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
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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 2011-2014

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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

Friday, October 31, 2014

Boo Who
I am cancelling Halloween this year at our house for a number of reasons. One, I am slowly recuperating form the daddy of all colds and I am too selfish to pass out my lingering, contagious germs along with the candy (although I had planned on being more health-conscious and doling out juicy, red apples, a la Regina, the Evil Queen from Once...). And with my immune system unable at this point to fight back, I am afraid of what the little runny-nosed tricky-treaters will pass on to me. For two, I had a sneak peek at some of the neighborhood children's costumes and, frankly, I was insultingly appalled at what a number of kids – and a few adults – will come dressed as. Among other things: fake Ebola hazmat suits and pseudo ISIS combat outfits. Ah, um, uh? Whatever happened to cutesy Disney characters, ghastly ghosts in white sheets, hobos with charcoal beards, and cowboys flashing plastic lariats?

This prelude to the Holiday season is one of the few entertaining nights of the year. It’s supposed to be fun for kiddilings and adults alike, but I don't find the threat of a global pandemic (read: pestilence and plague) and the senseless slaughter of people just ‘cause they don’t believe what you believe anything to emulate, celebrate, or poke fun at, even if you are parading around in fake costumes begging for treats. This is not the time nor will it be my place when and where anyone thus attired will be rewarded for such crass, non-politically correct display of downright rude insensitivity. It's bad enough we daily read and hear about doom and gloom and genocide in the media where pundits just for the sake of sensationalism
endlessly spread and spout hysterical fear and misinformation. Please do NOT bring any of this to my door tonight, folks, because, despite the fact this is one of my favorite events of the fall season, I will not answer.

Instead, after taking FrankieB for an early romp in the back through a previously planned secret "escape" route, bolting all my doors, and turning out all the outside lights, I am holing myself up in front a warm fire with a stiff drink and a copy of one of the most intriguing and mesmerizing books I've read in a long time: Fourth of July Creek, the debut novel of Smith Henderson, a very talented young author who hails from Portland, Oregon via the hills of Montana and who knows more than just a bit about the horrors of misinformed fanatics – religious, political, and/or otherwise. Highly touted on the New York Times bestseller list a few months ago, I couldn't wait to add a copy of it in my semi-annual splurge on books. But, alas, with all my other time-consuming literary endeavors, it sat in the middle of my to-read stack until last weekend when I became ill and finally found the time for it.

Nearly flat on one's back with a cold verging on the flu with no energy to do anything else but read and nap (binge episodes of Once..., Parenthood, and The Paradise notwithstanding), I had huge chunks of time to devour the mis-adventures of one Pete Snow, a Department of Family Services social worker who finds himself in the mountain towns of Montana embroiled in the lives of disenfranchised children; one really scary, but often kindly, religious fanatic who is convinced we are on the edge of Armageddon; and a massive FBI dragnet that threatens to destroy our plucky, yet unlucky hero. I am so engrossed in this narrative, told with a quirky and very masculine, yet sensitive and uniquely descriptive writing style (I am piqued and delighted with this author’s individualistic and quite creative phasing and word choices), that I woke up at 3:30 this morning to read yet another two or three chapters – I am now about two-thirds through – before falling asleep planning today's (non)activities in order to see what happens next...Yes, dear followers, it is THAT good.

One author/reviewer (Phillip Meyer, as a matter of fact) boasted that this novel "...seems to encompass and address all of America’s problems." In the light – or is that dark? – of all that is happening in today's world, I can easily see the perturbing parallels. Yet, in the midst of his awesomely horrendous tale, Henderson writes with hope between his starkly realistic lines, a bit of humor in his prose, and true-to-life honesty in his characters. This is in many senses of the word a tale that had to be truly told. It is must read for everyone who dares to venture into the seedier, underside of what life for far too many is really all about.

And, for tonight, that is scary enough for me.

1:33 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Nudge, Nudge. Wink, Wink
I am an avid fan of Words With Friends, a fun Scrabble-like diversion played online with Facebook friends and acquaintances – most of whom, like myself, don't take it all that seriously. But last night, I was "nudged" after a day’s lapse in play by one of my opponents, which I found distastefully rude and disrespectful.

For the uninitiated, "nudging" is prodding an opponent when a move hasn't been made in a specific length of time. The interval used to be two days before a glaring orange "NUDGE" button appeared next to an opponent's name, which is activated to send an impersonal, annoyingly upsetting email reminder. Zynga, the makers of WWF, has dropped the interval to six hours, making it easy to constantly annoy other players. IMHO, however, the button shouldn't exist at all. I am neither feeble-minded nor so irresponsible that I have to be reminded to create a word -- especially in a game I thoroughly enjoy playing. When and if I have the time.

"Nudging" may be acceptable behavior to younger players, but not to me. Especially when I politely asked the nudger via "Chat" not to do it again. The response? I was told to "resign" and that I was a "poor sport" for taking so long to play. And that, for reasons that should be obvious to the more polite and mannerly of us, I found to be more than just offensive.

It is commonly thought that "Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink" started as a Monty Python "in joke". But, believe it or not, it was used many times in one form or another by William Shakespeare. The most memorable is in the first act of Romeo and Juliet when Juliet's nurse tries to cajole her to come in off the balcony while being wooed by Romeo. "Anon, dear Nurse," Juliet says over and over again; each time more annoyed than the last. And the nurse? She keeps right on nudging. Nudge. Nudge. Nudge. Geez! Leave the kid alone! She’s old enough to know what she’s up to. And why. (Okay, so maybe she isn't…but that’s the crux of the play, isn’t it?)

Okay, so let's segue into the question: Who is this nurse, anyway? The Bard doesn’t tell us much about her except that her name is Angelica. Not much else. Now let's jump ahead 600+ years to last month when Juliet's Nurse: A Novel by Lois Leveen was released. An almost exhausting and extensive retelling of the tale, this easily could be the definitive answer; if nothing else, it is plausible, albeit imaginative. 
 

My review of Leveen's account is the www.authorexposure.com posting for October 9th. Okay, so I'm a few days late blogging about it. But I didn't think you'd mind. I am sure you kindly understand that I was busy attending to other things. And because of this, at the very least you didn't nudge me. Wink. Wink. ;-)
1:32 pm edt          Comments

Friday, October 3, 2014

Honeycombs

I am allergic to bee stings. Not as badly as I was a child, but still...I avoid at all costs all things apiary. One summer day when I was five, I was running around barefooted in the backyard, frolicking in the blooming clover, and accidentally stepped on a bumble bee. Within minutes my foot swelled up to the size of a small football and, suddenly having difficulty breathing, my Mom rushed me to the emergency room where I got a stinging shot of anti-venom, another of antihistamine, and a huge bag of ice to quell the swelling. I was back to semi-normal within a few hours. But the shots, the swelling, and the painful process of tweezing the deeply embedded stinger out all hurt like hell.

So, when the opening scene of The Beekeeper's Ball , the second novel in the Bella Vista Chronicles by Susan Wiggs involved someone being assailed by a hive of angry bees, I understandably cringed, remembering my first (but not the last) bee sting. Needless to say, I survived both the real sting and after a few pages the eventually delightful first chapter, and soon found myself engulfed in the honeycombed passages of this delectably delicious romantic literary novel.
 


Now, as you know, when I enjoy a remarkably good book, I just have to share it with Betty, my tennis and reading buddy. Here is her great “right-on” synopsis:

A romantic novel with beautiful scenery! The story reminds you of [the] "fairy stories” you read as a child. The heroine was known to have suffered at the hands of a villain and along comes the hero to rescue her. Only this time she, the heroine, needed to be recued from the demons within that had convinced her she could never love again.

To see if the heroine and her hero do live “happily ever after” please buzz over to www.authorexposure.com and read my review. Then settle in with a copy and a mug of hot tea laced with honey.

How sweet it is!

1:57 pm edt          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,