Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Don't Point That Thing at Me: The Mortdecai Trilogy, Book 1, by Kyril Bonfiglioli. Big Screen Limited Release of Book-to-Movie: Mortdecai, was on 01-23-15!

The first book of The Mortdecai Trilogy, is Don't 
Point That Thing at Me. Book 2, is After You With
The Pistol, and Book 3, Something Nasty in the 
Woodshed. The trilogy, The Mortdecai Trilogy,
may also be purchased in the paperback format, apt-
ly enough, under the title, The Mortdecai Trilogy.[1]
Book Review by: Sharon Powers.

   Don't Point That Thing At Me, by Kyril Bonfiglioli had movie rights purchased and was made into a movie that opened in theaters this week, Friday, January 23, 2015. The movie, entitled simply, Mortdecai, from the name of the protagonist of Kyril Bonfiglioli's book, is very loosely based upon Bonfiglioli's book. 

     Many changes were made in order to adapt the book to the silver screen. Writing the screenplay for Mortdecai, was Eric Aronson, who also received writing credits for the movie, On The Line. Directing the movie was David Koepp, notable director of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit; Angels and Demons; Spider Man; Jurassic Park; The Lost World: Jurassic Park; Carlito's Way; Stir of Echoes, and many other popular movies.

     Before we delve any more into the book-to-movie, both book and film, let's take a look at the synopsis for Kyril Bonfiglioli's book. This will become very important as we begin discussing how his book came to the big screen, and why changes were made to the book to adapt it to a movie.


Although I don't remember what kind of Silver Ghost Charlie
Mortdecai had, I wanted to show you what a vintage Silver
Ghost, looked like. I found this beautiful photograph of a
vintage 1915 Silver Ghost (courtesy of BoldRide). [2]
     Charlie Mortdecai, his title dubbed "Honorable," was due to his father being the First Baron Mortdecai of Silverdale, County Palatine, in Lancaster. A great art dealer, Bernard Mortdecai, received his barony for contributions of art (mostly unsaleable) to the government (and the real reason, for "forgetting something embar- rassing he knew about some- one." loc.94.) 

     In an ironic twist, the "Honorable" Charlie Mortdecai is to deliver a stolen Goya painting to a party in the U.S. To get the Goya through customs, it is hidden in the headliner of a vintage Rolls Royce Silver Ghost.

This still photo is from the movie, Mortdecai. Charlie Mort-
decai is on the right (Johnny Depp) and Jock Strap, Charlie's
body guard/thug/manservant, is on the left (Paul Bettany). [4]
    Once the car is through customs Charlie sets out on a series of misadventures, aided by his manservant (thug), Jock Strap [3], to deliver the painting. Charlie is chased by his nemesis, Extra (police) Chief Super- intendent Martland--who really "[L]ikes hurting people, a lot" (Loc. 79). Charlie undergoes a pleth- ora of misadventures.

     Charlie and Jock are constantly watching out for the police (from England), being chased by a mysterious "powder blue car" (that always seems to find him), a near death car accident(?), murder, a dead client, near-misses, chase scenes in the dead of night, and sex with a "hot," beautiful recent widow, to name a few of those adventures. What will Charlie do? Will he be able to escape the pursuit of Martland?

     The scene, below, in the quotation, is near the beginning of the book. Chief Superintendent Martland has made a call on Charlie; Charlie "was more or less expecting him" to come. Martland has made a comment about a frame Charlie had been burning in the fireplace, of course, Charlie has indicated it wasn't valuable. Martland had made some protestations....
This is an example of  a
Louis Seize Mirrow, from an
auction house. The Louis
Seize is always gilt. Charlie
was burning something along
these lines, although this is
a mirror. [5]
He made embarrassed, protesting noises as though nothing was further from his thoughts than the princely Goya whose theft from Madrid had filled the newspapers for the past five days. He helped out the noises by flapping his hands a bit, slopping some of the alleged wine onto a nearby rug. 'That,' I said crisply, 'is a valuable Savonnerie rug. Port is bad for it. Moreover, there is probably a priceless Old Master cunningly concealed beneath it. Port would be very bad for that.' He leered at me nastily, knowing that I was quite possibly telling the truth. I leered back coyly, knowing that I was telling the truth. (Emphasis Added; Location 56) 
     This quote is a perfect example of Bonfiglioli's writing. Since this wonderful novel has been around since  1972, it has attracted a legendary cult following. Lovers of Bonfiglioli's work will probably all say that his work is extremely hard to describe, or even put into a classification.

This image is from the movie, Mortdecai--
the stolen Goya. [6]
     Often found in genres such as mystery, mystery-thriller, myst- ery and crime, comedy, thriller, and British Literature, it is easy to be confused as to what genre into which most people place it. For example, the majority of GoodReads readers place it almost equally between mystery and fiction, a second group places the book in humor, crime, and thriller genres. [6] But no matter which genre seems correct to you, you, undoubtedly, will have a difficult time actually describing his writing.

     I love the quote for its pithy humor, condescending attitude towards Martland, and a witty quality of letting the reader in on all this, but concealing it from Martland. It is sort of the way Charlie conceals the Goya beneath Martland's feet, making him wonder in confusion over whether Charlie was telling the truth, playing a fop, lying, just entertaining, or gloating about his knowledge of art. I love the gyrations through which he put Martland. Really great!

     The way I feel about the above quote, I would say about the whole of the book. The writing is in a style of pithy humor, sarcasm, and irony. Much has been said about Bonfiglioli's allusion to, and outright flagrant use of P.G. Wodehouse. Bonfiglioli even has Charlie reference Wodehouse in the novel, itself. Many critics have noted Bonfiglioli's writing style and the way he structures his novels as a somewhat favorable comparison to the writings of P.G. Wodehouse's, Wooster and Jeeves. It has even been said that Bonfiglioli's pair (Mortdecai and Jock) "bear[] a fun-house mirror relation to Wodehouse's Wooster and Jeeves." [7]

     In one of the Wodehouse writings, Jeeves and the Kid Clementina, Jeeves even has a conversation with a policeman (it seems a favorite trope in literature--even Edgar Allen Poe in the Tell Tale Heart has the guilty man entertain the police having the police sit in chairs right above where the dismembered body is hidden--akin to Charlie and the painting beneath the rug.); Jeeves refers to himself as a Gentleman's (Personal) Gentleman or valet who serves the gentleman and "not the household" (i.e. so, not a butler). So, the term, "Jeeves," has become so iconic that it is now in the dictionary as to actually mean, valet. And, ironically, it's also become a search engine on the internet. [9]

Edgar Allen Poe's Tell Tale Heart, wherein the protagonist
invites the police in and has them sit in chairs just above
where the murdered man's dismembered body is hidden
--beneath the floorboards. [10]
     Turning back to Charlie and his man, Jock, we can then see a sort of mirror image of the two. A mirror image is the reverse of the original image. Jock is a thug. That is, he is anything but the proper English valet image of Jeeves. While Jock does take care of Charlie, it is not the way a valet would normally take care of a "Gentleman" with the standing of Baron. Compare Jeeves (in the photo below) to the Jock in the photo, above.

P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster have an enduring
popularity and are still loved, today. [11]
     If the characters of Charlie and Jock are, indeed, a "funhouse mirror" relationship to Jeeves and Wooster, perhaps we can understand why Bonfiglioli's following is so beloved. The "fun-house mirror" description is perhaps, very apt, as Sam Leith of the Guardian states that Mortdecai is nothing more than a "debauched" Wooster and Jock carries negative-energy unlike Jeeves.


A Fun-House Mirror:
The distorted "fun-house mirror"
approach to the characters of
Jeeves/Wooster and Charlie/Jock.
 Leith goes on to state that "Charlie is cunning where Bertie [Wooster] is dim; Jock is thuggish where Jeeves is urbane." In the article by Leith, "Forget Johnny Depp in Mortdecai: Read the Much Funnier Bonfiglioli Novels...Sam Leith raises a glass to the original bon vivant." Leith praises the works of Bonfiglioli while at the same time suggesting that readers stick to the books instead of spending their time watching the movie. [11]

     So, we can get an idea of why Leith tells us to forget the movie and read the book, let's take a look at the trailer. Here is Mortdecai [Official Trailer #1 (2015)] with Johnny Depp (as Charlie), Ewan McGregor (as Inspector Martland), and Gwyneth Paltrow (as Johanna) [13]:

     An on-line newspaper, The Week, published a feature article about the movie, Mortdecai, four days after the movie hit the big screens (just yesterday, as I draft this post). The feature article [by Scott Meslow] was entitled, "Anatomy of a flop: How a horribly misguided movie like Mortdecai made it into theaters." [14]
     Meslow tells us that while filming Pirates of the Caribbean, co-star Jack Davenport lent his collection of Mortdecai novels to Depp, afterwhich Depp vowed to bring the character and novels to the big screen. It took Depp ten years to convince writer Aronson and Director Koepp to get on board. Depp then convinced Ewan McGregor, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Paul Bettany, all wonderful name actors to also sign up to do the movie. Lionsgate, thinking the prospects good for the film, perhaps even as good as The Pink Panther franchise, also gets on board. Promos are done and a trailer made. [14]

     But here, is where the story gets funky, according to Meslow. Those watching the trailer saw a "baffling" clip introducing a character, but no plot or indication of who Johnny Depp's character was. Two months later the second trailer was released and confusion metamorphosed into "irritation." Lionsgate cancelled their advanced screenings to hold off negative reviews as long as possible. On opening day, January 23, 2015 (just five days ago as I draft this post), reviews were extremely "dismal."

     Meslow reports that reviewers found the movie strange and unfunny, and that Rotten Tomatoes reported only 11% positive reviews. The final line is that the franchise "has been killed in its infancy." [14] It seems to me that if the reviews are as bad as Meslow seems to think the movie is, then this movie may go down in history much the way Endless Love did in 1981. Leonard Maltin (film critic) decried the movie as one of the worst of its time. See my review of Endless Love (the book and the movie), and more about Maltin's review by clicking, here


  1. I loved the irony that Charlie's title brings to the book. "HONORABLE." Of course, he is disreputable, without a doubt; some say he walks in the gray areas of morality. In any event, it is great irony in utilizing this title of "nobility" for Charlie. This gets into the area of how Charlie's father obtained the barony by less than noble means. I love it.
  2. Kyril Bonfiglioli writes in a style that is considered "dry humor." Some have called his humor, black humor. But, I rather love that it is "pithy," or "wry," with a slightly skewed, oddball way of looking at things. If this kind of writing is not your cup of tea, don't feel bad. Everyone, everyone! is entitled to read what pleases them. Just remember, if you don't like Bonfiglioli, there are plenty of other authors out there to read. Nuf said.
  3. Do not let the bad reviews of the movie deter you from reading the book. I loved it. It isn't that "Laugh out loud" kind of funny (although I did, once), I sniggered, chuckled, and just smiled. But, I DID enjoy it and thought it wryly humorous. Just don't let the movie spoil a great book.
  4. Many, many more things can be said about Bonfiglioli's writing and his book, Don't Point That Thing At Me. If you are interested, look Bonfiglioli up on the internet, library, or audio book club. Check out other reviewers to see what they have to say. I love to get more than one opinion (on almost everything), so why not you?
  • Even having weighed others' opinions, sometimes it just boils down to you deciding to read and enjoy the book. Stop. Read. Enjoy. Like that old saying, Stop and smell the roses. You can take time for yourself and enjoy some time reading.
     I recommend this book for adults. Included in the book are themes of violence, murder, sex, and other "nefarious deeds." But adults should quite enjoy this book, as I have indicated, above.

     Based on all the information I have provided to you, above, and on my sincerest enjoyment of the book, I rate this book 4.0 stars out of 5.0 stars.

    Thank you for taking time to join me today. I sincerely appreciate you using precious time to read and consider my review, my ideas, and comments. Remember if you agree or disagree, you can always make comments, below. You can also contact me on Twitter (see above, right column). 

     Please join me again next time as we crack open another book for consideration. Take some time for yourself this week. The new year often feels to people kind of like a post-holiday let down. Be kind to yourself and others (you can never tell who needs that little bit of support.).

Until next time...

...many happy pages of reading!

All my love,


[1]  "Don't Point That Thing At Me: The Mortdecai Trilogy, book 1." Retrieved 01-27-15.
[2] "-Rolls-Royce-1915 Rolls-Royce Silverr Ghost London-Edinburgh Tourer Car Images." Retrieved 01-27-15.
[3] "Don't Point That Thing At Me (Charlie Mortdecai #1)." [by Kyril Bonfiglioli] Retrieved 01-27-15.
[4] "Johnny Depp: Mortdecai was 'criminally fun to make.'" Retrieved 01-27-15.
[5] "Louis Seize Mirrow." Retrieved 01-28-15.
[6] "Don't Point That Thing At Me (Charlie Mortdecai #1)." Retrieved 01-28-15.
[7] "Mortdecai." Retrieved 01-28-15.
[8] "My Man Jeeves." Retrieved 01-28-15.
[9]  "Jeeves." Retrieved 01-28-15.
[10] "American Literature Digital Anthology [Beginnings through 1914]." [Edgar Allen Poe: Tell Tale Heart.] Retrieved 01-28-15.
[11] "Jeeves and Wooster." Retrieved d0d1-28-15.
[12] "Man Standing in Front of a Mirror." Retrieved 01-28-15.
[13] "Mortdecai Official Trailer #1 (2015-Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow Movie HD." Retrieved 01-27-15.
[14] "Anatomy of a flop: How a horribly misguided movie like Mortdecai made it into theaters." Retrieved 01-28-15.
[15] "Disney Blog: Johnny Depp's Massive Salary for Pirates." Retrieved 01-28-15.
[16] "Your Movie Sucks by Roger Ebert (2011 Reading List, #2)." Retrieved 01-28-15.
[17] "Endless Love." [movie] Retrieved 01-28-15.
[18] "Bad Joke Eel." Retrieved 01-28-15.
[19] "The Clan of the Cave Bear." [by Jean M.Auel] Retrieved 01-28-15.
[20] "Dark Souls II Review." Retrieved 01-28-15.
[21] "Thank You, Thank You!!!" Retrieved 01-28-15.
[22] "Pictures From My Garden." Retrieved 01-20-15.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The World Made Straight: A Novel by Ron Rash--Book-to-Movie--Out Now Avaible on Blu-ray & DVD!

This is the movie edition cover of Ron Rash's
novel, The World Made Straight.  [1]

Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     It was reported that on, "Jan. 18, 1863, troops from the 64th North Carolina Infantry under the command of Lt. Col. James Keith lined up 13 men and boys, ranging in age from 13 to 60, made them kneel and shot them at point-blank range." One of the captured was a 13-year-old boy by the name of David Shelton. [2] 

     Before being shot, the boy pleaded with his captors saying, "You have killed my father and brothers. You have shot my father in the face. Do not shoot me in the face." The soldiers fired, killing four more of the captives, and wounding young David in both arms. 


   David then, in close proximity to one of the executioners, grabbed the soldier by the legs and cried out, "You have killed my old father and three brothers, you have shot me in both arms....I forgive you all this--I can get well....Let me go home to my mother and sisters." [2]

     Though his cries were pitiful, the soldiers hauled David back to the firing line next to the final three men slated for execution. The three men were shot and killed and young David, too. David was shot eight times. [4]

This scene shows some of the county where the
Shelton Laurel Massacre occurred (N.C.). [4]
     The soldiers drug the captives bodies to a shallow trench dug out of the snow and threw them into it. Then, apparently, one soldier, Sgt. N.B.D. Jay (from Virginia), jumped into the trench on top of the bodies and began to dance around on top of corpses singing, "Pat Juba for me while I dance the damned scoundrels down to and through hell!" [4] 

An alternate cover for
Ron Rash's book, The
World Made Straight.

     The location where the execution of innocent men and boys occurred, Shelton Laurel, is the location of Ron Rash's book, The World Made Straight. The movie rights were purchased and the movie (released January 9, 2015) is now out in limited release for the viewing public. But, before we start the discussion of what I think of Ron Rash's book, let's begin by taking a quick look at the synopsis.

     Travis Shelton, seventeen years old, goes fishing and wanders his way up the creek, eventually going onto private property. There, Shelton finds marijuana plants, gathers a few and takes them to sell to Leonard Shuler. Shelton returns a second time, and, like the first, he successfully gathers the plants and sells them to Leonard Shuler. 
Bear traps have been used from time to
time as deterrents against men going
onto private property. Such traps have
been used to guard gold diggings and
marijuana farms. [6]

     Leonard warns Travis not to go again, but Shelton, anxious to make some more money, doesn't heed Leonard's warning. Travis gets to the farm and starts to harvest some more of the marijuana, but inadvertently steps into a bear trap set by the marijuana growers. Leonard, unable to get out of the trap fades in and out of consciousness, due to blood loss. 

     Eventually, Carlton Toomey and his son, the pot growing farmers, discover Travis and get him out of the trap. Carlton and his son discuss whether or not they should kill the pot thieving tresspasser--eventually they decide not to kill Travis, but to make Travis account for his wrongdoing by cutting Travis's leg and tendon with a large knife. The Toomey's let Travis go only with a promise he will never reveal anything about what happened there.

     Travis goes to the hospital and keeps quiet about the Toomey's bear trap and the marijuana; Travis heals, and goes home to his mom and dad's farm. Sometime later Travis's father hits Travis for "sassing" him. Travis packs his few possessions, gets in his truck, and leaves home. With nowhere to go, he lands at Leonard Shuler's trailer.

From the movie, The World Made Straight, this photo is
of Leonard Shuler's girlfriend, Dena. [7]
     Leonard, the one-time schoolteacher, who unjustly lost his job and his family, accepts Travis, and lets him stay in the trailer with him; also living in the trailer are Leonard's girlfriend, and two dogs. Leonard occupies his time by selling a few drugs and studying family journals from the Civil War era. Leonard challenges Travis to get his GED--Travis takes the challenge and begins studying for the test. 
     The fate of the two men become inextricably intertwined as Travis learns more about the Sheltons, the Civil War, and the bleak history of the area. Leonard has a secret of his own and struggles to keep Travis from learning it. The question is, what do Leonard and Travis have to do with the Toomeys and more perplexing, the Civil War that after a hundred years, still continues to cause a rift in the Appalachian community? Tensions rise, leading them all to a "violent reckoning."



Travis ate his cereal as Leonard listened to "For Unto Us a Child Is Born," the choral voices tentative as though afraid to speak this truth--God come to the world as a child. These uncertain voices were the direct opposite of the bombast at the symphony's conclusion. That was the wonder of it, Leonard knew, the balance of the thing, everything countered, not just balanced but reconciled as the tenor voices resonated below the ethereal sopranos. Even the words proclaimed an order, the crookedness of the world made straight. It was, Leonard recognized, such a magnificent order as to demand devotion, the same kind of devotion his mother had shown as she embraced the world from her porch steps. [p. 158-9]
This is the passage that Handal used in his
magnificent, Messiah, for the lyrics. [9]
     In this passage we find the title of Ron Rash's book, The World Made Straight. The passage embodies the whole of the book, the deep roots, the bedrock of the story: The crookedness of the world made straight.

     The words of Handel's, Messiah, say, what inspired the name of the book: "The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low, the crooked straight, and the rough places plain." [9]

     The location of Shelton Laurel is of a deep valley and tall, nearly impenetrable, mountains. It is easy to see how Ron Rash sought this location for his book.

From this point on spoilers may be present.
If you don't want to know more, don't read
     The author sets up the story so that Leonard's books came to him through Leonard's family, originating with Joshua Candler, assigned to the 64th as their doctor. The author takes real facts and weaves them into the fictional story, since Joshua Candler knew all the people of the Shelton Laurel area he would have known and treated all of them from infancy up. For example, Dr. Candler treated young David Shelton as a babe and through his childhood. On the day of the Shelton Laurel Massacre, Joshua Candler stood silently by, consenting to the massacre and watched as young David Shelton was killed with his father and brothers. He never uttered a word--not when young David begged for his life, not when he was shot ten times, not when he was killed, and not when soldier Jay danced on the bodies of the deceased men whom he had treated in his practice. So these real facts are woven into the fictional story.

Leonard had the numerous journals
of his ancestor, Dr. Joshua Candler,
as the Dr. had written before,
and during the Civil War. [11]
     Author Ron Rash tells us that Leonard, quite naturally would have perused and studied his ancestor's journals learning about all the people his well-known ancestor treated. None, however, was more gripping to him than David Shelton. Having Travis come into his trailer, fascinated about the Civil War, and learning about the Shelton Massacre, it would be all Leonard could do to prevent Travis from learning about his secret. At first we wonder why Leonard is helping Travis and then we learn that in some small way Leonard was trying to help make up for his ancestor's failings by helping Travis pass his GED test. Because Travis was so interested, he even took Travis out to the massacre site. Ironically, Travis, using a metal detector found David Shelton's eyeglasses.

     In the book the author has the two men discuss how time does not flow, but instead is layered one layer upon the other, so all moments in the past are also happening in the present (you just have to peel the layers back.). This is a wonderful technique the author uses to tie the past (Civil War era) with the present; it brings a bit of surrealism into the story, and we even get to hear scary, mysterious, and metaphysical stories of the local people. For example, Travis has a strange experience when he wears the eyeglasses--he talks to David Shelton's "ghost" or spirit about the beauty of the speckled trout in the stream. So it is that much is made of ghosts in the book and of reality or seeming reality.

In the book time is "layered" like the picture of the rocks,
shown in the photograph. A sandwich with its various
layers (meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, etc.), when
bitten into can be consumed in one bite, all at once. The
sandwich is probably a better symbol of layered time, here.[13]
     There is more surrealism when Travis muses about the past and how his finding arrowheads seemed more real to him because of the layering of time. Although the author doesn't say it, it is almost as if Travis Shelton (ancestor of the Sheltons) and David are one! Also, it is as if Leonard and his ancestor, Dr. Joshua Candler, are one and the same, just in a different layer of time. We'll see this concept later in the book, as well.

Bestselling author, Ron Rash,
author of The Cove, and Serena,
has won the Frank O'Connor
International Short Story Award
and the O.Henry Prize, twice.
He teaches at Western
Carolina University. [14]
     It is later in the book, then, when Leonard sends Travis to ferret Dena to the bus station so she can escape to her sister's home, and also to get David out of the way, that we see his plan. Leonard takes Toomey's hand and pulls down so the steering wheel turns and plummets the truck over the edge of the cliff to crash. Both Toomeys are killed. We see now, that Leonard did not stand idly by as the Toomy's would have laid waste to Dena and David Shelton's replacement, Travis. Leonard did the courageous thing, but it cost him his life. How elegant the author, Ron Rash ties everything together this way.

     Leonard's last thoughts, too embody another of the author's themes in the book, BEAUTY (beauty, as a theme is seen throughout the book). Leonard's last thoughts have his body flow down the river, out the Mississippi to the ocean, then across the ocean to the beach where his little "Emily" waited.

To see a world in a grain of sand, and
heaven in a wildflower; hold infinity in
the palm of your hand, and eternity in
an hour. Leonard wanted to show his
daughter, Emily, the world of beauty
in a single drop of water. [15]
     Leonard wanted to show his daughter the "fern that held a bead of water," when he would "cup his hand to the plant and show her more than he could ever tell her, a pearl of rain held in his open palm." WOW! BEAUTIFUL! See how beautifully the author writes of Leonard's death? "To see a world in a grain of sand, and heaven in a wildflower...hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour" [William Blake (bold emphasis added)]. Leonard has all of infinity in that moment, a whole life, embodying all beauty by simply cupping in his hand that single drop of water!

     I have so much I'd like to say about Ron Rash's book. Too much, probably. So...what I'll do is distill my considerations down to bullets (mostly), for you to think about.

  •      Conflict Resolution: We have Carlton Toomey and trespassers (notably, Travis) exacting "retribution" with his "pound of flesh" (Cutting Travis's leg);
  •      Travis v. his father: Travis "insulted" his father, the father hit Travis, Travis left home (kinda sounds like the war between the states, doesn't it: states demanding their rights, then seceded from the union--i.e. left home);
  •      Travis v. Lori Triplet: Well, Travis didn't like being told what to do. He never talked to Lori about it, he just dropped her off at her house and threw the "slave chain" necklace back at her house (location 2553);
  •      Dena had a "slave chain," too, on her wrist (from the carnival); the way she resolved her issues of having an unhappy life was to drink, do drugs, sleep around, (and hurt Leonard);
  •      Leonard v. Kera (his wife--daughter Emily): Differences were not amicably done, no forgiveness; Kera ended up divorcing Leonard to solve her differences with him;
  •      Smaller instances of conflict resolution throughout the book (here's one): When Travis and his friend Shank first came to see Leonard about buying the marijuana, and to have a beer, Leonard then told them they had "overstayed their welcome," and asked them to leave due to their behavior;
  •      The Civil War was an armed conflict to resolve the issues of states rights (and slavery);
  •      Of course, the Shelton Laurel Massacre, conflict resolution, basically vengeance for supposed crimes by the Union against officer's families, etc.--somebody had to pay--Old Testament justice (an eye-for-an-eye) exacted; and,
  • Mrs. Ponder (at the Vocational Center/previously a teacher); marriage and then divorce as a conflict resolution with Mr. Ponder; also, she had sorrows and upsets at the high school, her resolution was to quit the high school and begin working at the Vocational Center;
     Finally, one last comment: I realize that when we discussed, at the top of the post, the soldier who danced on the bodies of the deceased, it probably disturbed you. In history, this type of thing was seen in everything from poetry, music, and art. It was called, Danse Macabre. Symbolically, this dancing on top of the dead is paramount to Death summoning representatives from every walk of life; the representatives would then dance along to the grave, all to remind everyone that life is fragile and all vainglory. What all this means is that death is the great equalizer--this is the way the road is straightened or alternatively, death is the way all inequities are evened up and made straight. Hence, the title of the book: The World Made Straight. Leonard, by sacrificing himself (the sacrificial lamb) for Dena and Travis, makes not only his ancestor's terrible silence right, it makes his failings right, too. At the end of the book (and movie) we see Travis going around curves on a crooked road, then he turns and hits the straight road--he's leaving Shelton Laurel behind. Travis begins a new, fresh, hopeful life--beauty is everywhere. (location 2283)

     This book contains scenes of violence, including maiming, talk of murder, theft, drugs and drug dealing, vengeance, greed, murder, etc. Parents are advised to speak with their teenagers before they read this book. All others will find this book wonderful. Many beautiful themes, symbols, and topics can be discussed from this book (No. I did certainly NOT cover them all in this blog post!). If you like, you may take a look at the trailer, just for fun. [18]

MY RATING: Given all the above information, reasons, and facts about this book, The World Made Straight, I award this book 4.5 stars out of 5. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to any adult. I will be reading Ron Rash's, Serena, soon. I hope that book is as good as this one.

     Thank you for joining me this week as I had the privilege of talking with you about this wonderful novel. Please join me again, next week, as we will look at another exciting book.

Until next time...
...many happy pages of reading!

All my love,


[1] "The World Made Straight." [Ron Rash] Retrieved 11-17-15.
[2] "Murder in the Mountains --NY Times Disunion." [January 19, 2013; Rick Beard] Retrieved 11-17-15.
[3] "Vicki Lane Mysteries." Retrieved 11-17-15.
[4] "Atrocity at Shelton Laurel--Indifferent No More." [by Philip Gerard] Retrieved 01-18-15.
[5] "The World Made Straight." [Ron Rash] Retrieved 11-17-15.
[6] "Hamlet's Soliloquy. Parodied by a XX Teetotaller." Retrieved 01-19-15.
[7] "Metacritic--The World Made Straight." Retrieved 01-18-15.
[8] "The Boston Calendar: Boston Baroque presents Handel's Messiah." Retrieved 11-18-15.
[9] "The Crooked Made Straight." [meme by Sharon Powers] Retrieved 01-18-15.
[10] "Of Mages & Pages: Spoiler Alerts." Retrieved 01-18-15.
[11] "Estate Sales: 30 Day Diary Of An Estate Liquidator Day 11-12." Retrieved 11-19-15.
[12] "Ghost Effect." Retrieved 11-19-15.
[13] "Polycount Forum." Retrieved 11-19-15.
[14] "Discover Author Ron Rash." [harper collins publishers] Retrieved 11-19-15.
[15] "Geopix." Retrieved 01-19-15.
[16] "Conflict Resolution." Retrieved 01-19-15.
[17] "Danse Macabre." Retrieved 01-19-15.
[18] "The World Made Straight Official Trailer #1 (2015)." Retrieved 11-19-15.
[19] "Review for Darkness Shows the Stars." [4.5 stars graphic] Retrieved 01-19-15.
[20] "Pictures From My Garden." Retrieved 01-17-15.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Lucy Stone: An Unapologetic Life by Sally G. McMillen--New Biography Book Release.

Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     I came home from grade school so excited because our teacher had read to us today about a woman who had lived during the time of the Civil War. Her name was Elizabeth Blackwell, and she was the very first woman to become a doctor in the United States. What had so enthralled me as a grade school girl was just how much determination she had. 

     My teacher told us that Elizabeth Blackwell had to apply over and over again to get into medical school and even then her struggles didn't end. She steadfastly kept her goal in sight and determined nothing would stop her--including some men who didn't want to see a woman in the medical profession. It seems the men at that time thought that women belonged at home, taking care of the children. I thought that she was an extraordinary woman and came to admire her greatly.
Lucy Stone giving
a speech. [2]

     As I began reading Lucy Stone's story, I began learning many things about her. Things, I thought, that seemed similar to what Elizabeth Blackwell had gone through. No. Lucy Stone didn't become a doctor, but she did struggle to become a public speaker at a time when women were just not seen speaking in public. The women of the time were suppose to be quiet and listen to speeches, not give them. One of Lucy Stone's struggles, then, was to get people to accept the notion that it was acceptable for women to speak in public. 

     Little did I know how inextricably Lucy Stone and Elizabeth Blackwell were linked. Before I delve into that, let's take a quick look at the synopsis of the book.

Absent from this marvelous marble monument
is Lucy Stone, frontline Suffrage Proponent and
abolitionist. Stone does not appear in the sculpture nor
is she mentioned on the inscription. [3]

     McMillen's "Introduction," explains the very focus of the book. In the rotunda of our capitol is a famous statue, "The Memorial Sculpture," embody- ing the images of Suffragists, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Susan B. Anthony. Inscribed below the marble work is an inscription saying, "these three stand unique and peerless." No mention of Lucy Stone and no image in marble tells of her great achievements and work in the suffrage and abolition movements. McMillen argues that even though Stone is not famous, she was a "pivotal" part of the abolition and suffrage movements, and importantly, should have been included in the memorial sculpture.

Note: Under the section, "Speakers," the left column,
second name down, is Lucy Stone's name. She was
listed on this flyer as one of the speakers. [4]
     McMillen lays the groundwork for her book and for Stone's life by relating how Stone's Massachusetts childhood formed Lucy into an unflagging proponent for women's rights. Early on in Stone's life she was attracted to education and women's independence. Believing education the key to independence Stone was one of the first women in all of the US to enroll in and earn a college degree. At the time, Oberlin College Institute was the only college open to women.

     After earning her degree she began a career in public as an orator, speaking as an activist for women's rights and anti-slavery issues. It wasn't long until Lucy Stone was one of the most famous and leading orators of her day.

     Working towards women's rights, Stone helped organize many yearly national women's rights conventions during the 1850s. During the Civil War, she also played a crucial role in the American Equal Rights Association as as one of its organizers and as one of its leaders. Additionally, Stone was one of the co-founders of the American Woman Suffrage Association (Later, the American Woman Suffrage Association and the National Woman Suffrage Association would merge into one association; the new association was then called the National American Woman Suffrage Association.[2]).

Alice Stone Blackwell, dau-
ghter of Lucy Stone and
Henry Browne Blackwell.[5]
     Lucy Stone married Henry Blackwell and gave birth to Alice Stone Blackwell. Alice would become a well-known feminist, suffragist, journalist and continue the work of her mother advocating for human rights.

     Lucy Stone knew and worked with other greats, like Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, William Lloyd Garrison, and many others. McMillen's biography of Lucy Stone reveals Stone's influential and important work. She shows why her extremely important work has been overlooked by historians and artists. McMillen points out that Stone's contributions to human and woman's rights "were no less significant or revolutionary" than those of Stanton, Anthony, and Mott. In this eminently readable and wonderfully researched work, McMillen sets out and proves that Lucy Stone deserves the credit and acclaim for her critical life's work.

     First, the book is due to be released 01-29-15. Also, I loved that I discovered the connection between Elizabeth Black- well and Lucy Stone. Here it is: Lucy Stone married Henry Browne Blackwell. Henry Blackwell was only one of nine children; of those other eight children, one was a beloved sister by the name of Elizabeth Black- well. So, Elizabeth Black- well and Lucy Stone became sisters-in-law to each other when Henry married Lucy.

     According to Sally G. McMillen, author of the book, Lucy Stone: An Unapologetic Life, Stone accomplished many, many things in her desire to make life better, especially for women. McMillen details those activities and achievements in her book. Those references and sources are well documented.

     McMillen's writing style is easy to read, not pedantic, but knowledgeable and obviously containing a great love for the subject. Moreover, when things like unattractive in-fighting among those in the suffrage movement occurs over different approaches, political strategy, or philosophy, McMillen is unflinching in her effort to honestly portray those incidents.

"On August 13, 1968, the 150th anni-
versary of her birth, the U.S.
Postal Service honored Stone with
a $.50 postage stamp in the
Prominent Americans Series." [6]
     I very much enjoyed learning about Lucy Stone, so much so, that I agree with Sally McMillen, that Stone was given insufficient credit for her work. I think that Stone should be included in History classes along with the other suffragettes like Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Also, I think it highly unlikely that the statue will be changed in the rotunda of the Capitol. Something else, could be done to right the fact that Stone has been so overlooked, like creating a statue of her and placing it in the rotunda, as well.

     I was so taken with Sally G. McMillen's book that I went to the internet to seek out more information about Lucy Stone. On YouTube, I found this wonderful, short (3min. 41 sec.) video about Lucy Stone. I enjoyed getting to see the pictures of the 1800's, and facts that reinforced my reading of McMillen's book. Take a quick look at the short video and see what you think. [7]

     I gained a wonderful appreciation for Lucy Stone and other women working for women's rights in the 1800s. I gained appreciation for the hardships they had to endure, the daily lives of women, and the numerous legal injustices forced upon womankind. Appreciation also, for women when they gave birth to baby girls--they grieved the birth of a girl because they knew the hard road that lay ahead for her, amounting to almost servitude with no legal rights (property, divorce, etc.).

     I selected this quote because of my obvious love of books, reading and all things bookish. A love of reading is something many people had in the 1800s because of lack of other forms of intellectual and pleasurable pursuits that many of us take for granted in modern times--including the computer and internet. Here's my favorite quote (highlighting is not in the source material):

Lucy also was a voracious reader and read everything she could get her hands on, including newspapers the family subscribed to--The Massachusetts Spy, published in Worcester by Isaiah Thomas; William Lloyd Garrison's The Liberator; and the Anti-Slavery Standard, the paper of the American Anti-Slavery Society. 50 other papers the family was able to borrow, including Youth's Companion and the Advocate of Moral Reform. Lucy and Rhoda subscribed to the New England Spectator, which Lucy described as a "family paper" covering "the study of the Bible, family religion, active piety, the abolition of slavery, and the licentiousness and to promote the circulation of useful intelligence. Lucy devoured books though did not read her first novel until she was in her teens [because Puritan influence]...considered reading fiction a useless pastime. [Kindle Location 310-317.]
 I love that Lucy Stone was a "voracious reader." I have a great love of reading, too; hence, the name of my blog: Sharon's Love of Books. My reading includes everything from classics to comics--from Marcus Aurelius' "Meditations,"to Guardians of the Galaxy. I read it all. I also like that it points out that we are blessed to live in the times we do. We can read fiction, non-fiction, classic, in fact, every genre in any format. People in the 1800s didn't know about the benefits of reading fiction. In fact, there are cognitive benefits to reading fiction.


     A "useless pastime." Well, I have never found reading fiction to be a useless pastime. In fact, Jordan Bates of "Refine the Mind," likes to promote reading of fiction, too. He reports that he found an article in the New York Times who had done an in-depth news reporting piece from the journal, Science. Bates synthesized the article to give us a few benefits of reading fiction.   
  1. Reading literary fiction has immediate effects in terms of influencing how well we can understand our peers;
  2. Reading fiction exposes the reader to empathy (while non-fiction has a negative correlation);
  3. People who read fiction (even short stories) have less need for "cognitive closure" than those who only read non-fiction;
  4. Reading fiction affects our minds by giving us insight into human behavior, motivation, and even perception. We can better understand how societies operate, 
  5. how to maintain good relationships, and why people live in certain ways;
  6. Reading fiction can help us relate emotionally with others--making us more sensitive and compassionate, and be kinder because "we realize the depth beyond the unfamiliar face";
  7. Also, reading fiction helps us to deal with ambiguity...leading to creativity and sophisticated thinking. [12]

     A big thank you to Mr. Bates for providing us all with these wonderful benefits of reading fiction. Second, the benefits of reading fiction are not limited to these six attributes. This is just a start for you to help you understand that reading fiction is not just a waste of time.

     This book, if it were a movie, would get a "G" rating from me. Since it is not a movie, suffice to say that anyone of any age, capable of reading, would find the book acceptable in all respects.

     Second, as to my rating of the book: For all the reasons I have stated above, I am pleased to rate this book at 4.0 stars out of 5.0 stars. Well done Ms. McMillen.

     Please remember this new biography will be released 01-29-15--preorder your copy now! Thank you for joining me this week as we were privileged to look at the book, Lucy Stone: An Unapologetic Life by Sally G. McMillen--a NetGalley ARC book. Thank you to the publishers, as well for providing this Advance Reading Copy. Please join me, again, next week as we go back to fiction for our book review.

Until next time...
This flower is a double white Rose of Sharon. [14]

...many happy pages of reading!

Happy New Year! I send my best wishes to you for a joyous, safe, and abundant new year! All my love,


[1] "Lucy Stone: An Unapologetic Life." [by Sally G. McMillen] Retrieved 01-02-15.
[2] "Beginning of Stone's Career." Retrieved 01-12-15.
[3] "Portrait Monument to Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony." [artist: Adelaide Johnson, 1920, Rotunda, U.S. Capitol] Retrieved 01-04-15.
[4] "Empowered Women." Retrieved 01-12-15.
[5] "Alice Stone Blackwell (1857-1950)." Retrieved 01-12-15.
[6] "50-cent United States Postal Service stamp Honoring Stone." Retrieved 01-13-15.
[7] "Lucy Stone." [Published 03-17-13. Text from "101Changemakers: Rebels and Radicals Who Changed US History," Edited by Michele Bollinger and Dao X. Tran, "#11: Lucy Stone," written by Sarah Grey; Music: "This Little Light of Mine" by Odetta (Google Play--AmazonMP3--eMusic--iTunes)] Retrieved 01-13-15.
[8] "Annie Dillard." Retrieved 01-13-15.
[9] "General Fiction Book Blogs (A-H)." Retrieved 01-13-15.
[10] "How to Read 20 Books a Year." Retrieved 01-13-15.
[11] "Dealing With Ambiguity." Retrieved 01-13-15.
[12] "Three Cognitive Benefits of Reading." Retrieved 01-13-15.
[13] "How We Rate the Providers." Retrieved 01-13-15.
[14] "Pictures From My Garden." Retrieved 01-04-15.