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Shadows, Shells, and Spain

Shadows, Shells, and Spain

Would you walk a mile for someone you love? What about 300 miles? In John Meyer’s Shadows, Shells and Spain this adult fictionalized travel memoir tells the story of Jamie Draper’s journey on the Camino de Santiago trail.

Jamie Draper was a happily married man who loved his wife Pamela very much. But when she surprised him with a divorce, it had caught him off guard. Ever since he received a postcard addressed to him from Spain, it had sent him on a journey. He quit his job as a history teacher in Canada and moved to Palma, Spain, hoping to reconnect with his wife and discover why she so abruptly left him. He then starts a journey to follow the Camino trail to find his wife by following the subtle hidden clues in her letters to him. Along the way he makes interesting friends and explores the trail with some intriguing strangers. He meets a British woman named Brie Bletcher, who’s estranged from her husband Martin. When Jamie tells her his story, she joins him on the trip. Gaining clues and traveling along a striking trail they  hit some snags from missing letters to some stained by the weather. When Jamie discovers that his wife is very sick in a new batch of letters, it gives his mission a new urgency.

This story takes place in present day Spain and some parts of Canada. These are beautiful landscapes on their own and John Meyer is able to bring them to life with vivid details. This being a fictional travel memoir I expected some heavy scene descriptions, but these were broken up by the curious characters that pop up along the trail as well as Jamie’s intereactions with Brie. The story was well written and grows more profound the longer he travels the trail. It had a bit of literary fiction, romance, mystery and drama all wrapped into one story. The theme, I felt, is about life, loss and love, and how to move on from grief. This would be ideal for people who love travelogues and who love tear-jerking novels.

Although I enjoyed reading this book, there’s a lot of factual and historical tidbits that slow the pace of the story. I wish this was streamlined so that I could get back to my favorite part, the characters. Although travel readers will enjoy the architectural highlights of each town and accompanying history. If you can’t make it to Spain, this is your next best option.

Pages: 287 | ASIN: B0756JF632

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Room 11

Room 11: A man sits singing where a woman lies dreaming

Mari Reiza, author of Room 11, gives readers two women’s accounts of the same events via their own dreamlike states. A comatose woman and her doting husband are tended by a dedicated but overly-involved nurse. The nurse, focused heavily on the needs of the adoring husband, gives her account of the meticulous care he shows his bedridden wife underscored by her own daydreams which reveal an intense yearning to take his wife’s place. In alternating chapters, Reiza allows the reader to hear the wife’s dreams loud and clear via her own tangled memories. Hers are dreams peppered with fantasies based on the events taking place around her.

The style Mari Reiza has chosen to use in writing Room 11 offered me quite a different reading experience. I enjoyed the alternating chapters revealing the two different points of view of both the needy nurse and the comatose wife. About halfway through the book, it became more obvious that Reiza was revealing dreams from the wife that painted a picture of her immediate surroundings and her husband’s desperate efforts to rouse her.

I did find it much easier to follow the nurse’s daydreams than the wife’s fantastical retellings. At times, the wife’s chapters became very difficult to follow. There are many lines that are effectively repeated to make an impact on the reader. Reiza has succeeded in expressing the wife’s distress over her own inability to have children. However, much of the wife’s narrative becomes a series of rambling and repetitive lines.

The author paints a clear picture of the man in Room 11, as the nurse refers to him throughout the book. His love for his wife is heartrendingly obvious. His dedication to her care and, most of all, her dignity in her current condition is indeed enviable. Any person who has been the caretaker for a relative or patient will relate to the exhausting amount of effort the man in Room 11 bestows upon his ailing wife day in and day out.

Throughout the dreams and musings of both women, multiple settings are incorporated into the story. Among them are Ghana and Northern Spain. Though the reader slowly discerns the main setting is in the United Kingdom, both women’s tales reveal troubled pasts beyond its borders. The author has created a vision of a tormented life for both characters. Living in vastly different economic circumstances, the nurse and the wife both expose the anguish of devastating losses. The two women share a common bond they will likely never realize.

As I read, I was both fascinated by and disturbed by the nurse’s infatuation with the man in Room 11. Reiza has created a memorable character with the nurse as she divulges dark, almost sinister, feelings toward her helpless patient. Her increasingly stalker-like behaviors leave the reader both intrigued and uncomfortable. It is a given that the reader’s compassion should be directed to the wife in her unfortunate state, but the nurse is a character much more worthy of pity.

Though the language is beautiful and the story woven by the two women is fascinating, I found their dreams difficult to follow. I feel that too much repetition, especially in the wife’s dream sequences, took away from the book’s overall appeal.

Pages: 128 | ASIN: B06XJ3X7JZ

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The Time Slipsters

The Time Slipsters5 Stars

Book 3 in the Dreadnought Collective series returns to the home of Terry and Sandra Tumbler. Terry and his wife plan a return holiday to Turkey, recalling their last visit with their grandson, Seb, when his tour group from the Sombrella Syndicate got into trouble in the underground city of Derinkuyu. They’d like to go again to see it at their leisure. Terry invites several couples who had accompanied them on an earlier visit to Santiago. Since they’d had trouble on that particular tip, Terry sweetens the deal by booking a luxury version of fast-travel flying cars, colloquially known as “potties,” to speed them on their way.

On arrival in Istanbul, the five couples embark on a grand tour of historic sites on a large coach, shared by a group of Spanish tourists. During their travels, Terry meets with a mysterious man named Marius. Marius asks Terry for help regarding Alien visitations, and Terry is delighted. His love of researching UFO phenomena may help save lives, and Marius may be able to explain the odd dreams Terry is having. When the tour visits the ancient hospital of Asklepion, the true nature of the “Magic Carpet” tour coach (dubbed the Turkish Floater by Wilf) is revealed, and the travelers slip back in time to witness ancient Rome in person. This leads to uncovering the mystery of the aliens who have been living under the auspices of the Sombrella Syndicate, and a threat to earth.

If you can’t tell by the irreverent names of the vehicles, this is a very funny book. The Time Slipsters is a delightfully fun read. It crosses genre borders as easily as the Magic Carpet crosses timelines. The story spans science fiction, travelogue, historical fiction and comedy while showing a vibrant world of the future and the past. Terry is a loveable rogue, and his gaffes are both funny and important to the story. Laughing at phallic rock formations and obsessing over bathroom facilities in ancient buildings could be jokes, but they may come in handy later.

But the trip is not all fun and games. When the ship begins to slip between time zones, the travelers are under very explicit orders to stay away from the locals. One of them foolishly ignores that advice, and like any time travel story, what you do in the past can have a ripple effect into the future.

The author’s imagination is truly fantastic. Even the little details of this future world are well fleshed out. There’s the concept of Democracy on Demand that allows people to guide their government by instantaneous voting. And sure, the flying cars are neat, but what about smart suitcases that carry themselves to and from your hotel, or having delicate surgery performed by nanobots while you sleep? I can’t start on the alien technology without spoilers, so you’ll have to read for yourself.

One thing I liked was the occasional break in the intrigue so I could wander the streets of ancient monuments along with the characters. It’s clear the author has visited these places and wants to share these remarkable places and their histories with others.

Though Seb Cage Begins His Adventures was a book aimed at young readers, The Time Slipsters is decidedly more adult. The adult humor and a few sexual references, though never explicit, wouldn’t be appropriate for a young reader. If you like SF, time travel stories, or dry British humor, you’ll like this book.

Pages: 291 | ASIN: B018MLKT7M

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