Alexis Arendt

Books

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Smashwords book reviews by Alexis Arendt

  • The Tin Box on Aug. 25, 2011

    (From my blog, Word Vagabond- Reviews of independent and small-press publications. http://wordvagabond.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/the-tin-box-by-anne-blythe-daley/ ) Lucy Davis is eight years old in 1940 during the children’s evacuation of London. Although she is upset and frightened to leave everything she knows behind, being sent to her uncle’s farm in Cornwall also represents an escape from her cold, overbearing parents. The next five years, in fact, represent the only respite Lucy will get for a long time from the parental influences which will nearly destroy her. Anne Blythe Daley’s historical novella, The Tin Box, is a tale of an ordinary life filled with extraordinary tragedy. Its greatest strength lies in her frank, simple writing style. Daley never flinches from laying out the tragic circumstances Lucy finds herself in or her own role in bringing them to pass, nor does she resort to melodrama. Her straightforward approach appropriately reflects the stoicism of an English generation that made it through the Second World War with spirit and determination, none of them emerging on the other side unscathed. It also feels true to the inner strength of the main character, which sees her through the fierce battles of her own life. Unfortunately, while the story’s style is its strong point, its weakness is a lack of depth. The fast pace denies us the opportunity to really occupy Lucy’s life, to be emotionally invested in her challenges. Daley’s narration is spare to a fault; more attention to the ordinary moments in her character’s life would have pulled the reader in and given her tale the impact it truly deserves. This is that most rare of things- a book that would have been better if it had been longer. My final criticism is of the formatting. The choice of font makes the book appear slightly amateurish and dated. Clearer chapter separations and a full table of contents would have also given it a more professional air. I do recommend this book for what it is- a glimpse into the pain and hope of our near history- while regretting the unrealized potential of what it could have been.
  • Gone Away on Sep. 08, 2011
    (no rating)
    (From my blog at http://wordvagabond.wordpress.com/ - Reviews of Independent and Small Press Publications.) It all begins with a simple request from an old friend. Charles rings Sheila Malory from America to tell her he hasn’t heard from his fiancée, Lee, in several days. She was in Sheila’s village of Taviscombe making prepartions for their wedding. Would Sheila please made enquiries for him? Oh, what a slippery slope! Who would have thought that a sleepy little English village could harbor so much intrigue? Well, any Miss Marple fan, for a start. But this is no mere Agatha Christie re-make. Holt is a master of storytelling in her own right. Her characters are thoroughly developed and complex, if not always likeable. The main character is instantly sympathetic, although her rationalizations for not sharing information with the police sometimes seem a bit contrived. Gone Away doesn’t try too hard to be clever. It would not be a satisfying read for the inveterate puzzle-solver. But is excels at being exactly what it claims to be- a cozy little mystery to read by the fire with a cup of tea. Just the thing for fall reading! I do- you knew it was coming- have a formatting complaint. The book’s synopsis, currently sandwiched between the copyright and the first chapter, should instead be located just after the cover image, as it would be on the dust-jacket of a hardcover. It may seem like a trivial complaint, but it is genuinely confusing to the reader to find a summary of the novel where they are expecting the first chapter to begin. As for my own summary, I can certainly recommend this book to the casual mystery reader and to Anglophiles everywhere. I look forward to reading the rest of Holt’s Sheila Malory series, four of which are available from Coffeetown Press and the rest from Signet. For now, it’s off to the library for an armful of Dorothy Sayers novels, since every author I’ve read lately seems determined to reference her. Happy reading!
  • Moving Mountains on Nov. 28, 2011

    This was a fun story. When I started reading it I thought I knew exactly where it was going, but I was pleasantly surprised! Worth a read. :)
  • Saturation on Jan. 26, 2012

    (From my blog, Word Vagabond: Supporting Independent and Small Press Authors.) When Jennifer Place entered a substance abuse treatment center for the first time, she was fresh out of jail and drinking four bottles of wine a day. She had given away custody of her two children, married a man she didn’t love, and moved several states away, all in a haze of alcohol. This book describes her journey through five treatment programs, struggling to free herself from her toxic relationship with drinking. The book begins just after Place’s husband has her hauled off to jail, which is definitely an attention-grabbing way to start. Unfortunately, this is immediately followed by a chapter that tries to sum up her entire history up until that point in just a few pages. The result is confusing and feels rushed. Thankfully, the book gets much easier to read after that. Place’s descriptions of her time in jail and rehab are vivid and interesting. Her voice gets stronger and more confident chapter by chapter, which helps the reader feel the progress she is making underneath her continuing addiction. Watching her enter each new treatment center and then relapse time and again is frustrating, but that’s what makes this an authentic story: there are no easy answers, no quick fixes. It would be nice to see more of the internal work she was doing while in treatment, though. She talks about doing constant journaling and introspection, but never shares the results of that work. She also doesn’t discuss why she started drinking in the first place, which I think would be a crucial detail for this kind of memoir. Even as a person who has never struggled with addiction, I found a lot of empathize with in her story. Place’s severe anxiety attacks were all too familiar, and I actually found those parts emotionally difficult to read because they described perfectly experiences I have gone through. It was easy for me to understand how difficult it was to recover from alcohol abuse and try to manage severe anxiety at the same time. Apart from the story, Saturation would have benefited from more thorough copy-editing. While there weren’t a crippling number of typos and style errors, they were a bit distracting. I think this is a valuable memoir for anyone who wants a better understanding of alcohol addiction, or even the possible effects of severe anxiety.