Review: Sweet Holy Motherfucking Everloving Delusional Bastard ~ Jerome Segundo

delusionalAdrift, inexperienced, loveless, and unemployed, recent college grad Jerome Segundo remedies all these deficiencies simultaneously upon landing a job and striking up a romance with a coworker. His consort, slightly older chronologically but infinitely more sophisticated and experienced, exposes him to the delights of cuisine, culture, and sex (occasionally in tandem). Their relationship blossoms and his world opens up—until a sexual assault charge brings it crashing down.

4 Thumbs-UpHowever you may feel about the type of language that the Author chose to use in his title please, whatever else you may think do not think that this is a book written by a person who cannot string a coherent sentence together.  It does, however, leave me in a quandary as how to actually review this novel, as it’s not quite like anything I’ve read before.

To be taken at face value this book would appear to be the ramblings of someone not quite in their right mind, but when the reader begins to look deeper into the text they see it is the memoir of the Author, warts and all.  To be honest trying to review this book is difficult because of the nature of the memoir, and to delve too deeply into the book would ultimately reveal too much of what is in its pages.

This is a memoir that has been penned by a man with a definite gift for writing, and despite it often dark passages there are some truly humourous moments contained within its covers.  There are large amounts of sexual content in this book, and it is very graphic in nature; to be honest though this lends more to the telling of the Authors life than any other vehicle used in the book, and without it the reader would have been possibly left scratching their head in bewilderment.  Is it a book that will offend some, absolutely.  It is also a book that will make the reader realize that gross miscarriages of justice in our ‘perfect’ world can, and do, take place and with long reaching consequences to those who have been subject to its bite.

This is definitely not a light read, but I recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading memoirs of people other than those the media say we should worship.

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‘And now for something completely different’

“Let’s face it, writing is hell.”
~William Styron

writers almanacI thought it was about time to take a break from the book reviews, and my attempts at writing articles I think may interest people, and hand today over to those who actually know what they are about.  Today, Wednesday August 28, 2013, I am turning my blog over to “The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor”.  For those of you reading who may not be familiar with this web site, it contains daily poems, prose, and literary history from Garrison Keillor, and other Authors.  Not only do these great folks keep this website full of wonderful tidbits, they also produce a podcast for us to listen to as we go about our day.  So, without further ado, take it away “The Writer’s Almanac”:

“Song of Smoke
by Kevin Young

To watch you walk
cross the room in your black

corduroys is to see
civilization start—
the wish-
whish-whisk

of your strut is flint
striking rock—the spark

of a length of cord
rubbed till

smoke starts—you stir
me like coal

and for days smolder.
I am no more

a Boy Scout and besides,
could never

put you out—you
keep me on

all day like an iron, out
of habit—

you threaten, brick—
house, to burn

all this down. You leave me
only a chimney.

“Song of Smoke” by Kevin Young, From Jelly Roll © Knopf, 2003. Reprinted with permission.

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It’s the birthday of the father of German literature, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe , born in Frankfurt, Germany (1749), the author of the epic drama Faust.

He moved to Italy in 1786, and when he returned to Germany two years later, he fell in love with a woman from Weimer, Christiane Vulpius, a 23-year-old who was 16 years his junior. That year, he wrote her an epithalamium, a wedding poem, but he didn’t actually marry her; instead, the couple lived together for 18 years unwed. That is, until one night, Christiane saved Goethe’s life by driving off a band of Napoleon’s soldiers who had broken in their home. Goethe went down to a church the very next day and married her, his live-in girlfriend of 18 years.

In 1806, the same year of the home invasion and marriage, Goethe published a preliminary version of Part I of his great work, Faust, the story of a brilliant scholar named Heinrich Faust, who makes a deal with the devil. The great epic has it all: seduction, murder, sleeping potions, an illegitimate love child, a stray poodle that transforms into the devil, contracts signed with blood, imprisonment in dungeons, heavenly voices, and even redemption. Faust is often called a “closet drama” because it’s intended to be read, not performed. Goethe spent 50 years working on this two-volume masterpiece, finishing it in 1832, the year of his death.

Christiane survived for only a decade after her and Goethe’s wedding. In later life, after recovering from a heart disease that nearly killed him, the 73-year-old Goethe fell passionately in love with an 18-year-old woman, Ulrike von Levetzow, and was devastated when she turned down his proposals of marriage.

Goethe, who said, “One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.”

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It’s the birthday of poet Rita Dove , born in Akron, Ohio (1952). Her father had a master’s degree in chemistry but had to work as an elevator operator because he was black. He eventually became the first African-American chemist to work for Goodyear Tires.

He encouraged his daughter to take advantage of education, and she was at the top of her class. She was chosen as one of 100 of the best high school students in the country to visit the president of the United States. Her parents assumed that she would go on to become a doctor or lawyer, so when she announced that she wanted to be a poet, they weren’t sure what to make of it. She said, “[My father] swallowed once and said, ‘Well, I’ve never understood poetry, so don’t be upset if I don’t read it.'” Her teachers at college told her that she was throwing her education away if she didn’t study something more practical.

But with her poetry collection Thomas and Beulah (1986), based loosely on the lives of her grandparents, she became only the second African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, and she went on to become the first African-American national poet laureate.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Guest Host: Billy Collins
Host: Garrison Keillor
Writers: Betsy Allister, Holly Vanderhaar
Technical Director: Thomas Scheuzger
Engineer: Noah Smith
Producer: Joy Biles
Permissions: Kathy Roach
Web Producer: Ben Miller”

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‘You are NOT allowed to read that!’

bebelplatz-berlin-memorial-to-burned-books

Bebelplatz Book Burning Memorial

 ‘The fact that anybody wants to burn a book shows you how powerful the physical object is, both as itself and as a symbol’ ~ Chuck Wendig.

Until I married my American Husband I was not fully aware of the fact that there are people out there who want to restrict my access to the types of book I read, not just fiction but non-fiction as well.  I was also naive in thinking that book burning was a thing of history; for example the May 10 1933 book burning in Berlin, the monument to which I have visited.  Book burning is also a thing of the 21st century and takes places in America for various reasons; Non-approved Bibles, books and music in Canton, North Carolina in 2009; Tolkien’s works publicly burned in Alamogordo, NM, in 2001 as satanic.  Really?  In the 21st Century, here in America, intelligent people would fail to celebrate Tolkien’s masterful achievement and, instead, find it threatening enough to burn it?

I feel it would be amiss of me as a lover of the printed word not to write about this form of censorship and, how we are slowly creeping towards a more complete ‘Nanny State’ where we are told what is good for us, and how much of it we can consume.  I understand that there needs to be checks and balances in place for some things, but when it comes to art, and to me writing is an art form, personal choice needs to be allowed to run free.  If, after reading the synopsis of a book on a fly-leaf, we feel uncomfortable or it may be against our beliefs, we have the choice to put the book down and find something more to our tastes.

jailed-book1If you are completely confused by this topic, I’m referring to the upcoming Banned Books Week.  Whether you may be blissfully unaware, or choose to pretend it doesn’t exist, it does with challenged and banned books spanning all genres and reading age groups.  But what is Banned Books Week?  It is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read that is typically held during the last week of September and highlighting the value of free and open access to information; it brings together the book community, from reader to publisher, like nothing else can as they share their support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some may consider unorthodox or unpopular.

By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship, and all of the books featured during this week have been targeted with removal or restrictions in libraries and schools, by individuals or groups. While books have been and continue to be banned, the fact is that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available, unless you happened to be in Alamogordo NM, where not only Tolkien but the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling were committed to the flames.

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Although we are still a month out from Banned Book Week, I strongly feel it is an issue that needs to get publicity not just for one week of every year but all the time.  However, I know how difficult this would be so, in my attempt to stand up for an art form that gives me great pleasure, as well as broadening my mind and horizons, I am going to focus all of my posts for the week of 22-28 September 2013 with books that have been challenged since the beginning of the 21st century.  I will be choosing four books and proudly showcasing them on the blog.

I am giving you all advance warning of this, in case there are some people out there who would rather not see these books blazoned across their computer screen, and they will know to give my reviews a miss for that week.  I will not just be showcasing the books that week, but also listing why these books were challenged and also giving a little background on the Authors.  List of nominees for this week of challenged books are:

2001 – Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
2002 – Harry Potter (series)*, by J.K. Rowling (because I have never read any Harry Potter books)
2003 – The Amulet of Samarkand (The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 1), by Jonathan Stroud
2004 – The Alice Series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
2005 – Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel
2006 – The Handmaids Tale, by Margaret Atwood
2007 – The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
2008 – His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman
2009 – Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story, by John Berendt
2010 – Running with Scissors, by Augusten Burroughs
2011 – The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier, by Alan Moore
2012 – The Glass Castle: A Memoir, by Jeanette Walls
*Please note, where books are part of a series, I will only be featuring the first.

One last thing to bear in mind, and an indication of just how out of hand some of these book challenges are becoming; in 2010 in the Menifee, Calif. Union School District pulled the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary because a parent complained when a child came across the term ‘oral sex’.  Officials for the District said, at the time it was pulled, that they are forming a committee to consider a permanent ban of the dictionary; whether they went ahead with this is not known.

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Review: The Guilty ~ Gabriel Boutros

The Guilty
Robert Bratt is a lawyer who has always done whatever it took to win his cases. After twenty years of defending the most hardened criminals, many of whom he knew to be guilty, the only thing he can no longer do is look at himself in the mirror. Loosely based on a multiple-murder that shocked Montreal in the 1990s, this riveting story pulls the reader into the inner workings of a murder trial, and reveals what one lawyer must do when he has to defend “The Guilty.

 5 Thumbs-UpThis is a debut novel by this Author, and the first courtroom drama that I have read in a very long time after becoming jaded by Baldacci and Grisham who seem to churn out cookie cutter books by the dozen now.  However, after reading this, I am sure I’ve rediscovered my love for this genre and, if this Author keeps up this level of writing, he will be knocking the aforementioned two off their very high pedestal.

Right from the opening of this novel, the main male lead is anything but likeable; think of all those Lawyer jokes you’ve heard or told, and they all apply to him.  He is the one that would give the shark a stomach ache.  This ‘man’ is arrogant, has no humanity about him whatsoever, and is not afraid to let anyone within earshot know that it’s his way or the highway.  He knows he is a clever and skilled Lawyer, and wants everyone to know this, whether they like it or not.  As unlikable as he is, the reader is drawn to him to see why he became this way, if he will be redeemable and, if not, to have a ringside view when his demise and total ruin take place.  This character does not have any Perry Mason or Ben Matlock qualities about him at all, and that is just fine; this is a gritty and disturbingly honest view of one reprehensible human being.  The remaining cast of characters in this novel have just as much time invested in their development; there are those that you will love and those that really renew your faith in the human race; and then there are those like our lead who you would like to see locked away for a very long time.

Unlike some courtroom drama novels, this one doesn’t have any episodes of high velocity action, and that works really well with the writing style of the Author; things definitely do happen in the book but nothing that would have you gripping the edge of your seat.  Because of the writing skill and style of the Author these action sequences are not needed, and their absence only serve to make the reader more aware that they are taking a glimpse into a world the Author has personal knowledge of; although not in the guise of our despicable lead we hope.  It is apparent from the way in which the courtroom scenes are described, and the way the justice machine in this part of the country moves along, that the Author has pulled from his own experiences in the legal arena and this makes the book more genuine and believable.

In this novel, the reader will find all the trappings of an epic courtroom drama that is also loosely based on actual events that took place in Montreal in the 1990’s; it is gritty, gripping and makes you want to keep reading on to the stunning conclusion.  However, readers need to be aware this is not a novel you will be able to pick up and dip into for a few chapters.  Due to the writing skill demonstrated and authenticity brought about by the experiences of the Author, the reader will find themselves being immersed totally into the story line, and needing to carry on reading regardless.  This book made me neglect things I needed to do, and stay up far too late so I could finish it, which in my opinion is the hallmark of a truly outstanding book.

At its core, it is so simple. Courtroom dramas are about the battle between good and evil, justice and injustice, right and wrong. Sometimes the case deals with an unimaginable crime. Sometimes it takes a look at the complexity of the human mind. Whatever the case, a person’s life is on the line. And with the help of complex characters and a great storyline, this novel has it all; it deals with extremes… and that makes for an intense story.

I would highly recommend this novel to anyone who is a fan of Baldacci and Grisham et al also to those who have never picked up a courtroom drama before.  I am looking forward to seeing what this Author produces in the future.

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Review: Warrior Crone ~ Jennifer Christopherson

Warrior Crone

Generations of Tirawan kings have laid the groundwork for King Johahn. The peasants fear the Gohmdae people and everything connected to them. Their children play games of hunting them and burning them at the stake. His plan to wipe the Ghomdae out and take over their lands will be unquestioned.

The Ghomdae, wishing only for peace and to live life their own way, have kept their distance for generations. However, when reports of soldiers in the forest and on the Taarook plains start pouring in, they must send their own into the very heart of the danger to act as spies. After many years and many deaths, they find out what is going on.

To-Shora, second household to Crone Jeh-Gah, is one of these spies. During her mission, she is raped and has a child for each rape. Tar-Reesh, the eldest of these children, befriends the magistrate’s daughter, Winaiva, and grows up playing games of hunting and burning Gohmdae.

Tar-Reesh, ever seeking acceptance, and Winaiva, ever searching for freedom, are taught the truth and are forced to choose their part in the conflict. But will they be able to live with their choice? Will they win the war to keep the Ghomdae free? What are the roles of the dragons and elves? What, exactly, does Fate have in store for these two girls, these two peoples, this peninsula?

2 Thumbs-Up

This is a debut work for this Author, and my spidey sense started twitching as soon as I read the summary of the book; not is a good way.

This was a very strange book that had me feeling it was the second instalment in a series.  I even put it to one side to search and see if I had missed the beginning of this tale; but no, this is where it starts. Despite this, I thought it may be one of those rare books in a series, that is perfectly happy standing all alone and making its mark as a solo act as well as part of a series; again that was not to be the case.  The Author had a great vision when writing this book, but for some reason it really didn’t translate well on to the page.

The characters, all of them throughout the book, seemed very underdeveloped to me and all spoke in the same formal manner, which made them very hard to separate from one another.  They had no back-story to speak of, which again made it hard to relate to them in any way.  Hence the feeling I had whilst reading this, of walking in halfway through a conversation and expecting to be able to successfully debate it.  The protagonist was immediately on my ‘I really hope something despicable happens to you’ list, as they are arrogant, rigid and refuse to accept anyone else but they could possibly be right.  The fact that this character provoked a response from me meant it was given at least a passing thought as to its development by the Author, as it managed to push all the right buttons when evoking that feeling of wanting to reach out and shake them.  It is such a shame I felt I had missed out on their life story and why they were like this, I like characters to exhibit a few believable flaws instead of them expecting me to believe they could walk on water.

There were some wonderfully descriptive aspects to this book which, if they had been explored in more depth could really have gone a long way to helping the plot along.  As it was they were dealt with in a rather perfunctory manner, as if they were of no import.  The few snippets we had of this complex fantastical world were the kind that starts an image forming in the readers’ brain, but as it was coming into focus it was snatched away.  This was the tone of the whole book for me; it was random and disjointed with bizarre little flashbacks happening that I had no clue as to where they came from, or what their purpose was.

This was a good fantasy read; that with a bit more tweaking and direction could become a great fantasy read. I would recommend it to lovers of this genre, but advise they go into not expecting an epic.  If the Author decides to write a prequel to this, that started at the very beginning, and gave back-story to all the happenings in this novel, I would definitely read it before trying this book again as I feel it would give a lot more sense and meaning to the book I have just reviewed.

 

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