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GYPSY MOTH SUMMER: A Novel ~Julia Fierro

Monday, June 26th, 2017

GYPSY MOTH SUMMER is being praised as the must read of the summer of 2017.  I have seen lots of promotional material for the book and was looking forward to having an opportunity to read and review this book as presented by TLC Book Tours . The Huffington Post was truly wrapping lots of energy around this highly anticipated book.

I jumped right into the read and it compelled me to stick with the book from cover to cover.  I just knew that somehow this story was not going to end well, and then again maybe I was hoping that it was not going to end well for the people on Avalon Island – the wealthy and the poor.  The story is a tragedy.

I knew many of these character types and I lived through this period of time with great awareness and a budding interest in ecological studies.  I was beginning to understand pollution and how cycles of problems exist and I lived through several Tent Caterpillar infestations and could hear the squish, crackle of walking on the creatures under my feet and know the sticky goo that stuck to everything; really creepy was the critters falling onto your hair and body.

I need to back up here and outline the story of the island people and their sordid, limited view of the world.  Many characters were introduced and before and after each chapter there was information about the Gypsy Moth’s life cycle and years of infestation.  How they marked the world in a very disgusting and filthy pattern.  Because the island was experiencing an infestation throughout the story, which paralleled the slimy behaviors of the community, I did not enjoy the read as much as I thought I would.

About THE GYPSY MOTH SUMMER:

“The summer the Gypsy Moths descended, an even more toxic pest was spreading its way through the people of Avalon. East Avalon is the upper crust, built with generations of military engineers who had exchanged their Navy whites and blues for suits and offices, while West Avalon families hailed from generations of factory workers.

In the summer of 1992, Maddie LaRosa tries to figure out how to survive high school and its queen bee, Bitsy, and worries about maintaining her East Avalon persona and picture-perfect family life. Meanwhile, Leslie Day Marshall, daughter of Avalon Island’s most established wasp-y monarch, has just moved back home with her husband, Jules, who is black, and their kids. Their move from a one bedroom apartment in “the City” to “The Castle” isn’t as big as the change from the melting pot of New York City to the homogeneity of East Avalon. Jules and Leslie’s presence triggers tensions, romances, and unusual alliances that simmer all summer and lead to violence that leaves the community atomized forever.

Diving deep into research on gypsy moths, Fierro was inspired by her own childhood on Long Island, and the tensions that exist in a community where there are two economically different sides of town. Also included in her acute observations are the political tensions of 1992 during a different Clinton campaign and the rise in cancer rates due to the community’s water pollution. Grounded in real events, Fierro’s writes an intense and engrossing story that will stick with you long after the tragic ending.”    (From the promotional materials)

The teenagers in the story were the same unhappy, drunken, drugging, sniffing, nasty behavior laden kids I knew back then and tried to stay away.  They felt so entitled and are still acting entitled as they move into the Medicare years.  They still deny climate problems and toxic waste sites.  They feel they can just purchase their way out of everything.  Fierro wrote about them with brilliance and they were awful in the story as they were in person.  The sad thing is that they have been trying to lead the world now and be the leaders because they are “rich” and they are just as awful to encounter today as they were.  I still attempt to stay away but they keep trying to damage health care, public schools, and destroy social programs – they want to make money from schools and prisons and they truly do not care about human beings.

The story is very bright and capable and does keenly capture a segment of our community and wrap them in Moth slime tying them up smartly in a bow.  It was my pleasure to finish reading the book and be done with it.  GYPSY MOTH SUMMER left me wondering how to help people change and want to live by kindness.  There was no attempt to illuminate the future in GYPSY MOTH SUMMER.

“Fierro doesn’t just observe, she knows. Like all great novelists, she gives us the world.” – Amy Bloom, bestselling author of Away and Lucky Us

About the Author:

“JULIA FIERRO is the founder of The Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop, a creative home to more than 4,000 writers in New York City, Los Angeles and online. Her first novel CUTTING TEETH, was praised by The Boston Globe (“at once modern and timeless”) and The New Yorker (“a comically energetic début”).

Related:
Natchez Burning
The Secrets of Worry Dolls
A Tale for the Time Being

NATCHEZ BURNING: A Novel ~Greg Iles

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

The first book in a trilogy that will just knock you over it is so compelling and non-stop.  The action and history is condensed into an 800-page turner of a book, which fills in history and the violence of the 1960s that continues into 2005.

NATCHES BURNING was sent to me by TLC Book Tours and I have to admit I was not too thrilled as I was already reviewing 7 books for them this month and this gem was 800 pages and part of a 3 way deal.  Whew!   I am not hugely a fan of thrillers either although this one had some historic merit, which found me interested.  Then I read what Stephen King wrote on the cover:

“ Natchez Burning is extraordinarily entertaining and fiendishly suspenseful.  I defy you to start it and find a way to put it down; as long as it is, I wished it were longer.  There’s a bonus: You’ll finish knowing a great deal about the Deep South’s painful struggle toward racial equality, and the bloody road between Then and Now.  Only a southern man could have written this book, and thank God Greg Iles was there to do the job.  This is an amazing work of popular fiction.”

There was so much history in this story from the killing of the voter registration workers in 1964 to present day distress and unequal treatment.  The torture and murder of anyone of color, and others, who got in the way or seemed funky to the KKK and the wealthy scheming whites were just what one thought was going on in the back of the mind.  And yet, the FBI and police could not seem to find the guilty parties or justice.

Iles has lived in Natchez, Mississippi all of his life and the book is full of characters that his fans have known before.  Dr. Tom Cage is a physician who has served all of his community with his medical care, which involved the keeping of many secrets. Dr. Cage’s son Penn is a lawyer, writer and now Mayor of Natchez and is working to solve the charges against his father.  Henry Sexton is a reporter who has faithfully kept the research and storytelling alive about the murders, fires and rape which throughout his history has plagued the community and threatened every member of the society with prejudice and hate.  Dr. Cage is loosely based on Iles own father, and the newspaperman is based on a fellow who has written the stories in his own paper in town and is about to write his own book on what he knows.

The book is extremely hard to put down and I read the whole in 3 days of hard pressure.  I can actually say that I am looking forward to THE BONE TREE, which I will review next month; book two in the trilogy I must wait until March for book three.

Even thought it contains a great deal of history, I know one of my book groups will not read it because of the violence and another because they have a 400 page limit.  It is a thriller and it contains a great deal of violence; it reveals a great deal of the context that I always thought was true but has been bred into the culture and will take a great teacher to heal and a determined citizen to break through.  Greg Iles breaks through and opens a door to re-enculturation.  NATCHEZ BURNING – What a Read!

“Greg Iles spent most of his youth in Natchez, Mississippi.  His first novel, SPANDAU PHOENIX, was the first of thirteen NEW YORK TIMES bestsellers, and his new trilogy continues the story of Penn Cage, protagonist of THE QUIET GAME, TURNING ANGEL, AND #1 NY TIMES bestseller THE DEVIL’S PUNCHBOWL. Iles novels have been made into films and published in more than thirty-five countries. He lives in Natchez with his wife and has two children.”

www.GregIles.com

Related:
The Contractors
The Fury
The Shock Doctrine

THE RAVEN ROOM: A Trilogy Mystery (Book 1) ~Ana Medeiros

Monday, November 16th, 2015

“Anything you can imagine. Everything you crave.”

“The Raven Room will have everything you could possibly want and more.” (The San Francisco Book Review – cover)<‘blockquote>

You need to be in Chicago to find the RAVEN ROOM finely tuned into Chinatown and the underground levels under traditional storefronts.  It is a Sex Club and offers its membership every delight they could possibly imagine and now there is a murder involved with the club; the press and police would like access.

TLC Book Tours sent me a copy of this book for review and I have mixed emotions about this request.  I was only offered Book One, which has a very unsettling ending and no book two or three in the offering.  The book is very well written and finds a hold on the reader very quickly and the sex keeps coming full throttle and does not let up page after page after page.   The characters are well developed and disturbing at times and have numerous psychological attributes, which can be overwhelming.  Even though I would rather not know about this kind of club and it’s activities the story is believable.

Meredith is a young journalism student and has discovered an older fellow who arouses many new feelings in her.  She wants to write an expose’ about THE RAVEN ROOM club and Julian is her point of entry member.  Julian is self-destructive, because of his abandonment as a child and his trials within the foster care system, and yet he is working on healing himself and has developed a fine reputation as a child psychologist and caregiver.  Meredith wants to keep him from self-destruction and yet will she be pulled into his controlling side life situations?

The book is about sexual deviations and I know I should not feel like there was too much sex, but I did feel there was just too much.  A loving encounter would turn into beatings and cutting and choking….  I just had to set the book aside and go do something else.  The who-done-it part of the story was wonderful and the development of the backstories was very good and kept me proceeding until the very rude, abrupt last page.  Yikes!  I kept trying to figure out where the story was headed and could not get it out of my mind.

I would offer a warning for those who are not wanting to read about such violence and so much sex – The RAVEN ROOM has it all and will take the purchase of 3 books to get the whole story.

About the Author

“Before THE RAVEN ROOM there was Paris, books, coffee, chocolate and zombies. Ana Medeiros lives in Toronto, Canada, with her boyfriend and two cats. THE RAVEN ROOM is her first novel.” (From Amazon’s page)

“Readers who enjoy complex stories with strong characterization and psychological depth will find The Raven Room a satisfyingly story of emotional turbulence…” – D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

GHOST HORSE: a Novel ~Thomas H. McNeely

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

“’Divorce,’ she said, “is a disease caused by the lies of feminism and secular humanism.’” (Catholic school teacher’s words to middle school boys; early pages of uncorrected, advanced copy)

GHOST HORSE is a book I found hard to read and yet very worthwhile.  It came in the loveliest package, with a folder full of publicity material and extra resources.  The font was precise and extremely small on my review advanced copy and there were no page numbers.  I thought it was a young adult book, now I know this book needs discussion because there is a surface story and then the recording of societal change which is impacting our current lives with tremendous relevance.

Buddy is a 12 year old boy who is being torn apart with the normal feelings of the changes in a boy’s life, by his Catholic education, by his physician father’s return after 12 years of being away, by his sparing, controlling grandmothers, and by the transitions the USA was making in the turbulent 1970s.  He can see how hard his mother is working and how smart she is and well trained as she runs a pathology lab and teaches.  Margot supports her own mother and is buying a house for her.  There is not adequate childcare or transportation for her son and she must work extremely long hours because her pay is not equal to men’s income.  Dad wants a divorce and custody of Buddy, Jimmy is a physician wanting a huge, fancy house and he runs his own cancer/pathology lab.

GHOST HORSE is about a time when the folks in Houston, Texas were just exploring big changes in expectations and culture and yet it is a place where one could delineate the classes and futures clearly.  The Mexicans lived in one area, the whites another, the wealthy even another location and the Negroes had their own place on this earth.   There were even more categories such as conservative Christians and trailer trash; people spoke one way at home and the well-educated spoke another way in public.  The Priests and teachers were eager to spread the message of anti- change, violence and hate.   How is a boy to find himself and figure out who he is and what his true relationships are; Buddy becomes extremely confused trying to make sense of who he is and what he needs to do?

Thomas H. McNeely is a writer and a professor and he grew up in Houston during this time of turmoil.  It took him 14 years to write GHOST HORSE.   The boy’s confusion comes right off the page and into the mind with the concise puncture of incredible words and feelings exquisitely placed on the page.  Racism, sexism, homophobia, fundamentalism, bigotry, economic inequality, hatred and violence coming at Buddy at every moment of this boy’s day haunting him like the GHOST HORSE – where is the escape?  Would it be in making a movie about the GHOST HORSE with your Mexican friend?

TLC Book Tours and Gival Press  sent me an advanced copy to review of GHOST HORSE.   The story pushed a great many personal feelings to the surface for me.  I was back working at as an Adult Educator in the South and thinking about all the threats I received and how angry people were and how many refused to even acknowledge the problems – how quick to blame and hold on to their perceived values.  Paula Dean, the southern chef, reminded me last year when she said, “we used the ‘N’ word at home all the time”;  she was ostracized.  Our feelings are just masked now and we can see the backlash to change with the election of President Obama.   Baby!  We have not come a long way.  We need these reveals and yet we cower like a 12 year old boy and keep it to ourselves until we find a point of outrage and release.

Thomas H. McNeely is a very interesting person and the winner of numerous awards.   GHOST HORSE has been nominated for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize and has won the Editor’s Choice award at Amazon.

Related:
The Signature of All Things
The New Men
Margaret Fuller
Supreme Justice