Monday, May 28, 2012


Auraria: A Novel

Westover, Tim.  "Auraria: A Novel."  QW Publishers, July 2012.

Let me preface the actual review with this thought…Tim Westover can WRITE!  The language and phrasing here is just lovely, the descriptiveness brings to life a wonderful and charming world, one in which the reader, like James Holtzclaw, is completely and almost unwittingly seduced by until he (or she) realizes that s/he is as much a part of Auraria as the singing tree or the mist fish.  The novel is oddly reminiscent of an Appalachian “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” a magical and isolated world coupled with unique and fascinating characters, a world which moves at its own pace and which cannot be hurried or tamed despite the best efforts of man or technology.  It is character, not plot, which drives Auraria, a delightful cast of myths and topsy-turvy stereotypes who never quite react or behave as one might expect.  The novel’s protagonist, city-slicker James Holtzclaw, presents at first as a predictable middle management flunky, one who counts beans and follows orders, yet it is through Holtzclaw’s eyes that the wonders and mysteries of Auraria unfold until both the reader and the erstwhile Holtzclaw realize that perhaps what one thinks one wants is in fact no such thing and happiness may be found not in excess or success but in finding a place to belong and to tend.   Capturing with deft skill the constant tensions between the old and the new, between tradition and progress, and between Appalachia and the outside world, Westover’s novel is a stunning example of best of the Appalachian literary tradition.     

 Advance reading copy received through Netgalley.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Her Majesty's Will

Blixt, David. “Her Majesty’s Will.” Sordelet Ink, April 2012.

 Two confessions – I love good historical fiction and I am completely enthralled with Kit Marlowe, who I firmly believe would have been more famous than Shakespeare had he not met an untimely end, most likely due to his involvement in espionage.  Having said that, it is no wonder I was intrigued when I discovered this title in the NetGalley listings.  And Blixt does not disappoint with this fabulously fun frolic through Elizabethan London in which Shakespeare, a na├»ve country lad is pulled into a twisting and turning spy adventure through the city by a charmingly roguish and well-connected Kit Marlowe.  Mr. Blixt offers a intriguing explanation for Shakespeare’s “lost years” and his movement from Stratford to London as well as providing him with rich inspirational material for his future theatrical endeavors and an introduction to the London theatre community.  While there are spots of uneven writing and odd notes to the reader, these small flaws cannot distract from the overall delightfulness of this historical tale.  The plot is well-twisted and fast-paced with a cast of ruffians and wits that Shakespeare himself would have been proud to create and, indeed, many will seem familiar to the readers of Shakespeare’s most famous works.  It is in characterization that Mr. Blixt truly excels – both Shakespeare and Marlowe are crafted with a deftness that gives them depth and charm, seducing the reader into wishing success for their quests and the supporting cast of characters, from the lowest to the highest, teems with an authenticity that helps draw this irresistible portrait of London under Good Queen Bess.

 Advance reading copy received through Netgalley.