Saturday, August 25, 2012

Hemingway's Girl: A Novel by Erika Robuck

Hemingway's Girl: A Novel. Erika Robuck. Penguin Group (USA). September 2012. 352 pages. ISBN #: 9780451237880.

Mariella Bennet is the daughter of an American father and Spanish mother; her mother is paralyzed by grief after the death of Mariella's father.  Mariella not only loved her father beyond words but also loves her Key West, Florida community which is struggling to survive during the Depression. Her dream is to save enough money to start a tourist business by running a charter boat.  The sea is her home away from home; but her real life at the moment is earning enough to allow her family to eat and her to pay the rent.  Into this world a miracle happens, one that will transform her life forever!

One evening at fight on which she recklessly gambled away the rent money, she meet "Papa" Hemingway, famous writer. Hemingway is attracted to her and eventually hires her as "help" in his Key West home, a place where the Depression is notably absent and luxury abounds. A statement from Hemingway aptly exemplifies the novelist's relationships and is a warning to Mariella about the future, comparing a banyon tree to a parasite, feeding on others for its huge survival and strength. 

Hemingway's second wife, Pauline, is riddled with jealousy and Hemingway himself displays something of the same, albeit not as severely as his wife, when Mariella meets a fighter, Gavin.  A romance clearly is growing between Gavin and Mariella, although Hemingway exerts a sexual attraction to her that confuses her.  Meanwhile, her mother warns her about "desire" being dangerous and capable of wrecking her life.

Gavin is a survivor of the famous Argonne battle of WWI and later in the novel describes the horror of losing his best friend and saving the lives of two other friends, one, John, who becomes a good friend of Mariella.  These are men who are wounded beyond physical problems but who survive to live life to the fullest. In one way, Mariella's relationship with these three men and her family are a beautiful coming of age story, about the difference between real love borne from the highs and lows that life throws in one's path.

The rest of the story depicts riveting scenes of illness, accidents, betrayal, a terrible storm, revelation of a secret, and letters of truth and honesty.  Hemingway's Girl is a stunning, amazing read - a superb work of historical fiction that deserves best-seller status!!!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Harbormaster's Daughter by Heidi Jon Schmidt

The Harbormaster's Daughter. Heidi Jon Schmidt. Penguin Group (USA).  August 2012. 368 pages. ISBN #: 9780451237873.

What's it like to be disliked and even bullied for being who you are?  How does one escape one's association with shame and murder?  How well can someone else substitute for the genuine presence of a mother and father?  These are all very real questions in this story about a young girl who has absolutely no idea of why she is viewed as so very different from the other girls in her small seaside town of Oyster Creek in Massachusetts.  All in all, she's sad, angry, and very confused about it all!

For initially, she doesn't know the whole story of how her real father became so disgruntled with his being passed over for the job of Harbormaster that he dallies with a woman, Sabine, and rejects her when she becomes pregnant.  That would be terrible enough but when her daughter, Vita, is very young, Sabine is murdered!  Vita is sent to live with LaRee Farnham and doesn't know about her father for quite a few years.

So continues this story that often rambles through Vita's very real mental and emotional suffering about her past and her future and then passes to the exposure of the truth and everyone else's attempt to make things "normal" again.  But life is never that easy, and Vita is never as comfortable as she is when she's watching theater or participating in it.  Still LaRee is doing the best she can, and Vita is coming to find her own comfortable identity through this difficult process.

There are also some other issues floating through the book, one about some snooty villagers who have always lived in this fisherman community and view all outsiders as "foreigners" and make them know it in speech and attitude as well.  While this may seem an aside, it quite clearly parallels the experience of Franco and his wife, Sabine, LaRee, and Vita.  It's not as far from our world as one may think and this book will make you think about your own backyard!

Although there's some choppiness to the plot in certain parts where one is not sure what's going on, overall this is a fine read, and Heidi Jon Schmidt knows her topic and characters well.  Different but more powerful for its everyday, ordinary, real qualities! Give it a read!

The One Command by Asara Lovejoy

The One Command: Six Steps to Attract Wealth with the Power of Your Mind. Asara Lovejoy. Penguin Group (USA). September 2012. 304 pages. ISBN #: 9780425257951.

Are finances an extraordinary difficult part of your life, an issue that brings stress and worry?  According to the news around the world, this seems to be the state of far too many people.  Asara Lovejoy poses a different premise herein: it doesn't have to be that way at all.  According to the information in this new book, each human being is able to access an area of consciousness that can change all the negativity and struggle.  Rather than posing it as just a spiritual practice, Lovejoy believes anyone can tap into this aspect of one's being that is as real as one's DNA!

How To Do It?  The author takes the reader through a list of things to do.  This might be easier for those who are used to doing meditation, yoga or other practices that slow down our racing brains and allow us to reach what is called the "theta" state of being where one can then move to the other steps.  No, they aren't in this synopsis but they are ground, align, go to theta, command, expand, and receive with gratitude.

Each step is carefully described in steps and numerous examples are given of those who actually practice this way of living. No, this isn't like buying a lottery ticket; it's a way of living that not only touches one's finances but also touches one's body, ways of thinking, mental state, attitudes, and so much more!

In some ways, these principles aren't new; many books this reviewer has read have pointed to the focus.  But what is quite appealing about this one is the simplicity of the steps, the very clear directions, and the realistic picture it expands upon.  We are what we eat, it is said - well, we are also what we think, if that thinking is grounded in a different focus of attraction to good things and rejection of others.  We could say more but instead will strongly suggest you give this simple yet profound book a definite read!  It might be more than worth its price! 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Twelve Months by Steven Manchester

Twelve Months. Steven Manchester. Published by The Story Plant. August 2012. 326 pp. ISBN #: 9781611880533.

Don DiMarco considers himself happy with his life. loving his wife, daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren.  Now he suddenly learns he is about to lose all because he has terminal cancer.  Heads up - most stories in this mode have a definable morbid mood present below the surface.  That mood is noticeably absent in this story about a brave man who begins how to love life and the relationships that have blessed it so far and continue to do so!

So Don, and his gracious wife assisting, begin a new life, planning and living Don's "bucket list."  First, he woos his wife again and romances her to a new wedding.  This is followed by traveling to places he always wanted to visit, things like car racing and other exciting adventures that the couple embraces and so much more that are the heart of this joyous story.

As the disease progresses, it doesn't slow Don and his wife down at all.  As well as doing pleasurable things, Don recognizes the need to forgive and acts on it in a scene that could go wrong just as much as it might turn out perfectly beautiful.

Most of all, he makes sure to speak truth to all he knows, leaving a legacy that is more about his realization of what really matters rather than just seeking to be egotistically remembered.

Twelve Months is a beautiful, heart-warming, and necessary read for all, especially those caught up in the monotonous schedule of work, food, TV (or other techno gadgets), et al.  Steven Manchester writes about life as it really is and really could be!  Terrific!