Sunday, July 24, 2016

Blog Tour: My Pineapples Went to Houston

Lee Gaitan is a wife, mother, teacher, author and speaker, but above all she is passionately committed to overcoming life’s obstacles, surviving sometimes by the skin of her teeth, but always with humor and optimism. She shares her experience with anyone who will listen with the intent to encourage others to use humor to their benefit.

In the past twelve years Lee has had to deal with more than a healthy helping
of “are you kidding me?” moments. In 2002, she hit rock bottom. It was so bad shelovingly refers to it as a year of “shock and awfulness.” That year her father died,her mother was in the hospital, semi-comatose from grief, and her husband of 22 years lost every penny of their money BEFORE running off to Arizona with his girlfriend, who just happened to be a former stripper. 

That was just the beginning. She spent the next decade struggling with loss and challenges on every front, from finances and family to health and career.

While there have been many bounces up and down over the years, Lee has finally
bounced back and it was well worth the effort. She has happily remarried, working at a job she loves and has published her second book. She even has children on three continents and a granddaughter far too far away!

I love memoirs, but am always looking for something that adheres to what I consider to be the right way of addressing personal nonfiction.  I expect detail and depth with sides that include well-crafted realism as well as authentic characters.  Good thing I picked up this release by Lee Gaitan.

I definitely enjoyed reading this book, which I admit to having signed up to review based on the mysterious title.  It references an anecdote in the first chapter that effectively proves that the best laid plans of mice and men gang oft to Houston.

The plot and characters were something straight out of Jacquelyn Mitchard, where men are unreliable monsters except for one true treasure and women are articulately strong against them.  The real antagonist has awful grammar and tells the narrator to cross her 'faaaaaaaaaaangers' that she doesn't get fired.  That line alone made me want to bump off the antagonist to make everyone's life better.

If this had been fiction, I would have saved it for my "feminism-conquers-all" reading binges where I insist on reading books that make me feel better about the plight of undervalued women and read something paranormal.  Because it is non-fiction and an at-times harrowing account of a life gone temporarily off the rails, I read it one sitting and laughed and sighed at the elements of my own life that I could relate to it.

I took issue with moments of inconsistency.  The book promises to address a death in the family, a dissolution of marriage and a mother on the verge of a coma in a single year.  Two of the three happen.  Then later on, she introduces "The Lucifers," so named because they are the real estate scam artists from hell.  She notes that she will call the husband Mr. G for the rest of the story,   Then Mr. G is called Lucifer for the rest of his time in the book.

I heartily wish that it had ended with the chapter "Dedicated to the One I love" because the rest of the story belongs in a separate memoir.  If it had done  so, the losing and finding of love would have been wrapped up really well, but it continued on to talk about real estate and her beloved dog.

I hope to read more since she definitely has compelling and inspirational experiences to share.

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Monday, July 4, 2016

Blog Tour: Time after time--Melanie Bateman's "The Time Key"

I will freely admit it.  It takes a lot to get me to genuinely appreciate time-travel.  By and large, when I read something time-travel related, I spend a lot of the book rubbing my temples and sighing heavily because it just doesn't work for me.  (I'm a Whovian, so it takes complicated paradoxes and unexpected twists for me to stop yawning.)

Don't worry, the introduction is not me saying "Here's how many times I fell asleep while reading htis book."  (The answer is once, but that's my fault for reading in bed after a very long day.)   "The Time Key" is one of the more rewarding and unconventional takes on time travel that I've read in years.  The story starts with the attempted suicide of Stanley Becker, a widower who tries to end his life on the spot where his wife and daughter were killed six years before.  It then follows his personal saga and adventures due to the possession of a complicated fob watch and the eponymous Time Key.  It is a device that has the power to change time and the rest of the book explores what might just be done with that tool.

I'll leave the rest of the plot for you to discover, but let me talk about what impressed me:

1)  The narrative style.  You start the book reading a third-person limited point-of-view, but an objective and mysterious narrative voice starts breaking in by stepping back from that perspective to give you hints of other things.  It took me back a bit to Jane Eyre or, at times, Terry Pratchett and I really liked that tweak of the conventional narrative.

2)  The ensemble cast.  Whether it's Mr. Becker's household staff or the Roma travelers who help and hinder him when he goes looking for a man he chanced to meet in the opening chapters, there is a wide variety of persons and personalities.

3)  The Time Key.  I looked at this device, which has clock hands to set things like days and hours, and was impressed by the almost mechanical mythology of it.  It was more complicated than the Time-Turner in Harry Potter and less technical than a DeLorean.

4)  The historical setting.  We know the landmarks and times of the storyline.  There is a reference to a barber's wife buying magazines weekly to pick up the latest adventure of Sherlock Holmes.  The costuming is very well-done.

My beef:

The dialogue is sometimes inconsistent.  There were parts where accents that were painstakingly transcribed disappeared entirely.  With the narrative voice, it's mostly true to the style and period of the characters, but when it slips, it reminds me of the time that I watched The Crucible in theaters and noticed a Greyhound bus traveling across the countryside behind a couple from the 17th Century.  This is a minor flaw, but one that took me out of the story when it happened.