Saturday, November 19, 2011

Candy Freak by Steve Almond

Candy Freak by Steve Almond

I never knew how much I loved chocolate until I read this book.  It is hysterically funny and I craved a candy bar, any kind of candy bar the entire time I was reading it.  Last week I took it with me to the hairdresser to amuse me while I had my grey covered.  On the counter was a huge jar of leftover Halloween candy. My mouth watered and it was all I could do to restrain myself not to ravage the container of its chocolate and wildly stuff it into my mouth.  All at once. 

Steve Almond swears he has eaten candy everyday of his life.  He describes the taste of different chocolate like you would a fine wine, with a fruity bouquet and a smoky finish.  I learned so much about the inner workings of a candy factory, the sifters and enrobers all described as things of beauty. I have no doubt now that these fine metal machines, truly are exquisite.

The tales of candy bars of days gone by made me remember a tour of Sweetie's in Cleveland.  I went there with my sister and her three grandchildren.  While the kids swarmed the Jelly Bellies and Gummy Bears, I spent my time in the nostalgic candy aisle.  I loaded up with Turkish Taffy, Bit O'Honey and Chuckles.  I spent some time agonizing over the Charleston Chew but opted against it.  I'd recently spent a pretty penny on dental work.  

Almond hooked me however, from the very beginning when he said his mother tricked him when he sneaked a slab of bittersweet baking chocolate out of the kitchen cupboard.  I remember a similar incident of my own.  He wondered about the purple wafer in the roll of Necco.  I never liked it either.  And if I ever find out where Mr. Almond has stashed his Kit Kat Darks...  I'm raiding the place.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Silence of Trees by Valya Dudycz Lupescu

I have no recollection how I came to purchase this book for my Kindle.  My guess is it was on special at Amazon one day while I was browsing.  Based on the charges to my credit card this month, that is the most likely scenario.  You see, the Kindle has made buying a book even easier than shopping in the bookstore. One click and I instantly have something new to read.  I still have a backlog of unread novels, the difference is they are conveniently stored in the confines of my reading device and no longer consume shelf space or kill any trees.

I'm glad I took a chance on an unfamiliar book by an unknown author.  The Silence of Tree is a wonderful story that spans the life of Nadya.  As a teenage girl in the Ukraine, Nadya longs to know her future from a gypsy fortune teller.  She sneaks out of bed in the middle of the night and heads deep into the forest.  When she returns home she finds the house on fire and her family missing. From this point forward, Nadya's life follows the gypsy's prediction for her.

Fast forwarding fifty years, Nadya's story of war and loss is told through flashbacks as she tries to come to grips with the secrets she's kept all this time.  She's tried to instill the ways and customs of the Ukraine in her children.  It's difficult for her to accept their modern, American lives.  She's visited often by spirits from her past.

Nadya was always looking for a message but what struck me was the message I found for myself.  She met a soldier in a grove of linden trees near the DP camp she spent time in during the war.  And she spoke of the word for faith in Ukrainian, vira.  I've written a novel about a linden tree while living here in Viera, a town named after the Slovak word for faith.  I think it's probably time to dust that manuscript off and turn it into something special.

The Silence of Trees may be on sale in the Kindle store but it's worth every penny and more to read the heartfelt and emotional story of the ability of love to heal us all.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe

Lately, I've found that I enjoy reading the classics.  My step mother, June, told me that Thomas Wolfe is her cousin.  She has some very old editions of his works on her bookshelf.  June was born and raised in Pennsylvania Dutch  country. Thomas Wolfe's wing of the family had ended up in North Carolina.  Until my journey into the world of writing started, I didn't read much classic literature.  I dismissed it as being too heavy and burdensome.  Now that I read with a writer's eye, I'm glad I finally took the time for Thomas Wolfe.
One of the things that is talked about often in my writing seminars is to go deep, linger, dwell.  A reader wants to create in their mind, using only the words on the page, the scenes and characters, get to know them, and love them or hate them.  There are no characters in Look Homeward, Angel that are very likeable.  Eugene Gant is the youngest child of an alcoholic stonecarver and a selfish and miserly mother.  The family is divided when his mother, Eliza buys a boarding house to run, leaves the family home and takes Eugene with her.  The other children move back and forth between their father's unpredictable ways and their mother's drive to build her real estate holdings.

As I read this novel, I became deeply involved in their lives.  Every rich detail of the town they lived in, the clothes they wore, the food they ate, drew me closer.  I was one of them.  The book had a readers guide in the back.  One of the discussion questions was whether a reader felt that Thomas Wolfe's style was brilliantly experimental or undisciplined and unstructured.  Sometimes I thought it was undisciplined.  I found myself skipping over some words that I considered unnecessary.  But then I would stop and think.  What was meaningless to me in the 21st century, was a way of life during the times of the early 20th century.

Look Homeward, Angel is not a book for the modern palate.  If you're looking for a fast, tension filled read this novel is not for you.  If you want to submerse yourself into the life of another era, and become a part of the story then Look Homeward, Angel is worth the time.  I say Thomas Wolfe is a writer who's brilliant.

City of Thieves by David Benioff

City of Thieves by David Benioff It's World War II in Leningrad, Russia.  17 year old Lev elected to stay behind in the city when h...