What She Knew by Gilly MacMillan ~ Fiction #Book Review

25817531This book is about a boy who runs ahead of his mom in the woods, and disappears. Scary because it happens so quick. Scary, because the mother not only has to deal with her fear for her missing child, but also the fallout from the media and the scathing  scrutiny of the public who judge her every move and decision. Scary, because what happens in this book is possible. Everything on the pages combines to create a reality that leaves the reader tense and breathless.

Gilly MacMillan is definitely an author to keep an eye on. What She Knew, her debut novel, is a taut, suspenseful ride that kept me guessing until the very end. I found myself wishing I could stay up late to finish the last 80 pages. The writing is deep, insightful and poignant. 5 stars.

 

Titanic Exhibit at the Portland Science Center

Hidden down a side street, and occupying the second and third floor of a building only a stone’s throw from the water, the Portland Science Center opened in the summer of 2015. I missed their first display, the popular Body Worlds exhibit that’s been traveling across the nation, but I was excited to attend their newest show that opened just this past weekend: Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition.

After all, who can resist Jack and Rose and love that never dies and . . . oh, yeah, this isn’t about the movie. It’s about the actual ship and the tragedy that struck in the form of an iceberg on its maiden voyage in 1912, killing 1517 people. It’s about the artifacts that have been recovered, items that may seem mundane until you consider that they’ve been recovered from over 12,500 feet beneath the ocean’s surface. It’s about remembering those that lost their lives.

There’s not much I can say to elaborate on what you probably already know. I will say that the exhibit was an experience I’m glad to have not missed. The Science Center did a great job of personalizing the experience by issuing a replica ticket to each patron, with the details of one passenger on the back side. At the end of the exhibit there are memorial walls where you can discover the fate of ‘your’ passenger.

Also on display are replicas of the rooms, menus, and items provided by the shipping company for the comfort of its passengers, all examples of the separation of the classes on-board the ship.

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If you get the chance, step back in time and experience the short-lived history of the Titanic. It’s a truly humbling experience.

The Lover by Marguerite Duras ~ Book Review

275I was hesitant to read this book because I’m not much of a romance reader. But, as it turns out, this book isn’t much of a romance. What it is is an elegantly written work of art.

I found this book to be a study in contradictions. At times provoking vivid imagery, at other times sparse and simplistic, the prose reads like poetry, simultaneously emotional and detached. The style tends towards the abstract, but sharpens at times to be cuttingly exact. There are passages that are shockingly beautiful and insightful.

Strange, lonely, angry, but definitely worth the time it took to absorb this short read. A must for writers wishing to expose themselves to a broader experience. 5 stars.

 

 

Adventures with Asparagus

I like asparagus. Imagine that said to the tune of I like turtles. I know those extra syllables throw it off a little, but you get the idea. I hope. Anyways, I like asparagus, but they tend to be pricey up here in the northeast and they like to try and force you to buy a big bundle which you have to eat immediately or they go slimey and bad and and then money is wasted, and since no one’s going to pay me to film a TV reality series called When Vegetables Go Bad, I  end up putting ginormous portions of asparagus on our dinner plates. (I’m going somewhere with this, I promise, just stick with me a bit longer).

So I’m trying this whole growing my own fruit and veggies thing, and I discover that asparagus are not only a perennial, but also that they will survive the snowy winter to come back year after year. The only catch is that you have to wait a few years for your first harvest. So I thought to myself, “You better get started, then.” So I did. And then I waited. And waited. And waited. Going out to my asparagus patch, day after day looking for something, seeing nothing, wondering if an underground rodent stole my crop or if my seedlings were bad. Staring at the dirt, feeling like an idiot, thinking, “I like asparagus,” to the tune of that little zombie kid saying, “I like turtles.” And now we’ve come full circle.

Then, after two months, when I’ve almost given up hope, I see this:

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Looks like an asparagus, doesn’t it. So, instead of staring at the dirt, I got to look at this little guy while I crouched down next to the garden bed and cheered him on. Then this happened:

IMG_20160607_093802632     And this:            IMG_20160607_093752329

Now this:

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And more little asparagi raise their little heads and branch out into weird looking things every day. I wasn’t wasting my time! And the moral of the story is, if you’ve planted asparagus and you’re getting tired of staring at dirt, wait a little longer, my friend. If you plant them, they will come. You just won’t be able to harvest them for the first two or three years. And since I have no idea how to harvest asparagus, that, too, will be an adventure!

Dark Tide by Elizabeth Haynes ~ Fiction Book Review

16233477This author’s debut novel, Into the Darkest Corner, left me breathless. It was the epitome of psychological suspense. I couldn’t put it down. Haynes had made my ‘must read everything this author has ever written’ list before I even finished the book. Just so you know, it’s a short list.

Imagine my delight when I stumbled upon another book written by Elizabeth Haynes at my local used bookstore. I usually consider myself lucky if I can find one of the authors on the crumpled ‘to read’ list I keep in my wallet. To find the author I want the most? Well, that’s my lucky day!

I left the store with the book in my hand and a smile on my face. Hmmm. At this point, you’ve probably noticed that I’m three paragraphs into a review and I still haven’t mentioned the book I’m reviewing. Double Hmmm.

Disclaimer. I know that writing a book isn’t the easiest thing to do. A lot of time and dedication goes into committing tens of thousands of words on to paper. I also believe in supporting authors. If the book is well written, if the plot is solid, if I enjoyed the book or can think of a valid excuse (I’m moody) of why I didn’t enjoy it as much as I hoped and why you might enjoy it more, I give it 5 stars. If a book is generally good but has some issues, maybe the pacing is off or the writing style detracts from the story, I give it 4 stars. If the author has seriously pissed me off, as in, they have talent and imagination but I just spent hours of my life reading something that wasn’t their best effort (to put it politely), I give it 3 stars. I don’t review books I can’t give at least 3 stars.

Now that that’s said, here’s my review. This book is about a woman who had worked as a stripper. It’s mentioned on the back page blurb, and since I really enjoyed the other book I read by this author, it wouldn’t have affected my decision to read the book (had I read the blurb before buying). However, when a stripper character muses about how empowering it is to be a stripper, how it’s a victory for women’s lib, and then that character is weak, stupid, vapid, generally unlikable, and only concerned with men and being desirable, well, that’s not a victory for anyone.

The book was well written, I’ll give Haynes that, but the plot? The only suspense or mystery I experienced was wondering when Haynes was going to wow me. I’m still waiting. This book left me so underwhelmed that I’m seriously wondering if maybe I was wrong about the other book I read by her. Maybe there was an uncapped Sharpie nearby when I was reading? Or the mushrooms on the pizza were ‘special’. This book had potential, but it seemed to be more a venue for the author to explore her personal fantasies than to woo her readers with suspense and intrigue. I’m not sure I’ll be giving any of her other books a chance. 3 stars.