“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” ~~ Joseph Addison
From the Danville Library, Danville, Contra Costa County, CA
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- YOU’LL NEVER FIND US: A Memoir
- Written by Jeanne Baker Guy and Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
- ISBN-13: 978-1647421557
- She Writes Press (August 17, 2021)
Arrogance vs. Determination: What a Struggle
What can a mother do when the tyrannical husband she divorces steals their children and tells her he’s taking them to Germany? What would you do if an estranged family member stole your children? Jeanne Baker Guy explores these questions and much more in her memoir You’ll Never Find Us.
The title, taken from a note her husband left with a local Episcopal priest after stealing her children, shows his arrogance and conviction. He would have given the children back if she’d leave her new husband and get back with him. His arrogance is compounded by the fact that federal laws offer Guy little help as she tries to find her lost children and regain some control of a life gone terribly wrong. In alternating chapters she assesses her current plight and the incidents that brought them to this place. Her love of her children, her stubborn determination and a reasonable new husband keep her going despite her alternating despair and anger.
The structure of this well-told story will keep those with curious minds engrossed. Like any good memoirist, the narrator offers a balanced appraisal of herself and the world around her. Readers will see the courage behind her actions and root for her as she struggles with her husband’s manipulation and domination.
Author Jeanne Baker Guy of Jeanne Guy Gatherings is an author, speaker, and journal-writing teacher. Her experience offers hope for women being controlled by an ex. If you have a happy marriage, you’ll root for the kids and their mom as well as being grateful for your own life. You can learn more about her at https://www.jeanneguy.com. This is a woman’s story, but wise men who want to know more about family dynamics should also appreciate it. Why not pick up a copy today?
- ACCIDENTAL AMERICAN ODYSSEY: immigrant stories
- Written by Mark Budman and Reviewed by Cameron Yow
- Livingston Press
It’s all about the Journey…
Words matter. Words, well chosen, elucidate.
First generation Russian immigrant Mark Budman begins An Accidental American Odyssey with his concession any search for the perfect word is even more futile than the quest for a happy ending, American or otherwise. It’s not by accident. Budman then proceeds to imagine twenty-one fantasies, to conjure a kaleidoscope of ekphrasis and synesthesia through which he displays not only mastery of his craft but also mastery of his second language Nabokov would applaud.
Without words, we are all like Vera, Budman’s “American Zolushka,” Budman’s reincarnation of the Russian incarnation of Cinderella, “a troglodyte in the cave trying to judge the world by shadows on the wall.”
“Maybe not all princes are jerks, but I am yet to see one who isn’t,” concludes American Zolushka. “That’s what Confucius said. Or was it Kate Middleton? Maybe Byron?” No worries. For American Zolushka the clock strikes thirteen.
Budman’s words release the shadows frozen onto our walls and embedded within our psyches into our lives so that we may feel, hear, smell, taste, and see them as they really are.
That’s not all. Budman’s prose and poetry marry knee-slapping, side-splitting, droll humor with Einsteinian erudition. Pushkin, Byron, Eminescu, Mayakovsky, and yes Homer bow as Budman schools them in the eviscerating juxtaposition of Haiku. The Brothers Grimm, Kafka, Nabokov, the scribes of Marvel Comics genuflect to an imagination that distinguishes Literature’s legends from its fire hydrants.
Lighten up, Brothers Grimm. Imagine punctuating life’s tragic endings with the grace and dignity of nonchalant, tongue-in-cheek, sardonic twists. How about Budman’s Dushen’ka, who suffers from incurable “Multus Anomalis,” who takes a paring knife to her skin when it fails to molt, who is grateful for death’s small favors when she finds herself “up on top in the fashionably deep grave for four people” provided by Our Temporary Guests cemetery.
“Imagination is everything,” concur Einstein and Budman.
So, Kafka, try to imagine metamorphosis in different forms.
Perhaps as Greg Simpson in “Scarabaeus Simplex” who awakens as a car in a sales lot, then discovers how a woman may feel during unwanted sex when prospective buyers enter through the passenger door. Later, Greg finds his glove compartment stuffed with an afterlife’s nightmare supply of beetles.
Or, imagine yourself the valium sedated “husband piece of a 3-D puzzle,” who coos to his wife, “I love your hair, the color of unspun usitatissimum – also known as common flax.”
In relentless search of his dream, Budman observes,“Though happiness is overrated, it is still the sweetest thing out there. Right next to a good night’s sleep.”
But those are not Budman’s final words.
When Cameron Yow was a younger man, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. described Cameron’s critique of Vonnegut’s work as “a work of art.” Vonnegut described the prospect of that critique being published as “skylarking.”
Inspired by Vonnegut’s encouragement, Cameron never stopped skylarking, dedicating everything he writes to the thesis of Vonnegut’s art: “the purpose of life is to love whomever there is to be loved.”
His initial foray into flash fiction “Dawn, again” was chosen the best story to appear in the Vestal Review in 2014.
Cameron’s misanthropic parody “The Workplace” appeared in the December, 2014 issue of Maudlin House. Cameron’s short story “Twenty Second Intervals” was selected by Epifiction as a model of creative writing for high school students.
Cameron has published two books. Against All Odds is an anthology of moments individuals have risen to the occasion to “do better than their best.” Just One More Day, a memoir of a life interrupted, a love unrequited memorializes his fiancé.
- WHERE DO YOU HANG YOUR HAMMOCK? Finding Peace of Mind While You Write, Publish, and Promote Your Work
- Written by Bella Mahaya Carter and Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
- ISBN #: 978-1647420659
- Publisher : She Writes Press (June 1, 2021)
Leaps of Faith and Other Writing Adventures
How many writers do you know who maintain peace of mind while they write, publish, and promote their books? Many can while they write, though the opinions of critique groups sometimes interfere. Many more, though, stress. They find peace incompatible with the process of publishing and promoting. There are so many uncertainties in that part of the process that peace of mind can drop to the bottom of the list. Author Bella Mahaya Carter breaks down her process for maintaining peace and enjoying the journey in Where Do You Hang Your Hammock? Finding Peace of Mind While You Write, Publish, and Promote Your Work.
The book is divided into 87 short, readable chapters, and the chapters are separated into five sections: Dream, Nourish, Write, Publish, and Promote. In each chapter she shares her experiences and those of her students, bringing her concepts to life and encouraging writers with her coping skills. She supplements each chapter with journaling questions intended to help readers process her ideas.
Whether you’re an aspiring writer or an experienced one, you’re likely to identify with the issues she identifies. Some of my favorite topics are “Universal Doubts,” “Small Adjustments,” “Leaps of Faith,” “Writing Naked: The Benefits of Exposing Yourself Through Writing,” “Recovering Perfectionist,” and “Author Expectations.” Yours may vary.
These chapter titles should show you that the book is written for your heart and soul. It assumes you can plan, write, and process. Written from a woman’s point of view, it recognizes the struggles writers may face with self-care, and recognizing our uniqueness. It’s geared for those with great stories to tell, which is everyone. Since some people don’t recognize their stories, this book gives sound, solid reasons for confidence along with strategies for achieving it.
There are many writing books out there. This one will help you articulate your fears and validate your work. This book is your key for overcoming the fear.
- Written by Bethany Mangle and Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
- ISBN#: 978-1534477506
- Margaret K. McElderry Books (February 23, 2021)
High School and Doomsday Don’t Mix
What if you were a teen growing up in a family prepping for doomsday? How would their lifestyle cramp your own chances to figure out your preferences and find your talents? In Bethany Mangle’s debut novel, Prepped, you’ll discover how one competent young woman with ideas of her own copes with the oppression of a family obsessed with the end of the world.
When we first meet Becca Aldaine she is struggling through a cold-water survival exercise with three other teens, including the boy her parents have picked to be her life partner. Her performance is not a success, so her father sends her to the bunker to spend the night, a place where she is “…buried alive. Grounded.” Becca is bright, competent, and in love with physics. Rather than marrying Roy Kang, she wants to study physics at Carnegie Mellon University. While her physics teacher agrees with her choice, her parents want her to carry on the family legacy, living their survivalist lifestyle. As it turns out, she’s not the only one who wants to leave the madness behind and carve out her own life, free of disaster drills.
When a drunk driver slams into her domineering father’s truck, a scenario they had never planned for, the Aldaine family’s world twists and turns. Becca’s mother is the new head of this doomsday cult and her younger sister Katie is training for survival. Becca hopes of a life at Carnegie Mellon evaporate, since she wants to protect her little sister from this cult of obsessive maniacs prepping for an end that may never come in their lifetimes.
Becca’s life is full of contradictions, which makes sense since the prepper’s code states, “Always be ready for the worst day of your life.” It takes her clever mind and Roy unexpected support to find a way out.
Like any good YA, Prepped has teenage characters that people of all ages will identify with. Mangle’s story thrusts them into unexpected, atypical situations and gives them the tools to resolve the issues they face without adult help. Mangle writes with grit, beauty and an admirable sense of ease. Her words will draw you into Becca’s world, which is filled with humor unless you’re not living in it. Whether you are a teen or an adult she might just have you examining ways to escape whatever eats away at your soul. Becca’s experiences will motivate you to become or stay strong, whole, and happy. Like her, you might make some new plans to become the person you were meant to be.
NOTE: This review originally appeared on Story Circle Network.
- WRITING AS A PATH TO HEALING
- Edited by Marlene Cullen and Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
- ISBN #: 978-1941066447
- Cullen Enterprises (June 30, 2020)
Ready to Write?
People write for many reasons. One is to heal the mind, body, and soul. Sometimes they produce personal essays. Other times they write journal entries. Sometimes they return to polish. Other times they release both joy and toxicity and never reread their writing. Marlene Cullen is the editor of The Write Spot’s Writing as a Path to Healing, a collection of stories that share personal truths.
The 21 stories are intriguing and individualized. They vary in length, subject matter, and emotional tone. What they have in common is that each was written in response to a prompt, and all prompts are listed. Subjects vary from “Who Am I?” to “Sisterhood” to “Solace of Cherries” to “I Write My Life Everyday.” This collection truly has something for everyone.
While each piece reveals one truth, there’s a second one that comes up as writers answer Cullen’s question, “What scares you about writing?” This is a marvelous collection, which I’m glad she included. Answers often explain the processes they go through to arrive at their end products. You’ll read about everything from early childhood fears and ink wells to tapping the unconscious and discovering hidden memories.
Cullen rounds the book out with some excellent resources. She is the owner of The Write Spot, https://thewritespot.us/about.php. I love her statement in the “About” section which says, “Writing is a lot like weeding…let go and release.” This is the sixth book in The Write Spot Series. These stories will inspire you and if you need to heal, they can help.
- THE ANATOMY OF DESIRE
- L.R. Dorn
- William Morrow (May 11, 2021)
- ISBN#: 9780063041929
Ambition: A Docudrama
What do social media influencers crave? More followers? More privacy? More endorsements, money and fame? Some of them want it all—followers, privacy and plenty of sponsors.
Fitness influencer Cleo Ray certainly does. She believes those things that will make her a success. After growing up in poverty with parents who cared more about their Christianity than they did about her, Cleo wanted the best, smoothest, easiest, richest life that L.A. and the Internet could give her. After all, striving for success is a way of life many Americans are proud of, and Cleo is no exception.
She and her lover Beck Alden go out on a lake in Southeastern California one beautiful summer day. Only one of them comes back. When Beck, who could not swim, is found in the water battered and bruised, suspicion falls on Cleo, who is missing. Was she hiding a lesbian affair or did she simply find someone who could raise her status? The trial that follows fits right into our contemporary American life. Who betrayed whom? Who is really at fault? Should previous failings enter into a jury’s verdict? And is the trial about the accused, the victim, or the power of skilled attorneys?
Presented like a script for a docudrama, as if the content were transcribed from recorded interviews and woven together like a TV show, the form mirrors the content and adds to the contemporary feel, though this is billed as a “reimagining of Theodore Dreiser’s classic crime drama, An American Tragedy.
LR Dorn is the pen name for Matt Dorff and Suzanne Dunn. Matt is a Los Angeles native and a graduate of the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. Suzanne grew up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and received a master’s degree from the University of Chicago. They developed their collaboration while working as screenwriters in film and television. THE ANATOMY OF DESIRE (William Morrow, May 11, 2021) is their debut novel. www.lrdorn.com
Genres are blending these days and The Anatomy of Desire is a beautiful illustration of that. I put work and other interruptions on hold to read this story, and I was not disappointed. Highly recommended.