Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The River by Michael Neale



The book's description from the publisher's website:

“You were made for The River . . .”

Gabriel Clarke is mysteriously drawn to The River, a ribbon of frothy white water carving its way through steep canyons high in the Colorado Rockies. The rushing waters beckon him to experience freedom and adventure.
But something holds him back—the memory of the terrible event he witnessed on The River when he was just five years old—something no child should ever see.
Chains of fear and resentment imprison Gabriel, keeping him from discovering the treasures of The River. He remains trapped, afraid to take hold of the life awaiting him.
When he returns to The River after years away, his heart knows he is finally home. His destiny is within reach. Claiming that destiny will be the hardest—and bravest—thing he has ever done.
One of the most frustrating books I've read. The most frustrating spiritual book I've read.There really isn't much to say, because unfortunately there wasn't much to this book.

My expectations were much higher than what I found in The River. They were based on what others were saying about it.

 Michael Neale writes an amazing story that—I believe—will change lives.

The inspirational read encourages readers to evaluate themselves, their motives and the toxic issue of forgiveness in a fascinating story of daring adventure, letting go of the past and finding courage to step into the future.

 I think everyone can relate to the protagonist's experience of having to let go of the pain from his past in order to embrace the future for which he's destined. *

I'm looking for a better direction in my life. I have been a seeker for a very long time, for complicated reasons. I thought Neale's book could help me be inspired, if nothing else. As it is, The River is changing no one's life any time soon.

I may be a skeptic and need some convincing but who are such books written for, if not for people like me. If your intended audience is that which already agrees with what you preach, then there's no justifiable reason to not market your book as such.

Frankly, I can't imagine who will read The River and find it exceptional, with a powerful message and a potential to change lives. There was nothing revelatory in this book. The message of the value of forgiveness is rather simplistic and frankly, insulting, especially to those readers who need true inspiration and know that real life rarely serves such easy solutions as the author would have us believe. Also, contrary to what is said by the endorsers, Michael Neale is not a very gifted storyteller, at least where the written word is concerned (people stating that may be intellectually dishonest or just plain dishonest, I'm not sure which one is worse).

If I seem a little harsh, it's because I care about spirituality and inspiration, and I especially want to find them in Christian writings. Unfortunately, more and more often these books are written in a style of an 8th-grade essay, as if Christians couldn't possibly comprehend anything more complex. The River is no exception. It made me angry. I wanted to write a lot worse opinion on this book when I first finished it. I doubt I'll harm the sales any, though. I already have a feeling it will be the next The Shack, regardless of what this reader's inconsequential opinion is.

* The quotes are from several Goodreads reviews.

FTC: I received The River from NetGalley for review.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A slight change of direction.

As you grow older, you grow up. At least that's the idea. I started blogging four years ago quite by accident and without much thought to it. I saw so many book blogs and figured I could have one too since I loved reading books and wanted to talk about what I read. I don't have many opportunities to talk about books in my life, even fewer to talk about books and not be treated with patronizing indulgence. It somehow happened that within my immediate family, I'm the only one who reads with a deeper purpose than simply passing time and treats reading not as a silly hobby but something serious that brings added value to my life.

Four years later, I feel I am in a place that allows me to make more straightforward and somewhat calculated decisions. This blog, which used to be Reading Extravaganza, is one thing I can and will change. I am doing something I should have done four years ago. I am finally giving it a direction.

Axe for the Frozen Sea is now a literature blog, not a book blog. What I will try to do here is create a bridge between literary fiction and commercial fiction. I don't want to write a novel that will be in the middle of these two. I am not a writer, I'm aware of what I can and cannot do. Unlike what seems to be 90% of today's population, I don't want to write books. I belong to that very important group of people for whom books are written, paintings are painted, music composed. I make art a part of my life. Unfortunately, the trend that worries me is that writing is no longer seen as art by an unbelievable number of people. It's sad but not tragic. As all other art, true writing will persevere.

I want to show you, whoever you might happen to be, that literary fiction is not pretentious or a whole lot of nothing dressed in big words no one understands. Literary fiction is instead beautiful, it has depth, it has lessons to teach you if you're willing to learn, and it will help you understand why writing is a gift very few people are born with.

I would also like to show those on the other end of reading tastes that 'commercial' fiction (I do hate that word, in all honesty) is not all worthless rubbish written by money and fame seeking individuals, who are nonetheless keen observers of the general public. Genre novels, such as horror, thriller, fantasy, crime et al, are penned by many talented writers whose passion for writing shines through their stories. If it were up to me, I would do away with the distinction altogether. Splendid fiction should be just that. Novels should be judged on the quality of writing, not on which category or genre they belong to.

What is happening in the book world nowadays is tragic. The readers' standards are so low as to be almost non-existent, the atrocious books published and read nowadays are an insult to all the unforgettable literature that is facing a danger of becoming obscure. Not to mention we're now raising a generation of young people who not only religiously read Twilight trilogy instead of Grapes of Wrath or Les Miserables (yes, I read both in tenth grade and I was not an exception) but are encouraged to do so because after all it doesn't matter what one reads, as long as one reads. This may possibly be the most nonsensical and dumbest sentiment I've ever heard. This phenomenon is too complex to be written about in this post. I will write a separate one. Yes, I do have a strong opinion on it (I have strong opinions on a lot of issues, which condition I find a lot more preferable to trying to be falsely objective and in effect not have opinions at all).

I suppose this post may be called my blogger manifesto. And if it is that, then the posts published within this blog are my reader manifesto. I will always speak up for literary works of art and against the rubbish written by semi-literates that should never have seen the light of day.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty


* * * * *

The book's synopsis from the publisher's website:

The Chaperone is a captivating novel about the woman who chaperoned an irreverent Louise Brooks to New York City in 1922 and the summer that would change them both.
Only a few years before becoming a famous silent-film star and an icon of her generation, a fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks leaves Wichita, Kansas, to study with the prestigious Denishawn School of Dancing in New York. Much to her annoyance, she is accompanied by a thirty-six-year-old chaperone, who is neither mother nor friend. Cora Carlisle, a complicated but traditional woman with her own reasons for making the trip, has no idea what she’s in for. Young Louise, already stunningly beautiful and sporting her famous black bob with blunt bangs, is known for her arrogance and her lack of respect for convention. Ultimately, the five weeks they spend together will transform their lives forever.
For Cora, the city holds the promise of discovery that might answer the question at the core of her being, and even as she does her best to watch over Louise in this strange and bustling place she embarks on a mission of her own. And while what she finds isn’t what she anticipated, she is liberated in a way she could not have imagined. Over the course of Cora’s relationship with Louise, her eyes are opened to the promise of the twentieth century and a new understanding of the possibilities for being fully alive.
I wanted to write a nice, elaborate review to give justice to this wonderful novel because I feel that the most significant aspects of it have somehow been overlooked. Unfortunately, I seem to not be able to write what I really want, so maybe shorter will be better this time.

1. I believe The Chaperone is first and foremost about people's inability and/or unwillingness to change. It's about our judgmental natures and our arrogance rendering 'us' better than 'them' even though we're all human, some women better than other women, even though we're the same gender and in the end we are facing the same challenges. Some of us choose to change and make a change, and that's why humanity moves forward. But some of us choose to stay in denial, live an illusory life that allows them to think their morals are better and the rest of us should live accordingly, unless we want to be judged and condemned for stepping outside the line. This is why even though humanity does move forward, it's also doing it at a snail's pace. Today we, who read The Chaperone are not that much more morally open-minded than Cora and her circle of female friends were in the 1920s, just like they were not all that much better than the society was in The Age of Innocence that Cora was reading when in NYC.

2. Homosexuality is still something many of us have big issues understanding, accepting or wanting to accept. I know that there are many books dealing with homosexuality exclusively, mostly in a form of erotica writing. But I will most likely never read them. That's why The Chaperone is a book that mattered to me so greatly. Thanks to Ms. Moriarty, my heart was shattered over the tragic life of the one homosexual couple in the novel that strangely no one mentioned. I loved this couple so, so much and when their lives came to an end, I just wept at the injustice of this whole, f&$#ed world where because of our stupid arrogance and bigotry we ruin other people, we take away their right to be happy and to show their happiness to the whole world. Oh, I'm still tearing up about it.

Anyway, there's a lot more to the book which almost every other review mentions. I simply wanted to write about what hasn't been mentioned.