Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Quote of the Week

'Life is a rough approximation of things hoped for. You need to revel in the misfires. In the scars and dings. You need to develop a taste for regret. It's the malt vinegar of emotions--drink it straight from the bottle and it'll eat yer guts. Add a sprinkle here and there and it puts a living edge on things.'
     --Michael Perry in The Jesus Cow

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Jesus Cow - Michael Perry

First line: "On Christmas Eve itself, the bachelor Harley Jackson stepped into his barn and beheld there illuminated in the straw a smallish newborn bull calf upon whose flank was borne the very image of Our Lord and Savoir Jesus Christ."

Harley Jackson is a quiet sort. He lives on what's left of his family farm, raises beefers, works for a local manufacturer and volunteers for the Swivel, Wisconsin, fire department. Harley doesn't make waves and he likes his routine way of life. But starting with the birth of the calf bearing the unmistakable image of Christ, this year is going to shake the very foundation of Harley's peaceful routine.

Harley dislikes confrontation. So when ego-driven land developer Klute Sorensen begins trying to weasel Harley out of his farm, Harley prefers just to ignore him. The legal letters start piling up but Harley leaves them unopened.

A new face arrives in Swivel that steals Harley's attention and immediately after, his heart. Mindy Johnson stirs feelings in the long-time bachelor he hasn't experienced since college. The motorcycle-driving welder adds a sparkle to his eye and a bounce to his step.

But the calf. What can Harley do about the calf? He knows if its existence leaks out, people will go crazy. The last thing Harley wants in his life is crazy. Should he hide the calf? Disguise the birthmark? Sell the bovine? He can't decide, so fate decides for him and his life will never be the same.

The Jesus Cow cleverly folds humor into a serious exploration of current society. The result may leave readers wondering exactly how they feel about Harley's situation, which makes this an incredibly powerful novel. It initiates introspective examination. Personally, I was able to empathize with Harley, and I think that's largely because I could identify with him: not wanting the spotlight, being content with routine, appreciating the little things, and coveting my personal space. But most of all I connected with Harley's good intentions. Knowing the pain of having your best intentions misunderstood or worse, ignored, illuminates many of Harley's experiences in a heart-breaking, flashing neon light.

Through unsubtle characters, Perry indirectly offers up intriguing thoughts on capitalism, religion, compassion and community. The characters are simultaneously larger than life and everyman. Drawn with exceptional dimension and meticulous detail, they employ flawless dialogue and deliver Perry's shrewd humor with flair.

Mayberry collided violently with Hollywood and the result is The Jesus Cow. Explosive, insightful, entertaining and smart, The Jesus Cow is Michael Perry's first stab at fiction. Let's hope it isn't the last.

The Jesus Cow is available in hardcover from Harper (9780062289919) and as an unabridged audio (9781504611336), narrated by Perry himself, from Harper Audio and Blackstone Audio.

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My review today is part of the TLC book tour for The Jesus Cow. Check the schedule to see what other bloggers are saying about Michael Perry's fiction debut. You can also connect with Michael at his website, as well as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Disclosure: I do some contractual work for one of the owners of TLC Blog Tours. My work with them does not obligate me to a specific kind of review. The reviews are still my own opinions and reflect only my thoughts on the novels. If you care to read more, you can find more information on my Disclosure page.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Quote of the Week

Today's quote is from a book that has inspired me more than anything in a long, long time. You will hear more from me about A Force for Good. In the meantime, here is this week's quote:

Those who formulate an us-and-them attitude on the basis of religious beliefs, the Dalai Lama says, are distorting those beliefs. This pathology of the natural instinct to care for one's own group comes at the expense of others. It amounts to having a divisive self-centeredness in common, with religion in the service of hatred.

What seems to happen in such cases, he observes, is that instead of 'using their religious faith and resources to transform their own personality and character, they impose their personality on the religion. It's very tricky when people manipulate religion.'
–Daniel Goleman in A Force for Good

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Last Bookaneer - Matthew Pearl

My review of Matthew Pearl's The Last Bookaneer first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers. I am posting it today with their permission. This was a fun one, I hope you enjoy the review.

First line: "Back in my salad days laboring for the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad Company, I would always keep an eye out to see if he would enter our car before the hour of departure."

Matthew Pearl's The Last Bookaneer is a grand adventure befitting Robert Louis Stevenson himself. Populated with pirates, dwarfs, cannibals and even a tribal princess, this intricate story of literary swashbucklers ushers readers through the exotic landscapes of the South Seas on a treasure hunt for the written word.

Loopholes in early copyright laws enabled intellectual property to be stolen and sold in foreign countries to the highest publishing bidders. In that time, such a thief was known as a bookaneer--"a person capable of doing all that must be done in the universe of books that publishers, authors and readers can have no part in." The novel's narrator, Fergins, unwittingly sets sail for Samoa with bookaneer Pen Davenport on his last and greatest mission: to steal an aged and fragile Robert Louis Stevenson's final work for U.S. publication. They're racing the clock to secure the prized text before the international copyright treaty takes affect. But they aren't alone. Davenport's bitter enemy Belial also has his sights on Stevenson's manuscript.

Davenport and Belial battle to be the shrewdest operative, the one who secures the coveted book. Each, waiting on the idiosyncratic novelist to declare his work finished, is unable to reveal the other's intentions without exposing himself. As readers anxiously wait to see who the best man turns out to be, murder, mayhem and mystery ensue.

While Pearl revives some characters from his earlier novel, The Last Dickens, new readers needn't worry; no background is necessary to thoroughly enjoy this magnificently crafted escapade through the dangerous jungles of 19th century publishing. The Last Bookaneer is a clever gem the bookaneers would undoubtedly steal.

The Last Bookaneer is available in hardcover from Penguin Press (9781594204920) and as an unabridged audio (9781481534710), narrated by Simon Vance and J.D. Jackson, from Penguin Audio.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Quote of the Week

A little explanation on today's quote: this is being said by a medical examiner to a cop. I'm LOVING this book on audio right now.

'Tomorrow? I've got six stiffs and a floater-bloater waiting. I'm understaffed, and the new guys they hired must've learned anatomy in an auto body shop.'
     –David C. Taylor in Night Life

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