*Not My REAL Bookshelf

*Not My REAL Bookshelf

Sunday, April 9, 2017

"Power Play" by Penny Jordan

When I was a high school junior, our small-town Texas football team was able to achieve enough wins to be eligible for the Semifinals game for the 3A Conference State Championship. Travel to Irving to play at Texas Stadium (where the Cowboys played at the time) was an excitement I could scarcely have dreamed of, but it was quite some distance from home in those days -- a solid 10 hours or more when the speed limit was still set at 55 MPH. I brought my Discman along, but the supply of batteries I had available was soon exhausted, and I was left with my go-to option for my free time at home, which was to pick up a book to read. I had pilfered a title on my way out of the house that was new to me, a novel called Power Play by Penny Jordan. The cover was provocative in a subtle way, no busty, scantily-clad maiden being passionately clutched to the bare-chested man of her dreams to be found. It was a temptation too great for sixteen-year old me to resist, and into my bag it went. I read somewhere in the neighborhood of two-thirds of the book in the time I had available to me during the trip to and from Irving, but somehow managed to drop the novel into the overhead compartment when we were disembarking upon our return. A call to the charter bus company revealed that the book had disappeared, and I was left distraught. My OCD demands that I finish reading a book once I've started, and there was zero chance of such after that.

Fast forward nineteen years later, when the internet has become the best friend of those whose brains are incapable of retaining certain tiny pieces of information such as specific book titles or the names of authors. A Google search of the details I could recall about the characters and plot reminded me of the title I needed, and a quick visit to half.com got me reunited with the book at long last. I made quick work of finishing up the read, and it was just as great as I remembered. (A relief, truly, since many things fail to hold up over time in terms of how completely they captured your interest before.) It now holds a cherished place on my bookshelf, and remains a favorite I won't be losing again.

Pepper Minesse is a fierce and incredibly competent businesswoman, one who holds herself aloof from all manner of personal relationships with men after enduring a terrifying assault in her past. When first we meet her, she is in the process of mailing out letters to everyone who was involved in that most hated and shameful piece of her past. Sending those letters sets her long-awaited plan for revenge into motion. The four men, all equally powerful in their own right, are extremely resistant to Pepper's demands. The blackmail she has acquired ensures that they have no choice but to comply, and this leads them to form a plan of their own to combat her revenge. As the past, present, and future begin to merge, a growing danger mounts, and Pepper's very life is placed into grave peril. It is only through the intervention of one of the same men whose life she is attempting to ruin that she is able to triumph over the danger she faces. Shocking twists and terrible crimes abound as the plot races toward its finish, leaving several people dead and many lives irreparably changed.

All in all, this is one book that was written with the reader in mind. Gripping and powerful, the story is one that will stay with you. There were a couple of small elements that bugged me about Pepper's acquiescence, which make me reluctant to give it a full five stars. But it is a solid read, and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

"The Time Machine", by H.G. Wells

Many moons ago, I was mired in the long days of a high school career. Summer vacations were a splendor whose days were numbered, with the end of such allowances marching ever closer. Being a student of AP English meant one thing during these languorous stretches of free time -- summer reading lists. Filled with the names of tomes whose authors were long deceased, it was a dread for nearly every student. Lord knows how I suffered through the tortures of Great Expectations in the summer before my freshman year. Nothing but a no-fail cure for insomnia there. Another challenge faced in such a small town as ours was the availability of the books on the list. The local library was sure to have a copy or two, but it was also certain to be checked out on a constant basis if the title was a popular one. With the nearest bookstore hours away by car, one had to face a harsh reality as summer began to wane: A different book would have to be chosen from the list before time had run out. This is how I came to read The Time Machine by H.G. Wells in the space between my sophomore and junior years, in addition to the ever-popular Romeo and Juliet.

During a dinner at the home of one known to the reader as the Time Traveller, the aforementioned character arrives with much ado and excitement to relay the tales of his recent journey. He weaves such a tale of his trek through time, spanning all the way to the literal end of the Earth and back again. Along the way, he has met many different people of various stations in life, experienced a crushing loss, and encountered many things the likes of which the people of his own time could hardly even dare to dream. He learned of an eventual split of the human race into a veritable caste system, one which persisted for millenia. He fostered relationships with the people he met, some to good ends and some to bad ends. These travels have impressed so much into his psyche that, upon his return to the Victorian era, he finds himself a drastically changed man. His is now a haggard and careworn sense of self after everything he endured, and his recounting of the many things he experienced leaves those in his party speechless and disbelieving. The traveler then vanishes a day later, never to return.

I found myself so swept up in his story that I flew through the pages with abandon, desperate to find out what would happen next. It was easily the greatest of all of the assigned reading I ever attempted, with perhaps Night by the late Elie Wiesel being the only exception. I wouldn't exactly call this an easy read, since the language of Wells' time doesn't quite sync up with our own in a way that fosters immediate understanding. But once you clap on to the vagaries of these differences, the book practically reads itself. It is a masterpiece, and one that I like to revisit as often as I can.

Rating: ★★★★★