A Literary Blog by June J. McInerney
 

A Literary Blog about Books
(and the occasional film)
How they affect us.
How they shape our lives.

Note
:
Postings are once a week or so,
 as the muses strike.
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June also reviews books for
authorexposure.com

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Copyright 2011-2015

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Words of Wisdom
I was an ardent fan of the New York Times Sunday Book Review with its myriad redundant best seller lists until I realized that the books listed were just that: best sellers, not necessarily best readings. There is a distinct difference. Not all books that sell well read well or are ofany significant literary merit. But the editors and reviewers of the NYTSBR want us to think otherwise. After all, aren’t they the end-all and be-all authorities of the Literary World? To me, they are not.

Let me put this another way: Not all best selling books are best reading; not all best readings are best sellers. Any thoughtful, discerning reader knows that.

Take a gander at the more recent best seller lists and you’ll find more schlock and sensationalism than sensible and salutary writing. These are books of which publishers report highest sales, not highest regard for literary talent and/or satisfaction. It’s like reading a stock market report of B-rated worthless dollar bonds, without any knowledge of the companies who issued the shares.

There are, of course, rare exceptions to this. Take, for example, The Secret Wisdom of the Earth a bold, sweeping literary offering by Christopher Scotton. This past Sunday a review of it by Daniel Woodrell was posted in the NYTSBR. A decent review of a decent novel, although it (the review) breaks, like most reviewers for the New York Times do, the cardinal rule of reviewing: Do not give away the plot. Woodrell’s review was so chuck full of spoiler alerts that I wondered half-way through why I even bothered to read the novel in the first place (besides being asked to by my editors at AE). There it is, in black and white, every last plot twist and character analysis originally conceived and brilliantly written by Scotton – told second hand.

Why the editors (and readers) of the SBR tolerate this, I do not know. Why bother buying a book if you get the gist through an often not-so-well written rehash of it in the Times? More often than not, the reviews take away all the joy of discovering a new book, savoring each delicious anticipation, turning each ink-scented page to see what comes next. Which is why I now read the review after I’ve read the book. Makes my whole literary experience more enjoyable, which is the whole point of the endeavor. My heartfelt plea to the Times: Please do NOT do this anymore. You are ruining it for prospective buyers and readers; for us authors; and for us reviewers who have the decent sensitivity and integrity to know better.

That being said, this was the very first time that I was “scooped” by the NYSBR. All of my other reviews for www.authorexposure.com (all 96) written over the span of three and a half years were posted (long) before the titles were even noticed by the Times. That is, um, before their sales were high enough to warrant notice and listing on the, um, best selling lists. Some, of course, did not even make the hallowed review pages. And most of these, rest assuredly, were of greatest literary merit. Which, in some fashion, proves my point.

Anyway…Back to The Secret Wisdom of the Earth. I agree with the Times reviewer (except for the blatant plot give-a-ways), including the “…tics that might grate and … sometimes approximate and muddled … language.” But above this criticism, both of us found Scotton, albeit a technology guru – not an author by vocation – quite a talented storyteller.

Before you read the NYTSBR review, please read mine first. I think my comments will inspire you to buy, read, and enjoy the novel much more than reading the rehash will. 

2:25 pm est          Comments

Friday, January 16, 2015

Books on Wheels
Fifteen years ago I moved to this larger townhome primarily because my first house was burgeoning at the seams with books, videos, and CDs. This one has a whole wall of built-in shelves in the finished basement – now overflowing – and the second library in a back bedroom is now overcrowded. As I look around the living room, there are two stockpiles of books to read, review, and enjoy…Not to mention the backlog of old movies and television shows I’ve just got to catch up on. Luckily, most of these are in my Netflix queue, not taking up any space. But…egads! 

I am overwhelmed by the thought of moving again…and have decided to eventually cull out some of the titles and start to list them on this site for your perusal, hoping a few strike your fancy. I haven’t worked out the logistical details yet…but, as they say, “watch this space”...

In the meantime, I got to daydreaming about taking my collection on the road. How much fun it would be to obtain a second-hand school bus or motorized camper. Loaded with books and jigsaw puzzles and videos and DVDS, I would tour the countryside – FrankieBernard riding shotgun, of course – bringing books to borrow (for a small, modest fee to cover expenses) to your door. Rather like the archaic milk person, wouldn’t you say? Only this time, the nurturing would be in books…all kinds, genres, ilk, and nature of books…

Yes, I know it’s an age-old idea whose time – and actual implementation – has long since past…When was the last time you saw a Bookmobile or a Traveling Library? How sad. Back in the day before books could be ordered online, I lived for a few short years in Kentucky. Every two weeks, on Saturday, like clockwork, the brightly painted (crimson red with yellow lettering) Books-on-Wheels bus laden with all sorts of literary goodies would arrive in the parking lot of a small strip shopping mall. What a treat to walk the few blocks from my small apartment to spend a hour or so perusing the new additions on the makeshift shelves and to chat with the driver/librarian about the news of the day and the best-sellers she had that week; many of them from her own collection. In my mind, it would be just as much a treat today as it was then…What an adventure that would be!

Much like the adventures of Bobby Musku in Mobile Library, a quirky little literary rendition by British author David Whitehouse. Here is a novel that is much more than what meets the eye, proving once again that one definitely should not judge a book by its cover; in this case, it’s cartoonish cover. For within its pages is the darker and more poignant side of what it really means to be a family…A definitely good and often humorous read. What fun – and ironic – it would be to have a few copies of it in my own imagined, er, mobile library, traveling around lending them to you…Chatting about your reactions when you return it…

But while I am currently physically unable – and a bit too old now – to do that, I did write a review that, as a matter of a fact, was posted yesterday. When you get the chance – while I start culling and sorting, and restacking – please roll on over to www.authorexposure.com and read my comments. I think you’ll find it a worthwhile addition to your own growing library.

3:51 pm est          Comments

Friday, January 9, 2015

DA DTs – The Cure
I just realized I haven't made a Literary Blog Entry “all year”...Actually, not since before Thanksgiving. The reason(s) being I've been caught up in celebrating and enjoying the Holiday Season which, unfortunately, just ended yesterday with the Feast of the Epiphany. (For those of you unaware, I celebrate ALL the Twelve Days of Christmas!). We are now in Epiphany, which coincidentally is, TA DA! the (5th) Season of Downton Abbey! And, needless to say, like all you thousands and millions of DA fans out there are, I am in my glory. 

So it is only appropriate that I clue you in on two nearly perfect companion pieces to the show.

Jennifer Robson, the daughter of a renowned historian, is an accomplished English historian in her own right, as well as being an accomplished writer of historical literary fiction. She takes great pains researching her material and painstakingly incorporates facts and triviality in her novels. Seemingly obsessed with the World War I era – both prior and after – she has so far written two novels of a trilogy that read delightfully like one of Julian Fellowes DA scripts, complete with Violet and Isobel repartees – not as witty or pithy, I admit, but close enough.

An avid DA fan, I was, as the First Day of Christmas was quickly approaching, beginning to suffer the pangs of withdrawal (the DA DTs, if you will). Having been told both books were akin to DA and that they might assuage my cravings. I started to read After the War Is Over , Robson's first novel. It decidedly did not disappoint. In the gentle glow of my e-reader I was back wallowing in the ambience of England at the turn of the last century, following the escapades of characters like Edith Crawley, Anna and Mr. Bates, Cora and Robert, Mary and Tony...

After two days of saturation, I was primed and pined for her second, After the War (I received an advanced reader’s copy just a few days before). It was almost as delightful as the first. I write “almost” as the author in her second literary offering somewhat sacrifices storyline for sermonizing about women's rights and civil unrest after the end of WWI. But still, it and its prequel are well worth the read and were the almost perfect cures for the DA DTs while I waited for the fifth season of Downton to finally start.

However, being the realist that I am, here is the sad truth: For all you devoted DA fans out there, there is going to come a time (unfortunately in eight short weeks), when DA ends and we are bereft for yet another ten (glorious) months (of tennis and writing and reading and reviewing, God willing. Yeah!) until season six is finally aired here in America…So, to help you assuage your anxiety…here are two palliative gems to enjoy while you wait.

My complete review of “After the War” has been posted on www.authorexposure.com. When you get a chance, as you recover from what I hope was a joyous and blessed Holiday and the festivities of a Happy, Prosperous New Year, please take a peek at it. Hopefully, you'll order both of Robson's novels and settle in with them during the dearth of DA. I guarantee they are two satisfying reads, worthy of the Crawleys.

4:38 pm est          Comments

Friday, November 21, 2014

Gutenberg (No. 1400)
I love James Spader. He obviously doesn't know I exist, but I have spent countless hours the last few weeks under the covers with him binge-watching the first 22-episiode season of The Blacklist.  Every time he appears on screen, I swoon; so enamored am I of his wry, twisted smile, and the sardonic way he softly sucks a tooth, as if savoring one last morsel of a gourmet lunch as he plays Raymond Reddington, a nefariously nasty, egotistically vile character, loving the way he – James – off-handedly laces his dialogue with little-known erudite euphemisms and unabashed displays of heart-felt emotions tinged with rays of irony.

I first met James in 1994 when he played a nerdy young scientist in Stargate, the hokey 1994 Sci-Fi flick about space travel through an ancient Egyptian portal. That started my crush on him, which grew to blatant love in 2005 watching Boston Legal. It wasn’t until The Blacklist and his role as the president’s adviser in Scandal that I have recently come to realize he is, for now, not only the love of my life, but one of our most talented actors. I am one of his most ardent fans, especially since I just found out that James is not on a ego trip as so many other celebs are. The fact is, James takes his art not
quite so seriously and acts “solely” to make enough money to pursue other, as he says, “more important and more meaningful” ventures in his private life. If nothing else, you just have to admire his forthright honesty.

Which at first thought has nothing to do with Gutenberg's Apprentice by Alix Christie, an historical novel set in the 15th Century and centered around the discovery of moveable type and the first mass-produced edition of The Bible. Well, on second thought, maybe there is a connection. You see, as Christie points out in her erudite fictional rendition of what probably really did happen, Gutenberg was not really all that history has cracked him up to be. Nope, he wasn’t nearly as altruistic as we think and/or led to believe. Matter of fact, he was “inventing” the printing press purely, it seems, for the money. But unlike my dearest James, there was nothing admirable or even likeable about him. Especially when we are told that Gutenberg was not the talented, dedicated inventor at all but, well, as the title suggests, his apprentice was.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the author’s exhaustive (and exhausting) research isn’t turning more than just a few heads in the wider literary world as well as that of erudite, scholarly historians as more and more readers delve into her first novel. It certainly widened my eyes, as I explained in my November 20th review of it for www.authorexposure.com.

So, as you make your way to the site and read my comments, I am on my own way to my DVR to watch the second season of The Blacklist. Hmmm…if James as Reddington were to go back in time to the 1400s, would he have put Gutenberg on his list? I wonder…

 

2:43 pm est          Comments

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Little Things Mean a Lot
Well, who’d a thunk it? It's been exactly three years since I retired from my position as a senior technical writer to pursue a much less lucrative but immensely more rewarding literary career as a fledgling author and literary critic, including this Literary Blog. Three seemingly long years..yet they have gone by in a flash. Amazing how time does fly when you're (finally) having fun. Happy Anniversary to me!

Let's see...In these past three years I've written and (self-)published ten books (see left side panel), including four musicals and a novel, Forty-Thirty. (I am now writing its prequel/sequel.) Along the way, I’ve read and reviewed nearly 100 books for www.authorexposure.com and met and befriended a lot of authors – some famous; some emerging; all very, very talented.

And these are just my literary pursuits. I won't mention the countless hours on the courts, the long, romping walks with FrankieB, or the myriad other activities that have filled my joyous days.

Each and every minute of my time has been and now is filled with wondrous and awesome tiny wonders. You know, the little things that make living so worth while. Including the small blessings in life that truly inspire.

Small Blessings, the critically acclaimed debut novel of famed NPR essayist Martha Woodroof is one of the small inspirations. It captures the essence of what it means to follow your heart. I received an advanced copy of it a month or so ago and my review was posted on www.exposure.com last week. And I was so moved by this tale of living and loving life that I just had to share it with my tennis playing/book reading buddy, Betty. Her comments – as well as Betty in my life – are small blessings in themselves. And so, today, I just had to blog about this novel and share with you Betty's uniquely insightful comments as well as Woodroof's all too kind words about my review.

First, the author's email to my AE editor: "[June’s review] is a really lovely, heart-warming take on SMALL BLESSINGS... Could you let June know, please, how deeply I appreciate it!" A kind, comment that is so greatly appreciated. Especially when an author recognizes and acknowledges my small efforts as a reader/reviewer. Just one of the little things in my daily life that mean a lot.

So, secondly, here are Betty's comments about Small Blessings:

"A beautiful, sensitive and tender story of how two people react to the disappointments of life. One person fears the reality of an unfulfilled life and stays the course, no matter what. The other person runs from the reality of the present frustrations and failures to the hope that a new situation with new associations will be better. The beauty of the story is when the one who "stays" meet the one who "flees"; the one brings the gift of stability and reality and the other brings the gift of adventure in each new day."

Ahhhhh.,...yeah, Betty. You whacked the nail right on the head. The "...gift of adventure of each new day..."

Which is exactly how I now feel with, um, each new day. Enjoying the little things that truly matter. The Small Blessings of and in life. Friends, family. A game of tennis. A newly published book most people like. A walk around the block with my bestest buddy. A phone call from a dear friend. A cozy fire and a good book. A great, stunning, uniquely appealing novel like Woodroof's.

The little things that do mean a lot.

2:17 pm est          Comments

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June J. McInerney is an author, poet, and librettist. Her currenty published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations, two volumes of poetry, stories for children (of all ages) and a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:

Forty-Thirty 
Rainbow in the Sky
Meditations for New Members

Adventures of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Spinach Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A Collection of More Spiritual Poems

We Three Kings

Beauty and the Beast

Bethlehem

Noah's Rainbow

Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding Hood

 

 

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 first novel.

June's books be purchased at amazon.com or through Barnes and Noble.

For more information about her musicals, which are also available on amazon.com,