PERFUNCTORY AFFECTION – A NEW NOVEL By KIM HARRISON – Marilyn Armstrong

The title as written on the cover is “PERfunctory AfFECTION” because it’s all about “perfection.” The reality of perfection. The truth and falsity of perfection. How nothing “normal” is perfect. If it seems perfect, it isn’t. Perfection can’t be in our world so that which seems perfect contains a lie.

Humanity, people are imperfect. Maybe somewhere in a parallel universe, perfection may exist, but we aren’t living there. We may strive for it, live and die for it. We will never attain it.

In the Hindu dynasty of gods and godlike figures, if you achieve perfection, you became a god whose job it is to help others attain perfection. Religion can urge you to seek perfection, but everyone knows it isn’t possible. Thus any who achieve it become gods.

Okay, it’s more complicated than that, but that’s a piece of the concept.

If you read “The Hollows” series, this isn’t it. This is a different Kim Harrison. Still a brilliant author, she is treading in places where waters run deep.

Meg had a terrible accident during which her boyfriend was severely injured. He is still in her life and his presence haunts her, drags her down. He is not helping her move forward in her life. She remains afraid of “the world” and the people she meets, yet she is in love with her art.

Thus despite her sense of isolation and fear of many things both real and imaginary, she is an inspiring painter who packs her classroom at the university where she works. She has developed a style where her paintings are incomplete but suggest completeness. She can find the exact amount to paint which allow viewers to sense and feel what else should be in the picture.

In many ways, the book is like those pictures leaving you mentally filling in spaces, taking your best guess based on suggestions and ideas or partial conversations. The book has a quiet start that continues to build, fill out, become more complete — and suggests that Meg is seeing reality and no one else is — or everyone else is seeing reality and Meg is not.

Is she meant to be perfect, part of a magic universe? Is it a dream or a nightmare? Possibly both? The interweaving of reality, truth, lies, uncertainty, imagination and something otherworldly is complex and fascinating.

Rather than spoil anyone’s read, I want to say this is a book you should read to the end. You cannot omit a chapter or even a few pages. Secrets, hints, images are waiting for you. What you were sure you knew you may soon discover you didn’t know.

It is a beautifully written book. Intense, sensitive, and passionate. At the conclusion, you will be asking yourself many questions. A second reading perhaps?

Hardcover from Amazon

It’s difficult to describe the story without using spoilers, so I’ll quit before I ruin it for you. This is a unique, stirring tale that leaves you wanting more.

Perfunctory Affection” will be released on March 31st and I’ve pre-ordered the hardcover. It is available for pre-order on Amazon in hardcover and as an audio CD. I believe other stores are also offering it. I’m sure a paperback will be released at some future point and hopefully, it will also come out on Kindle.

“FAMOUS FATHER GIRL” – By ELLIN CURLEY

I just read a memoir by Jamie Bernstein, Leonard Bernstein’s oldest child and I absolutely loved the book!

The central characters are fascinating and complex as well as endlessly entertaining and the circle of friends is mostly famous people who are colorful and fun to read about.

Bernstein with the very young Jamie

Friends of my mother’s, the Coopers, lived in the same Park Avenue building in New York City as the Bernsteins for over a decade and became friends with the Bernstein family.

The oldest Cooper child, still a friend of mine today, was Jamie’s age and played with her for many years. I grew up hearing stories about the Bernstein family through the Coopers, so I feel a connection to them, however tenuous.

Helen Cooper in 1979

One of the stories I heard had to do with an incident at the Bernstein pool in Fairfield, CT. The middle Cooper child heard the word ‘gay’ from one of the adults and went up to another adult and asked him what gay meant. Leonard Bernstein was gay but lived a straight, family life for decades before coming out of the closet. That was necessary during the forties and fifties, and even the sixties, if you wanted to have a significant career. This story takes place during the closeted years.

The adult who the child approached thought it would be funny to tell the curious little girl to go ask Leonard what ‘gay’ was, so she did. Apparently, she got a paean about what wonderful, creative people gay men were and how glorious it was to be gay.

I’m sure this elicited lots of laughter around the pool that day.

The Bernstein’s Fairfield pool patio

Getting back to the book, the main reason it resonated so much with me is that Jamie and my childhoods had a lot in common. I’m only three years older than Jamie and we both grew up Jewish in New York City at the same time. Jamie was only half Jewish, but the Jewish half, Leonard, was strongly Jewish, at least culturally.

We both lived on Park Avenue in the same Upper East Side neighborhood and went to prominent private schools in the city. We both spent summers and some weekends at our second home in Fairfield County, Connecticut – Jamie in the town of Fairfield and me in nearby Easton. Our mothers were both beautiful and fashionable former actresses who entertained often and impeccably.

Jamie at a Bernstein rehearsal

However, the major experience that I shared with Jamie, was living in the shadow of a famous father. The title of Jamie’s memoir is “Famous Father Girl,” a nickname given to her by someone in her grade school class.

My father was not as universally well-known, but in our social circles and in the social science fields, he was a celebrity. Kids at my school knew that my father was an intellectual giant and he was spoken of with respect and awe by their parents, many of whom were psychiatrists, like my father.

My father

Jamie’s mother used to excuse Leonard’s excesses and eccentricities by telling her kids that this is what comes with ‘genius’, and my mother did the same thing. We had to forgive a lot of character flaws and social missteps because my father was a genius.

I can understand why superstars are surrounded by apologists and enablers because I grew up with that dynamic. In fact, my father was absolved of almost all paternal obligations and responsibilities, including talking to his child on a regular basis. At least Leonard Bernstein interacted with his kids, played with them and talked to them all the time when he was around.

Both of our fathers spent a lot of time teaching their children about their fields of expertise. Jamie learned about all styles of music at an early age and I knew about psychology, sociology, anthropology, as well as history and archeology (a favorite topic of my father’s) while still in elementary school. Both of our fathers were also hard acts to follow and we spent our young lives trying not to disappoint our larger than life parents.

Jamie tried to write and sing music for many years and I felt the need to excel academically, at least through college. I got a life, finally, in law school and stopped trying to be at the top of the class, which was a great relief. I’m sure Jamie shared my lifelong feeling of not measuring up in some significant way.

Bernstein’s famous TV series

Ironically, both Jamie and I found our voice and our passion in our thirties by becoming mothers. Years later Jamie found a true career running educational music programs based on her father’s Young People’s Concerts. I found myself in my father’s adjunct career – writer.

He published seven books over the years and numerous professional articles, which I helped my mother edit from the time I was fifteen. I publish blog posts and have the scripts I write with my husband performed by our audio theater group.

Jamie and her book cover

So Jamie and I each took something from our mothers and something from our fathers and later in life, came up with our own mix, creating satisfying lives for ourselves.

EARLY RISER – A NEW NOVEL BY JASPER FFORDE – Marilyn Armstrong

Early Riser
A Novel – By Jasper Fforde



In Audible. I have it in hardcover too.
I’ve read it and listened to it.
Narrated by Thomas Hunt
Length: 15 hrs and 16 mins

Jasper Fforde has written some of the funniest books I’ve ever read. You know, the kind of book you read in bed, but you are laughing so hard it makes your partner wake up and irritably ask what the hell you are laughing at?

This book has moments of humor and once in a while, a chuckle. There’s no hilarity, however. Overall, there’s a seriousness to this story that none of his other books have had. This isn’t so much humor as it is a warning about where our climate is going and who is running our world. I don’t know which is more terrifying: the obvious sub-arctic winters in Scotland … or the death grip the mighty “pharma” company has on all humankind.

There are fighters against big pharma and the corporate grip the company holds over everyone. For reasons you will have to read the book to understand, it isn’t easy to figure out who is the good guy or who is the bad guy. There’s not “history” about how the world got to this place, but if you have been reading even the headlines, it isn’t hard to put it together.

This is science fiction, except … it’s not all that far-fetched. Sometimes, I found myself not merely listening to the story but worrying if this is just a story or this is the real future history of my Earth — unless we DO something about it. Like … NOW.

Of course, it’s beautifully written because everything Jasper Fforde has written is wonderful, though I still am in love with Thursday Next.

I do recommend this book very highly, but I have to warn you — it isn’t like his other books. It isn’t hilarious and sometimes, it’s pretty serious. But he’s telling us a story that I think we need to think about … while being well-entertained. Just so you know, this does take place in the future, so it actually is science fiction. Not your usual sci-fi, however.

Is this science fiction or is it our science future? I think you will have to decide for yourself.


I have mixed emotions about the narrator. He was good … but I think I’d have preferred a deeper voice? Or maybe I’m just being overly picky.

THE NEW IBERIA BLUES, BOOK 22 – DAVE ROBICHEAUX – James Lee Burke

The New Iberia Blues:
Dave Robicheaux Series, Book 22

By: James Lee Burke

Narrated by: Will Patton

Series: Dave Robicheaux, Book 22
Length: 15 hrs and 3 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Release date: 01-08-19
Language: English
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio


James Lee Burke never fails me.

Every book he writes is rich, sensual, and powerful. The writing, the feel of the place and mood of the times. Of course, Dave Robicheaux and Clete are my favorites, but I have loved every book I’ve read by James Lee Burke, in and outside of the “Robicheaux” series.

I didn’t think they could get better, but this was better.

Why? Because the characters aren’t the same “kids” they were. They have aged, grown, and changed. They aren’t the same “guns blazing” Dave and Clete.

Life has been hard for both of them. Dave has lost three wives, one to Lupus and two to violence, but he’s not full of hate or looking for retribution. He’s an adult, a genuine grownup.

Both men have moved on with the understanding that life isn’t and won’t ever be exactly what they want. They aren’t expecting perfection, yet they are still involved, caring, concerned for each other and the world in which they live. They are entirely alive and deeply involved.

If you like James Lee Burke’s writing, there’s nothing not to love in this book.

Will Patton is a superb narrator (and a pretty good actor too, by the way). He may even be better than the original narrator who was himself, brilliant. What Patton has going for him is clarity of speech which enables him to use a reasonable southern accent, but clearly enough for we northerners to easily understand.

My only regret is that I read the book too fast.

I should have slowed down and made the story last longer. Maybe I’ll read it again.

Maybe I’ll read the last TWO again.


Note: This review is for the Audible.com version, but reading James Lee Burke as a regular book is just fine and in fact until quite late in the series, I read all his books in hardcover. I have all of the first books in hardcover, first edition. I know it’s sentimental, but I can’t help myself. I still love the smell and feel of a new hardcover book!

WIRES – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Electric

I can hide in the woods and live without wi-fi. I wouldn’t like it, but I could do it. I could shudder with fear and use an outhouse. I would hate it, but I can (and have) done it. I can easily live without a cell phone, half-heartedly without a computer … but without electricity?

It is over.

Recently, I read (again, but in Audible with Garry), George R. Stewart’s immortal “Earth Abides.” I have heard some people say “Oh, the technology is so old.” Clearly, they missed the point of the story.

It simply doesn’t matter what your technology is, was, or might have become. When the power goes out, it’s finished.

The book was written in the late 1940s, but technology is barely mentioned except to point out how it is decaying, rusting, breaking. It doesn’t make any difference because when the electric failed, everything else went down the tubes.

Whether it’s wi-fi, television, boiler, or the pump which pushes the water from well to faucets, the bottom line is electricity.

Without it? It doesn’t matter how advanced you were. How many of us could fix a generator? Not the one in your house but a big one, like Hoover Dam? Or fix a fallen wire? Or even reconnect the power lines to our own houses?

In “Earth Abides,” in a single generation, all technology is gone from the earth. A very few cars drive, in the rare case where they can find one that has gas in it and hasn’t rusted to nothing. Weapons don’t work and no one remembers how to read. No one is even interested in reading. The author, a university academic, wants desperately to have readers so they can rediscover what has been lost, but in the end, only “Earth Abides.”

The last time our power went out, we were in the dark for little more than an hour and a half, but it felt like a lifetime. It reminded me — again — that no matter what we invent, no matter how clever we get with technology, in the end, it runs on power.

Until such time as Earth has a viable alternative to massive power generation, electricity is the end of the line for our technological structure.

It is something to think about.

BOOK REVIEW: CHRISTMAS EVE DAUGHTER – A TIME TRAVEL NOVEL by Elyse Douglas

The Christmas Eve Daughter: A Time Travel Novel
by Elyse Douglas

As a time-travel story, this is not quite it. The story absolutely includes time travel, but it’s what we in the science fiction world refer to as “tourist time travel” where there is no technology involved and no “other world” surprises, either. Time travel is not what the story is about, but rather simply a means of “getting there and back.” It’s just transportation, not the storyline.

In this kind of tale, the ‘traveler’ steps through a (suddenly appearing out of nowhere) wormhole or discovers a magic medallion, a lantern, a piece of clothing, a special page in a book … and miraculously finds her or himself in the past. After which, it’s time for romance.

Everyone lives happily ever after.

This being book two in the series, happily ever after is interrupted by the discovery that the man who came from the past has a previously unknown daughter. Will the magic time-travel lantern work one more time? Can the beautiful couple from modern New York go back in time and rescue the young woman?

This is not science fiction. It’s a romance novel with that includes time-travel. In fact, the formula for the book is identical to every romance I have ever read, except instead of traveling to a different physical location on Earth, the characters — all of whom are beautiful — travel through time.

As a former editor of the Doubleday Romance Library, I know a formula when I see one. As this kind of writing goes, the book is silkily written and well-edited. Very clean. If you are a fancier of romantic fiction, you will like it. It adds just a hint of “magic” to a traditional story.

Elyse Douglas is a good writer with a smooth touch. If I were still editing the library, she would get my vote.


About Elyse DouglasChristmas Eve Daughter: Time Travel Novel by Elyse Douglas

Elyse Douglas is the pen name for the husband and wife writing team of Elyse Parmentier and Douglas Pennington. Elyse began writing poems and short stories at an early age and graduated with a degree in English Literature. Douglas began writing novels in college while studying music at the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music.  He traveled the world as a professional pianist for many years.  He has also worked as a copywriter and corporate manager.

Some of Elyse Douglas’ novels include The Christmas Eve Letter (A Time Travel Novel), Christmas for Juliet, The Summer Letters, The Christmas Diary, The Summer Diary, and The Lost Mata Hari Ring. They live in New York City.

Website: www.elysedouglas.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/douglaselyse
Facebook: www.facebook.com/elyse.authorsdouglas

Buy Christmas Eve Daughter: Time Travel Novel by Elyse Douglas

Amazon
BarnesandNoble
Indiebound
BookDepository

UNDAUNTED ANGELIQUE – Marilyn Armstrong

“Nounou,” inquired Angelique, “Why did Giles de Retz kill so many children?”

With these words, one of the world’s greatest series of historical fiction begins. It is a translation from French. I have been told that much was lost in a not-very-good translation. But I don’t read well enough in French. Once, I did, but that was a very long time ago.

angelique book cover

Nothing will change the way I feel about these books. Most were written long years ago. I read the first of them when I was 13. I still have the book, though the binding is broken and the pages are beginning to turn to dust.

The first book was published in 1957 and I read it in 1960. In those days, I lived in books. I didn’t have friends. I was too different. I’ve always been out of step. Sometimes, a lot, occasionally almost catching up with my peers. But back then … I was weird.

Then I met Angelique.


The fifth child of an impoverished country nobleman, Angélique de Sancé grows up in the Poitou marshlands, a region known as the “Green Venice”, halfway between the ocean and the forests. She is a free child, as one with the forest and the marshes, discovering nature’s healing secrets with the help of the witch Mélusine. Her logical destiny would be to marry a poor country nobleman, have children and spend her life fighting for a meager subsistence.

Destiny has other plans in store for her. At 17, when she returns from the convent where she has been getting an education, she finds herself betrothed to the wealthy count of Toulouse, Joffrey de Peyrac. He is 12 years her senior, lame, scarred and rumored to be a wizard.

from the review by Harvey Adkins


Angélique’s life and adventures inspired me and gave me courage.

angelique pages book

Thus the story begins. In subsequent volumes, they will take you through most of the world of Louis XIV. Joffrey becomes the love of Angélique’s life. After he is burned at the stake for heresy (and for being too politically powerful), Angélique finds herself homeless, penniless, with babies to protect in the underworld of Paris. Yet she rises up from the gutters back to the glittering court of Louis XIV. Confronts him on the murder of her husband, rebels against him, leads a group of Huguenots to the New World. Builds a colony, fights emissaries of the church and King to retain her freedom. Along the way, she has children — from a variety of fathers, including one resulting from rape — and one is murdered.

With all the power of Crown and Church arrayed against her, Angélique finds a way through and emerges victorious. Bowed, but never beaten. Her defeats are temporary setbacks, her triumphs change the world.

She is deathlessly beautiful. If you are a woman taking on the world, it’s never bad to have golden hair and hypnotic green eyes. But Angélique doesn’t win the day using sex. When she leads, she carries a gun and a sword. She will kill in defense of her own (and does). She will fight for her family, her home, her beliefs.

She became much more than a fictional character to me. At a time when female role models were few and far between, Angélique was fearless. Unstoppable. No simpering lady of fashion, she was tough. Smart. She suffered the worst life could dish out. She faced down unspeakable challenges. And there were casualties.

Back in the real world, author Anne Golan was fighting her publisher for the rights to her books.

Anne Golon was born 17 December 1921 as Simone Changeux in Toulon, France. She published her first novel at 18 as Joëlle Danterne. During World War II, she traveled by bicycle through France and Spain writing under various pen-names. She helped create France Magazine. Was sent to Africa as a journalist, where she met Vsevolod Sergeïvich Goloubinoff, her husband, Serge Golon.

angelique french editionThey collaborated on Angélique. Anne wrote. Serge did the considerable research required by these surprisingly accurate books. The first book in the series was an astounding success. The books were credited to Serge and Anne Golon, (Sergeanne Golon), the names having been merged by publishers who were reluctant to print books written by women.

In 1972, Anne and Serge Golon went to Canada to continue research. Anne wrote Angélique and the Ghosts. Serge died.

Anne continued writing and raising her 4 children. Between 1972 and 1985, she wrote four more books. While battling Hachette for unpaid royalties and rights, Anne Golon lived in extreme poverty. She finally won, leaving her sole owner of the works.

These are the books which were translated into English:

Angélique, The Marquise of the Angels
Angélique: The Road to Versailles (US and the UK with the 1st volume, Angélique)
Angélique and the King
Angélique and the Sultan (aka, Angélique in Barbary)
Angélique in Revolt
Angélique in Love
The Countess Angélique
The Temptation of Angélique (In Canada as: The Temptation of Angélique 1: The Jesuit Trap, The Temptation of Angélique 2: The Downfall of Goldbeard)
Angélique and the Demon
Angélique and the Ghosts.

The English translation of this series stopped abruptly with Angélique and the Ghosts. Anne Golon’s fans — like their fictional heroine — wanted to know what had happened to the author. We found her, in Paris, alive, well, and still writing. We learned — as of August, 2009 — there were three yet-untranslated books already in the series:

Angélique à Quebec
Angélique: Route de L’Espoir
Victoire d’Angélique

Ms. Golon also announced 2 more books: Royaume de France, (“Kingdom of France”) to follow Victoire, and a 15th and final volume, yet untitled. None of these has been translated. English-language readers — like me — have waited more than 35 years. An entire lifetime during which I have gone from adolescent to a senior citizen.

Anne-Golon

I’ve read thousands of books during these long years, but never lost hope for translations of the new Angélique book. Anne Golon is well into her 90s, but like Angélique herself, nothing short of Death himself can stop this remarkable woman.

The Angélique fan group to which I belonged fell apart some years back. There were deaths. Surviving members squabbled. You can still find information at Angélique Books.

It’s not easy to find intact copies of the books, but if you are interested, don’t give up. Amazon has some. ABE Books often has copies. And there’s eBay.

Maybe there will be new copies eventually. I hope to see them republished. Soon would be good, because none of us are getting any younger.


July 2017: I just read that Anne Golon passed away on Friday at the age of 95. She was writing until the end. She inspired me as a girl and instilled the belief I could do anything a man could do. She was a wind behind my back for a lifetime. If you read French, there is an article in Figaro here.