Monday, July 13, 2015

The Buffalo Soldier, Chris Bohjalian
Image result for Buffalo Soldier bookChris Bohjalian’s, The Buffalo Soldier opens with the death of twin girls at the hands of a flooded Vermont river. The book also ends with a flood which provides a frame to the novel. The dramatic opening thankfully distances the reader by using an omniscient voice.
Two years after the flood the parents of the girls, Terry and Laura Sheldon, agree to foster parent  a young black boy. Terry and Laura’s neighbors, Emily and Paul Hebert, give the boy a book on Buffalo Soldiers that follows the life of Sergeant George Rowe and his native American wife, Veronica. Bohjalain briefly sketches the story of Sergeant Rowe as a Buffalo Soldier by using quotes from interviews, newspaper articles and other historical research, as a short preface to each chapter.

The story’s conflict centers around Laura’s and Terry’s different struggles with grief while also adjusting to having the wary youngster, Alfred, in the house who is subtly ostracized for his race in the small rural community.

The catalyst for character growth comes from the Heberts. In their seventies at the time of the novel, they decide to acquire a horse. Mesa, a docile Morgan mare, comes home with the Heberts and Alfred takes care of her likening himself to Sergeant Rowe.

Alfred speaks about need early in the book. “She was being needy again. Needy, he knew, was a hard place to be and he had always avoided it at all costs.” And though he clearly tries to avoid being needy, his needs for a home, family relationships, and a purpose shine through his words. The Heberts, Sheldons and Mesa fulfill those demands in stages throughout the novel and Alfred strives to be like his hero, George Rowe.

I enjoyed the depth provided, by the ancillary tale of Sergeant Rowe. I also enjoyed the heroic ending in a way that I enjoy many fantasy novels where a young man acts bravely to save lives.

At times slow, the book unfolds in six points of view claiming different chapters, each of the Sheldon’s, Pheobe's (the extra-marital love interest's), Alfred’s and the Herberts which are actually dips into Paul’s or Emily’s thoughts.
I mostly enjoyed the Heberts and Alfred, finding the Sheldon’s points of view slower and less compelling.

In his grief Terry cheats on his wife, and I found his justifications over-worked and inconsistent with the original character as if the plot were forced on the wrong man. This is a minor complaint.

Usually, I am not fond of stories where a main character is a preteen, the exception being fantasy fiction, but Bohjalian handles Alfred’s character well. I followed the youngster’s story without too much grumbling. I’m certain some will say he has no right to be in the head of an orphaned black boy, but I enjoyed the character and felt that the author met common ground for all humans.

I read another complaint based on the false tidiness of the ending. I didn’t read the book in the same way. Terry’s extra-marital affair is heart-breaking throughout, and couldn’t have a clean finish. Just because a character exits the stage doesn’t mean she exits our thoughts. In my mind, Bohjalian assures the reader of ensuing complications without continuing the story, relying, instead and the two floods to begin and end the book.

This is the first of Bohjalian’s books I’ve read and I would like to read another. It is a strong story that holds together. My complaints are small. I give this book three stars, because it was a good read, but not a book I will return to.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

How to Create a Handmade Book the Way Professional Bookmakers Do It

Few people do it these days, but making a book by hand is still an art form and one of the most beautiful ever....

Posted by Tenth + Fourth on Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Book Review: Fate's Mirror

Fate's Mirror is the story of a computer hacker who considers himself more than a hacker, he's a "viker." He's terrified to leave his house, but he makes a good living doing freelance viking on the world wide web. Everything's fine, groceries are delivered to his door, he doesn't have to go out until, bam, one day his house blows up. Morris barely makes it out alive, with nothing but the futuristic version of an android phone and the clothes on his back. Pretty harsh awakening for a fellow who prefers the womb of his basement and no spreading skies above.

Available on Amazon
While they watch his house continue to implode in the flames, a neighbor gives Morris his coat and it occurs to him that somebody willfully and deliberately blew up his house. Maybe he'd better put some distance between the flaming ruin and himself before they realize he's not dead.

Morris heads across country to a friend's home--a friend he's never met in person, a bounty hunter for whom Morris has done some investigative digging. Lucky for him, she's willing to take care of him, disabling agoraphobia and all, including ongoing vengeful assaults from three AI sisters who've taken up residence on the world wide web.

When a special forces branch of the NSA tracks Morris down and worse, hires him (he never wanted to enter any NSA building legally), things get hairier from there.

Fate's Mirror is a well-written, engaging and fun read for science fiction fans and computer geeks alike. And even for readers who feel they're not into that kind of fiction, after all, a good story is a good story regardless of genre. I highly recommend Fate's Mirror.

M.H. Mead is the pen name for a duo of writers, Alex Kourvo and Harry R. Campion.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Book Review of Give Her the Stars

Book Review of Give Her the Stars by Marilyn Lathrop
Christian Science-Fiction-Romance is not usually a genre heading a reader finds in books stores, but readers who enjoy a clean romance, with faithful characters and fast-paced action, will do well to seek out this publication.

I am a personal friend of the author, Marilyn Lathrop and I have seen drafts of portions of this book before publishing. Even-so, I would still give this book a good review. In the world of Christian fiction, writers often force their characters to bend to particular perfection of “good” Christian folk. Marilyn does not do that, so the book is fresh and genuine, the characters are believable and they suffer in unique human ways. They also enjoy the grace of God.

Here is an excerpt from the back of the book, Give Her the Stars:
Elise Ramos, divorced mother of two-year old Max, flees her stifling apartment after a distressing confrontation with her controlling ex-husband, Gabriel. In the sweltering July sun, on the sidewalk outside a store, she meets a handsome foreigner, Lendar Marl. When Lendar brings her home after their first date, Elise warns him of Gabriel’s violent ways. Lendar assures her that he knows how to deal with brutes. Outside hr apartment, Lendar easily defeats the drunken Gabriel and Elise begins to believe Lendar might be the man she’s been praying for.
I connected with Elise immediately as she trudged past shop windows dreaming of a time when she may afford their goods. Elise is the starving artist, but she also is starving for love. Romance enters quickly, but like the goods in the shop windows, Elise fears she cannot have love either. Of course any good romance needs conflict, so enter the ex, and he’s a doozy. A fabulous villain, he stalks Elise and threatens her every move, filling the edges of the book for the reader and taking the roller coaster ride to new twists and turns.

The book has minor characters that play well also, Bruce, Jaizem and Retief. They are memorable and bring a smile as I write this review. My favorite minor character is Elise’s son, Max. If you read for characters as I do, don’t miss this well drawn, lovable child.

The end of the book satisfied me with a clean finish and thoughtful address of faith as well as love and its importance in our lives. The shops finally opened and new adventures played out in my mind, like a great dessert after a great meal. Thank you Marilyn Lathrop. I can’t wait to read Love From the Stars, with a whole new cast and some more memorable characters.

Ursula K. Le Guin's Call to Action

"We're going to need writers who remember freedom..."