his self-loathing on Fanta. His remorse for his words and actions then adds to his low self-esteem. His selfishness and immersion in his internal world make it difficult to connect with his character or have any empathy for his sense of isolation, even though his feelings of emptiness and loneliness are palpable.

In the final story, Khady must deal with the loss of her husband and family and endure nightmarish predicaments and experiences. She tells herself that she is “still Khady” in spite of all that takes place, but what remains of who she is has literally been stripped bare. What little sense of self that existed at the beginning of her story, has been ripped away by the end.

There is a rare moment of hope and happiness when, “She was herself, she was calm, she was alive, she was still young, and she was in excellent health; every fiber of her being was savoring the kindly warmth of the early-morning sun, and her twitching nostrils gratefully sniffed the salty air blowing in off the sea . . .”

What all the women (and men) in Three Strong Women have in common is a lack of faith or belief in who they are. They each see themselves as inadequate, inconsequential and/or emotionally injured and are unable to be truly loved or thus love another.

No one really comes into his or her own power or feels complete and whole. The stories tell tales and let us know what people are thinking and feeling, but there is little progression, change, or insight with the characters.

There is no salvation. Everyone is doomed to live life as it is. In some respects, this is refreshing and realistic, but readers usually read in order to be taken out of our quotidian monotony, not for immersion in the minds of characters who have accepted the hopelessness of life as it is.

These stories torment readers with the possibilities and unfulfilled potential to which they could have aspired.

Read this and other excellent reviews, on the same day a book is released, at New York Journal of Books.

Happy Ever After

Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Right from the start, you know what’s going to happen. The short paragraph on the back cover gives the ending away without saying it. Every lover of romance will instantly understand what the story is about, how the plot will unfold, and what will probably happen with the characters. In spite of the lack of mystery or suspense, millions of readers will devour it anyway. Why? Because it makes you feel good and takes you to a world where everyone meets the perfect mate, has a job they love, and engages in fantastic sex. MORE

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