Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Getting the Mercury Out by Áine Ní Cheallaigh

Book: Getting the Mercury Out
Author: Áine Ní Cheallaigh
Publisher: Capsule Press

Every horror story ever written contains the same five basic elements: an opening that grabs the reader, exposition of the characters and their situation, complications, climax, and finally some sort of resolution. The horror story protagonist often faces a shocking state of helplessness; a desperate need to stop the agent of antagonism; pressure to do something to halt it; a razor-sharp intensity of emotions; the dramatic rise and fall in tensions; and finally the sweet refuge of redemption.

I say if it swims like a duck and quacks like a duck . . . 

While it meets each and every one of the criteria listed above, Getting the Mercury Out isn’t a traditional horror story. It is author Áine Ní Cheallaigh’s very real, very serious, very personal journey through mercury poisoning, identification, detox, and recovery. It details the staggering and debilitating effects of heavy metal toxins on her health, cognitive functions, career, day-to-day life, and her relationship with her girlfriend.

And, much like any horror story by Clive Barker, Dean Koontz, or Stephen King, it leaves the readers crossing their fingers and chanting, “Damn, I’m glad it isn’t me," as they shove the annoying pest control salesman out the front door.

Getting the Mercury Out, though, is a deceptive book. Ms. Ní Cheallaigh’s writing is often light and tinged with subtle humor, even when the subject matter is dark and painful. I’m not sure if this is intentional or an unintended artifact of her natural wit and writing style. Regardless, the book is simply and elegantly written, and an amazingly quick and easy read. I’ll admit that I’m not the biggest fan of non-fictions, but I had a hard time putting this one down. I was completely wrapped up in her journey to self-diagnose and treat her toxin dump, celiac disease, adrenal exhaustion, food and chemical reactions, nutritional deficiencies, stress, and depression. Of course, that left me feeling a little funny inside – was I actually enjoying the book or was it like watching a car crash? The jury is still out on that one.

I’ll also admit that I haven’t seen the word “poop” used this many times since I edited a journal article on Dung Beetles in graduate school.

Ultimately, though, while Getting the Mercury Out is compelling reading for people who’ve never been affected by something like heavy metal toxins, it’s really written for a very narrow, specific audience. That audience is the group of men and women who struggle against the effects of these insidious poisons, and anyone else that wages a similar battle against a host of different mental and physical demons.

Áine Ní Cheallaigh emerged stronger and healthier from this real life horror story because failure was not an option, and success was her very life. In writing Getting the Mercury Out, she succeeds where others have fallen short because she pressed through the waterfall of numbing and confusing scientific data, and put a very vulnerable, human face on the disease. Getting the Mercury Out is well done, and I’m giving this plucky memoir a 5.0 out of 6 on the Rainbow Scale.

For more information and a safe place to share the experience of recovering from heavy metal toxicity, visit Áine Ní Cheallaigh’s website:

Monday, June 27, 2011

Hellebore and Rue, Edited by JoSelle Vanderhooft & Catherine Lundoff

Book:  Hellebore and Rue:  Tales of Queer Women and Magic
Authors:  Various, Edited by JoSelle Vanderhofft and Catherine Lundoff
Publisher:  Flyleaf Press

Magic is many things to many people.  Some see it as the ultimate test of good versus evil, white versus black, us against them.  To others, it is an art that graces some more finely than others.  Some see magic as a vocation, a trade that services a much wider Community.  To many, it is a religious calling.  And, to most of the rest, magic is a scientific pursuit based on principles far outside the defined, comfortable realm of logic and reason.

Me, I see magic as a sketchy guy in an ill-fitting tux with a pigeon in his pants.

In Hellebore and Rue, JoSelle Vanderhooft and Catherline Lundoff offer readers a tidy little collection of short stories focused on lesbian witches, magicians, and voodoo priestesses.  The foundation of the volume is the magic, in all its myriad forms.  We are introduced to emerging feelings, new and old loves, and romances that could not withstand the test of time.  At times, we wonder who the antagonist really is, or get a hint of juicy things off page.  The key, however, is the magic and only the magic. The stories don’t stray far into distracting romance, whodunit or frisky erotica. 

I give the editors credit for resisting the urge to slip any of these little happy pills into the readers’ proverbial glass of milk – it would have completely changed the feel and the flavor of the volume.

Hellebore and Rue consists of twelve short stories from both new and recognized authors, and is a quick read at 187 pages.  The shorts include:

"Counterbalance” by Ruth Sorrell

“Trouble Arrived” by C.B. Calsing

“Personal Demons” by Jean Marie Ward

“The Windskimmer” by Connie Wilkins

“Sky Lit Bargains” by Kelly A. Harmon

“Gloam” by Quinn Smythwood

“Witches Have Cats” by Juliet Kemp

“D is for Delicious” by Steve Berman

“And Out of the Strong Came Forth Sweetness” by Lisa Nohealani Morton

“Bridges and Lullabies” by Rrain Prior

“Thin Spun” by Sunny Moraine

“A State of Panic” by Rachel Green

The beauty of anthologies is that there’s usually a little something for everyone and every taste.  This holds true for Hellebore and Rue.  For my money, I got the biggest kick out of C.B. Calsing’s  “Trouble Arrived”, a good old-fashioned voodoo two-step; “Sky Lit Bargins” by Kelly A. Harmon, the only story that really had the chops to become a book and make me want more; and Juliet Kemp’s “Witches Have Cats”, because what’s not to love about a doggy familiar named Jasper rolling in thyme?

There’s more to Hellebore and Rue than it’s individual stories, though. The editors did a commendable job in selecting well-written pieces that cover a wide range of magic themes, yet flow seamlessly from one to the next.  The cover art is creative, evocative, and beautiful, and the internal design adds to rather than detracts from the overall flow and style of the volume.  I found that most of the authors chose to present their stories in a more lyrical style than through standard prose.  And, while this might not appeal to all readers, I strongly suspect that those interested in the subject matter won’t care one bit.  After all, there’s very little “standard” about magic, in any of its definitions.

If you’re a fan of speculative fiction, and more specifically lesbians practicing magic, Hellebore and Rue:  Tales of Queer Women and Magic deserves a special little spot on your bookshelf.  I’m giving it a 4.8 out of 6 on the Rainbow Scale.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The River Within by Baxter Clare Trautman

Book:  The River Within
Author:  Baxter Clare Trautman
Publisher:  Baxter Clare Trautman at Smashwords

Books have the capacity to be amazing creatures, sapient beings, really.  It’s a quiet, unassuming presence that transcends the simple form of setting, theme, character, plot, conflict, and point of view.  It’s much like a subtle, veiled prophet that transforms the words, sentences, paragraphs, and even whole chapters into something more essential.  Books can speak loudly of things like “truth”, “frailty”, “loss”, and “resurrection”, even without a voice.

Books can be that.  Books can do that.  A lot of books, though, never utter more than a few words or stilted phrases. Thirty-six hours after reading the last sentence, The River Within is still whispering furiously in my ear, bullying my other thoughts, and trying to squeeze the last bit of breath out of my emotional control.

And I wish it would stop, maybe bake some cookies or do a load of laundry, because it is seriously making me want to start chain smoking Twizzlers.

Foreign Correspondent Greer Madison has spent thirty years doing what few men could ever do, but life in a never-ending war zone has started to lose its luster. While trying to prove that she’s still relevant, still capable, still in the game, she takes a young reporter on what will become a deadly trip into Iraq.

Returning back to the States to recover at the home of her best friends, Doug and Darlene Richardson, she finds that home isn’t quite what she remembered.  Darlene, a war advocate, is struggling with the oppressive guilt that her political beliefs led to her son’s enlistment into the Navy, and his ultimate death in country.  Distraught by his tragic, senseless end, she erects a series of impenetrable walls around herself and his memory.  Spiraling downward, she keeps the details of her son’s death from her husband and her daughter, and carefully plans a tragic quid pro quo to atone for her sins.  Doug, secretly blaming his wife, as well, turns to the bottle and another woman for the solace he can no longer find at home.

Kate, Doug and Darlene’s headstrong daughter, mourns for the loss of her family, and aches to find someone who understands her need to talk about her brother. She has a wonderful fiancé that is handsome, sweet, and beloved by her mother.  But, deep down, she knows she doesn’t really love him, at least not now, maybe in the future.   

Darlene is living a lie. Locking herself into Chris’ room to read and reread his letters from Iraq, she retreats further into self-loathing and desperation. Kate and Greer, meanwhile begin to form a relationship, open up about their mistakes, their failures, and ultimately their darkest secrets.  Darlene mistakes their intimacy for what it could be, and the resulting explosion rips through every barrier erected to keep them each safe.  The thing is, without the barriers, they find there is strength, forgiveness, and healing in their numbers.

Baxter Clare Trautman’s The River Within is a fine piece of contemporary literature.  There’s no mystery or intrigue, there’s very little romance, and the only action involves drinking tea, flashbacks, and swimming naked in a pool.  While Greer is a lesbian that has had a few relationships with men, and Kate is temporarily confused, this book isn’t the least bit lesbian-themed.  And, while there is a bit of sex, it’s all straight sex.  This is all as it should be, because the book isn’t about any of those things.

To be perfectly honest, though, there are a few dollops of juicy tension, and references to a handful of naughtily little escapades - in these, hope springs eternal.

The River Within is a tough book to read.  That’s not to say it’s a bad book – au contraire, it’s really a well-done, original story that is complex and rich with strong, complicated characters.  Characters that you find yourself liking and rooting for, in spite of the lies, the deceptions, and the bad judgements.

However, it’s the kind of book where you read for a while, set it down, and arrange your composure.  Maybe walk the dogs around the block, surf the Internet for a bit, look in the refrigerator, fold a few socks, then pick it back up.  You do this every few chapters, because your chest is aching, and the pressure on your emotions is about to send you into vapor lock.  You don’t want to be hearing these private conversations, but you can’t stop yourself.  It won’t stop talking to you.  You can’t turn it off.  

The River Within is a book about the secrets we keep inside, and having the courage to look deep, deep down and say to our self, “I don’t like you very much”.  It’s about doing something harder than we’ve ever done, about stopping our own madness, and opening up to the honesty.  It’s about taking those first tentative steps to make things right with our self, and with those whom our lives affect. 

I strongly suspect that not everyone will experience the visceral impact I have, and that's fine - stories and characters impact everyone a little differently. 

The River Within, Baxter Clare Trautman’s first foray into e-book self-publishing, gets a strong 5.1 out of 6 on the Rainbow Scale. It’s a really good story that has left a big piece of me grieving for innocence lost, and because no matter how much we want it, we can never change the past; we can only alter our future.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

365 Days by K.E. Payne

Book:  365 Days
Author:  K.E. Payne
Publisher:  Bold Strokes Books

Back in the halcyon days of the Eighties when I was but a wee little lass, keeping a diary was one of the Tiger Beat top ten things for teenage girls to do.  We were encouraged to emote upon the trials of growing up, the horrors of our peers, our periods, and our siblings, and [/gasp/] our crushes and deepest desires.   Of course, I grew up in a house with no locks and only two doors, so my diary usually consisted of weather reports, game statistics, song lyrics, and blank space.

Yup, lots and lots of white space [/sarcasm/]

In K.E. Payne’s debut novel, 365 Days, we’re introduced to Clemmie Atkins, a thoroughly modern, old-school 16-year old that tells her diary everything.  She’s just had a rotten New Year’s Eve, and is suckered into dating a monosyllabic dolt with zits and oily McDeez breath [/queasy/].  Of course, she’s also coming to the conclusion that she might really be a lesbian, because she thinks about J (can’t say her name lest Her Royal Bloody Highness reads the diary) ALL the time.  She even gets those little flutters when J smiles at her in the hall.  Nope, didn’t get them with Ben the dolt.  

But of course, J has a boyfriend [/mad/], and this about kills her.  But things start to change as she gets to know the new girl, Hannah Harrison.  Hannah is a Goth – sorry, EMO, but she’s really a warm, sweet, happy person.  Slowly but surely, Clemmie starts to forget about J, and starts to think about Hannah ALL the time [/flutters/].   Before long, Clemmie and Hannah become lovers, and we follow them through vacations, holidays, first fights, misunderstandings, and sweet, angsty reconciliations.

And then there’s the dream featuring a dog wearing a pair of swimming trunks, doing a Scottish jig while Donald Trump plays the bagpipes [/creepy/].

YA novel or not, 365 Days absofreakinlutely blew me away. 

The writing is crisp and clever; the characters are simple yet multi-dimensional; and the storyline is fresh but familiar.  Ms. Payne artfully captures the confusion and concerns of a young woman coming to terms with her lesbian libido, as well as life with her family, the inconvenience of schoolwork, morphing dynamics with friends, the torment of waiting for a text, an email, or a call, and the near-consuming fear of losing it all.

Been there, done that, still waiting on a callback from 1984 [/pitiful/].

I will hazard to guess that every one of us that realized she really, really liked girls during her teen years will recognize this story – even the old ones, like me.  I’m even willing to bet a substantial number of dead presidents that a few readers will rummage through their crackly old diaries to see if their teenage torment was somehow plagiarized.

For the record, it wasn’t, so put the phone down.  Now!

I will also hazard to guess that a lot of teenage girls for many years to come will read this book and rest better knowing that they’re not alone, that this whole crazy experience is wonderfulmanicnatural, and that things will get better.  Damn, I wish I had this book when I was Clemmie’s age.

But noooo, you got James Michener’s The Drifters in your Xmas stocking.  

I don’t know how she did it, but K.E. Payne delivered a remarkable debut in the simple form of a teenage lesbian’s diary.  It’s all the things I hoped it would be, and none of the things I feared.  I’m giving this sweet, little gem a 5.0 out of 6 on the Rainbow Scale, and encouraging everyone to give it a read – it really is that good [/confident/].

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Soldier Too by Bev Prescott

Book:  My Soldier Too
Author:  Bev Prescott
Publisher:  Blue Feather Books, Ltd.

Before I get into my review of Bev Prescott’s delightful little debut, I feel compelled to do a little housekeeping:    

In light of all the recent press surrounding the $^%*!#@ jerks pretending to be lesbian bloggers, I want to clarify that I am a living, breathing dyke in good standing, and my lifetime membership fees are paid-in-full (credential number 0223-22-8822-5).  I have one toaster oven, two flannel shirts, and three dogs.  While I am wildly attracted to women with brilliant minds and a keen sense of humor, I’ll admit that I like a nice ass. And to be perfectly transparent; there's a strong likelihood that I will be dumbly transfixed by your cleavage, if it's on display.  Maybe that makes me a pig, but I’m an honest lesbian blogging pig with a good heart.

Okay, now on to the really important stuff, Bev Prescott has graced us with a sweet little debut novel, My Soldier Too.  Isabella Parisi has it all, she loves her job as a social worker with veterans at the VA; she has a handsome, if seriously oppressive boyfriend, and a tight Italian Catholic family.  Madison Brown is a dashing Captain in the Army Reserve, an Iraq War veteran, and a registered nurse who spends her reserve duty in the VA Clinic.  While neither is looking out for love, they find it when Madison rushes in to help Isabella up after she slips on the ice.  Of course, Isabella is straight and Madison refuses to have her heart broken. 

But true love never pays attention to those pesky little details. 

They push.  They pull.  They kiss.  They thrust.  They parry.  They get naked.  Things are looking up, until Daddy Parisi, the oppressive ex-boyfriend, and the Italian Catholic brothers see the girls canoodling on the pier in P’town.  Daddy goes berserk, and things start to unravel.  Isabella’s friend, the General, commits suicide and Madison gets orders to ship off to Afghanistan.  Isabella realizes she can’t be with Madison, and runs back to her family.  Madison, broken hearted, heads back into the war zone.  Isabella finally figures out who and what she really is, but it may be too late to get Madison back.

My Soldier Too is a story with many faces.  It’s part love-at-first-sight romance, part political statement on the cost of war and the state of our soldiers, part cautionary tale, and part declaration of truth.  I appreciate that both Isabella and Madison can recognize the attraction, and that they screw up the courage to take tiny steps to pursue it, even if they’re not really sure what they’re pursuing at first. 

I also appreciate the fear factor, which is oddly more for Madison than for Isabella.  I can perfectly understand that Madison is gun shy with her heart, especially when it comes to a straight woman with a boyfriend.  Isabella, though, isn’t really too awfully shocked or surprised that she’s having such strong feelings for a woman.  I guess this is always a bit of a sticking point for me – do straight women really just flip a switch, come to immediate terms with a same sex sexual relationship, and not obsess over what it means to their lives, career, and friends?

Don’t forget the, “Oh shit!  My brother, the Catholic priest, is absolutely going to wet his frock!!!”

And, to set the record straight, the brother who is a Catholic priest didn’t wet his starched little frock; he just joined the rest of the family in a sanctimonious sing-a-long.

Of course, there were some wonderful scenes in the book.  One of my absolute favorites was when Isabella tippled too many appletinis, ended up getting her butch on, and accosted Madison at the dance club.  Well, technically, she didn’t really accost her, but she was a tad more firm and direct.  Anyway, given the force of the adult beverages, Isabella and Madison end up in a near compromising position, and both sets of friends converge, thinking their respective girl isn’t being treated right.  I loved that the two sets of friends nearly got into a brawl.  That was a beautiful, clever piece of writing.

GRRRLLL FIIIIGHT!!!!!!   Yeah, that’s what I’m talkin’ about.

This next part is hard to write about without giving too much of the ending away, but I’ll try:  When Madison was injured in Afghanistan, I cried like a baby. 

The kind with uncontrollable blubbering, guttural sobbing, and lingering eye puffiness. 

But, the book ended too soon.  While Isabella and Madison fell in love at first sight and fought a brigade of demons to be together in the end, so much growth and depth had to have happened during the months and months of recovery and rehabilitation.  Those are some of the hardest times any couple, no matter how much they love one another, will ever go through in life.  We certainly didn’t need ten chapters of detail, but I felt a bit cheated that I didn’t get to see the maturation of their relationship through at least some of it.

And that’s not a criticism, so much as a friendly observation from a hopeless romantic.

My Soldier Too is a book that sticks with you.  Not so much for the romance, but more for the wicked combination to the gut.  The parts that sting and linger are the ones dealing with the mental, physical, and emotional injuries to the soldiers, the devastation to the families, and the price paid by warriors with one foot in the closet and the other on an IED. Some day, the American War Machine will figure out that blood is red, bravery is courageous, and love is omnipotent.  Until then, authors like Bev Prescott will keep reminding us, one book at a time.

I’m giving My Soldier Too a 4.6 out of 6 on the Rainbow Scale.  It’s a solid debut for a new author, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else she has up her sleeve.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Shadow Point by Amy Briant

Book:  Shadow Point
Author:  Amy Briant
Publisher:  Bella Books

I don’t care who you are or how many books you may or may not have written, if you can find a way to smoothly slide the tantalizing little phrase “enthusiastically going down on me on the living room floor” into the first six pages of your story, I guaran-damn-tee that will you have my undivided attention for the duration. 

Mission (and a few other things) accomplished.

Shadow Point is a feisty little romantic paranormal thriller by first time novelist, Amy Briant.  In the story, we meet Madison McPeake, a burned-out corporate road warrior seriously in need of a metaphysical adjustment.  Unfortunately, she gets just that and more when she’s all but fired from her job, finds out that her only brother is dead, and realizes she’ll suddenly be responsible for a five-year old she’s never even met.  Like any responsible Next of Kin, she ties one on, buys a Dr. Spock book, and boards a plane to San Diego, where her brother was living in a tiny cabin in a remote section of a Navy base.  Once there, she meets the lovely next-door neighbor (with her truly lovely behind), Dr. Alice Piper (Pipe), and her surprisingly well-adjusted niece, Katiekins.

Why do I have the suspicion that if I was the one on that beach that evening, the next-door neighbor would have had a five o’clock shadow, a hairy ass, and man boobs?

Almost as soon as Madison arrives at the cabin, the action starts.  There are bad dreams, spooky encounters, strange sensations, and some good old-fashioned flirting, kissing, and fondling.  We meet a handful of unorthodox characters, see Madison really fight to make herself a better person for the kid, and learn that there is definitely more to Shadow Point than meets the eye.  Madison, Katie, and Pipe quickly form a strong bond, team up with an English Bulldog with a questionable taste in chew toys, and take on the malevolent, smelly, and downright creepy spirit.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a good ghost story.  And, suffice to say, my wait ended with this book.   Ms. Briant was able to draw a landscape that was both beautiful and eerie; a lead character that managed to be pitiable, funny, and lovable; evolving relationships that while new and untested were credible; and a Big Bad that made the reader just about as skeeved-out as the characters.

Madison McPeake is truly brilliant.  Her thoughts, actions, rationalizations, and internal dialogue were pure comedic poetry, even in the darkest part of the story.  I loved the sad box of animal crackers, and her irrational protection of her Niners cap from the five-year old.  Likewise, Katie is wise beyond her years, but still threw tantrums when it came time for a bath.  Pipe, simply put, is every girl’s hot dream scientist.

And lest we forget, she has that truly lovely behind . . . and a few other decidedly unscientific parts.

Overall, this is a great book that scores high points in humor, mystery, and creepiness.  I’m not really so sure, though, why such a big deal was made early on of the Church of the Benevolent Fount – the whole fundamentalist thing seemed to be nothing more than a way to inject suspicion and drama into the brother’s death and Katie’s placement. Don’t get me wrong, it did, but by the end it was nothing more than an “oh, by the way, never mind”.  Similarly, I’m not really sure why we even get to know Patricia (Patsy) Klein.  Sure, she is a frisky little closet minx that had the hots for Mad’s brother, and she did provide a little comic relief, but still, she just dropped in and then disappeared.   

My bookie had 5-2 odds that she’d be gloriously hurled from the tip-top of the lighthouse by the Big Bad before the 15th Chapter.

All these little things aside, Shadow Point is a strong début novel, and Madison McPeake is someone I hope we get to meet again, because she is absolutely fun, fabulous, and a once-in-a-lifetime type of character.  The story was smart, colorful, and fresh, and it left few dangling threads or unanswered questions. Ms. Briant is currently working on a second novel, Romeo Fails, which is scheduled for release in February of 2012.

For the record, I aspire to be the annoying reader that keeps asking, “Is it done yet?  Is it done yet?  Now? Now?  How about now?”

I’m giving Shadow Point a 5.1 on the Rainbow Scale – Amy Briant did so many things right in this book, and I can’t remember ever laughing my way through something this fiendish.

Well done.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Miles to Go by Amy Dawson Robertson

Book:  Miles to Go:  A Rennie Vogel Intrigue
Author:  Amy Dawson Robertson
Publisher:  Bella Books

There are a couple of things that make me giddy:   Warm, fuzzy puppy bellies, homemade chocolate ice cream, the scent of honeysuckle that swells after a late afternoon thunderstorm, warm sheets fresh from the dryer, and a hot butch with a gun.

For extra credit, guess which one makes my squishy little heart go thumpa thump thump.

Miles to Go is a tough, girls don’t let anyone see them cry debut from Amy Dawson Robertson.

And yes, the girls carry really big-ass guns, use them without hesitation, and slap every sexist notion imaginable up-side-the-head.

In this story of international intrigue and derring-do we meet Rennie Vogel, a focused, intense, solitary FBI agent who cracked the gender barrier to become the only active female member of the highly trained Counterterrorism Tactical Team.  The CT3 is summarily dispatched into the forests of Tajikistan on a mission to eradicate a crackpot extremist named Armin in a terrorist training camp 150 miles away.  Shortly after landing, the CT3 is ambushed by one of Armin’s couriers, leaving Rennie the sole survivor.

Stunned, and immensely critical of her lack of discipline, she loads up on supplies and continues on with the mission.   Facing brutal heat, dehydration, unbidden insecurity, and self-inflicted guilt over the deaths of her team, she presses on until she locates Armin’s camp on schedule and sets up the assassination.  As she’s waiting to take the kill shot, she discovers Hannah Marcus, a kidnapped American reporter long ‘suspected’ dead.  Rennie engineers a smooth rescue, sets up an escape diversion, and dispatches the megalomaniac with one sweet shot. 

That’s right, one sweet shot that gave a whole new meaning to the term ‘splitting headache’.

The girls escape, only to encounter new battles with bad guys with guns, exhaustion, and a government that doesn’t really seem to have their backs.  From there, the story is rife with a saucy little undercover CIA agent, a super agent gone rogue, an ill-conceived Islamic conversion, political slight-of-hand, secrets, lies, and a splash of psychological warfare.

And yes, underneath all the layers there is a bit of girl meets girl, girl wants to kiss girl, girl jumps from balcony to balcony to nuzzle up to girl, and finally, girl gets her hands and a few other parts on girl.

This book is almost a year and a half old, and the sequel is due out in late December, so the time seemed right to revisit the story and consider some of it’s tasty little nuggets.

First off, it’s not easy putting Miles to Go into any one category.  I’ve seen it described as ‘intrigue’, ‘action’, ‘adventure’, ‘mystery’, ‘political thriller’, and even ‘romance’.  In all honesty, it’s none of them and all of them.  There is just so much going on, I’m still trying to figure out how it all happened in 228 action-packed pages. 

The characters are rich and complicated, but kept surprisingly vague.  Miles to Go is only one piece of something bigger, more complex, and more sinister, and I get the sense that the arms-length character design was intentional. Through the course of the book, we learn so much about Rennie, but I can’t say we really know her, even by the end of the story.  In some ways, we get more out of Hannah, but still, I sensed there were some very rich areas that we weren’t given access into.  And, while we really didn’t spend much time with Martin Garrison, it was obvious that we only brushed the surface of his character. 

Strangely, we are given the clearest insight into the bit characters, and they were all pushing daisies by the end. 

I was completely fascinated by the fact that almost every character in the book experienced an existential crisis; and that none of them felt contrived or was used as a lame plot device to unnaturally prop up a critical element of the story.  Likewise, I loved how the definition of concepts such as black/white, wet/dry, hot/cold, living/dead, good/evil, right/wrong, trust/betrayal, country/duty held evolving meanings to the same characters as the story progressed.

Overall, I found Miles to Go intelligent, well researched and constructed, gritty, and infused with sharp jabs of haunting reality.  It was complex and exquisitely detailed but tightly written, and brilliantly designed to set up the sequel.  The first time I read it, I kept muttering, ‘very cool, but why this, why here and now?'  The second time I read it, I found a wealth of subtle answers, but even a few more questions I totally missed the first time through.

So, what you’re saying is the book is sort of like an onion?

Well, that’s an inelegant way of putting it, but yes.  The book is sort of like an onion, and I mean that in the most complementary of ways, since I’m looking forward to getting some of the answers in the sequel, Scapegoat.  I want to know more about Rennie and Hannah, where they go, how they individually deal with the fallout, and I want to see another battle of good versus evil, even if the lines aren’t so clear anymore.

Miles to Go isn’t quite like any book I’ve read, and I’m giving extra points for originality, complexity, and because it delivers a good, swift kick of reality to the solar plexus of blind nationalism.  This book gets a 5.2 out of 6 on the Rainbow Scale.