Monday, August 20, 2012

The Moon of Innocence

Main Course
**** of *****
I enjoyed this aptly titled, sad little tale. Maria Ruiz is a lovely, innocent, virginal maiden, the only child of older parents, all living in Catalonia,  in a remote and backwards village far from a major city in 1963. Franco has made his mark on the area, and during its recovery he is insisting that everyone abandon the provincial dialect for Castillian Spanish, leaving local dialects to die out or be spoken only in the home. Maria is being tenaciously pursued by Cesar Rojas, a handsome young man who wants to become a poet - an odd life choice for a bastard being raised by his illiterate uncle in the countryside. Cesar works for Don Roberto who has a villa that he visits several times a year and Don Roberto allows Cesar free reign of his home and library full of amazing books in Spanish and German, mentoring the boy.  The smitten Cesar pursues Maria with poetry, romance, and the ill considered help of Maria's employer, a rich American woman who has mistakenly built the home of her dreams in the wrong place, too far from anyone or anything. The book is lovingly crafted, the characters vivid, and the locale beautiful but the best part of the book is the ending... a surprise ending, meticulously wrought through tiny hints and allusions throughout the book.


Karme is southern fiction set in Florida's Big Cypress Swamp in the 1960s. I had a really hard time getting into this book, despite my fondness for Southern fiction. Karme, a feral young woman raised in the swamp by her people hating, probably psychotic mother, has a deep relationship with the earth and the swamp until her hormones start to rage and her curiosity about real townsfolk, especially a certain young man, start to be aroused. Mom is long dead and Karme is curious enough to want to leave the safety of the swamp and head for civilization. Civilization in this area is a misnomer since the people in Moonyville are more repulsive than most. I think the reason that I had a hard time enjoying the book is that the characters are all stereotypes and therefore predictable. Although the book paints a gorgeous picture of the swamps and Karme herself is a lovely allegory, the rest of the characters are ignorant Southern crackers, whose stories, prejudices and plain ugliness are better left unexplored. The interjections by Brant, the man Karme loved add nothing to the narrative and are distracting, even though mildly amusing. There was a lot to hate about the South from the 1920s to today and this author managed to include all of it without balancing anything other than its physical beauty against its flaws.

Dream Country

Dream Country is set in Nashville, where I live. Nashville is also part of the ultra conservative Bible belt part of the country, so the fact that Dream Country is a psychic mystery intrigued me, too. Dilly Renfro has recovered from being shot in the head a year ago when she was a bystander in a mini mart hold up gone bad. She's recovered but she's changed in some pretty big ways, admitting she's a lesbian, becoming very assertive, and having precognitive dreams. Dilly's father, Doyle Renfro was the king of country music and is still the head of  his huge business empire. Doyle has changed, too, sometimes appearing to lose focus and get unresponsive during conversations - a problem that has led his other children, Porter and Loretta to sue him as incompetent. Dilly doesn't agree and she has other things on her the precognitive dreams she's had since being shot. The latest dreams are of the murder of a gorgeous, young, cafe au lait woman murdered on the stage of the Ryman auditorium. When it turns out that a young woman who looks like the one in Dilly's dream is found murdered and her former boyfriend is a light tech at the Ryman, things get exciting fast.  Dream Country is a compellingly good story that anyone who loves a good murder mystery will enjoy.

Breaking Jona

*** of *****
With the huge success of the Shades of Grey trilogy, it was predictable that more books appealing to our more prurient interest would hit the market.  Breaking Jona is a very, graphic new entry in the BDSM (bondage, discipline, submissive, sadism, masochism) market and makes those shaves of grey look a lot more like shades of white. This small collection of stories is set in different parts of Europe and contains entries on the slave/master theme, girl on girl sex, and ménage a trois. There are few standards for this kind of writing and Breaking Jona meets them all: trashy - yes, taunting - yes,  titillating - yes. Personally, I prefer less graphic sexuality in my books and am more comfortable when any sexual activity occurs naturally as an outcome of the relationships in the book.  Unfortunately, there really isn't much of a story line or character development in Breaking Jona, but tell the truth. Is that really what you are looking for here?