Friday, November 27, 2015

DIVISADERO by author Michael Ondaatje #FridayReviews

DIVISADERO, written by the author of The English Patient, has been described as “…one of the most enthralling literary journeys…” and “Hauntingly beautiful…” 

This story, by author Michael Ondaatje, opens with a poetic comment by its narrator, Anna, setting the stage for the artistic prose to follow. Part One of the novel is entitled Anna, Claire, and Coop. 

In the opening lines, Anna introduces Claire, who sits upon a horse that can be “fooled only once a day.” Anna refers to Clair as “my sister.” The details of this remarkable relationship unfold slowly, offering intrigue and delicious family secrets that envelope Coop in the telling. 

This novel captured me with its delightful phrase construction and gentle pace. Having been so completely transported to a world of pain and possibility, I never wanted to leave. I reveled in the intricacies of each chapter, experiencing along with the characters their tribulations and triumphs. 

Although Mr. Ondaatje’s Divisadero begins with Anna’s narration, the story’s point of view fluctuates. But because this is so subtly accomplished, only later did I become fully aware of the shifts from first to third person and back. The author is also expert at setting a scene without an excess of words. One sentence of an historic event flows into the mundane of a current affair without conscious disruption of thought. 

The lives of Anna, Claire, and Coop will always remain vivid in my mind. Not only because the author drew each character in wide, and then intimate, strokes. But because he also told their stories with raw emotion intact, leaving the reader to adjust accordingly. 

Having said all this, my discontent became boundless when Part Two of the story opened and closed with little further reference to characters I had taken to heart. My desire for closure was met instead with disappointment.
 

Next up for review is:
 

ALOHA Where You Like Go
by Cloudia W. Charters
 
 

Friday, November 20, 2015

THIS LIFE I'VE LOVED by author Isobel Field

When is the last time you read a memoir, or any book, that made you feel good inside, excited you to action, and entertained you to laughter and tears? THIS LIFE I’VE LOVED created all these emotions in me. 

Isobel Field lived a life we all dream about while we run our daily errands and cook our meals. Born in Indianapolis, Isobel began her travels at the age of four, mostly with her mother. She experienced the gold rush days and the old west in America, became a dancer, an artist, a craftsman. Her life in the theater alone makes a fascinating story.
 
 
This was before she relocated to Honolulu and became well-acquainted with King David Kalakaua, the Merry Monarch. The king asked her to design the royal crest of Hawai‘i, as well as the official Hawaiian flag. She complied. 

Isobel moved to Australia at the request of her mother and stepfather, who then established residency for the entire family in Samoa. Her writing of all these events of her life is honest, straightforward, colorful, and most of all personal. I felt included in the many parties, theater rehearsals, and hectic Paris studio activities. I was pleased with her arrival in Belgium, home of my paternal ancestors, and how she spoke of the country’s great painters and hospitable citizens. 

Of Isobel, Irwin S. Cobb says: "Although much of Isobel Field's autobiography is concerned with her stepfather, Robert Louis Stevenson, it is Isobel's own unique story and her vibrant personality that will captivate the reader. Belle was a wonderful storyteller and a writer of great wit and acuity. She was with her mother, Fanny (Frances Van de Grift Osbourne), when they met Stevenson in Grez in 1876. . . 

“A great woman . . . who has lived as picturesque and colorful and useful life as anyone I know." 

 

Next up for review is:
 

Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje

Friday, November 13, 2015

LOVE Beyond Measure / PRISM POISON #FridayReviews

Today I am reviewing two books. Both are written by D.V. Whytes, which is the pen name of the husband and wife writing team, authors Vicki and Don White.

LOVE
Beyond Measure
 
 
LOVE Beyond Measure is a small book packed with heartwarming inspiration. Here is a beautiful reflection on The Lord's prayer, Our Father. Each chapter in this book focuses on a line from the prayer. Each section also includes an interesting story that relates to the lives of Don and Vicki White, writing as D.V. Whytes.
 

PRISM POISON
A Safari-Cruise Murder Mystery by D. V. Whytes 
 
The setting of this novel is Africa. Because I loved the idea of taking such a cruise, but no desire to actually do so, reading about one was an excellent choice. When I read that Vicki and Don White, writing as D. V. Whytes, were actually in Mombasa on the day of the bombing in November of 2002, I was hooked. 

The mystery portion of the story is finely woven into the fabric of interesting events on the cruise and the safari excursions. The movie, Blood Diamonds, sparked my interest some years ago. For this reason, I was fascinated to read so much in this novel about diamond mining in Africa. 

Throughout the story, the narrative exhibits an in depth amount of research, along with personal experiences of the authors. The timing of the novel was also when the world was learning about the terrorist group Al Qaeda. The reader is naturally reminded of 9/11 and the Twin Towers. 

Many lighter moments add a welcome levity to the novel. These scenes involve characters unaware of the novel’s unofficial murder investigation or the diamond smuggling. I also enjoyed the high-seas and grasslands adventures thoroughly, snakes and all. 

It was easy to entrench myself in the ongoing trials and tribulations of protagonists Grey and Hunter Greystone. By the end of the novel, I almost felt as though I had traveled with them to Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kenya; gone on safari in vans and suffered the lack of shock absorbers; and, my favorite, strolled along the banks of the Limpopo and rested under the shade of fever tree.
 

Next up for review: 
 
This Life I’ve Loved
by Isobel Field

 

Friday, November 6, 2015

FLASH AND BONES #FridayReviews

This week advances my quest to read 71 books between October 2015 and October 2016. I am posting my reviews here to keep myself honest!

 

Today’s review is for one of Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan mysteries:

FLASH AND BONES
 

Over the years, I have read many of Kathy Reichs “bone” novels. With the recent heavy rains here in Honolulu a match for the weather in this novel, Flash and Bones seemed a perfect fit for my next read. The story opens with a thunderstorm, and forensic anthropologist Tempe Brennan is digging up a corpse. 

Obvious from the opening is that there are no wasted scenes. Something is always happening, either to Tempe or with her current assignment. The backdrop of the NASCAR world gave this story a twist that I enjoyed, having followed stock car racing in my younger years along with Indy car racing in the 70s. 

The interaction between Tempe and Detective Slidell entertained me throughout with subtle bits of humor and sarcasm as they worked the investigation. Several funny lines came from Tempe’s soon-to-be ex-husband’s soon-to-be wife, the bridezilla character named Summer. Although the scenes featuring Summer were short, I found the comic relief a bit distracting. Overall, though, Kathy Reichs’ novels remain a fast and fun read.
 

Next up for review:

LOVE Beyond Measure
&
PRISM POISON
two books by D.V. Whytes
 
 
 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A NEW BEGINNING: Envisioning Thoughts

In linking poetry, the final words of the previous poem are used to form the title of the next poem. In  Another New Beginning, the final words of Smiling Back, the second poem, are:

 
Above the clouds
endless open skies
ease me from the past; with
lazy eagerness, promises appear
of another new beginning.
 
**********
 
3
A New Beginning

A white-washed canvas,
still life with fireworks,
promises of an exciting display. 

Colors intended only for dreamers
burst before her eyes,
lighting up the blackness left by
a long forgotten sunset. 

A zig-zag of red, stars
too bright to track
spiral down.
She hears the sizzle as
they strike the ocean’s surface
like lava streaming from a cliff
to cool and form new land. 

Thoughts spew forth.
A mind once fallow
now overflows.
A rocket launch
of crackling practicality
explodes to reveal stunning possibilities.

***  ***  ***  ***  ***


This poem is my description of how a writer’s mind envisions thoughts. The writer and artist become one in their ability to imagine the intangible and then successfully illustrate their ideas through various mediums. 

An artist stands before a blank canvas; the writer stares at a blank page. Both envision what is needed to fill that emptiness. Those who success, make their thoughts tangible. The process turns still life into fireworks, while stagnant ideas crackle into action. 

I’ve always thought of colors in terms of taste. The color orange, to me, is actually sherbet ice cream or Nehi soda pop. Purple is plums from Gramma’s garden, big-bottomed eggplants sizzling in melted butter - the sound reminding me of the yellow of mild cheeses or lemon meringue pie. Green conjures up the taste of prickly-skinned cucumbers sliced and swimming in sour cream, cabbage leaves, and Granny Smith apples. Red means juicy tomatoes, ripe bell peppers, and little candy “red-hots.” 

The color blue leaves more of a visual impression. I see Van Gogh’s starry night, Monet’s lily pond, or one of Hawaiian artist Wyland’s 60+ international Whaling Walls. I see ocean surrounding the peninsula of Kalaupapa; the souls off-shore of Ka’ena Point; blackened sky over heads of night marchers. 
What do you see? 
 
*****     *****     *****