June's Literary Blog
 

A LITERARY BLOG ABOUT BOOKS
How they affect us.
How they shape our lives.

Note
:
Postings made when muses strike.
Watch for blog alert notices
via
email, Twitter, LinkedIn
, and Facebook.

"We read to know
we are not alone."

C.S. Lewis

Pre-Read/Used Book Sale
Vast Collection of Great Books,
First Editions, Choice Reads!
Order your Titles Now
for the Holidays
See First List Posted 7/6/2015

Copyright 2011-2015

Current Top 10
Favorites 
Click a book image to access it on
www.amazon.com.

Novels, books, and musicals
June has written and published:
Click a book image to access it on
www.amazon.com

"Meditations for New Members is a beautifully written little book...a gem.
The thoughts are striking and orginal--a few are quite profound."
--Fiona  Hodgkin, author of The Tennis Player from Bermuda

B'Seti Pup Publishing
Editorial Services
Proofreading, Editing, Rewites,
Assistance with S
elf-publishing.

"It's the write thing to do."

"I like what you've done with my book.
Makes me fall in love with it all over again."
                 --Olajuwon Dare, author of Eleven Eleven

Contact June at
JuneJ@JuneJMcInerney.com
on Facebook.com, or at
www.BSetiPupPublising.com

Children's Musicals
For Kids of all Ages

www.stagedoormusicals.com

This site  The Web 

  

Please support this Literary Blog
by buying on Amazon.
Thank you.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Alaskan Laundry
I spend most mornings listening to WHYY, our local PBS station. At nine o’clock, the BBC News Hour encapsulates all of the worldly news. At ten, during the two-hour Radio Times, Martie Moss-Cohen interviews mostly boring political commentators and local “authorities” on a range of obscure topics. Most often, I am spurred to shut off the radio and pursue more important, much more interesting things.

However, a few weeks ago, Martie interviewed Brendan Jones, a native Philadelphian who spent ten years writing his debut novel, The Alaskan Laundry. Always attuned to the literary pursuits of fellow local authors, I thoughtfully sipped my tea and munched on a toasted blueberry bagel with cream cheese as this fine author waxed eloquently about Tara Marconi, his feisty protagonist, and her coming-of-age, almost Odysseus-like journey through the pangs of growing up as she assiduously lived and worked in the Alaskan fishing industry. When he read the first part of Chapter 2 in his authoritative, yet caringly silky voice, I was hooked. This novel, I thought, as I later emailed a favorite publicist at Marina Books requesting a copy, is a must read and review.

Set in 1999, two life altering events, including being ousted from her childhood home by her stern father, compel young Tara to flee from south Philadelphia to Port Anna, Alaska, where she seeks healing and redemption. With a dare-me attitude, a talent for boxing, and absolutely no knowledge of how fish are plucked from the sea, processed, and packaged, she begins to learn how to fend for herself in what is, was almost totally a man’s world. When she literally falls in love with an old World War II tugboat, she sets her sights on earning enough money to finally buy it. And with that decision made, her adventures begin.

Jones originally began writing this seminal novel with a host of characters struggling for survival in the great Alaskan wilderness. Most of them were male. Tara, when the manuscript was bought by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, was almost an afterthought. But at the suggestion of a wise HMH editor, she became the main protagonist, surrounded by a host of equally true-to-life characters – ironically mostly male – that guide her through the honing and shaping of her life. Especially gnarly Newt, who takes her under his wing and, along with Kara, a Shepherd-Husky cross, and the older, father-figure, Betteryear, guides her through one of the most amazing and exciting literary journeys that I’ve read in a long time.

Jones titles his book after the analogy that many transplants to Alaskan seek cleansing from a past life. Dialogue and life experiences of a few of the characters reflect the continuous cycles of washing and rinsing. As if all who come to the 49th State with sins and soul stains, like Tara are in dire need of cleansing. The harsh, yet beautiful landscape and the struggle for survival in it are the great washing machine of life. An apt metaphor that would be otherwise mundanely, um, drained away in other then Jones’ capable hands.

However, while this is a wonderfully great read about a young woman’s coming of age, it is, in fact – let’s face it folks – written by a man who, while waxing poetically with a fluid literary writing style, can be heavy-handed. There is obviously too much testosterone in Tara’s blood, spilling out from the pages of this novel, often polluting passages that could have more moving if written with a softer, more feminine touch. After all, this is about a young, sensitive ingénue from south Philly. Despite her rough-and-rumble, don’t-touch-me-or-I’ll-hit-you demeanor, she could have been portrayed as a tad more gentle. Not, as Hale, one misogynist crabber says, and as she often comes across as, “a male with balls cut off”. It’s as if the author, drawing many of the scenes, events, and characters from his own life, tried to impart his own feminine side into Tara’s persona. A conceit that, in this instance, nearly fails to work.

In addition, Jones is also a bit too zealously graphic in his depictions of how fish are processed. This nearly turned me off to the read and I almost closed the book a third of the way through, nearly missing what would later become a real tear-jerking, soul-searching, satisfying denouement. Suffice it to say, being a closet quasi-PETA supporter, I will never eat salmon nor King Crab again.

That being said, Jones does have a lyrically poetic writing style. His metaphors, analogies, and allegories are spot on, transporting Tara through her many heroic Greek tragedies as she valiantly finds her own, unique way “home”. He finally shows his sensitive side in the last 100 pages of a very moving conclusion, which, I unabashedly admit, I sobbed through, feeling both a deep sense of loss and the thrill of achievement. I must tell you, it takes a brave, honest, and talented author with a great story such as this one to bring me, a self-proclaimed hard-hearted literary critic, such as I am, to tears. And that says more than just a lot about this mesmerizingly gripping novel.

The ending, by the way, definitely calls for a sequel. C’mon, Brendan, will the Pacific Chief ever float again?

In the meantime, 
The Alaskan Laundry is yet another “must” for your summer reading list. As well as being a fine, 5-start addition to your library. To be read again. And again. And again.

Wash. Scrub. Rinse. Repeat.

Note: If you enjoy reading this Blog and my comments on how books affect and sometimes alter our lives, it would be greatly appreciated if you could please support my efforts. I’d like to continue providing you with the best of what today’s literary world has to offer, but I can do so only if you click the text and/or the image links to navigate to amazon.com to purchase the books I recommend. Every one of your clicks and resulting transactions generates a few shekels that help me keep “June’s Literary Blog” up and running. Thank you!

8:23 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Under a Dark Summer Sky
I normally try hard to keep track of the books publishers request to be reviewed on this blog. But lately, I confess, I’ve been a bit distracted with other literary pursuits and haven’t been all that assiduous. To wit, and to my chagrin, I discovered the other day a novel that had, quite literally, fallen through the cracks of my time. My sincere apologies to the talented author and the publisher. But I figure, since it is such a good read, this review is better late than never.

Based upon the true events of a massive hurricane that struck the Florida Keys in 1935, Under a Dark Summer Sky by Vanessa Lafaye is a tri-fold historical novel: a romance; a face-paced, thrilling mystery; and a frank, forceful commentary on the dismissive treatment of returning African-American World War I veterans.

Released last June by Sourcebooks Landmark, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc., this is a fascinating fictional rendition of southern life, ethics, and morés during the height of the Great Depression. The author deftly weaves together the tumultuous stories of true-to-life characters – all deeply affected, and changed, as the massive storm approaches on the afternoon of a Fourth of July celebration on the beach.

Missy has patiently waited eighteen years for Henry to return to Heron Key from the war, cleaning the Kincaid house and caring for Nathan, Nelson’s and Hilda’s new-born. He finally returns – desperate and destitute – a member of a government work crew assigned to rebuild a bridge. Once reconnected, the two of them try, once again, to rekindle their love…

Hilda, a former beauty queen whose protective father’s hopes and dreams for her were dashed when Nelson swept her off her feet, has not been able to drop the weight she gained when carrying Nathan. Her husband is repulsed by her looks, seeking comfort elsewhere. Fat as she is, she is determined to attend the festivities. Perhaps to win him back…

Dwayne, the local Deputy, harbors anger for the unknown father of his wife’s black baby. But he suddenly finds himself with a mystery to solve. And, in the process, old tensions and grievances flare up…

Trent Watts, with bald head and many tattoos, is frustrated by the inept and life-threatening decisions a absentee government official makes for his rag-tag crew…

And then there is the storm, gathering strength and almost omnipotent power, surging closer and closer to the small southern torn, threatening to destroy them all. The residents, having endured many storms before, think they are prepared for its onslaught. But they are wrong. Dead wrong.

Lafaye, a native Floridian now living in the UK, is an accomplished writer. In this, her debut novel, she couples her own experiences growing up in the deep South with a genuine concern for her characters and their plights. Straddling the fine line between fact and fiction, she writes with quick, efficient, descriptive, original – often metaphoric – phrases, that lend a poignant sense of urgency to her face-paced tale which will keep you up until the wee hours.

If you’re looking for a refreshing, yet haunting “It was a dark and stormy night…” to add to your summer reading list, Under a Dark Summer Sky is certainly the one novel to round out and satisfy your search.

2:43 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Versions of Us
What if? We all ask this question at various nexus points in our lives. What if I do this? Instead of that? What will happen? What won’t? Sometimes our decisions are huge; life-altering. Sometimes they are trivial, soon forgotten. Large or small, all our choices have consequences.

When Eva Edelstein and Jim Taylor first meet in The Versions of Us, Laura Barnett’s debut novel, it is seemingly just a coincidence. In October 1958, they are both students at Cambridge. A rusty nail punctures her bicycle tire. Walking by, he offers to help; then offers to buy her a drink. She could say, “No,” and continue on to class. She could accept and spend the rest of the afternoon, perhaps her life, with him. “What if?” she asks herself. “What if?”

Reading this finely crafted, exquisitely worded novel, first published in the United Kingdom in 2015 – and just released in the USA today – is like watching a bevy of white swans swimming in the smooth waters of a crystal clear lake. The movement is effortless, fluid; barely rippling the surface. Yet the lake is wide and deep, like life itself; harboring challenges, great secrets; offering loving insights, often bittersweet commentaries about who we are and how the choices we make define us.

This talented author takes a uniquely refreshing approach to the choices her main protagonists make. She writes three futures for them; three different versions of their lives. In one in which Eva and Jim come together, marry, have children. In the second,they go their separate ways. In the third, they each marry someone else, then by chance meet again and decide they were meant to be together. Each version, a choice. A what if? Within each, multiple layers of meaning, different sets of decisions. Each with consequences, good and bad. Pleasure, delight. Sadness, ruing. Sometimes betrayal, misunderstandings. Triumphs. The daily detritus of life. All in the name of love.

At first, I found The Versions of Us a confusing read, not quite able to distinguish between the three different paths of Eva’s and Jim’s lives that sequentially alternate in three parts. I started what turned out to be an amazingly beautiful novel, um, three times, before creating a cheat sheet to help differentiate between them. Requiring my full attention in two sittings, it took a bit of work, but was well worth the effort. I quickly learned the pattern of their three lives in which, while indeed different, Eva and Jim are the constants; basically they stay the same as they weave in and out of each other’s lives. In many respects, they are fictionalized versions of us all.

Barnett has talents far beyond those of a “mere” debut author. Her vast experience working as a journalist and theatre critic in London serves her well as she brings a wealth of knowledge to her first literary endeavor. Her writing is compassionate, rich with subtle metaphors and compact, intertwining themes that delight, illuminate, and entertain. The Versions of Us is, by far, a cut above many debut novels of this reading season; a fine example of contemporary literature at its best.

3:01 pm edt          Comments

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Forty Watt Flowers
In its overnight journey from Philadelphia to Atlanta, the Silver Crescent pauses on a long siding just outside Athens, GA to allow two freight trains to rumble pass by on the main line. I think it quaint that a southern community named itself after a major city in Greece and while a passenger many times on the train myself, I wondered what life would be like in what seemed to be, at least from my roomette’s window, a sleepy, dusky town.

Little did I know Athens was – and still is – not only the home of the University of Georgia, but a hubbub of rock n’ roll, blues, jazz, and all alternative music in-between. It is the birthplace of such famed groups as R.E.M and the B-52’s. But not much has been written about the electrifying culture and broiling atmosphere until two years ago when C. M. Subasic, a talented Canadian playwright, wrote the definitive novel about starting a band and making it big on the music scene. The Forty Watt Flowers is a refreshingly frank exposé of Athen’s musical sub-culture, delving into the complexities of what it takes for a band to make it big.

A transplant from the north, young Trisha is relatively new in the community. Struggling with deep hurt, guilt, and misunderstanding, she searches for importance in her life beset by family and boyfriend issues. In her quest to create “something meaningful,” she decides to start an altrock band, bringing together four other young women; each one a unique individual with her own set of divergent issues, quirks, talents, and problems: a black Canadian bass player; a hard-nosed Latino drummer; a spoiled, selfish “southern belle”; and a shy, withdrawn, wealthy recluse who breaks out of her shell to become their lead singer. Together they form the Forty Watt Flowers in the hopes of lighting up the music world with their talents.

The band becomes a mini-cosmos of creativity mixed with complex relationships that threaten to tear it apart.-Trisha is their leader who, mired in her own insecurities, is the most mature of its members. As the well-constructed plot progresses from the band’s first rehearsal in a beer-soaked seedy garage to their dreamed-of gig at the prestigious 40 Watt Club, she becomes their leader, mentor, band-promoter, and problem solver.

This is a well-tuned debut novel from a very talented, seasoned writer. A noted editor and publishing consultant in her own right, Subasic couples her easy-read writing style with a vast knowledge of music, empathetically probing in-depth the finer points of inter-personal relationships. Writing with a light touch and often a jaundiced tongue-in-cheek, she uniquely twists common phrases into fresh, new usages. Her style, not quite hip-hop jivey, is pert and to the point. Through her characters, she often waxes eloquent philosophies, and slams home poignant observations like a musician playing finely-tuned instruments. There are only two flaws in this otherwise exceptional story: some of the lyrics are hard-to-grasp and somewhat arcane, and some of the songs lack basic structure.

However, taken as a whole, The Forty Watt Flowers is, in totality, a literary song unto itself and well worth reading.

2:07 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Switcheroo
Aaron Elkins and his wife, Charlotte, and I first became acquaintances and occasional correspondents about three years ago when I received an advanced copy of A Cruise to Die For, the second in their Alix London mystery series. Previously not normally a devotee of suspense – I really have to be in the mood to read one – I instantly became a fan. Not so much of the genre, but of the writers…and their writing; collectively and separately. For, you see, besides his literary collaboration with Charlotte, Aaron is the three-time award-winning author of the eighteen-volume Gideon Oliver Mystery Series whose most amazing, true-too-life eponymous title character is his literary alter-ego.

Like the fictitious Gideon, Aaron in real life is a professor and practitioner of forensic anthropology**. He brings his vast expertise and actual experiences to his literary endeavors, constantly imparting his knowledge of not only anthropology but other more esoteric subjects through enlightening and scintillating descriptions and dialogue that moves the gripping plot along at a reasonably fast pace to what is nearly always a tantalizing surprise ending. The all-too engrossing Switcheroo (A Gideon Oliver Mystery), the latest of Elkins’ talented-washed repertoire of engrossing forensic mystery adventures, is no exception. And what an adventure this novel is – not so much a swash-buckler, but, true to form, an riveting intellectual mind-bend, one of the more delightful hallmarks of a Elkins literary jaunt.

In June of 1940, when Nazi Germany was about to occupy the Channel Island of Jersey (part of the United Kingdom just off the coast of France), Howard Carlisle, the scion of a wealthy family, “trades” Roddy, his frail two-year-old son, for two-year-old George Skinner, whose family is about to evacuate to England. The trade is made, legal and binding. The children are subsequently reunited with their real birth parents when the Skinners return after World War II. Pretty straightforward…until twenty or so years later, Roddy disappears and George’s body is found shot near his home, apparently murdered. Enter Gideon Oliver fifty years later who, at the behest of Howard’s great grandson, is asked to examine Roddy’s bone fragments that have been unearthed from the island’s tar pits to determine the cause of death…

What Oliver discovers by studying the bones and what is revealed to him by the set of circumstances surrounding them could easily be a fairly benign conceit. But in Elkins’ capable hands and creative imagination, tinged with his refreshing tongue-in-cheek delight in telling a good tale, this plot line premise takes on a mind of its own. Riddled with unique unexpected twists and turns, deftly hinted at with subtle clues well-placed in character comments and observations, this is the stuff which separates a great mystery – à la Erle Stanley Gardner and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – from second-rate schlock suspense. Elkins, as always, is at his (and the) best here, raising the forensic mystery genre to the highest pinnacle of elegant entertainment and erudition. (Actually, Aaron was the founder of this specific literary niche in the 1980s with the publication of Fellowship of Fear, the first in his Gideon Oliver series!)

Reminiscent of the BBC/PBS TV mini-series Island at War and the delightful The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Switcheroo is definitely this spring season’s must-read page-turner.

Make no bones about it.

**https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forensic_anthropology

4:56 pm est          Comments

2016.05.01
2016.03.01
2016.02.01
2015.11.01
2015.10.01
2015.08.01
2015.07.01
2015.06.01
2015.05.01
2015.04.01
2015.04.05
2015.03.29
2015.02.15
2015.02.08
2015.02.01
2015.01.18
2015.01.11
2015.01.04
2014.11.16
2014.11.02
2014.10.26
2014.10.12
2014.09.28
2014.08.17
2014.08.10
2014.08.03
2014.07.20
2014.07.06
2014.06.22
2014.06.08
2014.05.25
2014.05.11
2014.05.04
2014.04.20
2014.04.06
2014.03.30
2014.03.23
2014.03.16
2014.03.09
2014.03.02
2014.02.23
2014.02.16
2014.02.09
2014.02.02
2014.01.26
2014.01.19
2014.01.12
2013.12.22
2013.12.01
2013.11.24
2013.11.17
2013.11.10
2013.11.03
2013.10.27
2013.10.13
2013.09.29
2013.09.22
2013.09.15
2013.09.08
2013.09.01
2013.08.25
2013.08.18
2013.08.04
2013.07.21
2013.07.14
2013.06.30
2013.06.16
2013.06.09
2013.06.02
2013.05.19
2013.05.12
2013.05.05
2013.04.21
2013.04.14
2013.04.07
2013.03.31
2013.03.24
2013.03.17
2013.03.10
2013.03.03
2013.02.24
2013.02.17
2013.02.10
2013.02.03
2013.01.27
2013.01.13
2013.01.06
2012.12.30
2012.12.16
2012.12.02
2012.11.25
2012.11.18
2012.11.11
2012.11.04
2012.10.28
2012.10.21
2012.10.14
2012.10.07
2012.09.30
2012.09.23
2012.09.16
2012.09.09
2012.09.02
2012.08.26
2012.08.19
2012.08.12
2012.08.05
2012.07.29
2012.07.22
2012.07.15
2012.07.08
2012.07.01
2012.06.24
2012.06.17
2012.06.10
2012.06.03
2012.05.20
2012.05.13
2012.05.06
2012.04.29
2012.04.22
2012.04.15
2012.04.08
2012.04.01
2012.03.25
2012.03.18
2012.03.11
2012.03.04
2012.02.26
2012.02.19
2012.02.12
2012.02.05
2012.01.29
2012.01.22
2012.01.15
2012.01.08
2012.01.01
2011.12.25
2011.12.18
2011.12.11
2011.12.01
2011.11.01

Link to web log's RSS file

June J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, 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,