Literature

Twelves Ways Into My Heart

1. Hannah Tinti is a literary lyricist I can’t get enough of.

2. Not many authors can turn prose into poetry but Tinti pulls IMG_2760it off like there’s nothing to it.

3. Samuel Hawley is one of the truest characters I’ve read.

4. Hawley’s “hits” and jobs don’t feel like they’re coming from a trained professional, but from a guy relying on his common sense, and becomes a professional because of it.

5. Lily is the perfect love story for Hawley.

6. Lily’s touch is all over Hawley and Loo’s lives and Tinti pulled it off without feeling overbearing or cliché.

7. Loo goes on a transformative journey as she learns of her father’s past, how she fit in it, and what their future relationship will look like.

8. Loo’s own love story is still open to possibilities.

9. Marshall is the love story that Loo needed.

10. Marshall goes on his own transformative journey as his life intertwines with Loo’s.

11. Tinti is masterful at making every character we encounter essential to the story.

12. This story will live in my heart for a long time, and I know it will live in yours as well.

 

 

 

By: Emily Coleman

The Hermit

The Stranger in the Woods caught me off guard. The back cover sounded interesting enough to pick up and while I don’t read much nonfiction, but one seemed worth while. Michael Finkel’s writing hooked me and I fell under a calming trance during the story.

As much as I love being with friends and family, I appreciate solitude. Nothing is better than a quiet apartment a book. And still better, my family’s farm in rural Minnesota. Moving to New York helped remind me what real silence is like. Whenever I visit home, I walk the perimeter of our property and listen to the quiet, feel the stillness, talk to the cats. The Stranger in the Woods is like that; its slow, its quiet.IMG_2714

Christopher Knight lived for 27 years in the middle of the Maine woods. He robbed local cabins to supply himself with food and provisions. Knight was finally arrested when he was caught stealing from a camp and forced to reenter society. The story itself is true so I don’t want to comment on it, but I will talk a little on the execution.

Michael Finkel starts the story with a fiction narration style about the night Christopher Knight was arrested. From there, Finkel devolves to facts about Knight’s court case, doctors diagnosis’ of Knights intense introvert personality, and his own fascination with the whole situation.It seems odd that Finkel would leave his family in Colorado to travel to Maine several times while Knight is incarcerated, until he reveals he’s a journalist who has written similar pieces about “hermits” for National Geographic. Finkel spends a decent amount of the book talking about hermits throughout the centuries and from different cultures. Knight doesn’t fit the hermit mold, and I think this is what interested Finkel. People didn’t know what to do with Knight. He committed hundreds of counts of burglaries but didn’t hurt anyone physically. No one even saw him physically. Half the victims didn’t seem to mind, given rural Maine’s own code of ethics, and the other half were furious with him. There was no clean cut way to convict him.

Knight was a mystery to everyone and Finkel portrayed him as such. At times I would admire Knight and in the next paragraph be reminded that Knight isn’t the nicest person. He wants nothing to do with other people and isn’t cowed into expressing otherwise. For the reader who sticks with fiction, The Stranger in the Woods doesn’t have a tangible ending like you expect from most fiction. Knight is adamant that him and Finkel aren’t friends, and Finkel should never contact him again. So Finkel goes home, and that’s the end of the story. Finkel saw Knight reintroduced to society through to the end and that’s probably as far as the story will go.

There wasn’t closure, per se. Knight has disappeared into society as best he can. His story is still a moral dilemma.I don’t know if I can whole heartily decide if he should have been punished or not. I can say with conviction that I thoroughly enjoyed The Stranger in the Woods. It reminded me that silence does still exist, and
how filling and calming silence can be. I sort of understand why Knight fully cocooned himself in the woods. His silent story made me nostalgic for the farm and I know my mother would love a visit from her bit city daughter.

Field Nurse’s Horror

The Fire By Night by Teresa Messineo is a historical fiction book about World War ll. It’s an event authors continue to use as their back drop, probably because of the savagery of it, the horrors of the Holocaust that continue to peak our morbid curiosity. Teresa Messineo doesn’t focus on the Holocaust, doesn’t even bring it up. Instead she tells us the stories of the field nurses. The women who volunteered, were sent overseas with the troops and set up medical tents img_2424amongst the fighting to care for the soldiers as soon as they were wounded. The Fire By Night follows two friends after they’ve been dispatched to their separate posts and the horrors they faced.

Jo and Kay met in nursing school and when they enlist together, they are sent to opposite ends of the world. Jo spends most of this story in France. She was left behind in a makeshift medical tent, waiting for the convoy to bring them to the hospital that never comes back. Kay is among thousands of people in a Japanese POW camp in Manila. While Jo stays busy keeping her six patients alive with her dwindling supplies, Kay reminisces about Hawaii before Pearl Harbor and write to Jo, knowing these letters will never reach her. Both women survive but will battle their demons while trying to figure out how to live in civilization once again.

Teresa Messineo managed to turn prose into poetry. Everything on the page was eloquent and gut wrenching. Messineo dug deep into what these women were thinking, how they were feeling, what they did to survive. My one critique of the story is from the middle; while chapters alternated between Jo and Kay, they became repetitive. Both women would feel such dismay, they wanted to give up altogether, but something would happen right at the end of the chapter, they would remember why they couldn’t give up and their spirits would be lifted enough to make it through to the next day. This went on for several chapters until both women were recused from their respective prisons.

It’s always good to stretch out of your genre once in a while. I’ve always enjoyed the historical fiction I’ve rea, I just have to remind myself not to take it as truth. Teresa Messineo’s writing easily makes this book worth reading. I really did enjoy seeing World War ll from a nurse’s point of view. Jo and Kay were strong and vulnerable in all the right ways. With The Fire By Night being Messineo’s debut novel, I can’t imagine what will be next.

 

 

By Emily Coleman

Physics in Poetry

It’s not often I read a book filled with math and physics and astronomy, it’s also not often a fiction novel makes reading math equations and physics and astronomy an easy and enjoyable experience. Antonia Hayes pulled it off with Relativity. There was an immense amount of research that went into creating this story and while I didn’t understand all of what I read, I appreciated the work Hayes put into her novel.IMG_1057

Ethan Forsythe is an extraordinarily intelligent 12 year old. He can see physics happening around him and doctors can’t explain why. His single mother, Claire, tries to keep life normal for Ethan as life around him grows unpredictable. Ethan’s father, Mark, has been out of the picture since Ethan was an infant but recently comes back to town to deal with some immediate family matters. Ethan is old enough to question his mother extensively about Mark’s absence but Claire doesn’t want to talk about the past when the past has crept of the shadows in a violent manifestation already.
Claire is a fiercely loyal mother even as the wall she built around her heart and Ethan’s well-being is tested with Mark’s arrival. Mark has a lot to answer for about his demons from the past, from both Claire and Ethan.

Antonia Hayes created a dysfunctional family with a dark secret not often touched upon. Ethan was a great characters, with a good balance of boy genius and naïve 12 year old. Claire’s emotional range was all over the place and was hard to keep up with at times. Mark and Ethan’s interactions felt stiff and uncomfortable but not in the “father, son just reunited” sort of way. Hayes does have a smooth and flowing writing style, though. There was enough tension that I wanted to know what was going to happen next. I became more invested in the story than I expected. When Hayes writers her next novel, I’ll be more than happy to give it a read.

Don’t Let Your Smoke Show

Smoke first intrigued me because of the watercolor cover. I’m a sucker for watercolor. The deep blues and purples and reds gave it a romantic feel but the shadowed tower in the background left an ominous and mysterious feeling. The back of the book talked about smoke emitting from people’s bodies in a sinful fashion. Well now I had to read it to find out what all this smoke was about.

Dan Vyleta is an old hand at writing novels and it shows. I haven’t read any of his other work but I imagine it all to be as beautifully written as Smoke is. It did take me a couple IMG_1003of chapters to fully comprehend what the smoke was. But it is a physical manifestation that uses orifices and pores to escape a person’s body. Set during the mid-1800s, religion and aristocracy were held in high standard. Smoke is the physical release of intense emotions and considered “sinful.” Aristocrats didn’t do things as common as “smoke.” But everyone has intense emotions of one kind or another so the aristocrats have poured money into devices that will bind their smoke so it doesn’t manifest on their body.

Vyleta has created a thrilling novel filled with all manner of characters who live in London and its outskirts. There is a love triangle that forms between the three main characters, which I wasn’t crazy about as it formed, but I didn’t hate it by the end either. Vyleta could easily continue this story with Livia, Thomas, and Charlie as they move onward, on the heels of the revolution, but Smoke wrapped up nicely as a standalone novel as well. I was very pleased with my first encounter with Dan Vyleta and will keep a look out for future work.

Everyone Has a Dysfunctional Family

First of all, The Nest has a beautiful cover. It looks elegant and sophisticated and the writing didn’t disappoint. I was blown away. Not only by Sweeney’s writing style, but by her handling of characters and their understanding of the situations around them. There is a secret part of myself that loves small town gossip and Sweeney has an exquisite talent at baring the depths of the human condition.IMG_0431

The Nest closely follows 4 siblings as they
eagerly await the release of the funds stashed away by their deceased father. Each have their own agenda for the funds that exploded in the mutual investment stocks until the eldest sibling makes a grave mistake and their emotionally elusive mother sweeps in for damage control. The family implodes when they realize each sibling will receive a fraction of what they were expecting.

The Plump family are no more dysfunctional than most but it’s not often you are privy to the raw honesty Sweeney portrays. She delves deep, revealing each characters secrets, longings, and selfishness. Sweeney even explores the family’s friends and acquaintances. Not one character felt flat. I still think about them, wondering how Stephanie is doing, is Melody happy, where is Leo now? There are many characters that flit in and out of my head, but I feel like the Plump family will stay with me for a long time.

Theorem of Numbers

Everything about Ethan Canin’s writing is beautiful and meaningful. Each sentence is carefully structured to evoke the exact feelings and response Canin wants to inflict on his readers. A Doubters Almanac is split into two sections. The first section we follow Milo IMG_0254Andret, a genius mathematician, as he grows up and becomes a Professor at Princeton. He drinks and womanizes his way to us unceremonious termination from Princeton. Then Canin switches to the point of view from Hans, Milo’s son. Hans recounts his childhood, growing up with a washed up mathematician for a father. Both of Milo’s children are as mathematically inclines as Milo but Hans is expected to carry on the Andret name.

Canin uses two points of view masterfully for both sections. While we watch Milo’s comings and goings through life, Canin uses more of an objective 3rd point of view. The reader watches Milo but doesn’t get inside his head and hear his feelings. With Hans’ section, Canin moves to a more omniscient point of view and the reader gets to know Hans intimately. We know his fears and worries and joys. It’s a brilliant technique to help us understand these two dynamic characters. My only complaint was Hans’ section time jumped quite a bit. While Mio’s section stayed linear, Hans would move from present to past to further past, back to present. It wasn’t necessarily difficult to follow but sometimes it took me a page or two to figure out what time period we were in.

Even as I was reading A Doubters Almanac, I was recommending it to everyone I talked to. Ethan Canin has a talent and writing craft I haven’t read in a while. I enjoyed his storytelling voice and the deep and raw character analysis Canin presents. I’ll be seeking out his other works, and waiting for his future novels.

 

 

By Emily Coleman