Friday, September 25, 2009

Books And Stories Read This WeeK

Uncut Diamonds, by Karen Jones Gowen
This book was something out of my usual realm. I just don't read women's books in general because they say nothing to me about my life-but then maybe they really do. Much has been said on the web thus far about the time-frame the novel is set in, this means nothing. It doesn't matter because it has that universal feel for anyone living in America in the post World War 2 era. Whether its the 70's, 90's or today its easy enough to see how people can relate to the things mentioned inside, marriage struggles, money problems and family reuniting through hardship. So to me the time frame is just that, a frame-the human condition is the reality. I think what made me really take stock of the book (which did start a little slow for my taste) was the hammer making me think about things from my wife's perspective, as a writer its good to be well-rounded in my chosen medium-to go beyond my own preferred genre's and help myself to not be stiff-necked. Uncut Diamonds helped me think about these things whereas some other women writers couldn't let me see that. I did like the journal entries of the main characters grandmother that took place during the dust bowl and that will therefore make me want to seek out Karen's other book Farm Girl for the sake of continuing reading in her element.

Blackberry Witch, by Scott M. Roberts
Weird modern day magic story about a witch who dreams (and plots) of getting back the husband she lost and having a normal? son. She uses a new type of necromancy (new to me) of utilizing her mothers blood magic from a blackberry bush (her mother is blood magic within the bush) to gain power and steal the son of an opposing wizard. All in all it was a very new take on urban magic which I don't normally like per-se, but the mood Roberts sets kept me reading. In the finale I was especially intrigued with the process by which the opposing wizard sets things to rights-foot to foot-knee to knee-arm to arm-etc etc-some of you will know what I am talking about.

Dubliners, by James Joyce
I got this quite awhile ago and started reading it and made it through perhaps 3 or 4stories and quit. I just didn't care, I had no desire to spend my life studying Joyce's so I could understand the nuances of his turn of the century Irish life of which Dubliners is about. On account of a recent post at AMV about how writers should stop trying to ape The Dead, the last story in Dubliners, particularly the last paragraph I decided I would give it another go. While I would fully admit that Joyce has a great way with prose, I couldn't have cared less about any of the characters in general. Th. mentioned in the comments section in my post about 5 influencing novels that he didn't know what the Iliad had to say to us in our day and I almost feel the same way about Joyce. Yet I will admit that he does have something to say if you can get to it and it speaks to you as the Iliad does to me. I suppose its all just a matter of taste and what speaks to you. Though themes of all of these books are running together.

Betrayer of Trees, by Eric James Stone
Pretty good short story by local author Eric James Stone. I kept wanting it to go on a little longer and give me a little more background on this fantasy world of a exiled stone carver/tree-mage, tree magic and a nomadic warlord conqueror akin to Genghis Khan. I liked the twist at the end. Stone leaves a number of things in the tale open-ended for the reader to place in themselves and that was fine with me. While I am not a huge sci-fi fan, Stone's work on this tale will have me seeking out some of his other usual genre.

The Afghan Campaign, by Steven Pressfield
This was great, Pressfield is a master in the historical realm. Again in a similar
vein to Uncut Diamonds he has tapped into that feeling of timelessness-it doesn't matter that this tale was taking place 2,300 years ago, it could almost be something told by our guys on the ground in Afghanistan today. The humanity of Alexanders soldiers and ours is the same, tying things again back to my own book Heroes of the Fallen I just don't believe people are that different, we have different cultures and technology but the human dream is the same. We have the same fears, the same honor, the same vices, the same goodness as we have ever had and Pressfield has never disappointed in his well written portrayal of such. The Afghan Campaign follows the little brother of older vets from Alexanders army, Sidon, Tyre, Egypt and Persia have already fallen-Afghanistan lies between Alexander and India and thus conquering of the whole world. As much as I like heroics, this book is not driven by hyperbolic heroics beyond what you would expect from any normal person man or woman-some of the best characters in the novel are women. So I guess this weeks books were all about the human condition and I would say they all carried it off very well.


Kristine Princevalle said...

Nice review of Uncut Diamonds, intelligent and worthwhile. That's an interesting perspective you take, that it helps you see your wife's role with new insight.

The Debster said...

I really appreciated the views. It brought into light the fact that whether it's 2009, or 1979, women struggle with life, marriage, their kids, and themselves. It's pretty self explanatory that no matter what era, we as women have insecurities, and time doesn't change that. I really liked Uncut Diamonds, and honestly don't want to wait two more years for House of Diamonds!! Karen, can you say "ARC!"

Karen Gowen said...

First you write a post showing your sensitive side, then you start off a post with the cover of Uncut Diamonds--looks like you will have to write a month's worth of weaponry-filled posts to atone for this week!

Just the same, thanks for the review! I liked it.

L.A. DeVaul said...

Nice reviews. I read Uncut Diamonds, and it was very real. I felt like I was Marcie, going through all her trials with her. However it is not your usual chick lit where you have romance, a widower, and someone dying at the end. I felt like I walked with Marcie, living her day to day life with her. And you either see life from a new perspective, or you say, wow, someone else is going through the same things as me.

David J. West said...

Glad you liked that Karen.

L.A. I actually kept wondering if someone was going to die at the end, but then there was no reason that anyone had too. The incedent with the family friends was a touch of that realism where tragedy does strike but it doesn't have to be directly involved with the main characters.