My Books

Sunday, February 27, 2011

5 Stars for Love of a Stonemason

I would like to share a sensitive and insightful review of my novel Love of a Stonemason by Crystal Fulcher at her book blog My Reading Room.

Why I read this: The author sent me information about the book asking if I would like to review it, I was intrigued by the premise and agreed (and I am really glad I did).

How is the novel driven: Characters are the driving force in this book. It's about Karla, Andreas, family and friends.

My Thoughts: The first thing that went through my mind when I finished this book on Friday night was simply "Wow". I felt like I had been told a full story and while I wanted more of Karla and Andreas at the end, the story really was complete. I don't know when was the last time I truly felt that when I finished a book. Ms. Polkinhorn did a magnificient job crafting this story and getting it on the page. The characters, scenery and happenings in the book really came alive for me and I felt like I was watching and feeling Karla and Andreas through the full book.

How to classify this book - I first thought it sounded like a romance, but after finishing it, I would say it is more general fiction. Romance is key, Karla and Andreas' relationship is very key to the book. But most romance novels stop after dating and marriage usually, sometimes with glimpses of family life if there are several books in a series. The beauty of Ms. Polkinhorn's novel is that it continues through the years after they marry and delves much deeper into the characters of Karla and Andreas as they tackle the new ups and downs of marriage, of their art and of family.

Love of a Stonemason never lags in plot. Whether you are looking into depression, the ups of a great art career, the separation (distance-wise) of Andreas and Karla, starting a family, all of this flowed together so well and made a great story. I was never bored and wondering when something good would happen. It was all interesting and attention getting. It's as edge-of-your-seat as a non-thriller work can get. I was always wondering what would happen next, what aspect of life would be shown.

The realism is beautiful too. Love of a Stonemason truly shows the ups and downs of life, love and family. No family or person is perfect, there are always problems and always two sides to a story and that is what this book really looks into. I love that every aspect is shown and I really enjoyed the growth of the characters. Andreas and Karla are not superficial, you really get to know them through the whole book. I felt as though I knew them personally. The foreign setting and descriptions of landscapes and cities is also well-done. I also enjoyed learning about the art world, something that never really interested me before, but the author does a great job of making it interesting.

I laughed, I cried, I was frustrated with the characters (in a good way). I think I ran through most every emotion with this book. And what I love most is the feeling of the complete story and it's a story that will stick with me for some time. I found myself thinking of Karla and Andreas and the other people in their lives through the weekend. Really letting the story settle over me and how I feel now is that this is a definite reread in my book and that is saying something since I don't really reread books. My true hope is Ms. Polkinhorn will have another book on the way so I have another one of her books to enjoy. She brings realism to the story without it depressing you and leaving you down for days and I really like that. I do not have any complaints about this book and I think those of you who enjoy general fiction with a foreign-flair and romance will really enjoy this book.

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

About the Book:

The young painter, Karla Bocelli, is all too familiar with loss. When she was five years old, her mother died in a car crash in the south of Switzerland. Her Peruvian father lives at the other end of the world, and a year ago, her aunt and guardian passed away. Now, at age twenty-four, Karla almost gets hit by a speeding car. As if this wasn't fateful enough, Andreas, the driver, turns out to be a sculptor and carver of tombstones. In spite of his profession, Andreas is anything but morbid. Quick-tempered and intense, he exudes a rough-and-tumble energy. After a tumultuous start of their relationship, Karla comes to see in Andreas the "rock in her life," the perfect antidote to her fears of abandonment and bouts of depression. Andreas, however, wrestles with his own ghosts: an alcoholic father who abused him as a child and his own fits of anger. Together, the two artists must confront the demons that haunt them. Love of a Stonemason is a story about the struggle of two artists with their past, their family, their creativity, and their love for each other. Told from the point of view of Karla, it depicts the world through her painter's sensibility. It takes the reader on a journey full of sights, smells, tastes, and sounds from the south of Switzerland to Italy and the Peruvian Andes.

About the Author:

Christa Polkinhorn, originally from Switzerland, lives and works as writer and translator in Santa Monica, California. She divides her time between the United States and Switzerland and has strong ties to both countries. Her poems have appeared in various poetry magazines. She is the author of Path of Fire, a collection of poems published by Finishing Line Press. Love of a Stonemason is her first novel.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Transparent Lovers by Scott Nicholson - murder, love, and faith - Preview

Private investigator, Richard Steele, is a typical Scott Nicholson protagonist: cynical, sarcastic, selfish, somewhat crude but with a soft and yet unspoiled spot in his heart. He ends up murdered (no wonder) and in the ante-chamber to Heaven and Hell, one of the gatekeepers, “a wrinkled woman with a flowered hat and librarian glasses” has to decide where to send him. He wants to go to Heaven but with a past of mostly bad deeds, Hell is the more likely place. However, the lady at the gate does consider a few of his “really good deeds” and gives him a second chance. He is sent back to earth with the mission to solve his own murder and he has to do it fast.

His task isn’t exactly made easier by his dead ex-wife, Diana, who committed suicide, and is hell-bent on making “life” miserable for him. Then, there is Lee, his girl-friend on earth, whose life is in danger. This last job on earth turns out to be much more than a simple murder investigation. It involves cracking the veneer of his cynicism and accepting the fact that love is, after all, a true force worth pursuing. A fast-paced mystery with a paranormal twist, full of surprises, humorous, gritty, and tender. Scott Nicholson gets better with every book.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Having the Valentine Day's Blues?

On my morning walk today, I saw a young woman sitting on a bench at the side of the road. She was talking to a friend and her face was red from crying. I don't know if her sorrow had anything to do with Valentine's Day. But it got me thinking. It's on days such as these that we sometimes realize how little love there is in our lives. It doesn't need to be that way.

Don't have a Valentine this time around? Why not pick up the phone and call someone, Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, your kids or grandchildren or another relative or a friend you haven't talked to in a while? Invite them for coffee, hot chocolate or tea and crumpets (as the English would say). Buy a bunch of flowers and give them to the old lady next door. Love doesn't just exist between you and your significant other. Love is a lot more expansive and generous. It just waits patiently until you pay attention to it and pick it up.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Love of a Stonemason, chapter 5

Chapter 5 of my novel Love of a Stonemason. It is available both as Kindle ebook and trade paperback at Amazon and in different ebook formats at Smashwords. Average customer reviews: 5 stars.


Blurb and Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4

Chapter 5

A gust of wind swept into the yard, shaking the leaves of the chestnut trees and the rhododendron plants.
    “Not again!” Karla exclaimed. She held on to her easel and canvas.
     The Nordfoehn, a dry northern wind, had been blowing on and off all night. This wind was the only disadvantage in the otherwise ideal environment. Once in a while, it had an invigorating effect on Karla, but most of the time it made her feel irritable, anxious, even depressed, and gave her a headache.
     “All right. I guess I wasn’t meant to paint outside this morning,” she muttered, as another blast swept down on her. She gathered her painting tools and put them into her studio. She didn’t feel like finishing the painting inside, so she grabbed her sketch pad, sat down by the window, and thought about what to draw. She made several attempts, but was unable to concentrate.
     It wasn’t just the annoying wind. Ever since yesterday, she had been thinking of Andreas, his sculptures, his kiss. It had been more than a kiss between friends and it had stirred up emotions she didn’t care for. After a series of unsuccessful short-term relationships, Karla had decided to stay away from men for a while. And then this fierce, irritating, but oddly endearing guy with his biting humor had to turn up and unsettle her again.
     And the thing with Sarah. What was the real reason behind Sarah’s visit? Was it really just to apologize and talk about art?
     Sarah and Karla had had an on-and-off friendship for several years. They exchanged ideas about art, went to museums and galleries together, and sometimes critiqued each other’s work. The friendship, however, had cooled when Karla had caught Sarah sleeping with one of her boyfriends.
     Was Andreas attracted to Sarah? He had shown concern for her but Karla didn’t think he had more than friendly feelings for her. But then you never knew. And why should I even care? Karla tossed her drawing pad aside.
     The wind was blowing fiercely now, howling around the corners of the house and slamming one of the shutters close. When Karla stepped outside to fasten it again, she saw that the sky was a deep clear blue, the wind having wiped away all the clouds.
     Karla sat down again and forced herself to get a least one drawing done. She picked up her pad and a piece of charcoal. Almost automatically, she began to sketch Andreas, as she remembered him sitting in front of the stone slab. She realized she was out of practice drawing human figures, having focused mainly on landscapes. After several attempts, she ended up with a sketch she liked. It depicted his muscular body bending over the stone, a strand of hair hanging into his face. She left out the mask and goggles, wanting to show his face in profile.
     Perhaps she would give it to him on Saturday. Feeling more at peace again, she was ashamed of her anger at Sarah. She was her friend, after all, and Karla hadn’t even called her to find out how she was feeling after her breakdown at the opening. She picked up the phone and dialed Sarah’s number. It took a while before she answered.
     Sarah’s voice sounded tired. “I’m trying to take a nap.”
     “Sorry. I didn’t mean to disturb you; I just wanted to know how you were,” Karla said.
     “I’m okay.”
     Sarah’s distant and cool voice irritated Karla. You make an ass of yourself at my first opening. You could at least apologize. “I heard you went to see Andreas.”
     “Yes. I did. I wanted to apologize.”
     “Oh, I see. Was that the only reason? You were all over him at the opening.”
     “So? What do you care? Are you two an item or something? How did you find out I went to see him?”
     Karla felt anger rise in her like bile. “He told me. He’s my boyfriend, Sarah.” Gee, what a lie.
     It was quiet for a while at the other end. Karla could hear Sarah’s breathing. Then her voice again, friendlier now. “Karla, look, he’s great. I felt really low the last few days. Just talking to him made me feel better. I have no intention of interfering in your relationship. You’re lucky to have him as a boyfriend.”
     Karla started to feel ashamed but she still distrusted Sarah. “It wouldn’t be the first time.”
     “Oh, Karla, why bring up that old stuff. You weren’t even interested in the guy anymore.”
     “Yeah, but you didn’t know that when you jumped in the sack with him.”
     “Karla, you know what? You’re so fucking petty.”
     “Sarah, let’s not fight.” It was too late. Karla heard the click at the other end.
     Why can’t I keep my mouth shut? Karla lowered her head on her arms and sighed. Not only had she lied to Sarah about her relationship with Andreas, she had begrudged her friend the little encouragement he had given her as an artist.
     Perhaps Sarah was interested in Andreas. At least she was honest about her feelings. Karla, on the other hand, had appropriated Andreas, although she wasn’t even sure how she felt about him or how he felt about her. He had kissed her, he wanted to meet her again, but that was all. And Karla’s feelings for him? She liked him, she was even attracted to him, but she wasn’t sure she was ready to get involved.

* * *
     The following morning, it was raining, the Nordfoehn having collapsed the night before. The rain felt soothing after the harsh, dry northern wind and the sky was a lively display of towering dark clouds. The mountain tops were hidden behind layers of white mist. Stormy landscape, Rembrandt, Karla thought as she scanned the horizon. It had cooled off somewhat and the air smelled of burning wood from the neighbor’s oven.
     Later that day, Karla made an effort to clean out the storage room, which was overflowing with canvasses of half-finished and finished paintings as well as sketches on paper. She resisted this periodic chore. It forced her to decide which pieces she considered worth keeping and which she wanted to discard or paint over. Not an easy task; it required ruthless honesty and a discerning eye.
     Karla kept pulling paintings out of storage, putting them back in, pulling them back out again. In the process, she came across the canvass with the dark woman she had been struggling with. She glanced at it, shook her head, and decided to hang on to it. One day, perhaps, she would be able to finish it.
     In the evening, there was a pile of discarded sketches in the recycling bin and several canvasses that could be reused. The clean-up gave Karla a feeling of freedom. She took a deep breath and stepped outside to watch the evening settle in. It had stopped raining and the heavy clouds had thinned. The southern sky was pink with tints of purple and the evening breeze brought a whiff of wet grass.



Saturday, February 5, 2011

5 Stars for The Spruce Gum Box by Elizabeth Egerton Wilder

Heart-warming, sensitive, and beautifully told  

I was first attracted to this work of historical fiction by the author Elizabeth Egerton Wilder through a post on Scott Nicholson’s blog as well as by the title. I have never heard of a spruce gum box and I wanted to know what it was. Just goes to show how a good and somewhat mysterious title can draw you into a book! The fact that the author published her debut novel fairly late in life added to my curiosity, since I am in a somewhat similar position. I started to read and was instantly drawn into this wonderful story.

The Spruce Gum Box deals with a chapter in American history I knew nothing about. It takes place during the early nineteenth century in Maine at the time of the border dispute between Great Britain and the United States. A lot of research must have gone into this book. The reader gets a vivid picture of the struggle of the people who were trying to carve out a life for themselves along the Aroostook River as well as of the relationship between the pioneers and the native people, the Micmac Indians.

The heart of the story, however, is the destiny of individual people, their hopes, loves, fears, and hardships. It tells of the forbidden love between young Jed and Addie, of the tender love between Jed and his son, Benjie, as well as the friendship between Jed, Benjie and the native people of the Micmac tribe—Jacob, Nuga, Hanna, Birdie, Bear, Nettie. It is also a tale about community, the importance of belonging and adjusting, of overcoming prejudice.

The characters are vividly portrayed and convincing and they stayed with me long after I finished reading the novel. These are complex but lovable people and their fate touched me. It’s been a while since I cried reading a book, but my eyes misted over more than once while I read this novel.

This is a work with a leisurely pace, one that lets you enjoy and savor the natural beauty of the landscape, leads you slowly into the thoughts and feelings of the characters, and explores their everyday and often harsh but meaningful lives. Leisurely, however, does not mean boring. On the contrary, each event, each chapter drives the story forward and makes you want to turn the page (or flip the page, in the case of an eReader).

I can only recommend this heart-warming and sensitive tale and if you want to know what a spruce gum box is (and I bet you don’t know), READ IT!