A Reader’s Manifesto

Posted by on Sep 7, 2015 in All Other Posts, Reviews | 0 comments

In the digital age of Android and iPads, Facebook and Instagram, I think there’s the need for a new Reader’s Manifesto, a statement of action that will remind readers everywhere of their identity and the difference that reading makes in a busy world. As a reader, I will read when I am bored, instead of checking my phone or tablet. I will read a story instead. I will read in the bathroom when I have an extra moment, instead of checking my phone. When I wake in the morning, I will read a chapter from my book instead of doing a first checkin on email and social media. Because I know that beginning my day with a good book will make me happier, better adjusted and more ready for a long day. When I go to bed in the evening, I will read a chapter from my book instead of doing a last checkin on email and social media. Because I know that ending my day with a good book will make me happier, and will lead to better sleep. I will read a book when I am bored in a grocery line, instead of checking my phone. Perhaps I might even converse with the people around me, and hear their stories. I will read on airplanes. I will read on buses. I will read on subways. I will read on trains. I will read on submarines. I will read on aircraft carriers. I will read everywhere! In fact, I will read on the subway and the bus, even if I have to take quick gulps, just a sentence or two that I can ponder, instead of checking social media for the last insipid update. Perhaps I might even read and ponder a poem. Both take the same amount of focus, both may lead me to the same car-sickness, but one is meaningful and long-lasting, and the other is the beat of a mayfly’s wings. When I am waiting and bored, I will pull out my book and immerse myself in an alternate world of wonder and insight, instead of checking my phone. I might, if I forgot my book, simply allow myself to be bored, and drift into that place of emergent creativity through my moment of boredom. I will read in the waiting time. I will read when I have to wait for an appointment. I will read when I’m waiting for an interview to begin. I will read when I’m holding on a conference call. I will read when my flight is delayed. I will read when my bus is stuck in traffic. I will read when I have to wait, instead of doing anything else....

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Review — The Ritual

Posted by on Jul 25, 2015 in All Other Posts, Reviews | 0 comments

THE RITUAL by Adam Nevill is an astonishingly well-written contemporary horror novel. It is my new favorite horror novel. The story is so solidly grounded in the reality of four friends lost in a Boreal forest, that by the time weird things start happening, you are utterly entranced and fully bought into their precarious situation, their small bits of in-fighting and their utter terror at being lost. Nevill writes with a convincing contemporary verisimilitude, and a sense of care for his characters that is sadly all too often lacking in contemporary horror, and that makes you feel their every shudder, grieve their every loss, and strive for their every triumph. In the small careful nuances of his story, Nevill makes you believe, and believe utterly what is happening to his characters — both in their inner lives, and the extreme conditions they are suffering. The story begins when a group of old friends take a wrong turn in a deep, dark Scandinavian forest. Not so bad at first, but it’s rainy, foggy, dank, and hard. The bonds that tie them together are gradually fraying as the physical conditions harden and lock around them, and they have few options to get out of the forest safe and sound. Then, just as things look dark, it appears they are being stalked, but by what? (I should point out that because Nevill writes in such a convincing fashion, this never feels hackneyed or overwrought, just matter of fact, like a bear in Alaska). However, the story keeps the adrenaline moving, as first one and then another is injured, and then their leader is…. You know what, I’m not going to give away this critical plot point here. Suffice it to say that I thought the story was a “chase in the forest” story, and then — startlingly — I turned the page to PART 2, where the story takes a hard right turn into a different kind of tale, yet just as entrancing, just as terrifying, and even more strange. Brilliant work, Nevill, and hard to carry off — yet he makes it look so, so easy, and fluid. A great new horror writer, and tops on my list! Highly, highly...

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Review – Mistress of the Art of Death

Posted by on Apr 28, 2015 in All Other Posts, Reviews | 0 comments

Ariana Franklin is the master of historical suspense, and I love what she did in MISTRESS OF THE ART OF DEATH. My favorite part of the book is her mock-Chaucerian beginning, where she quickly sketches the different characters who are approaching Cambridge after their Canterbury pilgrimage, and shows a fine eye for detail, humor, and human insight. Her protagonist — the inimitable and forthright Adelia — is an unusual character for a medieval novel, as she is a very intelligent, independent and free-going woman who is not allied with any particular church sect, any religious belief (she’s very modern in her agnosticism), or any racial or cultural identity (ie. raised Jewish/Christian, but not tied firmly to either one). She is therefore an anomaly, and might be unbelievable in the hands of a lesser writer. However, Franklin makes Adelia believable by giving us direct access to her inner thoughts, which are full of self-doubt, logical assertions and love-lorn longings. This makes this strong and powerful woman accessible to the reader, and makes her every action more believable, even though her assumptions and actions are very modern. She is a forensic specialist (the art of death) and is a woman who has determined that she won’t get married (and thus, won’t be allied to any male’s power) — this makes her potentially weak, but it also gives her a great deal of autonomy. I personally loved the twist ending, where the villain turns out to be a different kind of killer than you might have expected… and I love the clarity of her vision of the medieval world. My wife recommended this book to me several years ago, but since I was deep in the throes of writing my own medieval mystery novel Sinful Folk, I avoided reading Franklin’s work until I was done with a publishable draft. (I have the problem of getting derailed by other people’s good ideas.) I’m very glad I waited, as we approach similar ideas and stories from a different angle, and I’m glad to read Franklin with a fresh and uninhibited eye. I’m now looking forward to reading The Serpent’s Tale — the next novel featuring Adelia !(less)...

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Medieval Review of the Month – MISTRESS OF THE ART OF DEATH

Posted by on Jan 16, 2015 in All Other Posts, Reviews | 0 comments

Ariana Franklin is the master of historical suspense, and I love what she did in MISTRESS OF THE ART OF DEATH. My favorite part of the book is her mock-Chaucerian beginning, where she quickly sketches the different characters who are approaching Cambridge after their Canterbury pilgrimage, and shows a fine eye for detail, humor, and human insight. Her protagonist — the inimitable and forthright Adelia — is an unusual character for a medieval novel, as she is a very intelligent, independent and free-going woman who is not allied with any particular church sect, any religious belief (she’s very modern in her agnosticism), or any racial or cultural identity (ie. raised Jewish/Christian, but not tied firmly to either one). She is therefore an anomaly, and might be unbelievable in the hands of a lesser writer. However, Franklin makes Adelia believable by giving us direct access to her inner thoughts, which are full of self-doubt, logical assertions and love-lorn longings. This makes this strong and powerful woman accessible to the reader, and makes her every action more believable, even though her assumptions and actions are very modern. She is a forensic specialist (the art of death) and is a woman who has determined that she won’t get married (and thus, won’t be allied to any male’s power) — this makes her potentially weak, but it also gives her a great deal of autonomy. I personally loved the twist ending, where the villain turns out to be a different kind of killer than you might have expected… and I love the clarity of her vision of the medieval world. My wife recommended this book to me several years ago, but since I was deep in the throes of writing my own medieval mystery novel SINFUL FOLK, so I avoided reading Franklin’s work until I was done with a publishable draft. (I have the problem of getting derailed by other people’s good ideas.) I’m very glad I waited, as we approach similar ideas and stories from a different angle, and I’m glad to read Franklin with a fresh and uninhibited eye. I’m now looking forward to reading — the next novel featuring Adelia...

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Middle Ages Book Review – Morality Play

Posted by on Jan 16, 2015 in All Other Posts, Reviews | 0 comments

Morality Play, by Barry Unsworth, is a tight taut tale of a troupe of actors in 14th century England who enter a new village and find out about the murder of a local boy. In a twist unusual to their station in the culture and their tenuous place in life, they actually become involved in this local crime. In fact, they choose to create an original play (which was strange to do in the period) around the crime, in order to put the facts before the local village population. In the time period, this brave attempt to portray the contemporary life — and mysteries — of the village on stage, was strange and provocative. Given the facts of the events, it is close to heresy and treason. Rapidly, they become enmeshed in a mystery that involves far more than a boy’s murder, and the play they thought they were creating has ramifications beyond this small village — in fact, this drama includes some of the most powerful nobles in England at the time. The story really plays with the idea that every person is an actor in their own drama. As another reviewer pointed out, this sentiment was expressed by Shakespeare in his famous quotation, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” In this novel, I personally loved the complicated period-appropriate characters. Nicholas, who narrates the story, is philosophical and has strong psychological insights. I also like Martin Ball, who is the head of the acting troupe. The other actors are fully fleshed characters with believable back stories. In fact, I liked the acting troupe so much, that I gave them a small walk-on role in my own novel of the Middle Ages, Sinful Folk: […] Nicholas, Martin and the other members of the troupe are briefly featured in a scene outside the Monastery, just after my own travelers have been sent out on the open road. Morality Play is more than a commentary or a murder mystery. Instead, it functions as an analysis of the idea of drama and fakery, of stagecraft and lifecraft, of roles and the masks we all wear. I highly recommend the...

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