Reviving the Commander by Nadine C. Keels

Publication Date: June 4, 2019:

Opal, to the outside world, seems to be happy, carefree and content with her spinsterhood. When she meets the Commander Exemplar of Diachona’s Army, a man who longs for his late wife, she feels an undeniable and yet hopeless attraction. The Exemplar is the first man she’s felt a pull with in a long time but he’s the father of the King and she has a dark secret. Is Opal destined to live her life alone?

 

Reviving the Commander is part of the Movement of Crown’s series. I have read the first book but that was long ago and I’d be lying if I said that I remembered anything about the book. Clearly, it would be helpful but not necessary to read the book before embarking on Opal’s story.

I think anyone reading the title of this story knows where it’s going. The Exempler is a man lost in grief. Opal is a woman lost in fear. Like many of us, she walks around with her public face of sweetness and light and inside the demons are at work. She’s fearful and ashamed and worried that if people knew her for who she really is, she would be hated and reviled. The unique charm of Reviving the Commander is that the characters are so authentic. Often, in romance, the male character is older, a bit of a man-whore and a throwaway cutout. Staid, (yes, that’s his name) is solid and caring. When we meet Opal, she’s simply enamored. Her infatuation has come to an all consuming point but she knows that if the King’s father is looking to marry again (or entertain himself) it won’t be with someone no one else wanted.

This is not a snap-together part connection. Keels gives a solid base for why these people should be together and why her audience should cheer for them. They are sweet and in conversation and development of characters, Keels shows herself as a student of human nature. Reviving the Commander  is economically arranged but well written. The craftsmanship of the work is especially impressive when one considers that it is set in a completely fictional world.

Reviving the Commander is a novella standing at an easy read of 172 pages. There are some surprises and turns readers may not see coming but, ultimately, Reviving the Commander is a story of love and faith. As a wholly non-religious person I can appreciate the biblical connection that isn’t overbearing for the reader.

If you like sweet fairy-tale like romantic stories, Reviving the Commander  is the story for you.

 

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Good Omens (2019)

“Good Omens” is based on the novel by Nail Gaimon and Terry Pratchett. Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and Crowley (David Tennant) are an Angel and Demon who are quite fond of humanity and, grudgingly, of each other. They have had off the books meetings for centuries and have perhaps each influenced the other in a way that their supervisors wouldn’t condone. When Crowley is called upon to deliver the Antichrist, he knows the end is near. The demon and angel agree to each stay close to the child and try to influence him but what happens when it’s the wrong child? And what happens when Heaven and Hell are both willing to do whatever it takes for the ultimate face off to happen?

 

Nail Gaimon wrote the screenplay and worked in the role of showrunner for the production and it shows. I think this may be the most true translation of novel to screen that I’ve seen. From the perfect casting to joyful irreverence, this show is a pure pleasure to watch. I’ve seen it three times all the way through and have plans to watch a fourth time and am willing to bet that I’ll see a host of things of hidden jokes and sly references. A demon and an angel who have lived long among the humans and developed an affinity for humanity have a crisis of divine purpose vs what they really want. Early on there are two great scenes. In the first great scene, the Archangel Gabriel (Jon Hamm) finds Aziraphale in a sushi restaurant and question why he’d want to foul his mortal shell with ickiness. In another scene, Crowley roars up in his classic car to take delivery of the baby Antichrist and his fellow demons go over their accomplishments in securing souls. Crowley gives this off-hand high tech explanation of his mass frustration of humanity as they stand there dumbfounded. The humor in both scenes is pure Pratchett. Tongue in cheek, setting up the beings with whom we’ll spend the length of the miniseries and highlighting their hesitance to give up the comfortable lives they’ve established.

Good Omens is a complex story. In part it’s about the Prophesies of Agnes Nutter and her descendants carrying on her tradition, in part it’s the story of an impending war between heaven and hell and it’s also part the story of a great friendship of opposites formed outside of the gates of the Garden of Eden as two immortals ponder God’s ineffable plan. Narrated by God herself (voiced by Frances McDormand), it’s a mostly linear story that bounces through time. Aziraphale and Crowley do their best for the little Antichrist but, in the end, their efforts are pointless.

As one would expect from the cast, the acting in Good Omens is outstanding. Micheal McKean as Witchfinder Shadwell is just comic genius. Jack Whitehall as Newton Pulcifer/ Adultery Pulcifer is just probably the best performance this actor has turned out. Sam Taylor Buck as Adam Young (the Antichrist) is convincing in fighting his dangerous side. The scenes with Adam and his group of friends are as interesting as the playful byplay between the more seasoned Michael Sheen and David Tennant. These young actors have great futures ahead of them.

Good Omens is simply amazing. To say too much would involve spoilers. I know that there’s been some backlash against the production because it’s considered blasphemous and, if you’re religious, I’m sure it is but only in the best way. How nice must it be to be so absolutely sure that things that are unseen in life exactly as you think they are. That God is a long haired white dude and not some cheery lady with an American accent and a sly sense of humor. This is fiction, it’s not literal and I’ve always been of the opinion that if you don’t like it, don’t buy it, but that’s me.  It is tongue in cheek and clever. The rare talent that comes along in literature and thank goodness for Neil Gaimon translating it to the screen because it was the production was just a joy. To see some of the best scenes from the book acted out and exactly as one would have pictured them is just delightful. Agnes Nutter throwing open the door and facing Adultery Pulcifer was just beautiful.  Will there be more? I don’t know but given that Pratchett died after the publication of this first novel, I can’t see Gaimon going back to that well. Gaimon is an author that seems to respect legacy and as talented as he is, I would think that Gaimon would hesitate to continue without his original co-author’s cooperation.

See Good Omens. See it now. It is wonderful, amazing and fully worth binging over and over.

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Honor Killing: How the Infamous Massie Affair Transformed Hawai’i by David E. Stannard

Publication Date: May 2, 2006

In 1931, Thalia Massie stumbled from the brush into a car when she accused six Hawaiian men of gang raping her. When the accused went to trial and walked away due to a hung jury; Thalia’s mother and husband kidnapped and killed one of the subjects launching a highly contested trial. If aristocratic white folk exacting a revenge killing in a racially charged environment wasn’t enough to attract the attention of the world, Clarence Darrow for the defense in what would be in last case, was certainly a draw.

 

This retelling of the Massie case paints the picture of a flighty and somewhat spoiled woman whose marriage to a Navy officer stationed in Hawaii was on the rocks. The author broaches slightly the idea that Mrs. Maisse wasn’t raped but rightly doesn’t dwell on the matter because that’s not the point. The point is that there was serious grounds for doubt that the five accused were guilty of the crime. In fact, witnesses saw the accused Hawaiian men far away from where Mrs. Maisse was found on the night of the alleged rape. It certainly seemed to be a case of suggestion when they were identified. Suddenly the woman who claimed not to have been able to see her attackers clearly, identified them without a shadow of the doubt. It bears mentioning that men who have been locked up for years for crimes for which they were convicted by eyewitness testimony have been found to be innocent because people simply cannot be relied upon to remember things in detail.

The plan that Grace Fortescue, Thalia Massie’s mother and Thomas Massie, developed was that they would kidnap the newly freed accused men and torture them until they admitted their crime. The kidnapped Horace Ida and beat him badly but that didn’t satisfy Mrs. Fortescue’s thirst for vengeance. They next kidnapped Joseph Kahahawai, a prizefighter; and in the course of questioning, someone shot him. They were caught pretty much immediately and that’s when the oddest thing happened – people rallied behind them. They were sent flowers and gifts and had it not been for one brave Judge; they would not have been tried for the crime at all. Stories started to travel to mainland of the lawless of Hawaii and the “Hawaiian problem.” There were tales of Native Hawiians roaming the streets and  terrorizing innocent women. Filmmakers who had worked in Hawaii rose to the defense of her people. Grace Fortescue had suffered some financial bad luck but was able to use her newfound fame and sympathy to raise money to hire the best lawyer she could find – Clarence Darrow – champion of the underdog. So why would he take this case, you wonder? The author goes into the motivations and also the damage Darrow’s reputation took in certain circles for what could be seen as selling out.

Honor Killing: How the Infamous Massie Affair Transformed Hawai’i is an engrossing work on non-fiction. It starts slowly going over Thalia Massie’s life and some what damaged relationship with her husband. He behavior when she stumbling out of the brush was confounding. She said to the driver of a car she flagged down; “Are you white people” before climbing into the car on to the lap of the couple’ teen son and demanding to be driven to her home. When the revenge killing happens, the story picks up pace and the jaw dropping nature of it’s place in time engrosses the reader. I think many of us have probably said; “If anyone hurts my daughter, I’ll be the one to wind up in jail” but would we carry through? Would we be as proud of our actions as Fortescue certainly was. I don’t think there’s any question that she believed she had the right man but certainly the benefit of looking back at a full picture leads the modern reader to know that this poor Hawaiian man very likely died without purpose.

Stannard presents the readers of Honor Killing: How the Infamous Massie Affair Transformed Hawai’i  with a painstaking researched work that is one of the stories that is stranger than fiction. That a crime that impacted Hawaii in the way it did is not more widely known is confunding to this reader. If you enjoy true crime or legal history, pick this one up today.

Buy 

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The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Publication Date: May 1, 2009

Its 1985 and the fictional world is parallel to our own and someone is kidnapping literary characters. Its the job of Thursday Next, occupant of our world but detective in the Literary Detective Division, to find the culprit and stop them before its too late.

 

 

Every book claims to be like the work of a better selling author. They’ll up the ante saying that the work is by a author who is the modern version of the author to whom they’re likened. Usually they could not be less like the author whose name they use to promote themselves. In the case of Fforde, it would be in no way inaccurate to liken him to Douglas Adams. It would also not be inaccurate to say that they are nothing alike. Fforde and Adams share a well defined imagination with a lightness of being. Their worlds are intricate. Fforde is clearly extremely well read. The characters created by others in his story are wholly within character. The description of the fictional world is beautiful and complete.

Thursday Next is a complex character. The Eyre Affair is part time travel and part fantasy. History is rewritten, extinct species are not as extinct as one might think (Thursday has a pet Dodo). Her father can slow time and has been hunted by the Chrono Guard. There is simply too much to outline when it comes to this wonderful character. In the book world, characters play role. Jane Eyre is married to a fictional character not from her own book. There is an incredibly intricate bureaucracy in both the real world and book world and a delicate ecosystem in both. There are bookworms that eat prepositions and poop punctuation. Yes, it’s just crazy, but it works so beautifully well.

The Eyre Affair is a dance. There is chaos and just when you think there could be no resolution to anything it all comes together and things fall into place. Fforde gives a master class in creativity. His world is stunning. Kids trade cards of authors instead of baseball players and whole religions grow up around favorite works of fiction.  Perhaps the “He who shall not be named” bad guy is a little weak but in the end it makes sense. The Eyre Affair is exciting and poignant and there’s a hint of romance but not so much that it distracts from the master world building.

Despite his weak entrance, Archeron Hades is a brilliant bad guy. He is a sophisticated Snidley Whiplash, twirling his mustache and doing bad simply for the joy of the evil act and the satisfaction of a well crafted and executed plan. It;s not just a job for Hades, it’s a calling and he’s determined. Hades is not the only bad guy by a long shot. The Goliath Corporation may not be as innocent as they seem and just might complicate life more than people might like.

Ultimately, Thursday is a Mary Sue for those of us who love books. She travels through storylines and keeps the peace for favorite characters. Who wouldn’t want that job? The Eyre Affair is my Unicorn. It is the perfect book in that its so different than anything you’ll ever pick up that it is like discovered Adams and Pratchett again.

If you like quirky fiction, The Eyre Affair is 100% for you. Pick it up. There are no regrets.

 

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Daisy Jones & The Six: A Novel by Tara Jenkins Reid

Publication Date: March 5, 2019

In Daisy Jones & The Six: A Novel, it’s the early 1970s and Daisy Jones is a major L.A. talent playing in small clubs and dreaming of living life to its fullest and making the kind of music she loves, but she and her record label have different ideas of success. When Daisy meets Bill, they clash in a big way but together they will become epic. Daisy Jones & The Six: A Novel is a rock & roll autobiography set in the days of sex, drugs and rock and roll.

 

 

The literary circle in which I travel has been raving about this book for a few weeks, so I decided to pick it up and ended up reading the 336-mock-rock history in one sitting. Daisy Jones & The Six: A Novel is a visual read. Framed as an oral history, it starts with Daisy, the poor little rich girl. She is a free-range child with a big talent and is broken in a way that leads her to the sort of self-destruction that will lead readers to think they’ve heard the story before … because they have. In fact, I have read that this novel is a fictionalized version of Fleetwood Mac, a band about which I know almost nothing (I was only permitted to listen to gospel music growing up so my actual rock knowledge era is the 1990s and Queen) so caught none of the parallels.

Overall Daisy Jones & The Six is a generic saga of decadence in the era of bell bottoms, booze and blow. There is a heavy reliance on readers being familiar with the decadence of the rock scene in the 1970s. Reid paints a very accurate emotional picture of the era. The fashion and music culture read true. Reid in no way goes for broke. She alludes to the uncomfortable, skirting around it. There’s something to be said for a lack of gratuitous self-destruction but that’s the 1970s; you do it or you don’t and there are ways not to celebrate the illegal. Word on the street is that the novel is becoming a movie and to translate, the screenwriters will sensationalize, so in the end, discretion is not valorous.

Daisy, herself, is somewhat poorly characterized. She is an amalgamation of troubled female singers. I have seen the hand-wringing and worried trigger warnings. Let’s be clear, a lot of what is on the page is very general. There are groupies and there are no ID checks. There are some really questionable things but they’re glossed over. There is a saint vs. whore subtext for Daisy and another female character that is perplexingly overdone in literature and discredits everyone, and really, distracts from the core story adding a tragic Janis Joplin spin without the emotional impact because that’s hard to connect with the cliff notes of a 1970s singer. This is in no way a spoiler because I don’t know if readers, in the end, will care if Daisy wins or loses … and in this case, winning is perhaps not holding the expected definition. We know Daisy captivates because we’re told she does, it isn’t something we see.

If you’re considering reading Daisy Jones & the Six, do it because it’s getting rave reviews and I may be the lone 2-stars. If you’re looking for a really interesting story of the 1970s, head over to Netflix and watch When You’re Strange; a film about The Doors.

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About Tara Jenkins Reid
For more information Tara Jenkins Reid and her work, visit her website. You can connect with her on FacebookGoodreads, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter @tjenkinsreid.

Mrs. Astor Regrets by Meryl Gordon

Publication Date: October 22, 2009

 

Brooke Astor lived a rich and adventurous life. In Mrs. Astor Regrets by Meryl Gordon, her twilight years should have been comfortable and uneventful. Instead, as Alzheimer descended, the Centenarian was living under the guardianship of her son, Anthony Marshall, and living in squalor. Her worried grandson approached her dear friends, Annette de la Renta and David Rockefeller for advice and what transpired in the aftermath of that meeting was more than any of them could have imagined. 

Continue reading Mrs. Astor Regrets by Meryl Gordon

Everyone Can Learn Math by Alice Aspinall (Author) and Alexandria Massey (Illustrator)

Publication Date: October 23, 2018

 

Everyone Can Learn Math by Alice AspinallIn Everyone Can Learn Math by Alice Aspinall, Amy is in 5th grade and is frustrated with her math homework. She struggles with a word question, sparking an outburst toward her mother, who also struggles with math but is doing her best to help her daughter succeed. Will Amy give up or will she learn the secret to unlocking her potential?

Continue reading Everyone Can Learn Math by Alice Aspinall (Author) and Alexandria Massey (Illustrator)

The True Face of Sir Isaac Brock by Guy St. Denis

Book Launch

On February 24, 2019, at 2 p.m., author and historian Guy St. Denis launched his latest book, The True Face of Sir Isaac Brock. The fully reserved event was held in the lovely Interpretive Centre of the Duff-Baby House located at 221 Mill Street in Windsor, Ontario.

 

 

Duff-Baby House, 221 Mill Street Windsor, Ontario

Windsor, Ontario may seem an odd place to launch a book about Sir Isaac Brock, but the author felt the General’s connection to the area, and especially to the place St. Denis chose for the launch, was strong. The Duff-Baby House is thought to be the oldest building in Upper Canada and the author believes that given the historic home’s strong military connection, especially to the War of 1812, that Sir Isaac Brock visited at least twice.

The first visit likely took place in 1810 and the second in 1812. Though St. Denis did not locate a definitive primary source that would validate the hunch, his expert opinion of the stature of the visiting military official that his visiting a home, so important in military history would have been a given.

 

St. Denis holding a confirmed picture of Sir Isaac Brock painted when the future military hero was 15 or 16 years old.

St. Denis has spent a decade wading through the hosts of portraits painted after the death of Brock at the Battle Queenston on October 13, 1812. A military hero, artists and, historians after the death of Brock would accept the image of the hero. St. Denis, a lively and entertaining speaker, regaled the packed house with the story of his search for a true image. The cover image of The True Face of Isaac Brock, while perhaps the well-known image of Brock is not actually a picture of the late General. The young, handsome, noble image is actually that of Lieutenant George Dunn. While St. Denis insisted to his publisher that no one should pretend the cover photo is actually Brock, it’s really the point of his research, isn’t it? A librarian way back when saw the image of the young and handsome Dunn and thought, “That’s what Brock should look like” and suddenly he gets a historic makeover. Why the portrait is cut off is a mystery to the author but makes for a book that will catch the eye of any history buff walking by a bookstore shelf.

St. Denis spoke for around 40 minutes about his book and future projects and he was such an engaging speaker that time flew. The question period following was brief but imbued with laughter as one savvy attendee asked if Brock would be “someone he would like.” St. Denis, who is also writing a biography of Brock, shed some light on what he considered the General’s “humanity,” and while he wasn’t initially a fan of the Six Nations, believed that opinion changed when the General met Tecumseh for whom he had great respect. A statue of the pair stands at a newly constructed roundabout leading from the east to Olde Sandwich Towne, the oldest area of Windsor.  Les Amis Duff Baby provided coffee and baked treats including a lovely cake featuring an image of the book’s cover. If only I’d been able to get a picture. I purchased a book which the author signed and must say, I can’t wait to start reading. The author’s next project is a study of the court-martial of General Henry Procter.

Les Amis Duff Baby hosted a lovely and well-organized event. To join them in their quest to preserve and educate, visit them on their Facebook page and send a message to the administration. Guy St. Denis is pursuing a Ph.D. in history at the University of Western Ontario. You can connect with him on Goodreads.

Author and Historian Guy St. Denis

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The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark by Meryl Gordon

Publication Date: May 27, 2014

The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark by Meryl Gordon is a biography. Huguette Clark, born near the beginning of the twentieth century, was the daughter of the nation’s second richest man and grew up in luxury. She was a lively and social philanthropist who relatives one day realized, had become gradually more distant until she virtually disappeared. What happened to this once vibrant personality?

 

The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark is an infuriating read. It is a dispassionate account of the life of Huguette Clark, and what happened to her once she went into isolation. The biography was written by the journalist, Meryl Gordon. What is infuriating about the book is the connection that Gordon builds between her subject and the reader and then the revelation that she was basically a tool for gain in her later years outlined in an objective fashion that could not make clearer the motivations of the century-old woman’s carers. Continue reading The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark by Meryl Gordon

To End All Wars; a Story of Love, Loyalty and Rebellion 1914-1918 by Adam Hochschild

Publication Date: March 6, 2012

To End All Wars; a Story of Love, Loyalty and Rebellion 1914-1918 by Adam Hochschild is a look at the often ignored World War I moral objectors along with those people who wholeheartedly believed in the cause.

Is it the job of the historian to moralize and pontificate? History is propaganda written by the winners, so to read a book highlighting the moral objectors is supremely interesting. To sermonize that an event already placed in history shouldn’t have happened is not appealing. People died in World War I. It happened. It’s done. It’s 100 years in the past. History is about facts and while “woulda” “shoulda” and “coulda” are nice to suggest that a war in which an estimated 37 million people (civilian and military) died was a waste of human life. Maybe. But it happened and isn’t it a disservice to chide key figures in history-making portraying them as Keystone Cop archetypes. Despite my distaste at the author’s position, the story of the objectors is one that should be told and was presented with delicacy, mindful of the challenges they faced. Continue reading To End All Wars; a Story of Love, Loyalty and Rebellion 1914-1918 by Adam Hochschild