Monday, October 15, 2012

White Rabbit

Entree **** of ***** 4.5 of 5
I thought that White Rabbit was a lengthy and intriguing read, somewhat like an Alice in Wonderland for adults.  Simon Cadwallader  has really made a mess of his life. We meet him on his birthday, visiting his ex wife and children. In the years before, he has been celebrated and appreciated by his family but on this year's birthday, Simon finds himself visiting children who could frankly care less about him and an ex wife who is giving him the bum's rush because she has a date. He's angry and arrogant but Cadwallader has brought this misery on himself. Feeling trapped by his family, he decided to pursue and more thrilling and fulfilling life. His plan backfired and he is now facing a life without love and commitment and a failed business. After he leaves the unwelcoming bosom of his family, Cadwallader has a car accident and finds himself cold, isolated and at a crossroads. When he comes to his senses, he has fallen down the rabbit's hole and is in an alternate universe, searching for himself and meaning. The most substantial part of this book is in the alternate universe, a place where nothing is as it seems, teeming with color, challenges, and oozing with sexuality and sensuality. The alternate universe is portrayed vividly with some humor but primarily filled with scathing indictments of business, religion, government and our horrible and unnecessary sexualization of every aspect of human life. The author skillfully uses every literary device, piles on adjectives and metaphors to create a complex journey that Cadwallader must undertake and complete to find his way home. This is a heavy, lengthy tome about one man's search for meaning. It's well written but the length makes it a little cumbersome. If I had written it, I would not have been able to cut out sections of this either because the imagery is incredible, but it does make it somewhat cumbersome for the reader.

First Time Hard

Entree **** of *****
First Time Hard was a really good read with a well developed plot and great character development. Gladys Harper and her husband were very successful in building a lovely life surrounded by beautiful things, except for their twin sons. Kevin and Craig Harper could have been listed in a dictionary under "bad seed". Vicious, ugly and involved in the disappearance of a classmate when they were young, the brothers have grown into vicious career criminals. This time, though, crime has struck their family on a personal level. Gladys Harper has been murdered and her home was robbed of jewelry and a distinctive Remington type bronze statue. A local antiques dealer, Richard Drake, has acquired the bronze third hand and will pay a horrific price for the acquisition. The Harper brothers have arbitrarily decided that Drake is responsible for the robbery and murder because he had an appointment with their mother on the day she died. Although the men could care less about their mother's demise, they do enjoy a good act of revenge - even when they have targeted an innocent man and his family. Will Richard Drake and his family survive the attentions of the Harper brothers or will their tainted past finally catch up with them?

My Sore Hush-A-Bye

Renata Barcelos is an amazingly talented writer. In her work like Mean and My Sore Hush-A-Bye, she peels the layers from topics that most writers are loathe to explore. She explores topics of dysfunctional families, abuse,and psychopathology relentlessly. My Sore Hush-A-Bye is her new novel, one which takes a close look at Camille, a sheltered young woman who has lived with her Uncle Bob for around ten years - since her mother abandoned her into Bob's care. Uncle Bob chose to home school Camille and has taught her well. However, Camille has been caught in a time warp at Uncle Bob's, immersing herself in the movies, TV shows and music of another generation. The music of Mama Cass Elliott of the Mamas and Papas has helped Camille deal with the loneliness of her life. Oddly enough, after all of the years being sheltered and isolated in Uncle Bob's world, Uncle Bob's feelings about her start to change. She feels abandoned by him, in an echo of the earlier abandonment of her mother. Uncle Bob sends her to the local public high school for her senior year. There she feels more like an outsider - she understands nothing of the language of kids her age. One girl does befriend her - though not publicly at Camille's request. When her new friend disappears, Camille is horrified and worried - worried that her friend's disappearance may have something to do with Uncle Bob and her. The only negative about My Sore Hush-A-Bye is that it's a lot like a mini Snickers bar; it tastes wonderful but leaves me yearning for more.

Scutchamer Knob

Entree *** of *****
The times, they were a’ changin’… Our lives were music driven and England in the 1960s was really the center of the universe for everyone under the age of 25. Scutchamer Knob, where this novel is set, is a knoll in Southern England that was a center of power throughout the ages – a center of worship, judgment, mystical power, and now, a murder. The Beatles have segued from pop to rock, Hendrix is at his prime, and musicians all throughout the world are searching for the sound that best expresses their collective soul. Trevor, Roy and Terry are working class guys in their own band, finished with school and needing to make a living. Through Cynthia, an intellectually brilliant and bohemian girl, the trio meets George Herbert, a young aristocrat who is forming a band. In the world of sex, drugs and rock and roll, they all work to create a new sound despite their class differences. George pays for the group and brings his friend Damon into the group. The power of the book is in the exploration of the 60s, exploring the generation gap, and the class differences. A secondary plot line portrays an unidentified member of the group who is immersed in a disciple/master relationship that dabbles in occult power. The author was able to bring it all together for a cohesive ending but I did find the secondary plot line a little strange and distracting. If I’d been on LSD like some of the characters in the book, it might have been clear and groovy.

Key West Bounce

Entree *** of *****
Key West Bounce is a really good story about the uncomfortable collaboration between Jack Marsh, an adventurous Key West bar owner, his best friend, Tommy Hicks, owner of a very well equipped salvage boat and a former secret agent to find a sunken airplane in international waters between the US and Cuba. The sunken airplane full of gold currency intended for Cuba’s liberation went down the 1960s, during the Bay of Pigs incident between the US and Cuba. The Haitians and anti Castro Cuban expatriates join in the hunt which results in murder, mayhem and betrayal in the Caribbean. Is the gold at the bottom of Crab Cay waiting to be recovered? What will each faction do to try to reach it first? This story is fast paced and compelling with a great deal of both intrigue and humor in it but Clive Cussler can get a good night’s sleep without worrying too much about competition. The book is fun, even compelling in some ways, but unfortunately, Key West Bounce is so poorly edited that the grammar mistakes really distracted me from a smooth, easy ride with these adventurers.

Chopper Music

Appetizer **** of *****
This is a wonderful novella about the life and times of Jackson Reilly, a bouncer for a club living a life of drugs, alcohol and riding his motorcycle. Reilly is without direction, achievement, or a stable relationship,just drifting through a life without meaning. When his mother dies, his life is not significantly changed - until he goes to give her sister some of his mother's personal effects. His aunt welcomes him and draws him into a conversation about the music that runs through the lives of their family. All of his mother's generation were professional jazz musicians who knew and worked with the greats of jazz. At one time, Jackson seemed poised to continue the family business; he was a tremendously talented pianist. For reasons that Jackson can't explain, he feels drawn back to the piano. As he pursues learning to play again, his life starts to change in every way. The question is whether or not Jackson can complete something this time. Will he accept the difficult path of mastery or will he sink back into the inertia of his pathetic existence?