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Motions and Moments: More Essays on Tokyo
By: Michael Pronko
Publisher: Raked Gravel Press
Publication Date: December 2015
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: April 23, 2016
Motions and Moments is a well-thought-out compilation of introspective ‘essays about Tokyo’ by Michael Pronko.
The third in his series of musings toward Tokyo living is an interesting and captivating read. The book is laid out in logical fashion in that it takes the author on a journey of: ‘...first you take a step… then you take another...’ There are a total of five parts to the book beginning with “Surfaces.” In the opening part, Pronko focuses on the nuances and mannerisms of the inhabitants of Tokyo—millions of people co-habitating in miniscule space. He speaks of “The Language Dance” under the guise of how people can go “...for weeks without needing to converse with anyone. You can silently order, pay the bill, use an IC or credit card to slip in and out of stations, and get by at work or shopping with set polite phrases that involve no real thought...” In his next sentence he challenges his audience with the premise of Tokyo being the city of conversations. Part I of Mr. Pronko’s book is a terrific foundation that sets the tone to assuage the reader’s mindset in preparation for learning all there could possibly be to know about life in Tokyo.
Each essay is succinct in that it doesn’t span more than 3-4 pages, yet by the end of each essay; one has a sense of reading a short story and enjoying the journey in so doing. There is a tone of absolute respect Mr. Pronko has for Tokyo and its natives. Later in the book, he devotes a section to the architecture and construction abound. It was interesting to read his comparisons between we westerners and our affinity with sprawl. Yet, in Tokyo, there is only so much real estate to spread out upon and the ‘fix’ Tokyo has mastered is to go up (versus out). Imagine! Getting lost in a city beneath its surface!
Michael Pronko has an engaging tone through his writing. He is conversational as much as educational without boring his audience with too much lecture. It is no wonder he has hung his hat in this mystical place for fifteen years. His essays have a beautiful flow from one thought to the next and it was easy for me to settle into the journey of this body of work. He often uses the Japanese word (or words) for the subject he depicts and, in my opinion, this infuses greater credibility to the essays he has written. There is a subtle nuance that plays throughout this series of essays that piques a desire in the reader to visit this enchanted land. With such a large population on such a small island, it is abundantly clear harmony among its inhabitants is a must. Mr. Pronko depicts this time and again throughout this wonderful compilation of essays. Well done!
Quill says: Motions and Moments is a terrific series of essays that captures the essence and allure of Tokyo with a lot of heart infused in the work.
For more information on Motions and Moments: More Essays on Tokyo, please visit the author's website at: www.michaelpronko.com
Shot Down: The true story of pilot Howard Snyder and the crew of the B-17 Susan Ruth
By: Steve Snyder
Publisher: Sea Breeze Publishing, LLC
Publication Date: August 2014
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: April 20, 2016
Steve Snyder brings his dad, Howard Snyder and his exceptional flight crew of the WWII B-17 Susan Ruth, back to vibrant life across the pages of his memoir: Shot Down.
Sometime around February 8, 1944, Howard Snyder and the crew of the Susan Ruth were forced to abandon ship. The Susan Ruth was struck by enemy fire and the cockpit was filling with smoke (and fire) at a rapid rate. Howard Snyder was the pilot and the mission began as each mission began. The crew assumed their positions in the tight quarters of their aircraft. They donned the air and eased into fighter formation. Sadly, on this day, their fate perhaps was pre-destined, but none of the men could have known what lay ahead in the days and months to come once their craft began its rapid descent from the comfort of clouds and sky.
The campaign of war and the formidable Nazi Regime led by the tyrannical monster, Hitler, was far from being over the day the Susan Ruth went down. Rather, the heat was being turned up more than a notch and proud American soldiers had one vision they focused on: stop the madness of Hitler. Howard Snyder had a young wife and two beautiful baby girls state-side. Yet, as his ship spiraled downward, all he could wonder was whether he and his crew would make it out alive. Would they be captured? Would they perish? Would they survive if captured? Beyond the crash, the days and months ahead would live in infamy in Snyder’s memories years beyond the end of war. Although his son Steve had yet to be conceived, it would be his commitment and the love of his father and family that would compel him to set pen to paper decades later and begin his personal journey of telling the world yet another story of the brave crew of the Susan Ruth.
I finished reading Shot Down a little over a week ago, but wanted to savor this magnificent story before immediately running to my computer to write my critique. From the onset of this amazing story, I felt an instant connection with this author. He is proud. He is bursting with love. He is patient and he is on a mission to tell his father’s story not only with heart, but with precise accuracy. I was not aware of the tyranny and day-to-day trauma our brave men of this era faced. My dad was a WWII Veteran (82nd Airborne). I often recall how close-mouthed he was when it came to sharing his experience. It was simply something he had no desire to speak of. I applaud Mr. Snyder for his conviction in getting the thoughts down on paper—thoughts created by hours, months and years of sifting through the journals his father kept as much as sourcing historical accounts to get it right. The honor and pride this author has for his father is audible page after page and he pays beautiful homage to the ghosts left in the wake of such an egregious war. While I did not fact check every historical reference, I commend Mr. Snyder for his exceptional bibliography and index at the back of the book. It further enhances his commitment to telling the story and his rounded ability as an historical writer. The love this man has for his father and men (and women) in service is palpable and I thank him for his service in sharing such a beautifully written memoir. Well done Mr. Snyder.
Quill says: Shot Down is a compelling memoir that further affirms why we must ‘never forget.’
By: Ruth Finnegan
Publisher: Garn Press
Publication Date: August 2015
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Date: April 12, 2016
Finnegan spins a refreshing, one-of-a-kind love story in her epic novel Black Inked Pearl.
Kate is fifteen years of age at the time she meets her enigmatic lover by the Wild Atlantic Way in Donegal, Ireland. Although entranced, Kate's youth and inexperience push her to immediately reject her lover. Under the tutelage and spiritual instruction of the nuns at convent school, Kate finds herself vacillating between feelings of guilt and desires for pure love. As a result, Kate longs to be in her lover's presence, constantly keeping to a dreamy state. Growing up in Ireland, "she knew her fate was a quiet, gentle one. Among the paths of faerie, Tir na nOg, enchanted dreams and histories...Just an ordinary girl. In a magical world."
Years later as a successful young businesswoman, Kate appears to put away childish things, finding many yet superficial loves en route. Traveling to the Congo in Africa, Kate is caught off guard when she listens to a storyteller's version of the Garden of Eden story. It is in the retelling that her heart is stirred and she once again finds herself longing for the presence of her lover. In her quest for love and happiness, Kate makes her way to various places—both corporeal (i.e., Donegal, Ireland; St. Pancras, London; an old-aged home) and intangible (i.e., hell, heaven, and Eden). Although Kate is often in a quandary about life and love, her viewpoint begins to change when she meets a beetle that points her in the right direction and literally out of the pit of hell.
Finnegan's writing style transcends all concepts, definitions, and boundaries of storytelling, leaving readers to draw their own interpretations. Using a combination of prose and poetry, Finnegan weaves in segments of secular and sacred works of Shakespeare, Rumi, W. B. Yeats, Wittgenstein (philosopher), Homer, William Blake, Milton, Rider Haggard, Ralph Waldo Emerson, as well as various Christian prayers within Kate's quest for true love. Finnegan's third person narrative keeps to a near lilting style reminiscent of Irish literature that carries its own trance-like quality. Since Finnegan's plot constantly highlights allusions, it is difficult to tell when scenes shift from reality to surreal and vice versa.
That said, Kate's journey evokes a progressive dream. Indeed, many scenes are replete with nonsensical situations, people, beasts, celestial beings, and to top the list, a talking beetle. Considered one of God's lowly creatures, the beetle (nicknamed Mickey, which the beetle finds disrespectful so the name is only mentioned once) functions to some extent like Jiminy Cricket, encouraging Kate (so-to-speak) to "let her conscience be her guide." With so many references to God and Kate's self-awareness, one could easily interpret that Kate is on a spiritual quest and that her search for true love begins with loving herself first and foremost.
Quill says: A highly atypical romance tale, Black Inked Pearl is a must read for those who desire a deeper understanding in the realm of love!