We Are the Past

I don’t know what prompted me to download The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay, but I am very happy I did. This reading discovery was like winning a lottery prize for reading addicts. This is a five-star, highly recommended, 340-page historical fiction account of socially horrible conditions in 1870s New York. There is extreme life-threatening hunger and poverty, incurable disease, human trafficking of children, youthful crime, adult crime, political corruption, and drug addiction. The story is primarily told through the first-person narrative of Moth (she will have other names) as she relates her life experiences from the age of twelve to nineteen. Other characters will present different, clearly delineated points of view also using the first person. The novel is fast-paced and a page-turner. I impressed myself with my reading speed by finishing the novel in four and a half hours, unusually fast for me. Then I sat back to think about it for one hour before starting to write this review.

When a Man is a Woman

The Whip by Karen Kondazian is a work of historical fiction with a heavy slant on the historical part. Charley and Charlotte Parkhurst are one and the same despite outward appearances signaling a gender difference. Charlotte recognized from childhood that there were two worlds; one for men, one for women. Men seemed to inhabit a world with considerably more freedom, bound only by the choices they made and the consequences that followed. In Charlotte’s opinion, a woman’s world was one of only consequences that followed choices usually made by men. This story takes place between 1815 and 1880. Of course, today the world has no such inequality. Charlotte’s choice to proceed in life as a man was a result of horrible events that happened to her and a desire for revenge toward the man that had brutalized her and her family. On her journey to achieve revenge, Charley’s choice was to live as a man while she worked as a “Whip,” the person who drove a stagecoach, expertly guiding and instructing the teams of horses so they worked in unison. Charley didn’t use the whip to beat or punish horses; she (he) used it to defend the horses from snakes and wild animals as she touched the horses lightly in combination with pulls on the reins to indicate desired travel directions.

Best History in Its Genre

Many readers probably pass up a read such as Abraham Lincoln A Life From Beginning to End by the group Hourly History. Everyone knows the story of Abraham Lincoln, right? So why read more? I identified two reasons for me to read this work. First, there is always the possibility that I do not possess perfect memory and even worse, I may not have gotten it right in the first place. Second, Abraham Lincoln is only one in a huge collection that is known as Hourly History. I have read several of them and they vary in quality as is invariable with books written by groups or committees. Some are so good that I tried to find the author’s name so I could read more by the same author. I have been unsuccessful. I don’t know whether this is a policy of the group or not, so I won’t reveal the name on the email requesting a review of this work.

There are two parts to this review. One part is about Honest Abe. The other is my thoughts on Hourly History.

Survivor Horrors

From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon is a novel of love, pain, and suffering during WWII in German-occupied Italy. Even though WWII seems far removed from the present-day world, even though it seems that nothing more can be said about this struggle, this novel manages to provide new information and a new twist on an event many of us, baby boomers, are tired of contemplating. To think that way is selfish and doesn’t acknowledge later generations have not suffered such a constant bombardment of information. If we were never to revisit some of the stories, we would forget some of the horrors described in this work. Other events in this novel may surprise those who thought they knew it all.

Personal Wartime Experiences

In this volume of the series Threads of War, Volume II, Jeremy Strozer looks at war as it is played out in ways we don’t generally think of. Each story has two parts. The first is a factually based account of an incident that happened. The account is referenced for those who want to investigate further. The second is a story of humans trying to exist in a hostile environment that is war. The stories are fiction as thoughts and feelings are ascribed to people who did not survive. Those experiences exist in Strozer’s mind and the author brings them to life in a very entertaining way.

I give the novel five Amazon stars in part because of the pleasing structure and way of presentation, in part because of the referencing which accompanies factual accounts, and finally for the interesting fictional presentations which lend human coloring to a dehumanizing experience.

Following are my immediate comments and reactions to each story.

Fictionalized Facts

At first, it looks like there is a certain arrogance in the title and subtitle of this work. Threads of THE WAR by Jeremy Strozer has the last two words capitalized indicating that this war was truly “the war to end all wars.” While that was the popular sentiment describing WWI, veterans of later wars and different forms of sacrifice might take issue with the presumption made by this title. Just in case the reader misses the message, the subtitle claims this work is a collection of historical short stories that are personal truth-inspired flash fiction of “The” 20th century’s war. Putting those possible claims aside, it is valuable to read the author’s introduction. Strozer has a different definition of “The War,” one that stretches from 1898, powers through WWI and WWII, and concludes with the residual after effects that still flare up around the world today.

Horrible Truths

Orphan Girl by Indika Guruge has an arresting title and front cover. I assumed that the author was a non-western writer and looked forward to an account of life in orphanages and how children accommodated and changed as they grew up to an age when they would leave the orphanage. How would their experiences affect their post-orphanage life? How would they remember their experiences? This is not that book. This is a story of terrible tragedy, bravery, and an almost unbelievable tale of tolerance for pain and abuse. In the tradition of historical fiction, facts are presented which are indisputable. Fiction is created by the author as logical dialogue and character feelings are expressed that could not possibly be known by the author. Some dialogue might be backed up by interviews of friends, teachers, and substitute parents. Other dialogue must be created through author empathy. The author does an excellent job drawing the reader along a path leading to a terrible ending. I should have known better when I read the subtitle: “The story of an abandoned child’s tragic fate as a migrant worker in Saudi Arabia. Inspired by a true story, In memory of Rizana Nafeek.” (loc 3-5).

What Does Mrs. Charbuque Look Like?

When describing the good points of The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque by Jeffrey Ford, the list is long and begins with the attention-getting cover. On the edition I downloaded from Instafreebie, an attractive woman dressed formally in what might be thought of as Victorian-era clothing leads me to believe this is a historical novel. The subtitle, “The Soul is a Dark Canvas,” makes me think there is a psychological element. A blurb from the Baltimore Sun says there is Art History, cool. It is not my strong interest but I like discovering new information. “Hitchcockian suspense,” the phrase doesn’t roll off the tongue but I am a fan of Hitchcock. “Pynchonesque augury,” seems a bit over the top and I don’t like Pynchon. With four pluses and one negative, I am going to read this. Also, I got it from Instafreebie. It sells for USD 6.99 on Amazon with no caveat for a KU read. The cover here is the Amazon cover.

Religion or Myth?

I read Dream On by Erik Carter in an advance copy form. I was happy that I did not find typos and evidence of poor editing as is sometimes the case with advance copies. I was even more happy that this was a pleasant read with an interesting premise that held my attention throughout the novel. Carter points out in a beginning author note that the novel centers around a controversial religious theory and the author points out a source for further research. As I began to read, I expected that there would be some huge religious-based revelation that would produce chaos across cultures. But there is more to it than that.

Children at War

Children To A Degree by Horst Christian has a subtitle on the cover which might not attract the general reader. “Growing Up Under the Third Reich,” can evoke a reaction of “ho-hum, another apologetic story of WWII Germany.” Some might think it is a work of complete fiction. As the author points out (turn the page) this work of fiction is based on a true story. I found this on sale at Amazon for USD 0.00 as of 10 December 10, 2017, and was pleased to note this is the first in a series of four about WWII and Germany even though it was published third in the series and subsequently renamed as Book 1. I look forward to reading the remaining three books in the series.