by John Sandford
Published by Putnam, 2012
Virgil Flowers Novel
In a cold dry spring, the clear air gives the prairie a particular bleakness, if your mood is already bleak.
Virgil had a feeling that there’d be a shooting before the end of the day, that people who were alive and even feeling good right then, maybe asleep in their beds, would be bleeding into the dirt before the sun went down.
Written with his friend Joe Soucheray, John Sandford has penned a terrific Virgil Flowers novel. We get to see glimpses of the fiercely individualistic Flowers while Sanford unrolls a particularly brutal string of shootings by the Bonnie and Clyde style murderers–Jimmy Sharp and Becky Welsh. Much focus is placed on police procedure and the sharp mind of Flowers. The mixture works well and makes for a story I didn’t want to put down.
Flowers’ fight against the mob mentality of the small-town cops after blood makes an interesting backdrop for the killings and poses the question: What do you do with people who throw out the law-book and begin killing their neighbours and even family–just because they can? Do you bring them to justice or do you shoot them like wild dogs in the street? And what about revenge killings by family members of one of the deceased? Do you treat them the same, or is there a different law for those on the side of right?
Mad River is an interesting story about small town folk with big city problems. And no one writes about rural Minnesota and Wisconsin than does John Sandford.
Copyright © 2015 Clayton Clifford Bye
Broody New Englander
THREE STORIES BY
Red Chameleon Books, 2014
The Broody New Englander is exactly the type of book you would think it would be—broody people, broods of people and even a broody tale. All set in new England in different times and in one case in a world somewhat different than our own (or at least we hope it is different), these stories take us deep into the lives of New Englanders. These are New Englanders as remembered by Ken Weene, who no longer lives among them. No, Ken even admits to sitting high on a pole and looking down on his creations. This long view, the distance gained from age and many, many miles is then filtered through Ken’s version of poetic prose.
The product is more, however, on a number of levels. It is delivered into our hands as a beautiful piece of fiction, meant to be read aloud, as all poetry is meant to be read aloud. Will you catch the subtle rhythms, the literary pounding of the prose? I don’t know. Whatever was happening there happened in the background for me. I was much more taken by the intimate portrayal of his characters, of the deep, but largely wordless people of these brooding lands. The currents of feeling he was able to create were remarkable; the roiling emotions, the hidden but passionate burn of love, the loyalty and deceit, the infidelities, and the sweet, siren song of death.
All of these things—and more—beg to be carried off the page and into the air. So I suggest you order a copy and read it to yourself or a loved one. I’m sure the book of stories will capture you as it captured me.
Copyright © 2014 Clayton Clifford Bye
Nothing On the Field: Eileen Rand
When the world looks at you through predetermined eyes what happens when the perception is clouded and wrong? What happens when a huge fog is cast over you and a heavy mist hampers what others might ultimately see if the sun were to shine? What happens when the world expects you to act in a certain way and you don’t? What happens when all you want is to be loved, accepted and understood for who you are and not what others want you to be? What happens will take you deep inside the heart, mind and soul of Eileen Rand who shares a story that I hope will be a wake-up call for teens, young adults, adults and everyone that Anorexia is real, that the battle to overcome the illness takes time, energy and the support of the right people. But first, let’s meet Eileen and join her on her journey from despair and darkness and into the light.
What happens when your family turns a blind eye? What happens when they refuse to help and understand? Eileen’s mom was her champion and her main means of support until she could no longer function. Then there was no one. Beginning with important definitions on pages 7-8 and then followed by a detailed explanation of Eating Disorder Statistics, readers will understand and learn from the start just how widespread this illness is.
Included you will learn the Mortality Rates and discover those at risk.
Imagine being confined to a hospital right before Thanksgiving. Imagine leaving Rhode Island Hospital to be sent to the cold, austere and unfeeling facility at John Hopkins. Some nightmares happen while you are asleep but others will happen during a car trip that set the tone for things to come that would not be what Eileen expected. Left in the hands of the hospital staff, Eileen found out early on that she was no longer in control of her diet, movements or food selection. Her brother Jeff was not sympathetic and the end result was quite frightening as Eileen entered a world unfamiliar to her. At 47 pounds and in serious danger of dying, she no longer had the power to decide or make decisions regarding her care. At UCLA they were kind and helped her when she felt stressed or afraid. But at John Hopkins you might say that a more than tough love attitude was in place and being left to sleep in a cold environment wearing a heart halter monitor and unable to find a comfortable place for herself, Eileen came to realize that this stay was not going to be easy. Afraid that she was going to suffer from refeeding syndrome, which is explained in detail in Chapter 2, Eileen learned just why her food choices and food quantities had to be limited.
At first she thought it would be okay and one nurse was not so bad. But, lunch was a rude awakening when told she had no choices and they would decide for her. Imagine having to earn food privileges. Sounds like a prison environment, doesn’t it? She was 47 pounds and they wanted her to weigh 107. Chapter 3 describes her experiences at John Hopkins, the fact that they treated her like a child using Behavior Modification strategies like a dean of discipline or teacher might implement in a classroom to get Eileen or their students to conform to the behaviors they wanted. Isolated, alone and afraid, Eileen was left to deal with the drugs that she was forced to take, a brother who would not take her home and physical problems that no one took seriously. Constipation, gum disease, told she had to eat at least 3500 calories a day, her blood sugar too high, and from what I could see from what they had her eat, I am sure that more of her bloods had to come back abnormal. She felt disliked, shunned and cast aside, and she wanted to leave but could not. Chapter 4 explains just how bad the constipation became, how it affected her system, lead her to try and escape and to desperately call on a brother who seemed devoid of caring. Added in was the fact that Eileen was the primary caregiver for her mom and her family did not seem to understand the gravity of her illnesses or decline. Eileen’s only anchor was her mother. Chapter 4 continues to explain her struggle with gaining and keeping the weight on. Hoping to leave and go home she begged her brother to get her released but his wife wanted no part of her and the words spoken would and could never be taken back.
The hospital staff was becoming more than annoyed with Eileen’s defiant attitude and the hard time she had following the rules. Learning that if she did not adhere to the schedule and the regime she would be dismissed and understanding her brother would no longer take her back, what was Eileen going to do? Tossed out and left to fend for herself along with bus tokens and a list of homeless shelters that she forgot to take with her and could not longer get, she was blessed in finding help from a bus driver. Her next stop was Karis Home. Chapter 5 tells about Karis Home, the women and children’s division of The Baltimore Rescue Mission, their services, rules and that it is a short-term solution. Learning about the other residents and hearing their stories brought the spotlight on the Karis Home. But, Eileen did not fair too well and with the help of someone she referred to as Miss Jerry she got her coffee which she needed to help her with her stomach problems. Then she got into some serious trouble back at the hospital regarding the food and food choices and the end result she was she was made to leave permanently. Karis Home kept her until her brother Jeff relented and found Cortland Place where she would have her own space. But there were other humiliations, and Eileen missed her mother, her warm hugs and her unconditional love. She has two brothers: Jeff and Greg. One would desert her and cast her aside and the other frustrated, angry and afraid for his sister, appeared to be hanging on to his hard line when it came to her unrelenting attitude, that she got what she deserved and the nagging feeling that she just might die.
Read Chapter 6 to meet Eileen as a youngster, to see her relationship with her father, to discover her punishments and to learn that she is quite smart, does and did well in school and eventually graduated college. A childhood where she felt isolated from other kids and at times bullied and shunned. Rich kids usually got it all but some kids, like Eileen, were victimized and little was done to help them. Chapter 7 focuses on her bout with appendicitis and why her family wanted little if anything to do with her. A father who became angry and cast her aside when he heard that she did something that would change her life. Losing her bedroom, forced to work to live in her own house, Eileen became a prisoner not only of her obsession with weight but within her own family and self too.
Throughout the book we hear Eileen’s voice pleading to be heard, understood and respected. Heartfelt and heartbreaking, this story is being told to send a message to everyone that Anorexia is serious and as she relates can cause you to do things that you might not otherwise consider. Chapter one ends with her trying to explain to her family why her mother needed private care and help and that without her she would not survive. There was the time she ran away to a hotel room, her brothers not wanting any part of her and being told by someone that she was going to find herself in Acute Care in Colorado. But, would this help? What would it take for Eileen to realize the devastation she was doing to herself? The treatment by the doctors, family and the fact that all she wanted was to be accepted for herself, Eileen attempted to make herself sick by taking sleeping pills, wanting the attention focused on her so that everyone would realize just how much she not only needed them but needed help. And eventually she changes, saying, “My approach to getting well: it’s not something you can force. It happens in God’s time.”
Meet Eileen in the first chapter in Part Two, see how she looks now and understand that after years of enduring this illness she “Wears it on my body, on my person, and I can’t escape that.” Looking in the mirror just what does she see? Herself at a young age, now or the person she would like to become?
Women are often misportrayed in the media—news, magazines, ads and on television programs. How is the perfect body, face or person defined? If you look closely at an actress who is featured in a magazine and then seen on a live talk show you might and should see a world of difference because you can photo shop a picture, airbrush away the wrinkles and the test of time but in person it is different. Anorexia is not just Eileen’s problem; there are so many young actresses, actors and teens that want to be thin, super thin and accepted.
Eileen had many doctors, psychiatrists, homes, bouts with weight gains and losses. She was readmitted to UCSD many times, which I know is an excellent hospital since my mom was there and they saved her life, Eileen needed to be on a program that would focus and help deal with her eating disorder. But, the saddest and most horrific scene is the one between her and her brother Greg that you need to read for yourself to understand the gravity of the situation. The entire book focuses on her stays at many different facilities, her loyalty to her mom and her hope to find a way back to being normal. Understand that she had Anorexia and although you might think it meant she did not want to eat all she ever did was crave food. Some anorexics are misdiagnosed, others commit suicide and some are just written off by their family and friends. The chapters are filled with so much information about the illness, her ability to make food choices and her amazing spirit to survive. Can she forgive her family? Will she ever be able to communicate with Jeff and Greg? Will they realize that all she wants is to be loved UNCONDITIONALLY without reservation? Then meet Clayton Bye the author who recorded her words, interviewed her and her brother Jeff and really brought this story and the information needed to light and to the surface in Chapter 20 and Chapter 21.
The research is extensive and the resources at the end valuable and numerous. Added in Eileen has information about the people who helped her along the way, How Page Love; MS RD. CSSD, LD Supported her and worked with her brother really makes this story come alive not just for Eileen but for readers too.
“ I feel like a creature from another planet,” says Eileen. I say, “Eileen: you are strong, smart, courageous and have created a resource that I know will help young teens, parents, doctors, psychiatrists, medical providers, medical staff, guidance counselors, nurses, school nurses, social workers and adults to understand the warning signs of Anorexia, to pay attention when someone appears to be losing so much weight and is eating. You are definitely not a creature from another planet but someone who is working hard each and every day to become the person she wants to see looking back at her in the mirror. Thanking people and giving back is great but we need to thank you for writing this book, Nothing on the Field. You too will complete and accomplish everything you want!”
Fran Lewis: These are my thoughts
Cross My Heart
Mass Market Paperback
Alex Cross, James Patterson’s famed detective whose storied life has entertained millions of people for decades, has unintentionally wounded the ego of a supreme egoist, someone with no conscience, only a black and white philosophy that life just is. As such, this man has developed the belief that he can do anything he wants—and he does. A mass murderer, rapist, troublemaker and attacker of the “norm,” this criminal genius has turned the full force of his intellect and beliefs on Alex cross and his family. His plan? To kidnap Cross’s entire family and kill them one by one while Cross watches helplessly. Will he succeed? Will this be the case that crushes Cross once and for all? Read on my friends.
No one tells a story like Patterson. His words literally race across the page. His chapters are small, usually limited to one scene, so this 400 page book has 112 chapters. His prose is sparse but perfect, and his plotting quite intricate. For example, this story devotes many scenes to how the master criminal, and his equally twisted lover, operate. In fact, most of the book is devoted to the criminal and helping us understand him, his motivations and his actions. Thus, when the full force of his anger is finally thrust upon Cross and we see the tormented man begin to deteriorate, we are more than ready for our superhero detective to emerge. But he doesn’t. Instead it’s those around him that rally, and as the denouement comes and passes, one is absolutely ready for the Cross we know and love to emerge victorious.
What we get is nothing of the kind. What we get is one of Hollywood’s current tricks. We get an abrupt end to the novel and the promise to return to the story in November of 2014 in a book called Hope to Die. What a total disappointment. In fact, I was so angry that it has taken me weeks to write this review. Great book, stupid ending. That’s all I have to say.
Copyright © 2014 Clayton Clifford Bye
Jane, Volume 1: Revival (Jane the Hippie Vampire)
Leigh M. Lane
Published by Cerebral Books,
Sept. 24, 2014
Jane is a collection of 3 novellas and 1 novelette about a vampire from the 60’s who’s frozen in time as a teenager-turning-adult. We follow her as she travels from town to town, somehow running into trouble wherever she goes. Why does Jane get into trouble? I think it’s because she’s an atypical vampire. First of all she was turned while on the streets running from an abusive father. Then, the vampire who turned her was far worse than her father ever was, raping her in unimaginable and horrific ways. These experiences drive Jane to feed on no one but the evil. Hence, Jane must seek out the evil, which invariably leads her into troublesome situations.
To tell you any more about the stories would be to spoil the surprises which await you in each tale. Let me continue in this way: The only thing that bothered me in these delightful and saucy stories was the soul-searching that Jane should have dealt with 50 years earlier. Much of the time I felt that Jane was a fairly new vampire instead of one who had been turned back in the sixties. Now this could just be me being picky, because the information had to be brought into the stories somehow. I say these things yet I went through the book rapidly, finding it hard to leave the book closed as I worked. I also thought each story was refreshingly original. But the reason I gave Jane a 5 star rating instead of the four it might otherwise have been is this…Jane was fun to read. When did you ever say such a thing about a horror story? Perhaps this is the reason Leigh M. Lane called the book a dramatic horror story. Yes! This book is a drama with horrific passages. And as horrific as some of those passages were, they were not enough to keep me from enjoying the drama. I felt like I was immersed in a television series. As Jane would say, “Cool.”
Copyright © 2014 Clayton Clifford Bye
PROMISE NOT TO TELL
HarperCollins Publishers, 2007
Kate Cypher has returned home to deal with her dementia stricken mother. As a nurse Kate knows the answer to all of her mom’s problems is an assisted living home, but as a daughter she feels a lot of guilt. After all, she has been gone for a long time, leaving her mother in the care of friends. She wants to do the right thing, but Kate keeps getting side tracked by some awful things—the day she arrives the daughter of an old school mate is killed in the same manner as her best friend was killed three decades earlier. And other strange happenings prey on her mind until Kate begins to wonder about her sanity. The questions she is left with are, “Who is the murderer?” and “Are ghosts real?”
Promise Not to Tell is an easy book to read. The pages flow by as you wait breathlessly for more information about the “Potato Girl.” Written with two time-lines, Jennifer McMahon could easily have lost her readers. But she goes back and forth almost seamlessly, leaving you to wonder at the fact that this is a debut novel.
This book could have been a thriller if the author had been willing to take us a little deeper into the darkness. As it is, however, McMahon has given us a mystery and a ghost story. Not so frightening as a thriller would have been, nor so scary as a horror story, Promise Not To Tell manages to be something uniquely strange. At times, because of the 30 year-old timeline, the book has a juvenile feel, then in the present it becomes ever more an adult ghost story—to the point that the two strands become completely entwined.
Do I like the book? Yes. Do I think it could have been “more?” Again, yes. But here I must confess that it is the intricate storytelling that even makes the book possible. So, should I really expect “more?” Not if I want to be fair to the author. This leaves me struggling with my gut, which says this is a four star book, and my head which proclaims Promise Not To Tell as a five star performance. Let’s go with the pundits and give Jennifer McMahon five stars for one hell of an effort.
Copyright © 2014 Clayton Clifford Bye
By Tana French
Hodder & Stoughton, 2010
“The course of Frank Mackey’s life was set by one defining moment when he was nineteen. The moment his girlfriend, Rosie Daly, failed to turn up for their rendezvous in Faithful Place, failed to run away with him to London as they had planned.
Frank never heard from, or of, her again.
Twenty years on, Frank is still in Dublin, working as an undercover cop. He’s cut all ties with his dysfunctional family. Until his sister calls to say that Rosie’s suitcase has been found…”
Frank Mackey is what I would call an anti-hero. Having cut all ties with his dysfunctional family, he works hard, drinks hard, has an ex-wife whom he still loves and a child he adores. He tries to be honest but is, on the other hand, ruthless to a fault. And when it appears his first love had been murdered instead of dumping him 20 years earlier, he also throws away the rule book. He takes time off and goes back to his old life.
Nothing has changed. And just when Frank thinks he can’t take any more of his crazy family, his brother Kevin is murdered. To make matters worse the murder squad blames his brother for Rosie’s murder and decides that Kevin killed himself by taking a header out of a window in the same abandoned house where he had supposedly killed her.
Frank knows the investigators have it wrong and he sets out to find the local he knows has killed his brother. But what he finds threatens to be his undoing. Frank feels the whole world breaking apart and he doesn’t know what to do—at first.
It is at this point the novel finally begins to move and take on the feel of a thriller. Prior to Frank’s discovery Faithful Place is a rather plodding sort of mystery. Dealing more with relationships and the creation of characters who are real and interesting, Tana French gets too involved with the little world she’s building, making the novel more of a character study than a mystery or a crime novel. Faithful Place is definitely not the thriller one would expect from French.
Copyright © 2014 Clayton Clifford Bye
The Gone Away World
Alfred A Knopp, 2008
Gonzo William Lubitch and his unnamed best friend and alter ego are important members of the Haulage & HazMat Emergency Civil Fr[/BR}eebooting Company of Exmoor County (Corporate HQ the Nameless Bar, Sally J. Culpepper, presiding). When a giant fire at the Jorgmund pipe threatens to destroy what little is left of the old world, they are the go to people. But something sinister is going on. Gonzo’s friend has good instincts and he’s uneasy. When his suspicions come true and the company is almost killed off, Gonzo and his friend end up standing in a torrent of FOX, the stuff that keeps the world from being unmade but that has severe side-effects when dumped on an ordinary human, if you can call Gonzo and his friend ordinary.
The result is unimaginable and changes the superheros forever. To understand all that happens before and after the Jorgmund pipe fire, the author takes us on a psychedelic journey through the life of Gonzo’s friend—who is the narrator of the story. We see him grow up, find an unusual career, fall in love and meet some very strange people along the way.
Then it all ends in the greatest nightmare possible. Gonzo turns on his friend, steals his wife, shoots him full of heavy calibre bullets and kicks him out of a moving vehicle. This is the beginning of the end of The Gone Away World, and if you haven’t been electrified by the brilliant, if unorthodox, storytelling of Nick Harkaway, then you aren’t a true lover of speculative fiction.
The novel is epic, mind bending and brilliant in its development. And the ending is well worth the wait.
Copyright © Clayton Clifford Bye
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