Friday, May 27, 2011

The Case For Falling In Love by Mari Ruti

Mari Ruti is an associate professor of critical theory at the University of Toronto where she teaches contemporary theory, psychoanalysis, gender studies and popular culture.  She brings this educational background to the study of why and how we fall in love and what works and what doesn't for women.

Ruti insists that the common advise women are given; to downplay their strengths and to consciously play games to make a make feel more powerful are instead counterproductive.  It is unlikely that a relationship based on fantasy will be long-lived or provide what the people involved need.  She goes further and says that women should consider each relationship on its own merits and understand that all may not be long-lived.  Even a failed relationship can provide benefits.

Ruti provides eleven relationship touchstones.  They are:

1.  Stop trying so hard.  You can't force or trick someone into loving you.
2.  Stop being so cautious.  The benefits of love come only when one is open to them.
3.  Stop analyzing your every move.  This goes back to the need to not play games.
4.  Stop expecting your guy to act like a caveman.  Men are not genetically programmed to act this way, although some relationship mavens insist this is so.  Men can be truly emotionally involved in giving and supportive relationships.
5.  Stop apologizing for being strong.  If a man can't handle a woman's strength and competence, the relationship is probably not going to work.
6.  Stop being afraid to have needs and vulnerabilities.  If a relationship doesn't give you what you need, you need to end it.
7.  Stop running after guys who don't want you.  You won't be able to change them.
8.  Stop looking for a guy without issues.  He doesn't exist any more than a female exists without issues.
9.  Stop manipulating the guy you love. 
10.  Stop regretting every false step you took.  It is a rare person that doesn't encounter some failed love relationships.  It is part of what makes us human and realistic about what love can provide in our lives.
11.  Stop looking at loss as a pure loss.  Even a failed relationship helps you grow.

This book is recommended for women who want to find real relationships, not ones based on artifice and games.  It helps deconstruct the myths that exist about relationships and why they work or don't.  It frees women to be themselves and expect their men to appreciate their true selves.  Mari Ruti has created a useful guide and an unorthodox way of looking at what it takes to have a successful love life and those who read this book will walk away with lots of new ideas to think through and apply in their own lives.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

So Close The Hand Of Death by J.T. Ellison

Homicide Lieutenant Taylor Jackson should be happy.  She is engaged to the love of her life, Baldwin, and they are getting ready to marry.  But the life of a homicide detective is rarely peaceful, and Taylor's is no exception.  Her life turns upside down when a serial killer decides that she is his next target and that he will stop at nothing to achieve his goal.

The killer, nicknamed The Pretender, attacks on two fronts.  He has a cadre of assistants who have fanned out across the country and are killing in homage of famous past serial killers such as Zodiac, Son of Sam and The Boston Strangler.  While the police are putting those puzzle pieces together, he acts on the main front.  He and his team start to attack those close to Taylor, her friends and co-workers, inching ever closer to the main goal, putting an end to Taylor's life.

This is the sixth book in the Taylor Jackson series.  Those who have read the others won't be disappointed in this fast-paced, gruesome tale.  Those who have not read any of the other books in the series can easily pick this one up and read it as a stand-alone, although that plan comes with a warning.  Once a reader discovers the Taylor Jackson series, they will want to go back immediately and buy the five prior books to feed their new addiction.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark

Evie and Martin have come to India in 1947, bringing their young son and their hopes for a renewed marriage.  Madly in love when they married, Martin has come home from WW II a changed man.  He is now gloomy and suspicious, and seems more remote each day.  Martin is awarded a Fulbright scholarship to go to India to study the effects of the Partition, the breaking of the country into Hindu and Muslim separate countries.  Evie is determined to go with him and try to rediscover the love she is sure they still have.

Once there, things are no better.  India is so foreign to all they have known; the people, the smells, the food, everything is different.  Far from bringing them together, they become even more separated with Martin disappearing each day to work long hours.  The political situation deteriorates when the date for Partition is moved from two years in the future to two months, escalating the tensions that accompany such a drastic change in the country and the lives of those who live there.

Evie, at loose ends, discovers a packet of letters from a former inhabitant.  The letters are between Adela Wingfield and Felicity Chadwick, two young women who wrote them in 1855-1857.  Felicity had been born in India; her parents in the British ruling class.  At seven she was sent to board with an English family to be educated and introduced to society.  Adela is the daughter of that family.  Raised as sisters, they form a bond that cannot be broken; making a pact to live in joy rather than be confined by the rules of society.  Felicity returns to India to escape a marriage she does not want, and Adela joins her there after a scandal threatens to break around her. 

Evie becomes consumed with Felicity and Adela's story, and is determined to find out more about the lives of these women.  Her attempts lead her to engage more fully with India and its people.  As the political situation worsens, Martin's actions become more remote until finally his wartime secrets are revealed.  Can these two find a way back to each other in the midst of strife and confusion?

Elle Newmark is a master of the historical fiction genre.  She writes novels with believable characters, whose hopes and dreams the average reader can relate to.  The reader is transported to another time and effortlessly learns about different times, cultures, and mores.  This book is recommended for historical fiction readers and those interested in life conflicts.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Progeny by R.T. Kaelin

Rarely, readers are honored to discover a book that is so entrancing, so fascinating, that they are carried away to another land.  Progeny is such a book, and those who read it will be changed by the experience.

Nikalys and his sister, Kenders leave their small farm to go swimming for the afternoon.  Little do they know their trip will change their lives forever.  Returning after their swim, they are horrified to observe a Sun Elf using magic to destroy their village and everyone they have known, including their parents and brother, Jak.  They flee, unsure what to do or why their village has been targeted.

Fearful, they are unwilling to trust anyone, but find themselves in the company of a giant man who somehow wins their trust.  This man, Broedi reveals much to them as they travel.  He reminds them of the story underlying their society, that of the White Lions who came together to save humanity when the God of Chaos decided to destroy the world.  The ancient stories that tell of the White Lions also foretell of new heroes that will emerge when the world needs them--the Progeny.  Nikalys and Kenders are shocked to find that Broedi is one of the White Lions and a Shapeshifter, but totally disoriented when they come to realise that they are the Progeny of the legends.

For Chaos is again making an attempt to destroy all that is known.  As they determine to fight the forces of evil, their group is joined by others.  Wonderfully, they discover that Jak has somehow escaped the carnage that destroyed the village and is able to join them.  A Halfling with magic powers becomes one of the band.  A company of soldiers that is sent by the Sun Elf to find and destroy them instead become part of the group.  They save a family out on the remote plains, and the surviving members of that family also start to travel with them.  Together, this small band must attempt to fight the overwhelming forces of evil that are determined to destroy everything they hold dear.

Robert Jordan.  George R. R. Martin.  Stephen Donaldon.  Brandon Sanderson.  These are the masters of fantasy and readers of Progeny will be able to discover a new voice that is destined to match those authors.  R.T. Kaelin has created a complex world that his original and creative storytelling manages to make realistic and believable.  The characters are fresh and engaging.  While the story of good versus evil and a band who comes together to fight overwhelming odds is a staple of the fantasy genre, Kaelin manages to make it seem new again.  He draws the reader along marveling at the story that unfolds and willing to go wherever he leads.  The book is very highly recommended for all readers, and especially for fantasy fans.  When the last page is read, readers are left satisfied, fulfilled and impatient for the next book in the series. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Promised Valley Rebellion by Ron Fritsch

In this novel, Ron Fritsch recreates what he imagines a prehistoric society to have been like.  The characters in this society are farmers and lead an agrarian live, raising crops and dependant on the season's cycles.  Life is simple except for the hill dwellers.

The hill dwellers are envious of the valley farmers, and periodically mount forays in which they attempt to conquer the more affluent society.  The farmers, in turn, consider the hill people to be little more than animals.

While life seems bucolic, the society is strictly set up by caste.  The king and his family are absolute rulers.  He has friends among the farmers he rules, especially those who fought at his side during the wars against the hill people, but friendship only goes so far.  Although his son is friends with their children, there is a strict dividing line.  When he falls in love with a farmer's daughter, their love and marriage is forbidden.  This eventually leads to a rebellion against the strictures that confine these people.

This book is recommended for readers who loved books such as Clan Of The Cave Bear.  The same imaginative recreation of life that cannot be realistically known is seen in Promised Valley Rebellion.   Fritsch explores how societies organize themselves and how they use rules and laws to order life.  There are an interesting array of characters, and readers will be engrossed with his vision.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Finding Frances by Janice Van Dyck

Frances has led her life; raising three children and providing a partnership with her husband, Bill.  Now in her seventies, she finds herself in deteriorating health with COPD and heart issues.  Frances has always been determined to end her life on her own terms.  She nursed her father through a long painful death and does not want to either go through that or put her family through the experience of watching her die inch by inch.

The children, long scattered, come home when Frances is hospitalized.  She is determined to have no surgery or treatments.  William is the eldest son and the middle child.  He was to have been the doctor, but stopped his medical training short of that goal due to his disagreements with Western medicine.  Sugar, the oldest child, has remained physically close to her parents, and sees her mother's condition realistically.  Randy, the youngest, is an environmental lawyer who has checked out from the family emotionally years ago.  Frances' husband, Bill, is determined to do whatever it takes to keep Frances with him for as long as he can.

Frances agrees to have treatment when she finds out that her insurance will pay for treatment but not for hospice care if she does nothing and takes a while to die.  She gets through the initial treatment and she and her family must make decisions about life and death going forward from that point.  Who should be the final decider?  Should it be the individual involved?  Should spouses and children have a say?  How involved in research and questioning the medical establishment should the family be?  Van Dyck wraps her novel around these questions.

This book is recommended for readers who are facing this question, or know that they will in the future, and for anyone interested in ethical dilemmas and how best to solve them.  The characters are written to portray all the sides of the issue, and the reader is led through their decision processes, hesitations and questions.  This is a common issue and one that can heal or tear a family apart.  Van Dyck has written a courageous book that can help readers make the painful decisions necessary.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lydia by Tim Sandlin

How to explain this book, Tim Sandlin's latest novel in his GroVont series.  There's Sam, living his life in Wyoming running a home for unwed mothers with his second wife.  His first wife Maurey lives right down the road where she runs a horse farm.  His daughter, Shannon has lived her life moving from man to man and now wants more and has returned to Wyoming to search for her life's meaning.  Roger is the organization's handyman; he was raised by Maurey and her husband after a friend showed up and left him there as a young boy of five.  Roger didn't talk for two years and still doesn't know his history.  There is Oly, the oldest man in town, about to turn one hundred.  Then there is Lydia.  Lydia is Sam's mother but you wouldn't really call her a maternal figure.  She is a force of nature, a woman who doesn't care what you think of her as long as you do what she wants and don't ignore her.  Lydia has just returned to town after a ten year stint in federal prison.  The government doesn't take kindly to women who send poisoned chew toys to the President's dog.

All these lives tangle together and lead towards a fateful journey.  Lydia believes she knows the truth about Roger's past and talks him into driving her to California to look for what happened to him so many years ago.  Since her parole involves her getting the oral history of Oly's life, she brings him along.  In California they will encounter Leroy, a felon who kidnapped Roger back when he was five to hurt his mother, and who is now on the loose and wants nothing more than to finish the job by killing him.

Sandlin writes a rollicking tale, full of coincidences that somehow work.  The tale swoops and soars, twisting back on itself periodically to drop another piece into the puzzle of how these lives are intertwined.  Sandlin's writing is rambling and in the genre of Tom Robbins or T.R. Pearson; reminiscent of an Americanized Salman Rushdie, a gushing torrent of words that is unstoppable in its force and that entertains as it sweeps the reader along.  This book is recommended for readers interested in an entertaining story that shows the importance of being true to those we love. 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Walking With Sophie by Adam Webb

It is Sophie's birthday and she plans to visit all her favorite places.  She starts at the ocean where she loves to gather seashells and watch the waves.  Her mother told her that every time a wave crashes on the shore, a mermaid is born (what a lovely thought!).

Next is the forest.  She loves the smells and sights there, and the fact that her father lets her ride on his shoulders, making her feel like a giant.  She next visits the bakery where she spends time with her grandmother, tasting all the sweet treats.  Finally, she finds her favorite place of all, her home with her family safe and sound there.

This book is sure to be a favorite.  The illustrations are stunning and the story is one that children will love to hear over and over.  At the end of the book, there is a surprise that will continue to amaze.  This book is recommended for the young and the young at heart.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sons And Princes by James LePore

Chris Massi is in a bad patch.  He has spent his life trying to avoid his father's world.  His father was a stone cold Mafia assassin; the local Don's hitman.  Chris tried to go the other way.  He grew up, married, had children and had a promising career as a U.S. Attorney.  But, forces from the past keep haunting him. 

The marriage didn't last, and Chris has been on his own.  He is worried about his teenage son, who seems to glory in the family's Mafia connections.  Chris's ex-wife is the daughter of the current Don, and this Don is looking for an heir to take over the operation.  His brother is a junkie, who scams and cons his way through life, skirting on the edges of the Family.  Chris has just been disbarred.  An old friend turned enemy has vowed to bring Chris down.  This man, Dolan, is a federal prosecutor.  He was Chris' best friend growing up until Joe Black Massi, Chris's father, gunned down Dolan's father.  He charged Chris on trumped up charges of stock fraud and when Chris was acquitted, managed to push through ethical charges against him that got him disbarred.

As bad as things are, they are about to get worse.  Chris gets caught up in a Mafia power struggle and his life is in danger from the men he knew all his life.  In addition, Dolan has decided that he will take out Chris; either legally through a trumped-up murder charge or by physically killing him.  Can Chris make his way through this maze of intrigue, betrayal and violence?

This book is recommended for readers who like noir crime stories.  It portrays the world of the Mafia, and the street life that surrounds the family's operations.  The conflict that sons feel toward strong fathers, loving and hating them simultaneously is explored.  There is plenty of action.  Fans of Mafia stories will not be disappointed; this one delivers.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Iconic Poetry by Sara Lauritzen

In this book, Sara Laurtizen write poems about the items that make up our world.  There are poems about Starbucks coffee, about macaroni and cheese, about Godiva chocolates.  There are also poems about the technology that makes our world work; Ebay, Amazon, Twitter, Facebook.  There are poems about watches, famous buildings, and luggage.  There is even a poem about her favorite football player.

These poems are light and breezy.  Each is an interesting way to spend a few minutes and to reflect on the things that surround us and that we can take for granted.  This book is recommended for all readers.