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Sunday, June 17, 2018
3:36 pm edt
Nearly eleven years ago, a month after he sauntered out of the woods
and followed me home, I learned that Sebastian Cat had been used [and abused] by a neighbor as a breeder. It seems that most
of the strays that now populate our neighborhood were/are probably his. Not to mention the numerous other kittens that were
sold to and by local pet stores. By the time I had ascertained this nugget [pardon the pun] of information, I had had him
neutered and de-flea-ed. And he became my bestest buddy, closet confident, and co-trainer of FrankieBernard, who joined our
little family six months later.
So, in his honor – and, of course, that of my own
Dad who has long since passed on to God’s Great Library – we celebrate Father’s Day. Well, at least I do.
I don’t think Sebastian has any idea why he gets fed a half-can of Albacore only once a year. Or why I let him outside
for a jaunt around the neighborhood to, I hope, visit his progeny. [Don’t worry, folks, he always returns an hour or
so later, mewling at the front door to be let in and then meowing for a good ten minutes about his adventures. Then he heads
upstairs to use his litter box before taking a long nap in the soft folds of my duvet. Probably dreaming of his next “allowed”
Now this vignette has little to do with the book I am
reviewing today which is, appropriately enough, a perfect read for Father’s Day. Because… one of the major themes
of Pirata: A Novel by Patrick Hasburgh is fatherhood. What it means to parent a child, regardless of whether you sired him/her. Bloodlines
to Nick Lutz, the main protagonist, do not matter.
Nick is an one-eyed ex-pat living
in a small village on the Pacific coast of southern Mexico where he spends most of his time surfing and interacting with the
native residents. How did he lose his eye? Well, back when he was a new car sales manager on southern California,
he was shot in the head by an alleged carjacker. The injury caused Nick to have seizures. And it was a seizure that caused
Nick to slam into a tree, nearly killing his seven-year-old son. Well, after that, he abandoned his family [the marriage was
falling apart anyway] and wound up in Mexico. Surfing and, until Meagan came along, feeling rather remorseful and sorry for
himself. So, with a black eyepatch… he is dubbed pirata , the Spanish word for pirate and the eponymous title
of this scathingly brilliant novel.
It is evident that Nick is an incurably addicted surfer.
The waves that pound Mexican coast are nearly the best surfing waves in the world… which he daily tackles with Winsor,
his on-again, off-again surfing buddy, who… well… Let me put it this way… is a salient, pivotal character
in the narrative. When Winsor is whacked in the head with a hammer [but I won’t tell you why…] by the enigmatic
Meagan, his paramour, Nick [literally] hooks up with her.
Meagan has two Irish-twin sons, Jade and Obsidian. Half brothers by two different fathers. And it is through these
two boys, who remind him of his own son, that Nick learns the art of parenting; how to be a good father. He takes them surfing
and then to a surfing competition. He explains the facts of life in a rather poignant and funny scene that nearly brought
tears to my eyes.
For, you see, despite his problematic
life, Nick is a gentle, kind, soul with a droll sense of humor and a penchant for occasionally getting in the way of and scraps
with one El Jefe, a nasty Mexican law-enforcer who carries a large bamboo whipping stick and an even bigger streak of cruelty.
Thus, while Nick had hoped to find peace and tranquility in Mexico, he discovers the exact
opposite, becoming embroiled in Meagan’s crime of passion and enmeshed in her sons’ lives. To the point where
he begins to think – and feel – that he is their stepfather. While he is replacing his affection of his son, Marshall,
for those of Jade and Obsidian, Nick reveals the true essence of what fatherhood is all about. Hence, Pirata is the
most apropos read and blog post for this year’s celebration of Dads…
its 340 gripping pages, there are not only thrilling adventures, a few fine touches of mystery, along with one or two “adult”
scenes, and several surprise reveals, but also a few lessons of taking loving and caring responsibility for children –
no matter whose they are. Lessons that should be, must be heeded by everyone espeically in these most troubling times of gut-wrenching
inhumane and insensitive cruelty that is irresponsibly being promulgated by our government. Need I say more? Except, in the
eyes of this richly crafted character, sons need fathers. And Fathers need sons. Together, not apart… A lesson that
equally applies to all mothers and all children. Regardless of ethnicity, color, religion, or biological background.
Pleases note: I dodn’t mean to be so preachy, but….
I am deeply appalled, saddened, and blood-boiling angry at what is happening today on our borders. It is inexcusable. And,
I guess, good writing, such as that which I found in this novel, brings out my passionate side…
Hasburgh is a sensitive and stylistically fluid writer who he has penned the scripts for the immensely
popular 21 Jump Street 1987 to 1991 television series. I found episodes on YouTube, which are just as captivating
to watch as it is to read Hasburgh’s second novel. And just as he does in the police series, this author wastes no time
in diving into the very essences of his characters’ souls. Not only has he captured Nick’s angst and tumultuous
adult “coming of age” thoughts and experiences, but he has also rendered the inner thoughts and being of young
boys, as seen through Nick’s eyes, taking their first steps into adulthood. And, then, [***SPOILER ALERT***] there is
the matter of his now thirteen-year-old son, Marshall…
Set in the backdrop of daily living in Mexico, with its ethos, politics, and cultural mores, and equally captivating
supporting characters – and you have a novel worthy of foregoing the chores for an afternoon or two – as I did
– for a great read.
Now, as you all know, I rarely review a book before it
is scheduled to be released. Okay, you got me. This is the second time in the seven-year reign of this literary blog…
But, I just couldn’t wait to tell you about this tour de force that will surely be one of the greater Summer 2018 must
reads. It is slated to be released on June 26th. I urge you to purchase it, read it, and share it with your friends,
your adult children, and, if they are still with us, you parents. Especially your Dad.
This being written, I am going to spend some time with Sabastian [and FrankieBernard] to fondly recall how great my
own Dad was. Among his many wonderful qualities, he was an avid reader like myself… Oh, how he would have loved this
novel. And, oh, how I dearly miss him.
Happy Father’s Day!
Enjoy the read!
Tuesday, May 15, 2018
3:51 pm edt
Had I known that Noah was a cohort of merpeople,
I would have included a character or two based upon these interesting aquatic creatures in my musical Noah’s Rainbow.
According the Carolyn Turgeon, the editor of The Mermaid Handbook: An Alluring Treasury of Literature, Lore, Art, Recipes, and Projects, he was worshipped as Oannes in Chaldea at Erech ‘the place of the ark’. She quotes naturalist Henry Lee
who, in 1883 in Sea Fables Explained, equates Noah with Oannes as “the sacred and intelligent fish-god, the
teacher of mankind, the god of science and knowledge.” [page 78]. Turgeon goes on to explain that a woodcut in a 1483
copy of the Nuremburg Bible depicts Noah in the ark with mermaids, mermen, and [of all things] merdog[s] swimming alongside
What a wonderful scene, replete with the appropriate song, that would
But probably not as wonderful as the HarperDesign book – just
released today – that relates this bit of information along with scales, er, scads of other scintillating stories, accounts,
reports, visions, and descriptions – as well as explanations – of and about mermaids.
Now, I don’t know about you, but growing up “back in the day”, I was enchanted by The
Little Mermaid, the original story by Hans Christian Andersen upon which the Disney movie is very loosely based. I used
to play “mermaid” in the shallow kiddie pool in the backyard and convinced two of the kids on the block to act
out the story with me for our parents. [That was probably the beginning of my aspriations as a playwright.] As a much younger adult, I once had a martini or two at a “mermaid bar” in New Jersey watching
women – and the occasional man – in fish tails swim in an underwater lagoon. And I spent the major part of this
past rainy weekend doing nothing more than immersing [pun intended] myself in the Handbook that is, if nothing else, now the foremost authoritative compendium of all things mermaid.
bound and illustrated – as all HarperDesign books are – The Mermaid Handbook includes, along with folklore,
myths, tales and crafts, mermaid cuisine and fashion. Did you know you can actually buy a custom-maid tail online? And did
you also know that there are professional mermaids out there? And if you’ve never visited Weeki Wachee in Florida…
Well, this is the second-best thing to being there. From a literary perspective, however, I was most intrigued by mermaid
history and literature. As well as the well-chosen poems that are delicately sprinkled throughout. It was this aspect –
especial the stories of famous mermaids – that kept me reading far into the deep dark swells of the night.
While this blue tome with its gilt-edge pages acknowledges that mermaids have had an understandably
bad rap through the centuries luring sailors on the high seas to their untimely deaths, it more than compensates this negative
by the more positive beguiling and enchanting aspects of the mysteries inherent in mermaid life. An enjoyable companion piece
to Turgeon’s The Faerie Handbook, it is a required adjunct to long summer afternoons at the beach or sitting
by the pool.
Enjoy the read!
Saturday, April 28, 2018
2:33 pm edt
2:22 pm edt
Last Seen Alive
In many instances, the end(ing) may justify the means. Not so with the awesomely conceived
Last Seen Alive by Claire Douglas, the ending of which does not do justice to the most thrilling, captivating, suspense-filled page-turner
I’ve read all year. Okay, in the past few years. To be blunt, the last page is a total injustice to the stunning 326
ones before it.
Granted, I read an advanced, uncorrected review copy.
Granted, the plot line is so tight and full of twists and turns that – giving the experienced author the benefit of
the doubt – she has written herself, as well as her characters, in a corner and had decided to take the easy way out.
But, unless the last paragraph is a prelude to a sequel, there are no excuses.
Libby Hall, the main character, finally, after one of hardship and mysterious circumstances, is living the life she
has always wanted. She is happily married; loves her job teaching in a local school; adores Ziggy, her and Jamie’s,
her husband, shaggy Golden Retriever; and is joyfully pregnant. Until a fire breaks out in the school and, while rescuing
a number of students, she falls, breaks her arm and, tragically, suffers a miscarriage.
She and Jamie reluctantly agree it’s time for a break from life’s stress and angst. And the
opportunity unexpectedly presents itself in the form of a house-swap. Spending Easter week in Cornwall, in a luxurious beach
home of a wealthy couple who wish to rent the Hall’s small two-bedroom basement flat in Bath. To be, ostensively, near
the hospital where their daughter requires a delicate heart operation. The young couple jump at the chance… and jump
headlong into the most bizarre and riveting set of circumstances that could ever grace the pages of an almost perfect emotionally-charged
The author of two previous gripping page-turners
[Local Girl Missing and The Sisters], Douglas is an ace at creating literary suspense. A genre that is difficult, at best, for
even the most masterful of writers. Gillian Flynn [Gone Girl] and Ruth Ware [The Girl in Cabin 10] instantly
come to mind. But with such great talent comes the greater responsibility of not only providing one’s readers with a
uniquely imaginative and resourceful narrative, but of offering a lucid, tight-knit, and reasonably satisfying denouement
and ending. Which, unfortunately, Douglas’ ending does not.
say, I was hooked with this novel right from the start on Thursday evening to when I finished it late Friday afternoon. Each
page, each chapter revealed, like peeling a pungent onion, layer upon swirling layer of crisp, taut ever twisting well-placed
tells and reveals. Written in the first person as well as the present tense [a relatively recent industry “standard”]
the main protagonist’s story brilliantly unfolds...
is hooked and then suddenly blindsided. Hooked again. And then whammed with yet another surprising plot twist. As I mentioned,
I just couldn’t put the novel down. Not wanting it to end, yet impatient for the final resolution(s) which never came.
Well, actually, it did. But it was a bit lame. Unless Douglas intends to follow up with Last Seen Alive, Part II [which, unfortunately,
seems quite unlikely]. To be honest, I like closure in my novels; both in the ones I read as well as in those that I write.
Not an open-ended “Huh?” finish that leaves me to write it not only for myself, but for the author.
Other than that, this novel is a stunner. And, despite my own disappointment, I heartily
encourage you to look for it. It’s bound to be a best seller and, with any luck, great fodder for a captivating movie.
It’s rare that I read and then
review a book well before its release. But… Last Seen Alive, first published in the United Kingdom last year,
won’t be published in America until June 26th of this year. And, in my humble opinion, plenty of time for
the author and the good editor(s) at HarperCollins to rewrite the finale. So that it is an ending that more adequately justifies
Enjoy the read!
Thursday, April 19, 2018
4:07 pm edt
The Home for
The French word Elodie [El-oh-dee] means
“foreign riches”. It is also a quite hardy type of lily; a suitable name for one of the main protagonists in Joanna
Goodman’s fourth novel, The Home for Unwanted Girls. For, you see, Elodie was taken from, Maggie, her 16-year-old mother at birth, and raised in the cruelest of conditions
in a Quebec orphanage rebranded in the 1950s by the government as a “home for the mentally ill”. What young Elodie
goes through – Nay, suffers – as her mother spends a lifetime frantically searching for her, proves her profound
will to survive. Her own hardy mettle. Just like her apt name.
The child of
a mixed marriage between an Englishman and a French woman, Maggie wants nothing more than to work in her father’s garden
shop. She dreams of one day owning and running it herself as she counts and packages seeds in the attic. As she grows older,
she is enamored of Gabriel, a French lad, whom her father decides is “not suitable” for his daughter. To avoid
further contact, he ships her to her uncle’s house, where she is brutally raped. As the resultant baby is ripped from
Maggie’s arms just minutes after birth she has only a moment to name her daughter “Elodie” before she is
taken away. Sold by her father on the then thriving baby black market. Thus sparkling a life-long dissonance between herself
and her once beloved parent.
Elodie, at age seven, too young to understand or
know any other home, thrives in the orphanage until it is declared a mental asylum. She is transferred to another institution
where she meets the unthwarted and unwarranted wrath of only monetary-minded nuns. Injustice and cruelty prevail until she
meets another sister who kindly takes her under her wing… Awaiting the time when Elodie is grown; old enough to be
cast out into the unknown outside world on her own.
Based upon real events and seething
with exceptionally detailed and exhaustive research, Goodman’s complex political narrative, with several surprising
plot twists and intertwining sub-plots, is a can’t-put-it-down page-turner that is guaranteed to keep readers awake
at night. Waiting to see what happens next in Maggie’s multi-faceted life as she continues to seek Elodie’s whereabouts.
Wanting to scream at the heartless nuns who run the orphanage turned asylum; who consider the young girl and her contemporaries
nothing more than sub-humans. The children tolerated only because of government money given them each month for each incarcerated
“patient” that fills their coffers.
Yes, folks. Just like our own
current political times, the ancient adage has been, is, and will always be perennially true: Money is the root of all evil.
And, perhaps, a basic strong theme of this revealing fictional recounting of the devastating damages that unbridled “love
of the all-mighty dollar” can wreak. The subsequent evils spawn in Goodman’s literary telling branches out to
encompass the very heart as well as edges of the lives of Maggie and Elodie.
Told in the
third-person, alternating chapters and sections between Maggie and Elodie, The Home for Unwanted Girls is not only a ripping exposé of Canadian government greed and lack of political as well as personal
compassion, but a study in misogynistic mentalities; revealing startling insensitivities toward female rights and respect.
There is rape, incest, and the turning of deaf eyes and blind eyes. And, yet, Maggie and Elodie somehow survive. The branches
begin to wither and die. True compassion and familial love eventually, finally win out.
To tell you anything more would border on spoiling this superbly written and well thought out novel for
you. Except to say that the author is, indeed, a master craftswoman. One whose literary works should and must grace the library
shelves of discerning bibliophiles.
Enjoy the read!
J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is
an author, poet, and librettist. Her currently published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations,
volumes of poetry, stories
for children (of all ages) and
a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
Hose, Hook & Ladder: A Novel of Phoenixville during World War I
Columbia Hotel: A Novel
of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of Phoenixville in
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World War II
Rainbow in the Sky
of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A
Collection of More Spiritual Poems
We Three Kings
Beauty and the Beast
Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding
Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She
is currently working on her sixth novel.