Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Threshing Circle by Neil Grimmett

The Threshing Circle.  Neil Grimmett. Lake Union Publishing. May 2015.  352 pp. Paperback and E-Book. ISBN#: 9781477829332. 

Warning – if raunchy language or scenes with graphic violence offend you, this is NOT the book for you.  However, if you love a story taut with tension and also enjoying a different culture, this is a novel that will grip your attention and thrill you with the excitement about a beautiful island, Crete, and the dark, violent plot about to enfold.

In 1942 in Crete a young English woman named Marianna, who is part of the resistance movement,  is caught by Germans. When they raid her home and see the red silk undergarment, that was originally part of a German parachute, she is executed while her child screams as she watches her mother die.  The child is taken away but it is actually a rescue as she is ultimately returned to her home in England. 

Two years later a young couple, Patrick and Eleni, Marianna’s daughter, come to ferret out the truth and they too disappear.

Thus begins a tale of honor, courage and revenge.  The search for these missing figures is carried on by Kirsty a widow from Scotland and a village elder, Barba Yiorgos.  The authorities refuse to offer any information and when opposed take on a different tone with the investigators.  The bottom line, however, is that every participant winds up suspecting other characters and so the pages fly by, enticing the reader to believe he or she can figure out the few clues but in reality the secrets and plots offer stories within stories.

Greek culture, architecture, food and more are celebrated here.  One admires the feisty honor code of these people even while cringing at the stark brutality that results from violation of this code. The Threshing Circle would make a superb movie as it is so easy to visualize the intriguing characters and events that remain thrilling on every page.  Terrific novel!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Decision: Praire State Friends (Book One) by Wanda E. Brunstetter

The Decision: Prairie State Friends (Book One).  Wanda E. Brunstetter. Barbour Publishing Incorporated. March 2015. 320 pp.  ISBN#: 9781616260880.

Jonah Miller and Elaine Shrock are in love; and while no verbal proposal has been made, each understands they will wed in the future. At least that’s the way it was planned in their minds until Elaine’s grandfather passed away after making Elaine promise she would take care of her grandmother in the future.  Elaine takes that promise very, very seriously even while she is doing her own mourning for this Amish family man whom she adored, a real father to her in her orphan status after losing her own parents. 

The tension begins when first Elaine’s grandmother insists on being independent, even though it is clear after a while that something is physically and mentally wrong with her.  Jonah is trying as best he can, while he is running his own business and working very hard, to offer help to the Shrock family.  But even though these characters are Amish and living in an atmosphere of mutual support and care based on Biblical principles, stubbornness and denial begin to rule the day. 

This then covers the remainder of the story, with small problems growing rapidly into large ones, when decisions are made that cannot be taken back, and when one realizes that costs are higher when caring for a loved one in need.  How does one live through such a tempestuous time without becoming bitter and angry? In addition, the imminent and constantly stressful moments from dealing with a loved one with dementia are so very important, more important than the Amish community that directs the daily lives of every community member.  This is a growing universal problem that Wanda Brunstetter addresses and depicts with graceful but gritty style. 

There is a lovely, calm tone throughout this novel that actually communicates peace to the reader.  This is because these people live by the spirit of the laws they obey and their worship which they share.  

In a world that is more and more chaotic, The Decision is a lovey way to step aside and relish how faith endures and bolsters the ups and downs of every man and woman’s live.  Lovely contemporary and inspirational fiction!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

I Am Radar by Reif Larsen

I Am Radar.  Reif Larsen. Penguin Group (USA). February 2015. 672 pp.  ISBN#: 9781594206160.

A doctor waits for the head of a baby to appear as the new life of two anxious parents.  In one second the electricity is out and hospital generators aren’t working.  The father, Kermin, pulls out a flashlight and he watches the baby comes out, covered with a white plastic-like covering.  The tension increases with the sight when the baby is cleaned; the child is as black as a Nubian native.  The usual questions are gently hinted at but the mother has not had any relationships with anyone but her husband Kermin. 

Charlene also has an unusual after-effect; all she can smell are noxious odors, a phenomenon that gradually diminishes but still leaves her with unpleasant olfactory experiences.  Her life is dedicated to finding out how and why her son was born like this, her son whom his father calls Radar after the old TV show M*A*S*H.  Kermin believes his son will have special powers.

Radar does indeed to be a unique character. After being subjected to an experiment that is nothing short of a failure, the Radar in the remainder of the story travels throughout the world with a group of puppeteers, a group who try to create work in areas where extreme wars and other terrible events have left residents with nothing.  Radar is now the color of beige and therefore more acceptable to everyone they meet.  The puppeteer use complicated science, technology and quantum physics to create robots but they wind up very hurt from an explosion while working with nuclear matter.  The quantum physics is very complicated but is simple for Radar who has the ability to read radio messages just by putting his hands on the transmitter. 

A group of teachers steal radioactive material with the notion of creating something new as an artistic presentation. Different stories follow in Bosnia and Cambodia involving chaos and violence, but they do connect with the general theme later on in the story.  This novel at times reads like a complicated science article written by physicist academics.  The best advice is just to go with it, even when it makes very little sense at all; this reviewer is not sure whether this makes a difference to the reader but it is what it is.

Are Radar and other characters’ paths one of healing, pure science exploration or something more philosophical, psychological or social?  How is Radar’s epilepsy connected to his uncanny ability to understand radio transmissions? Does his suffering truly lead to his understanding about love who he really is?  I am Radar is a complex work of science fiction that truly stretches the imagination with its disconnected parts that in some ways unite and in others just seem like another round of dystopian fiction with free-floating ideas and attempt to form a new, coherent reality.  Interesting science fiction about difference and exploring new visions of the universe in the future!