THE MEMORY BOX by Eva Lesko Natiello

Memory boxA psychological thriller, sort of.  More like a creep-you-out psychological study of a woman who suddenly can’t remember all kinds of things, like that her sister is dead, and that her twins are …. well, not.  Twins.  Kind of like Diary of a Mad Housewife meets anything by Gillian Flynn.

Told in first person, we are dragged behind this chick as she slowly unravels, dribbling out pieces of information bit by bit.  She seems to have the stupidest/most naive/most gormless husband in the history of intelligent people marrying, and quite frankly,  there are times when I wanted to grab him by the shoulders and scream into his face, “Can I buy you a clue?”

I found it compelling up to the point where it stopped being compelling and started being tedious.  As my grandmother from the prairie used to say, (that is she would have said it if I actually had a grandmother from the prairie), I don’t truck with twittering around.  Cut out the bullet, let it heal and be done with it.

We find out most of the story near the end after watching this gal stumbling around bumping into walls and seeing hallucinations for about three-quarters of the book, when we are then privy to the private tapes of her sessions with a shrink where she tells all.   Wasn’t much of a tell all, because we had already figured most of it out anyway, and anyway-the-second, by this time, we no longer really cared all that much, and are just hoping they get her meds adjusted and that she actually takes them.  Some neighbors you just don’t want to know, ya know what I mean?

Oh, and the memory box of the title?  She keeps stuff in a box hidden away.  Big whoop.

 

 

SHORE EXCURSION by Marie Moore

shore excursionAlllllll aboaaaaarrrrddddd!  Oh, wait, no. that’s trains.  Bon voyage!!!!!  Yeah, that’s it.  This is a mystery featuring Sydney somebody-or-other as a travel agent for Itchy Feet Travel Agency, which makes me think more of fugal diseases of the toes rather than travel, but no matter.

The agency promotes a group called the High Steppers,  comprised mostly of Senior Citizens, with a few younger people in the mix, attracted by the low low price.

[Comprised of.  Is that right?  Should it be composed of? I always get those two mixed up.  Let me go check.  Be right back.   OK, I’m back.  This is what I learned:

Comprise means “to contain” as in “The house comprises seven rooms.” In other words, this house has or contains seven rooms. When you use “comprise,” you’re talking about all the parts that make up something.

Compose,” means “to make up,” as in “Many ethnic groups compose our nation.”

“Comprised of” and “is composed of.” One of these is allowed, and one is not. The one you can say is “is composed of,”

Rats.  I was wrong.  Learn something new every day.]

So, the High Steppers group is composed of mostly Senior Citizens.   Sydney likes to lead tours with them.  She finds them fun, and she gets to travel for free while doing so.  Her fav travel partner is Jay, fun and frolicy,  who takes life lightly.

This time it is a cruise from England to Norway, Denmark, Sweden and St. Petersburg, Russia.  Sounds good!  Sign me up!  Well, all except for the two murders of members of the group. I’ll take it without the side dish of murder.   But there is that devilishly handsome ship captain.

It is a cozy mystery, several nice twists, nothing too brain damaging, all in all a pleasant read.  And no, once again I did not solve the murders before Sydney.

 

SHAMAN HEALER HERETIC by M. Terry Green

shamanShamanism, which is some pretty serious stuff and usually connected to various religious beliefs, has been taken over by the genre writers because it has that je ne sais quoi about it …. a bit of the ol’ paranormal, a bit of the quaisi quantum, spirit animal helpers, and ghosts.  Who doesn’t like ghosts, right?   Oh, and in case you were wondering,  my spirit animal is the sloth, because, you know, indolence.

This book is about techno-shamans.   Instead of the peyote and other drugs, drumming, trance dancing, and deep meditation,  these folks are of the modern pip pip pip get to it, hurry it up, I got things to do variety.  They put on a pair of goggles which have been modified with electrical razzle dazzle, and go immediately to the Multiverrse, where they begin in the Middleworld, which is the portal to the Underworld and the Upper World.  Bam, just like that, no waiting for the dream bus to show up.

In this particular world, L.A. doncha know, the Shamans all work through a broker, if you will, who happens to be a Little Person.  think of him as the Shaman Pimp.  The Shamans do not know each other and for some reason not fully explained, it is better that they don’t.

Olivia…call her Livvy…. is visited one night by a kachina — Tawa, the sun kachina to be exact.  Kachinas are Hopi gods, of which there are hundreds.  It is giant, but does not speak.  But it is clear that he wants something.  And what he wants is help.

So here’s what Shamans do in this book.  They go into the Multiverse and rescue people whose souls have gotten stuck there, or whose souls have been stolen.  These folks manifest in the real world as people in a coma.

Well, things stop working in the Multiverse and it turns out that Tiamat, the Sumerian god of chaos and creation is back in town, after millenia of being vanquished by Marduk, the storm god.  Tiamat, for your information, looks like a chicken with paws.  Or a dragon with a beak and hands.  Hard to get a clear description when you are running for your life.

Livvy figures the only way to get rid of Tiamat is to band together with the other Shamans for their combined power.  She also feels she needs Marduk to help them out.  He now resides in Upper World, in a huge castle.  Turns out he is a grumpy old retired man, puttering in his garden, not much like the warrior god of yore.

The plot revolves around a seemingly helpful young man who actually isn’t helpful at all,  and the final battle between the shamans and Tiamat.

It was a fun read, filled with vignettes of her trips into the Multiverse to rescue people, the whole thing made more interesting by the introduction of the two ancient gods, who existed in the time before time.  That is really a long time ago.  Would you like to know some more about the Kachina, and  Tiamat and Marduk?  Of course you would.

tiamatThis is Tiamat.  She is considered the monstrous embodiment of primordial chaos.   Some sources identify her with images of a sea serpent or dragon.   She and her husband Apsu created the first generation of deities.  In Mesopotamian Religion (Sumerian, Assyrian, Akkadian and Babylonian), Tiamat is a primordial goddess of the ocean.    In our Shaman  book, she is pictured as huge, as a destroyer.

 

 

 

mardukThis handsome guy is Marduk, probably pronounced ‘Maratuk’.   He was a late-generation god from ancient Mesopotamia and patron deity of the city of Babylon. When Babylon became the political center of the Euphrates valley in the time of Hammurabi (18th century BC), he slowly started to rise to the position of the head of the Babylonian pantheon, a position he fully acquired by the second half of the second millennium BC.   In the city of Babylon, he resided in the temple Esagila.

 

 

 

 

tiamat battling mardukHere are Tiamat and Marduk depicted in the great epic battle that raised Marduk to the position of head of the deities.  It is suggested that the battle legend represents the fall of matriarchy and the rise of patriarchy.

 

 

 

 

tawa1This colorful personage is Kawa, the Sun god of the Hopi.  He is a representation of the spirit of the Sun, though he may on occasion be called the Sun Shield Kachina. He often appears standing to the side with a spruce tree in his left hand and a bell in his right. Also, he may appear in a Mixed Dance with the flute in his left hand that is associated with him in many myths.

The Hopi Indians are the westernmost of the Pueblo peoples.  Hopi Kachinas are supernaturals, embodying the spirits of living things and also the spirits of ancestors who have died and become a part of nature. Kachinas are believed to possess powers over nature, especially the weather, but higher gods limit the extent of their powers. Hopi men carve likenesses of the Kachinas from cottonwood root, and these are the well known Kachina dolls. Because there are many circumstances that arise requiring supernatural help, there are many Kachinas. Among the Hopi there are about 300 Kachinas that may be current, and at least another 200 that may be known but make only sporadic appearances.
This is what I love about reading;  the opportunity to learn.  If we don’t just cruise on past the things we don’t know about in order to just get on with the story, fiction can be a great source of information,  and a way to widen our world.

ROCK ‘N ROLL HEAVEN by Shawn Inmon

rock n roll heavenA sweet little novella about a forty something rock ‘n roller, a guitar player who never made it bigger than the dives and bars, but loved his life on the road.  Lest we think he is too disgusting,  we learn he gave up booze and drugs, but maybe not the gals, ten years ago.  The band travels around the country in a converted old school bus.

One night, after a gig, the brakes fail, and the bus goes over  a cliff into a river.  Jimmy ‘Guitar’ Velvet makes sure all the guys get out safely, but he himself drowns.

He goes to what is clearly a Christian heaven where he is made to view his life, which turns out to be not all that great, but certainly not as bad as some.  He is denied entrance into the real deal heaven, but is offered the opportunity to go to Rock ‘N Roll Heaven, a special section just for rockers.  (Turns out there is a Poet Heaven, Novelist Heaven, and a sparsely poulated Political Heaven.)

His angel guide takes him there, which is found by following a gold path of CD hits of  rock ‘n roll.  They enter 50s  rock section, where they meet legends of that era, then the 60s era, etc.  Each rocker gets to have his own venue of his design and choosing.  Jimmy decides on putting down roots in 70s section.  Looming HUGE in its absence is the complete lack of  mention of any female rock ‘n rollers other than Janice Joplin.   So this would make it a young man’s wet dream, where all females are merely groping groupies.  Pissed me off.

There is not much in the way of plot.  It is basically a vehicle to wax nostalgic over the big names of rock ‘n roll,  and show us what a nice guy Jimmy really is and have a daydream about a wildly successful concert in which one is the star, cheered by thousands.

Sadly, the book ends with that timeworn trope, it was only a dream.   He regains consciousness after being rescued from the bus by one of the guys.

Pfffft.

A pleasant read, should appeal to all aspiring rock ‘n rollers everywhere as something to read while waiting for your turn at the mic.

 

THE STRANGE CASE OF SUSANNA by G. H. Komali

susannaPsychological horror story,  novella length, badly in need of editing.   Poor, stilted dialog, and a basic plot line that did not make a lot of sense.

Clara, a single woman who has moved to Australia  from the UK just for the adventure of it, decides to adopt a child with a disturbing past, 11 year old Susanna.  The child is creepy and speaks to a ghost that Clara cannot see.  Strange events unfold – the family cat gets murdered,  the annoying  old lady next door is found dead in her bed, and Clara’s sleepover date is found stabbed to death in the kitchen in the morning after.  Strangely enough, Clara bundles him up and buries him in the woods, and cleans up the kitchen.  I guess he wasn’t that great in bed.  Let that be a lesson to you, gents.   She never calls the police in spite of all the blood on Susanna’s dress.  How odd.

It ends up being a case of Clara being mentally whacko and taking on other personalities, and of Susanna never existing.  Really strange, not particularly well done, and I have no idea how or why I acquired this book in the first place.  I finished it because it was short enough for hope to triumph over experience,  but sadly, disappointment was to be my lot.

Don’t bother with it, Gentle Readers.  It will be time lost you will never get back.

ONE GOOD TURN by Kate Atkinson

one good turnThis is the second in the Jackson Brodie, P.I. series.  As you may recall from the first book, Case Histories,  Jackson used to be a military guy, then a cop, then a P.I., then got jaded, burned out, whatever, was left a bunch of money by an elderly woman he befriended, bought a house in France, where, two years later, he finds himself bored bored B.O.R.E.D.   He has taken up with one of the characters from the previous book, who is a rather eccentric actress of sorts, and they are in Edinburgh for a week because she is in a play there for the yearly cultural fair.

We can safely retitle this book Weird Week in Edinburgh, and you will be pleased to know that this book is just as mosaic-like and quirky as the first.   It is about:

Male parta, male dilabuntur.  (What is dishonorably got is dishonorably squandered.)  – Cicero

That was the quote at the beginning of the book.  Is there a term for a quote at the beginning of a book?  EPIGRAPH!   Yeah, I knew there was a term for that.

Our collection of diverse characters includes a mild mannered author who writes cozy mysteries, which is surprisingly successful, a hit man, some Russian gals in a very shady cleaning company, a sixty-something woman married to a very successful and wealthy schlub,  which said schlub has a massive heart attack while doing the bumpty-bump with a paid bumpty-bumper.  We have a nice single lady cop with a pain-in-the-patooty 14 year old son, and let’s see, who else?  Who else?  Oh, yeah, a has-been comic who is not very funny and who has been houseguesting (read mooching off) Martin, and who in  one of those tragic mistaken identity issues, is murdered in the house of Martin, the murderer apparently thinking he was Martin.  We are pretty sure it was not committed by a disgruntled audience member.

The connecting thread for all of this is an accident which occurs when a car, driven by the hit man, is rear ended by a car driven by a thug on the payroll of the wealthy schlub, who gets out of his car with a baseball bat  and hits the hit man, but is deterred from beating him to death by Martin, the by-standing writer, who throws his laptop at the baseball wielding thug.  This is witnessed by a number of the assorted members of our ensemble, and thereby hangs a tale.  I know.  Trite phrase, but I couldn’t resist.

Yes, we have a couple of other dead bodies, other than the mercifully dead comedian, and we have our boy Brodie doing his best not to be a cop/P.I. again, but you know he is going to get mixed up in it all.

My only nit that I shall pick is that the story hinges in large part on an awful lot of those pratfall kinds of misunderstandings and odd coincidences that unfunny sitcoms are made of.  One, two, ok, I can deal.  But a whole series of them?   Ehhhh, not so much.   But I still loved the book, because I like the way a whole lot of disparate characters are brought together to create the nexus of the plot.

Ill gotten gains, and looking out for Number One.  Yeah.  I think that pretty much summarizes the story arc.

 

 

YOU ARE OLD, FATHER WILLIAM

Father-William

Rhyming poems that have rhythm seem to stick with us.  Especially so are those from Lewis Carrol and the Alice in Wonderland books.  Here’s Father William:

“You are old, Father William,” the young man said,
“And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head—
Do you think, at your age, it is right?”

“In my youth,” Father William replied to his son,
“I feared it might injure the brain;
But now that Im perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again.”

 

De Alice's Abenteuer im Wunderland Carroll pic 17.jpg
“You are old” said the youth, “as I mentioned before,

And have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door—
Pray, what is the reason of that?”

“In my youth,” said the sage, as he shook his grey locks,
“I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment—one shilling the box—
Allow me to sell you a couple?”

 

De Alice's Abenteuer im Wunderland Carroll pic 18.jpg

“You are old,” said the youth, “and your jaws are too weak
For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak—
Pray, how did you manage to do it?”

“In my youth!” said his father, “I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength, which it gave to my jaw,
Has lasted the rest of my life.”

 

De Alice's Abenteuer im Wunderland Carroll pic 19.jpg

“You are old,” said the youth; “one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose—
What made you so awfully clever?”

“I have answered three questions, and that is enough,”
Said his father; “don’t give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I’ll kick you down stairs!”

The Father William poem was a parody of Robert Southey’s pious didactic poem “The Old Man’s Comforts and How He Gained Them“,  from 1799.  It was quite famous in its time:

“You are old, father William,” the young man cried,
“The few locks which are left you are grey;
You are hale, father William, a hearty old man;
Now tell me the reason, I pray.”

“In the days of my youth,” father William replied,
“I remember’d that youth would fly fast,
And abus’d not my health and my vigour at first,
That I never might need them at last.”

“You are old, father William,” the young man cried,
“And pleasures with youth pass away.
And yet you lament not the days that are gone;
Now tell me the reason, I pray.”

“In the days of my youth,” father William replied,
“I remember’d that youth could not last;
I thought of the future, whatever I did,
That I never might grieve for the past.”

“You are old, father William,” the young man cried,
“And life must be hast’ning away;
You are cheerful and love to converse upon death;
Now tell me the reason, I pray.”

“I am cheerful, young man,” father William replied,
“Let the cause thy attention engage;
In the days of my youth I remember’d my God!
And He hath not forgotten my age.”

I bet you didn’t know that.   I am a river to my people.