Friday, October 30, 2015

JUST KIDS by PATTI SMITH #FridayReview

Patti Smith’s book serves as a salute to New York City during the sixties and seventies. As an emerging artist, she once questioned the point of creating art, thinking it seemed indulgent to add to the glut unless one offered illumination. 

I didn’t realize the story of Patti Smith’s life would entertain me from cover to cover, taking my emotions on a roller coaster ride that I prayed would not end too soon. Some people sample life, either skimming the cream off the top or barely dipping a finger into the main course. Patti Smith and her everything-friend, Robert Mapplethorpe, not only dove in head first, they barely surfaced long enough for the next breath of NYC air. 

I wouldn’t recommend everyone aspire to live this hectic pace, but I do suggest you read for enjoyment how diplomatically Patti tells her story. Inspiration oozes from every page, enough to make you want to accomplish at least one of those goals you set in January. A book that can do that deserves 5 stars. 

Rags to Riches

A rags-to-riches success story that shows all the kinks and hard work to prove it was well-earned is a rare find. Written without blinders, no punches pulled, Patti Smith tells her story the way she lived life, straightforward with no window dressing. 

It took twenty years after Robert’s death for Patti to tell this story in print. Considering the raw emotions involved in reliving such a story, another person might have chosen not to proceed. But, as she states in the book, she made a promise. 

Patti Smith, writer, performer, visual artist, gained recognition in the 70s for her “revolutionary mergence of poetry and rock.” Among her many achievements, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.
 

Next up for review:
Flash and Bones by Kathy Reichs


Sunday, October 25, 2015

SMILING BACK: Linking Poetry Japanese Renshi style

In my book of linked poetry, Another New Beginning, the first poem is entitled A Tiny Flower. It spoke of a small, surprise act of kindness extended to me on King Kamehameha Day. The following words, the last line of the poem, are used to form the title for the next poem:

Air brakes lift
We roll forward, and
the universe smiles back.

 **********

 
 **********

My poetry is loosely patterned after the intriguing renshi poetry of Japan. The Japanese word, ren, means “to link.” The final words of the previous poem suggest the title for the next one, thereby linking them. Then there is a shift as the new poem changes topic or idea to present a new thought. 

In today’s poem, Smiling Back, one of my alter egos of past decades recalls “after hours” fun times with co-workers, eventually overshadowed by shifting lifestyle. Anyone over the age of awareness knows life does not move forward at a predictable pace but shifts and changes, often with the wind. This is colorfully expressed in Steinbeck’s “best laid plans of mice and men” which suggests that things do not always work out as planned, no matter the extent of preparation.
 
Those flexible enough to bend with the wind will most comfortably weather the storm. Over the years, I’ve weathered many storms. I believe learning to give thanks and forgiveness has allowed me to become a content person, comfortable with my inner being.
 
 
Smiling Back 
From shadows,
smiling back at me,
clear memories
of frothy rapids
while tubing down
an apple-scented river. 
 
Company softball games,
cheering on my teammates
win or lose, celebrating
El Torito style.
 
All too soon, highways
move me state to state,
major life changes
blinding me to loss. 
 
Above the clouds
endless open skies
ease me from the past; with
lazy eagerness, promises appear
of another new beginning.
 
**********
 
 

Friday, October 23, 2015

ROUTE 66 TO THE MILKY WAY #FridayReview 4 of 71

Route 66 to the Milky Way
by Janet Rendall
Everyone is familiar with Route 66, the "Main Street" of America that originally ran from Chicago and Flagstaff to Santa Monica. If you haven’t traveled the route, you probably remember the song, (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66. Either way, you will be learning a lot more about Route 66 in Janet Rendall’s novel Route 66 to the Milky Way. 

Rendall’s novel, part mystery, part Sci-Fi, part love story, tells of two space aliens stuck in our dimension. This is due to a fluke in their technology, far advanced from that of Earth. For the foreseeable future, they are unable to use the space craft to return to their world. How they cope with our society, “pass” as human, and arrive at survival-making decisions are all imaginatively described as the story unfolds. 

It was not difficult to suspend disbelief while reading Route 66 to the Milky Way. Rendall’s words easily drew me into this new world, giving me convincing reasons to accept the plot’s plausibility and the aliens’ struggles to survive. 

I was fascinated by the world Rendall created as seen through the eyes of those who do not take what they observe for granted. Roswell, and Area 51 play their roles; it would have been dereliction of duty had Rendall not included these in her tale. 

The two aliens travel Route 66 in search of the dimensional conduit that would return them to their world. Why they choose Route 66 as their salvation, and how that decision pans out as they drive though towns like Winona and Two Guns, and view billboard ads for Phillips 66 and Burma Shave, is the often-humorous crux of this entertaining novel. 

So pack a lunch, hop on board, and enjoy the ride back to 1949. 

 

Next up for review is:
 
 
Just Kids by Patti Smith

 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A TINY FLOWER: Inspiration for a Poem

My inspiration to write a book of poetry came from meeting four special local poets. I felt the excitement in their voices as they spoke of the steps involved in producing individual works for their published book of poetry. I enjoyed hearing them read a selection of the poems live, and listening to their complete recital of the full collection of poetry on compact disc. My full acknowledgement to these poets appears in my own publication:
 

  

 

I wrote these 70 poems as a birthday gift to myself. Over the next 70 Sundays, I will submit each of the poems in the order of composition, along with a short comment about the poem’s style or theme, often including a complementary photograph. (Please see last Sunday’s post which reveals the true inspiration for this book of poetry and a few interesting details about renshi poetry.) 

As my plans for this little book materialized, I decided to open with an occurrence so freshly experienced that it was still "cooling on the rack." (This pie-metaphor foreshadows other pie references in the poems to come. Childhood comfort food sticks with you!) 

Lei draping on King Kamehameha Day
 
The ink for my first poem spilled onto the page after a nice young man of college age walked up to me at a Honolulu bus stop on June 11, 2015, King Kamehameha Day. The young man offered me a tiny yellow blossom. He smiled and said, “A beautiful flower for a beautiful lady.” I’m sure I must have reminded him of his (exceptionally young-looking) great-grandmother. Perhaps he was feeling nostalgic for home. I accepted the flower and smiled back. As he walked away with a light step, I felt he had made the world a brighter place for having shared his joy of life.
 
A Tiny Flower
 
Gold, each tiny petal
unites to form the helmet
of a flower’s bloom.
 
Together, their beauty
like solid sunshine
takes my breath away
 
A kind word, shared
without expectation, forms
a binding link to the universe.
 
Gazes remain fixed
as I board TheBus in silence
and still smiling, take my seat
 
Air brakes lift
We roll forward, and
the universe smiles back.

 **********

 
 **********

 
 
 

Friday, October 16, 2015

THREE YEARS ON DOREEN'S SOFA #FridayReview 3 of 71

Lee Cataluna is Hawaii-born. She is a writer, Honolulu newspaper reporter/columnist, and actress, known for stage plays E Ho'omau!: Pele Searches for a Home (2011), E Ho'omau!: Why Maui Snared the Sun (2011) and Ho'olawe: Give and Take (2001). She is also the author OF Folks You Meet in Longs, a humorous take on local living. 

Three Years on Doreen’s Sofa by Lee Cataluna is not your typical novel about life in Hawai‘i. If you like lots of good laughs, though, give it a read. You may know someone just like Bobby. 

Hawaiian Pidgin English is an inherent part of this author’s vocabulary. The words she uses in dialogue and description are often not pidgin, but her rhythm and cadence suggest local-style with every sentence. Once you catch the beat, it all makes perfect sense. At times, maybe more so than regular English. 

The main character, Bobby, is a resident of Maui. He is a recent parolee after three years one month in prison for “driving one fork lift that wasn’t mine into a car that wasn’t mine while carrying a bunch of cocaine in one fanny pack that was mine …” 

Now Bobby is sleeping, temporarily, on his sister/cousin’s sofa, trying to get his life back on track. His sister/cousin, Doreen, has given him the list of rules to follow while he stays with her. Bobby intends to follow those rules to the letter because he understands his sister/cousin and her three kids are doing him a huge favor by letting him sleep on the living room sofa. 

Only one problem: Bobby’s social skills are lacking. Try as he might, well, things don’t always work out as he’d planned. If you like “slap-your-head-to-make-you-shape-up” kind of humor, you’ll love Three Years on Doreen’s Sofa. 

I sure did. 

 

Next up for review is:
 

Route 66 to the Milky Way by Janet Rendall
 
 
 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

NO CHOICE BUT TO FOLLOW: Paying It Forward

My inspiration to write a book of poetry came from meeting four special local poets. I felt the excitement in their voices as they spoke of the steps involved in producing individual works for their published book of poetry. I enjoyed hearing them recite the poems live and listening to their complete recital of the full collection of poetry on compact disc. The following appears in my own publication:

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 

My book of poems, ANOTHER NEW BEGINNING, is fashioned after renshi, a Japanese form of linked poetry. Each poem’s title is suggested by the ending of the previous entry. My first introduction to this form of poetry was through Ann Inoshita, a local poet invited by author Michael Little to speak at a monthly writers group meeting in Honolulu (currently Hawaii Fiction Writers.) 

Ann read excerpts from a book of poems she and three other local poets published with Bamboo Press in 2008. Ann shared her knowledge of the Japanese poetry called renshi. Some months later, Ann’s fellow poets joined her at another meeting to give a reading from their book entitled: 

No Choice but to Follow



This book includes a CD featuring the authors reading their poetry, each taking their turn in the order of how they originally wrote and submitted their poems, one per month for twelve months. 
The fascinating concept that defines renshi poetry gave me the idea to write 70 poems in 70 days to recapture some of the high- and low-light experiences of my first 70 years here on God’s green Earth.

To these four talented poets, I offer a special Mahalo Nui for their exceptional presentations, amazing talents, and selfless inspiration.
 
You were indeed my true north for this project. 
Ann Inoshita
Juliet S. Kono
Jean Yamasaki Toyama
Christy Passion
 
Me ke aloha,
Gail 

***  ***  ***  ***  ***
 
Beginning October 18, 2015, and each succeeding Sunday for 70 weeks, my internet blogsite will feature a poem from ANOTHER NEW BEGINNING. A short observation, sometimes informative, other times humorous, will accompany the poem, along with a complementary photograph.
 

 
 *****     *****     *****
 
 

Friday, October 9, 2015

MOLOKA'I by ALAN BRENNERT #FridayReview 2 of 71

Moloka‘i by Alan Brennert was published in 2003. This is not a story about Father Damien, the Belgian priest who spent his life caring for the Hawaiian people diagnosed with Hansen’s disease. This disease was also known as leprosy, and the victims of the disease were confined to the peninsula of Kalaupapa on the Hawaiian Island of Molokai. Father Damien arrived in Hawaii in 1864. He was diagnosed with Hansen’s disease in 1894 and became bedridden a little over four years later. 

Mr. Brennert’s novel, Moloka‘i, his vision of daily life in that setting following the time of Father Damien, is exceptionally well-researched, and excellently written.
 
I have not yet had the experience of taking a mule ride on the Island of Molokai. The ride takes you on the trail that leads down the face of the Pali cliff to the peninsula of Kalaupapa. The closest I’ve come to Kalaupapa is the “top-side” of the island. A certain spot top-side overlooks the area where so many of those afflicted with the disease lived out their years. The top-side portion of the island rises high above the homes of residents at Kalaupapa and stretches east toward Maui. 
 
My view of Kalaupapa
 
The life of the main character in Moloka‘i, Rachel, is woven throughout this fact-based tale. The novel begins with a stark illustration of how Hawaiians were “condemned” for being diagnosed with what was known, for many years, as leprosy. 

This story pulls no punches, relating how the people, many of them young children, were forced to leave their homes and families to live in substandard conditions among strangers on an unfamiliar island. The narrative unfolds in turns with horror, humor, sadness, and triumph. Sickness, both physical and emotional, permeates the whole. 

It was with satisfaction, however, that I read the closing chapters and endnotes of this inspiring novel.
 
 

Next up for review is:
 
Three Years on Doreen's Sofa by Lee Cataluna



 


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

#IWSG: Speaking From Experience

It's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group blog posting. IWSG was created by the awesome ninja captain Alex J. Cavanaugh, and you can find a list of all the other members of the group here
 
Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
 
Alex's awesome co-hosts for the October 7 posting of the IWSG will be TB Markinson, Tamara Narayan, Shannon Lawrence, Stephanie Faris, and Eva E. Solar!

 
 
 
Any writer who plans to market their own work, at that is probably about 99.9% of us, speaking well is a benefit well worth pursuing.
Even if you never intend to do a book signing, a radio interview, or join a panel discussion, speaking well gives you the confidence to excel in other areas of writing.
I’ve been a fair-weather member of Toastmasters since 2010. I would give one or two speeches a year before my local club members. Then I would take on other roles in weekly meetings for a number of weeks before drifting away. My ability to speak in front of an audience never improved.
This year, I decided it was now-or-never. I wrote and gave Speech #7 in July. Scared out of my wits. Held only the polite people’s attention for any length of time; misunderstood in my main point by others. I decided I needed more help than I was getting up to date.

Ask and you shall receive.

Our VP of Education agreed to mentor me. After I wrote Speech #8, she did a quick edit. I practiced, practiced, practiced the speech until I felt confident it was the best I could do. I gave the speech, entitled Writing the First Draft and won the blue ribbon for best speaker that week.
I was so excited about winning, I posted an article on my blog site and spread the word on Facebook. The editor of Sisters in Crime, Inc.’s newsletter, First Draft, asked me to write an article for November that explained speaking with confidence is beneficial to writers. With my confidence level soaring, I wrote and submitted the article.
From there, everything I touched turned, well, not to gold, but into a successful project. I wrote an emotional speech for Speech #9 but it was so emotional, I had trouble with the beginning and went over my allotted time. Even though I was ineligible for a blue ribbon, I was voted best speaker that week. Trust me, I didn’t care about the ribbon.
In October, I am holding a “mock” Toastmasters meeting for our Sisters in Crime/Hawaii monthly meeting, to give our members a taste of how learning to speak in front of an audience or small group is a beneficial goal for all writers.
You may have seen the survey that shows the most feared human experience, even ahead of dying (as in: I’d rather die), is speaking in front of an audience. Admitting you are petrified to speak in public is a good first step toward becoming a confident speaker. Trust me, I’m speaking from experience.

 

 

Friday, October 2, 2015

THE MELODY LINGERS ON: #FridayReview 1 of 71

My goal is to read and review 71 books between October, 2015 and October, 2016. Not all reviews will be confined to stories in the mystery genre, though I may lean heavier in that direction. My eclectic reading list ranges from first-in-series self-published novels to the classics. At the end of each review, I will list the next book slated for review. I begin with a mystery.

Mary Higgins Clark
The Melody Lingers On

 

I started reading Mary Higgins Clark with her first published suspense novel, Where Are The Children. She hooked me on the first chapter. I went on to read a dozen or more of her novels over the years.
At some point, I stopped reading her stories but not because the writing lagged. She has always maintained a high quality in her writing style and level of tension. She understands what her readers want in the way of a mystery, and she consistently delivers. My tastes may have changed or I needed to experience new writers as a means of learning the craft of writing. I believe it is Stephen King who advocates that if you don’t read, you can’t write. 

Over the years, having already devoured all of Robert Ludlum’s books, and impatiently awaiting the next gunslinger novel from Stephen King (oh, the endless wait!), I “discovered” John Sandford, Sue Grafton, Michael Connelly, Tess Gerritson, Kathy Reich, James Lee Burke . . . the list is also never ending. 

But all roads lead back to the Queen of Mystery, Mary Higgins Clark. 

As I read the opening chapter of The Melody Lingers On, I felt the draw of Clark’s first novels, such as The Cradle Will Fall and Weep No More, My Lady. She builds suspense slowly, allowing the reader to absorb each newly introduced character before asking them to draw an opinion or conclusion. Villains and heroes are treated evenly, making it difficult to determine which is which. My indecision always keeps me reading to learn more. 

If you have ever been on the wrong end of some sadistic person’s scheme to derive pleasure from cheating others, you will relate, as I did, to this suspense-filled novel. With such a personal investment in the story, the hook is set, and you will find that reading this novel from cover to cover is inevitable.
 

Next up for review is:

Moloka‘i by Alan Brennert