Featured New Release Of The Week: Reviving The Hawthorn Sisters by Emily Carpenter

This week we’re looking at a book marketed as gothic literature but which actually tells a strong dual timeline tale of survival in the Great Depression South. This week, we’re looking at Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters by Emily Carpenter.

Upfront, I want to note that this was a strong dual-timeline family mystery. It was very well written and particularly with having spent most of my life in the region, utterly believable in every facet of this story. Carpenter has truly done some outstanding work here.

Indeed, my only issue here isn’t the actual book itself, but the marketing of it, which features the word “gothic” prominently and heavily.

“Gothic literature”, per this first result on the term when doing a Google search, is:

In the most general terms, ​Gothic literature can be defined as writing that employs dark and picturesque scenery, startling and melodramatic narrative devices, and an overall atmosphere of exoticism, mystery, fear, and dread. Often, a Gothic novel or story will revolve around a large, ancient house that conceals a terrible secret or serves as the refuge of an especially frightening and threatening character.

Despite the fairly common use of this bleak motif, Gothic writers have also used supernatural elements, touches of romance, well-known historical characters, and travel and adventure narratives to entertain their readers. The type is a subgenre of Romantic literature—that’s Romantic the period, not romance novels with breathless lovers with wind-swept hair on their paperback covers—and much fiction today stems from it.

When I personally think of Gothic literature, I tend to think more in terms of Edgar Allan Poe or Kim Taylor Blakemore’s The Companion, as I mention in the Goodreads review below. Those definitely fit that first paragraph above.

Hawthorn, however, more meets the second paragraph above. There are touches of the supernatural and of romance, Billy Sunday in particular appears, and there is a fair amount of travel and adventure as it relates to the church revival circuit in particular.

So perhaps my views on “gothic” are a bit outdated? Maybe I’m weird? (Well, I know I am. :D) What do y’all think?

As always, the Goodreads review:
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#BookReview: Housewife Chronicles by Jennifer Snow

Fun Tale Told In A Possibly Unique Way. In some ways, this was a typical light-ish, women’s fiction level mystery involving a dead husband, a separated wife, and the mistress who caused the separation. It ultimately becomes a feel-good tale of friendship and bonding between female neighbors with a bit of a dark undertone, which was very well executed – darker than the Hallmark Romance level romances Snow typically writes under this name, but nowhere *near* as dark (and *far* funnier) than the depths Snow plumbs as JM Winchester. But what truly makes this book so rare and possibly unique is the decision to tell the tale from the perspectives of both the wife… *and* the mistress. Excellently told story that will ultimately have you guessing until very nearly the last word. Very much recommended.

This review of Housewife Chronicles by Jennifer Snow was originally written on October 23, 2020.

#BookReview: The Last Correspondent by Soraya M Lane

Strong WWII-Europe Tale Featuring Not-Usually-Featured Personnel. This was a solid tale of the trials and tribulations of a job in WWII-Europe that doesn’t really get featured much in the discussions – written war correspondents, and particularly the few females who had enough balls to force themselves into such roles. Lane does a superb job at dropping us into the action at famous and infamous points and showing the side of the war she wants to feature rather than the more well known stories – including a seemingly-unreal-yet-actually-real story of one particular female war correspondent who did, in fact, hide herself on a hospital ship and thus become the *only* correspondent – of either gender – to see the events of D-Day unfold with her own unaided eyes. (Yes, Lane fictionalizes even that event, but a real-life version *did* actually happen.) Indeed, my only real complaint here was that I wanted to have Lane have her photojournalist do something in Sicily involving Patton (and his subsequent sidelining by Supreme Commander Eisenhower) that apparently no real photographs exist of. Which makes sense that Lane couldn’t then have her character do something that is in fact documented as having never happened. 😉 Ultimately a great story of some very brave women and the very real decisions that would have had to have been made by real-life versions of these characters. Very much recommended.

This review of The Last Correspondent by Soraya M Lane was originally written on October 23, 2020.

#BookReview: My Sister’s Husband by Nicola Marsh

Literary Soap Opera. This is a tale of dual sets of sisters roughly three decades apart making uncannily similar boneheaded moves, told primarily from the perspectives of two of the sisters in one timeline and one from the previous timeline. It is a compelling mystery with all kinds of interweaving and looping drama that truly makes it feel like a soap opera, but in a very approachable and enjoyable way. Some reveals were telegraphed early, others not until the very moment – with some pretty solid misdirection thrown in at times. Overall great story and great execution, and a remarkable contrast in storytelling style from Marsh’s earlier October 2020 release, Second Chance Lane. Very much recommended.

This review of My Sister’s Husband by Nicola Marsh was originally written on October 23, 2020.

#BookReview: My Name Is Anton by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Real World Meets Frequency Meets Bicentennial Man. Long ago, there was a situation I was very tangentially linked to (I was a classmate of the survivor) where a boy witnessed his brother be murdered in front of him via a shotgun blast meant for the boy. In the movie Frequency, my singular favorite scene is near the end when the dad in the 1960s uses his shotgun to blow off the hand of the bad guy and you see the hand wither to nothing in the present day timeline. And in Bicentennial Man, you follow Robert Williams’ robot character as he lives and loves over the course of two centuries. Literally this morning (as I write this), Catherine Ryan Hyde is using her telescope and camera setup to photograph the known universe, or at least the parts of it she can see from her own small slice of Earth.

This book wound up evoking the first three of these for me in that strange place that resides between my ears, and along the way we get a prototypical character-driven Catherine Ryan Hyde novel. It even included a scene that those that know Hyde even via her Facebook page could see playing out in her real life, making it all that much more “real”.

This isn’t an action filled book, it isn’t even really a mystery filled book. This is a solid character driven moving story about two people thrown together in very unlikely circumstances at a particular point in their lives, who turn out to be very rare types of people themselves. It is a powerful yet relatively sedate story very akin to Bicentennial Man itself.

And sometimes, those are exactly the stories we need to hear. Very much recommended.

This review of My Name Is Anton by Catherine Ryan Hyde was originally written on October 21, 2020.

#BookReview: Breath Taking by Michael J Stephen

Good Information On Facts, But Get A Second Opinion On Recommendations. This is a book about the origins and history of lung medicine, by a doc specializing in lung medicine. And because of that very nature, on facts it is quite remarkable. Stephen details everything from the evolution of the lung to the various ailments of it, focusing the last couple of chapters on Cystic Fibrosis in particular, and does so in a very understandable manner. Ultimately this is a prime example of the Flight Director Principle though, where one should absolutely listen to subject matter experts *on their subjects*… and consider the implications on other systems – particularly in conjunction with experts on those other systems – when this particular subject matter expert makes recommendations that impact other systems. And that is where getting a second opinion will be most useful in this particular tale, as many of Stephen’s recommendations outside of lung medicine specifically could very likely be problematic at best. Still, only a single star deduction as largely your mileage is going to vary there based more on how you feel about his particular recommendations in those realms. Truly and enlightening read, and very much recommended.

This review of Breath Taking by Michael J Stephen was originally written on October 18, 2020.

#BookReview: A Thousand Brains by Jeff Hawkins

Amazing Discussion Marred By Myopia In Its Final Act. This book, by the guy that created the Palm Pilot (who has since turned to study neuroscience, which he had wanted to do from the beginning apparently), describes the intriguing new theory of how the brain works that he and his team have crafted very well. Hawkins does a truly excellent job of making the advanced theoretical neuroscience he works with approachable by all, from those who have barely ever heard of the word “neuroscience” to his colleagues and competitors in the field. In discussing the neuroscience leading up to the “thousand brain” concept and in discussing how the “thousand brain” idea directly impacts computing and artificial intelligence, Hawkins is truly amazing. The perils come in the third act, when Hawkins begins to apply the theory and what he believes it could mean directly to humans. Here, he begins to sound both Transhumanist and Randian in his claims of absolute certitude that certain beliefs are false – even while actively ignoring that by the very things he is claiming, there is so much that we simply cannot know – and therefore, logically, there can be no true certitude on these claims. While it was tempting to drop the overall work another star specifically for how bad this particular section is, ultimately the sections of the book leading up to that point are so strong that I simply can’t go quite that far. So read this book through Parts I and II, just be aware up front that Part III is the weakest section of the book and could easily be skipped entirely. Recommended.

This review of A Thousand Brains by Jeff Hawkins was originally written on October 17, 2020.

#BookReview: How Rights Went Wrong by Jamal Greene

Interesting Yet Ultimately Self-Serving Take On Rights. This book presents as an interesting and novel (at least in an American sense) take on rights – namely, that they are not absolute and should be mediated by government actions. Greene claims that this would ultimately result in less polarization, though he seems to ignore large swaths of what has led to the polarization currently facing America when making such claims. Still, even though blatantly written from a leftist perspective, the book mostly presents its theory in a reasonably well-reasoned approach and thus adds enough to the overall conversation that it should be considered. Ultimately, though, it becomes clear that Greene’s entire premise of mediated rights is less a matter of principle or proposing a novel theory or (as he claims) more aligning American jurisprudence with that of much of the rest of the world and much more about defending Big Academia’s right to discriminate against the disabled and against certain races, and to control speech in a totalitarian manner. It is this realization – very blatant in the closing chapters, particularly when discussing Affirmative Action and campus speech codes – that ultimately considerably detracts from the overall merit of the proposal, and thus dramatically weakens the entire argument. Recommended.

This review of How Rights Went Wrong by Jamal Greene was originally written on October 16, 2020.

#BookReview: Animal Vegetable Junk by Mark Bittman

Mostly Junk, Barely Any Meat. This anti-capitalist, anti-European, anti-agriculture screed is little more than a run down of a leftist view of world history (with concentrations in the post-Industrial Revolution world) as it relates to food . It often points to old and out-dated research in support of its claims, and its bibliography is both scant – barely 1/3 the size of similar nonfiction titles – and not cited in the text at all. (Instead, it uses a system of referring to a particular phrase on a particular page number inside the bibliography itself, rather than having a notation in the text of the narrative. Which is obfuscation intended to hide the text’s lack of scholarly merit, clearly.) For those who know no better, it perhaps offers an argument that will at least confirm their own biases. But for anyone who has studied any of the several areas it touches in any depth at all, its analysis is flawed due to the very premises it originates from. All of this to say, this is a very sad thing. Based on the description of the book, I genuinely had high hopes for it, as food and its history and future is something that truly fascinates me and this could have been a remarkable text. Instead, it is remarkable only for how laughable it is. Not recommended.

This review of Animal Vegetable Junk by Mark Bittman was originally written on October 15, 2020.

#BookReview: An Anatomy of Pain by Abdul-Ghaaliq Lalkhen

More Memoir Than Hard Science. This was a memoir-based look at the field a man has made his career in, what the science he uses is, his thoughts on his field and his practice, and ultimately a bit of a guide on the general issues of the topic at hand. For what it is, it is very well written and easily readable. But those looking for a more “hard science”, heavily referenced examination of the topic… won’t find that here. But from a perspective of “I’ve been in this field for decades, and here is what the field is, what I’ve done in it, and where I think it should go”… yep, this book is exactly that, and a very good general overview of the field from that perspective. Very much recommended.

This review of An Anatomy of Pain by Abdul-Ghaaliq Lalkhen was originally written on October 15, 2020.