For My Friend

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We must have seemed odd
to those who passed by
Opposites in every way
except on the inside
No need to explain Party of One
I understood you,
and you understood me
as no one else could
Over countless cups of coffee,
we pondered the meaning of life
and other silly things
And let’s not forget the music,
Junip and jazz still sing in my head
We read Maisie Dobbs and F. Scott Fitzgerald,
along with Willa Cather and Steinbeck, too
Ah, the books we treasured
and the stories we shared
I don’t have your picture,
but I’ll never forget your face
Nor how you taught me
the real source of strength
Without you there is an empty space
Thank you for being my friend,
until the very end

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Recently, a dear friend of mine passed away. While the sadness is sometimes overwhelming, so is the joy I have in the memories of the moments we shared.  Our friendship was something really special and I already miss it.

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c.b.w. 2014

Book Review: How I Got Published

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How I Got Published: Famous Authors Tell You in Their Own WordsHow I Got Published: Famous Authors Tell You in Their Own Words by Ray White

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The title alone is enough to grab the attention of any writer dying to get published. Famous and not-so-famous authors share their stories of failure and eventual success in the brutal business of publishing.

Organized into short essays, a number of authors write about their experiences with query letters, rejections, agents, deals gone wrong, and the unpredictable nature of the literary scene. It’s a tough industry to break into and they are very honest about the fact that publishing is not for those with paper-thin skin or a gelatinous spine. As horrible as that sounds, each author’s story has a strong sense of optimism brought on by a taste of success. The odds of snagging an agent or a book deal may be small, but anything is possible.

Two pieces of advice dominate How I Got Published from start to finish. First, there is no perfect tried and true method of getting published. Second, persistence is a writer’s greatest weapon. The only way to find the right agent or get your work in front of an editor is to put it out there and do so relentlessly. Send query letters even when nothing but rejections follow. Keep revising and writing until no word goes untouched. What it all comes down to is hard work, a little luck, and a great story.

The only flaw with an otherwise highly motivational and encouraging read is a problem with repetition. While every author has their own unique story, they all start to blur together about halfway through the book. Furthermore, most of the writers showcased are mystery and crime fiction writers. Little attention is given to writers in other genres, thereby limiting the inside perspective on agents and publishing houses.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

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c.b.w. 2013

A to Z Abroad: Ivan Klíma at The Globe

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Sometimes world travel can lead to the discovery of an individual in addition to a place. While in Prague, Czech Republic, I was lucky enough to find a writer by the name of Ivan Klíma.

Whenever I travel, I make it a point to visit several local bookshops. Even in places where English is not the primary language, bookshops provide a unique insight into the local culture. Besides, in many cases, there is a shelf for English translations of local writers.

In Prague, one of the more prominent bookshops is The Globe. Run by American expats, this bookshop includes new and used books in Czech and English. In addition there is a fantastic café tucked in the back.

The Globe Bookshop, Prague, Czech Republic
Photo by: c.b.w. 2008

I found several books by local authors, but Ivan Klíma’s books spoke to me the most. I ended up buying his novel No Saints or Angels, which has since become one of my favorite books.

Ivan Klíma is a renowned writer in the Czech Republic that explores topics regarding oppression and the concept of individual freedom. His personal history of surviving imprisonment at the Terezín concentration camp during the German occupation of Czechoslovakia and his later struggles with the dictatorial communist regime all lend to the brutal honesty and hope presented in his novels.

Klíma’s stories always revolve the dichotomy of the human spirit and the cruelty of human nature. Through his works of fiction, he strives to illuminate the importance  of freedom of expression and individuality.

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What happens to people who spend their lives afraid to voice their opinions?  They stop thinking, most likely.    - Ivan Klima

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Suggested Reading:

9781862071032_p0_v2_s260x420  9781862075368

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Part of the A to Z Challenge!

A2Z-2013-BADGE-001Small_zps669396f9

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c.b.w. 2013

 

Book Review: Beautiful Creatures

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Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles, #1)Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ethan Wate is stuck in a small South Carolina town, where nothing ever happens. While everyone around him seems to thrive on living a mundane life, Ethan dreams of getting out of Gatlin and experiencing more than Civil War reenactments, bake sales, and cotillions.

The first time Ethan lays eyes on Lena Duchannes, he knows everything in his boring world is about to change. Not only is she beautiful, but she is different from all the other girls in town. For a guy who’s had it with normalcy, Lena is the girl of his dreams in more ways than one.

Lena is an instant outcast with her funky wardrobe and her family ties to Gatlin’s resident hermit. Ethan is basically committing social suicide by choosing to hang out with her, but he is hopelessly attracted to the mystery that is Lena. His infatuation soon turns to love and lucky for him the feeling is mutual.

However, it isn’t long before Ethan learns the truth about Lena. There is a reason why she writes numbers on her hands and why it always seems to rain when she is upset. Lena is a Caster (a.k.a. witch) who is inching closer to her 16th birthday. Upon hitting this milestone, she will be Claimed for dark magic instead of light thanks to a longstanding family curse.

Lena’s fear of turning dark incites Ethan’s quest to find a way to release her from the curse. It turns out Gatlin is full of secrets both mortal and supernatural. At the center of it all, is an ordinary boy with more power than he realizes.

Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s epic tale is a bit long, but where it lacks in editing, it excels in originality. In a market flooded with paranormal romance, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find YA fiction with unique characters and story lines. Beautiful Creatures breaks the mold by letting the story unfold through Ethan’s point of view. The male perspective puts a new spin on an old formula and it is so refreshing! Garcia and Stohl also deserve props for realistically portraying small-town life in the South. In particular, their references to various modes of prejudice are a sobering reminder that the past repeats itself more frequently than we like to admit.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

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c.b.w. 2013

Book Review: The Odd Sea

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The Odd SeaThe Odd Sea by Frederick Reiken

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When sixteen-year-old Ethan Shumway walks down the driveway towards Baker’s Bottom Pond, no one in his family could have known it would be the last time they’d ever see him. Both tragic and resilient, The Odd Sea follows the story of a family coping with the sudden loss of a son and brother.

Ethan’s younger brother Philip watches helplessly as his mother descends into manic depression and his father throws himself into manual labor as a means to deal with his grief. Meanwhile, Philip’s sisters deal with loss in polar opposite ways. The eldest relies on anger and avoidance, while the younger latches onto Philip.

Philip’s naïve hope of finding his brother plays out as he spends his free time searching the woods and Ethan’s favorite places. He hangs out with Ethan’s girlfriend and reads his diary for any clues that might lead to where his brother is hiding. As Philip gets older, his search changes shape as he realizes the possibility that Ethan could be dead. He never truly accepts that reality, but he learns there is a delicate balance between hope and the truth.

The emotional journey of loss deepens with each passing year as the hole of Ethan’s absence never really closes. While Philip and his family find different ways of living with their grief, all find comfort in the love they have for each other.

Frederick Reiken explores the impact of a missing person with so much intensity, Ethan’s disappearance becomes a personal experience. He makes solid choices in imagery that beautifully reflect the emotional conflict between grief, frustration, and guilt from needing to move forward. Subtle and simplistic, Reiken’s writing allows a highly charged story to flow naturally without turning into something melodramatic and unbelievable. This careful sense of storytelling is what makes an unconventional ending work in such a beautiful and realistic way.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

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c.b.w. 2013