Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The View From Prince Street: Alexandra Novel by Mary Ellen Taylor

The View from Prince Street: Alexandra Novel (Alexandria Series). Mary Ellen Taylor. Berkley. January 2016. 352 pp.  ISBN#: 9780425278263. 

A vicious car accident kills Rae McDonald’s sister, and Rae is horribly scarred from this devastating loss. So much does it affect her that after beginning and ending a relationship she finds she’s pregnant and actually gives up the child for adoption because she cannot deal with the fact that she could lose someone precious again.  But this very rational act actually has dire consequences as Rae is haunted by who that son is with, what he’s like, and what are the parents like who adopted him.  She constantly imagines what it would be like if she were to find the adopted parents and tell them she wants her child back again and continues to fantasize about such a scene though logic tells her it’s an extremely improbable scene.

Now Lisa Smyth appears, a woman who was also in the crash and who has a secret to which she will not admit. 

Both of these women are living now in Alexandria, Virginia exploring some family artifacts of interest to those with a historian’s predilection.  The search brings out the history behind some witch glasses.  These are glasses with certain ingredients inside them that when combined creates a curse against enemies.  There are also rocks that were part of the fireplace which were given away and one returned; those rocks are said to hold a spell of protection for whoever resides in the home.  The long history said to derive from those original settlers who came from England to the shores of America is still present and actively present in spirit form, affecting the lives of those who honor the presence of these relics of colonial life.

In the course of accepting these events and the dangerous scenes that naturally and suspiciously follow, Alexandra and Lisa rise above their greatest fears to discover some redeeming and freeing truths that will dramatically change the future.

The View from Prince Street… is thrilling reading with a cover that equally parallels the thrills and reflections of its brilliant plot.  A very different, mysterious new story from this talented writer – which this reviewer recommends as a great read!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard.  Susan Meissner. Penguin Group (USA). January 2016.  400 pp.  ISBN#: 9780451475992.

Christine McAllister discovers a hat that looks familiar.  It is, in fact, a hat worn in the filming of Gone With The Wind in 1938.  She has a strong sense that she needs to return it to its owner and in doing so will learn of a friendship that endured so much mistruth and even accidental betrayal.

Back in 1938 Violet Mayfield has come to Hollywood to escape heartbreak of a lost love, a severe illness and the knowledge she will never get to have the family with children she so desperately longed for. On arrival she immediately meets Audrey Duvall, who is in Hollywood to achieve her movie star dream.  Audrey had once been chosen to be a star in a big film but that movie project was canceled at the last minute.  Now she’s just as determined to attain her dream with hard work and placing herself near those in power who make the decisions on who will be the next big film star.  So far Audrey’s efforts have been in vain.  On meeting Violet at the railroad stations, Audrey and Violet hit it off and decide to become roommates.  Violet brings zest and old Southern comfort food cooking to brighten up Audrey’s bleak days.

Violet and Audrey work as stenographers in the production offices and later get to work on the actual set of Gone With The Wind.  They find plenty of good times after work with an old friend of Audrey, Bert.   Violet will make a huge mistake in trying to connect Audrey with a well-known star, hoping she will be noticed and asked to audition for a role.  Although her effort was totally innocent and loving in intention, it turns out to be a huge mistake that almost destroys their friendship.  Other scenes of an even worse nature will follow which test their relationship to the max.  The family backgrounds of both women, as well, are painful and await reconciliation.

Years later, Bert and Violet are married, happy in their work and taking care of a daughter who calls Violet’s best friend Aunt Audrey.  Secrets will gradually be revealed that will test again relationships, secrets that should have been honestly exposed years earlier.

Stars over Sunset Boulevard is an intense, engaging and riveting novel about what Hollywood offers and the adventure-filled, exciting but costly consequences of entering the limelight of stars, assistants and underlings who work in the evanescent atmosphere of those who yearn for fame.  Be careful, indeed, for what you wish!

Very nicely crafted, Susan Meissner!

This is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

This is Where It Ends.  Marieke Nijkamp. Sourcebooks.  January 2016. 288 pp.  ISBN#: 9781492622468. 

It could happen anywhere and it has happened in far too many places, places where a deeply disturbed individual decides to leave a memorable imprint of a hopeless, damaged person crying out for meaning and dignity.  Noble words to express the deepest hurt and rage imaginable!

This is the scene the reader meets in this intense and poignant story of students in the ironically named Opportunity High School.  Over the next 54 minutes, we will watch Tyler, a seriously troubled student, kill far too many teachers and students at the tail end of the principal’s encouraging speech for the upcoming semester.  It happens gradually and in between the random shots we learn his story, that of his family and those of his acquaintances (since he insists he has no friends).

There’s Tyler’s sister, Autumn who dreams of being a classical dancer and her newly discovered girlfriend, Sylv.  Tomas, Sylv’s brother, and Fareed, an Afghanistan friend, attempt to unlock the chained doors during the disaster.  Claire, Tyler’s ex-girlfriend, believes she’s the one responsible for this disaster and seeks to find a way to break the momentum of his killing.  There’s a young man who’s physically challenged but not pitied enough to avoid being shot.  These and other forceful scenes play out.  Some characters will truly examine the past and attempt to analyze the background of Tyler in order that he might realize they do care.  Some will show troubled backgrounds modified by attempts to reach out to each other in their obvious or partially revealed needs.

In between the account of these terrible hours are snippets of emails being rapidly sent, some caring and concerned, some prurient in their looking to sensationalize what is already beyond the word “sensation.”

The purpose of such a novel is to sensitize readers beyond the horrific events of this day to seeing the lives herein as more than worthy, hurting and therefore in need of being addressed as issues that could just as easily erupt elsewhere.  

A highly commendable and recommended, necessary account!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Crouching Tier: What China’s Militarism Means For The World by Peter Navarro

Crouching Tier: What China’s Militarism Means For The World.  Peter Navarro. Prometheus Books. November 2015. 300 pp.  ISBN#: 9781633881150.

While the world presently is ultra-focused on the global threat of ISIS or ISIL as it is sometimes called, the world is missing the possibly brutal threat of China.  Navarro’s thesis concerns China’s hegemonic desire to become a superpower through its military, economic, and political policies.  According to the author, China will probably succeed until American and Euro policies succeed in addressing this formidable threat.  Readers will find their certainty about America’s superiority challenged and perhaps misunderstood.

It has been repeatedly stated that unless we learn from history, it will repeat itself, perhaps even exceed its own record. One needs then to read and then analyze the theories and facts herein carefully delineated. Every chapter begins with a question and possible answer choices.  It isn’t hard to figure out the answers after a while.  One might respond fearfully unless one thinks about other unknown American policies to contradict the Chinese realities. 

For example, in one chapter we discover that China is seeking to establish military bases throughout Asia, all the way south to Vietnam and Cambodia to counteract the presence of American military bases also throughout Asia.  Combine that with the chapters about the military armaments that both America and China possess, and one realizes there is a massive power struggle playing out.  The question becomes what happens when an accident or first response action occurs and we are on the brink of WWIII?  One can’t ignore the serious possibilities within such scenarios that Navarro predicts might actually occur.

It’s no secret how much American debt is being covered by China. Navarro describes how China is wooing many Asian nations for economic domination and how successful they are in such ventures.  It is even suggested that an economic war might be all that is necessary to control the world.  While America is cutting back on military spending, the needs for more spending are placing America in a precarious position, according to the author.

The author explores all of these areas and even posits possible responses to maintain peace that may help but actually might not change one iota of this chessboard game playing out globally.

Rather than spoil the remaining presentations, this reviewer suggests focus on this nonfiction book might be one of the best things for Americans, especially its politicians and economists, to read. 

Highly recommended reading!