28 Jul, 2016

Vivian in Red – Historical Fiction and a Ghost Story

/ posted in: Reading Vivian in Red – Historical Fiction and a Ghost Story Vivian In Red by Kristina Riggle
on September 13th 2016
Pages: 352
Genres: 20th Century, Historical Fiction, Occult & Supernatural
Published by Polis Books
Format: ARC
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: New York
Goodreads

“Famed Broadway producer Milo Short may be eighty-eight but that doesn’t stop him from going to the office every day. So when he steps out of his Upper West Side brownstone on one exceptionally hot morning, he’s not expecting to see the impossible: a woman from his life sixty years ago, cherry red lips, bright red hat, winking at him on a New York sidewalk, looking just as beautiful as she did back in 1934.
The sight causes him to suffer a stroke. And when he comes to, the renowned lyricist discovers he has lost the ability to communicate. Milo believes he must unravel his complicated history with Vivian Adair in order to win back his words. But he needs help—in the form of his granddaughter Eleanor— failed journalist and family misfit. Tapped to write her grandfather’s definitive biography, Eleanor must dig into Milo’s colorful past to discover the real story behind Milo’s greatest song Love Me, I Guess, and the mysterious woman who inspired an amazing life.”


In 1999 Milo is the recently widowed patriarch of a high achieving family.  He lives surrounded by children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  He still goes into his production company even though his son is the running the place now.  The business isn’t doing as well as it used to and his son wants to do a revival of the last musical Milo wrote, The High Hat, along with commissioning a biography of Milo as a tie-in.  Milo is opposed to both.

He’s leaving the office after telling his son that when he sees a woman he knew in the 1930s.  She looks exactly like she did then.  She looks at him and he collapses.  When he wakes up he is unable to speak or use his right hand.  Robbed of ways to communicate, he has to figure out why Vivian Adair is haunting him without looking so confused that his family insists on a nursing home.

Now that Milo can’t voice his objections, the plans for the revival go ahead.  His granddaughter Eleanor is chosen to write the biography.  She is the only person who seems to understand that Milo is still lucid and aware and she doesn’t talk past him.  In her interviews with the son of his writing partner she hears the name Vivian and starts to investigate why that family thinks that this Vivian ruined everything.

I loved Milo and Eleanor! 

Milo’s mind is fast, as fits a lyricist, and he has a great sense of humor that comes through even when he is locked inside himself.  Eleanor has always been seen as the family misfit because she is quiet and she isn’t ambitious.  The rest of the family feels like they need to manage her life for her since she isn’t doing it up to their standards on her own.  She feels bad about being handed a book deal that is both a charity project for her and something that she knows her grandfather doesn’t want.  Now she’s gone and uncovered a scandal so everyone will be mad at her.

The author writes both time periods well.  There are little details from each era that anchor the writing firmly in that time.  Some of the social attitudes of the characters are jarring to modern thinking but seem accurate for the time and the place.

I stayed up past my bedtime to find out more about Vivian role in Milo’s past.  The mystery was well done with no easy easy to guess answers.

I would recommend this to any historical fiction fans even if you aren’t a fan of ghost stories.  The ghost aspect is just a way to get Milo to start focusing on this aspect of his past.  It isn’t written as a scary or horror-type story.  Ghost Vivian mostly just makes sarcastic comments that only Milo can hear.

4flower

freetogoodhome

 

06 Oct, 2015

A Dystopian Novel that is all too probable – Ink

/ posted in: Reading A Dystopian Novel that is all too probable – Ink Ink by Sabrina Vourvoulias
on 2012-06
Pages: 230
Genres: Civil Rights, Fiction, Occult & Supernatural, Political Science, Social Science
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

What happens when rhetoric about immigrants escalates to an institutionalized population control system? The near-future, dark speculative novel INK opens as a biometric tattoo is approved for use to mark temporary workers, permanent residents and citizens with recent immigration history - collectively known as inks. Set in a fictional city and small, rural town in the U.S. during a 10-year span, the novel is told in four voices: a journalist; an ink who works in a local population control office; an artist strongly tied to a specific piece of land; and a teenager whose mother runs an inkatorium (a sanitarium-internment center opened in response to public health concerns about inks). The main characters grapple with ever-changing definitions of power, home and community; relationships that expand and complicate their lives; personal magicks they don't fully understand; and perceptions of "otherness" based on ethnicity, language, class and inclusion. In this world, the protagonists' magicks serve and fail, as do all other systems - government, gang, religious organization - until only two things alone stand: love and memory.

Goodreads

Oh. My. God.  Just go get this book and read it.

What is scary about this book is that the dystopian scenario is so possible.  It starts with anyone whose family has recently immigrated to the United States being required to have a tattoo.  Black tattoo for temporary workers, green for permanent residents, and blue for citizens.  Get that?  Blue for citizens. It doesn’t matter if your family has been here for a while.  Brown skinned people are still subject to legal restrictions.  Over time the restrictions get more severe.  People won’t rent to Inks (people with the tattoos).  Then there are towns they can’t live in and jobs they can’t have.  Vigilantes catch them and dump them outside U.S. borders.  Next come the rumors of Inks having contagious diseases so they have GPS chips put in them if they go to the hospital so they can be tracked.  Far fetched?  I don’t think so.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Saturday offered up a creative solution to the problem of illegal immigration: track immigrants the same way FedEx tracks packages…

…”We need to have a system that tracks you from the moment you come in
and then when your time is up—whether it’s 3 months or 6 months or 9 months, 12 months, however long your visa is—then we go get you and tap you on the shoulder and say, ‘Excuse me, it’s time to go,'” Christie said.

Talking Points Memo on August 29, 2015

From there they start being rounded up.

Ink tells the story of this world from the perspectives of several people.

  • Mari survived an attack on her village in Guatemala as an infant.  Her American father brought her to the U.S.  She has a blue tattoo.
  • Finn is a white American journalist who is covering the Ink story and gets involved in the resistance when he meets Mari.
  • Meche is a wealthy Cuban American chemist with a blue tattoo who is using her family money to support the resistance and her knowledge to develop instaskin, a covering for the tattoos.
  • Del is a white painter who becomes friends with some Inks on his day job.  He is Finn’s brother-in-law and gets recruited to the resistance because he has a truck to smuggle people.
  • Abby is a white teenage hacker whose mother runs an inkatorium.  She volunteers there for community service hours and knows enough about the procedures to be able to help Mari and Meche escape.  People she meets during the escape draw her deeper into the resistance movement.

The story also embraces magical realism.  People in Mari’s village are twinned with a spirit animal.  Hers is a Jaguar who is able to fight the battle on a spiritual level.  Del has earth magic and is able to enchant his land so no one living on it can be found which makes it an ideal refuge for Inks.


This book is haunting.  I stayed up late to finish it and then dreams inspired by it all night.  I almost never give out 5 star reviews.  To get one the book has to be one that is going to stick in my mind and influence the way I think.  This book earned the 5 stars.

At the end of the book Mari visits the village where she was born.  She tries to find out more about her family who were killed there.  She was sheltered by the village priest who was killed later in the raid.  She goes to see a library at a nearby church.  The priest there talks to her about the aftermath of the Ink program in the United States.

“You could have had it removed, ” he continues, but gently, the way I’ve heard Father Tom address the kids he’s catechizing.  “My understanding is that most people welcomed the new administration’s removal program as a way of getting past the misguided policies the tattoo represented, and the bitter history it marked.”

“But that’s the point, Father,” I say, taking care to close the album without damaging the brittle pages.  “I know inks weren’t the first to endure this sort of thing, nor likely the last.  But years from now, when somebody points to my photo in a dusty album in a library like this one, I want him or her to be able to say ‘I don’t remember the face or the name, but here’s the story of the tattoo'”

“It won’t be enough,” he says sadly.

“No. But it’s a start.”

 

About Sabrina Vourvoulias

“I was born in Bangkok, Thailand — the daughter of a Mexican-Guatemalan artist and an American businessman. I grew up in Guatemala, and moved to the United States when I was 15. I studied filmmaking and creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y., which — it has to be said — suited me for none (and every one) of the occupations I’ve plied since. ” from her website

16 Feb, 2015

The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

/ posted in: Reading The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen
on 2013
Pages: 352
Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy, Fiction, Literary, Occult & Supernatural, translation
Published by Pushkin Press, Limited
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

Goodreads

Laura White wrote a series of children’s books featuring magical creatures. Now her hometown of Rabbit Back is in the business of Laura White tourism. Sculptures of her creatures are all over town. (Imagine if J.K. Rowling lived in a small English town dedicated to all things Harry Potter.)

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Laura White started a literary society consisting of children from the local school who she thought had the potential to be great writers. She trained them and now they are the top writers in Finland. She never added anyone past the original nine but has been on the lookout for talent.

Now, Ella, a substitute teacher, has been picked to be the tenth member.

Ella notices that there are a lot strange happenings in town and they seem to center around the Literature Society members. Library books are changing the endings of the stories. All the dogs in town are running away from home and congregating in the front yard of one of the writers. On the day that Ella is to formally inducted into the Society, Laura White disappears in a swirl of snow – inside her house.

Ella is determined to figure out what is going on in Rabbit Back.

I loved this book.  It is a wonderful mix of magical realism edging up close to fantasy and into psychological thriller as Ella probes the memories of the original members to find out what they are hiding.

And that epilogue?  I heart, heart, heart the epilogue!  There is enough of a twist to surprise and to smack you right in the feelings.

Quotes

“Shit,” Ella said.
“There you go,” Ingrid said happily. “When life gives you plums, spit out the stones.”

 

“Free coffee and cake will get the masses out better than resurrection day.” She looked around, smiled broadly, and said, “But if you want to find characters for a book, this is a good place to do it, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. I found bits of a serial killer’s mother, half of a hero’s lover, and three whole peripheral characters today. A nice haul.”

 

Books in Translation Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

If you like this book try The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared.  It is a Swedish novel that is also very funny.

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