Dune: a book review

I enjoy science fiction stories. I’ll read in any genre. But science fiction challenges me in a way most other types of books don’t. The detailed world-building, and odd people and place names require my reading progress to be tortoise-like. Focusing on slow reading, and sometimes going back over certain parts again to make sure I understand what happened, is the only way I can understand and appreciate the story the author is trying to tell.

I decided a while ago that I wanted to read the seminal works of science fiction that I had not read yet. There stood Dune– the ground-breaking five hundred page book that I had picked up once or twice over the years. My brother is my source on almost all things sci-fi/fantasy. And it was his copy I had borrowed once, maybe twice, over the years. This time would be different, I told myself. This time I would keep going when I felt overwhelmed by everything that makes the story great: the mythology, the number of major and minor characters, the implicit meanings behind actions and words.

And I finished it. It will surely be one of my biggest reading accomplishments of the year, likely multiple years. I’m glad I stuck with it. Herberts’ brilliant mind conceived a world of politics, religion, and ecology. Plenty of adventure, mystery, and emotion. But there are also unanswered questions: some will be answered later in the series, and I’m sure some will not.

What about you? Have you read Dune? If so, what did you think about it? What have you enjoyed reading lately? Thanks for checking out this review.

The Gentleman

The gentleman walks into a room without asking for attention,
but he gets it anyway. Everyone sees that
he is dressed the part.
Those who look closer, notice his bearing.
He carries himself with a quiet confidence.
The kind that says, I know who I am.
And I know that I belong here.
He respects, and earns the respect of all:
women and men, those of high station or low.
He treats them all as equals.

The women he has fancied all remember him.
He is gentle with their emotions,
but strong in their defense when the situation requires.
Tender, but unquestionably masculine.
Every man she meets will be judged based
on the high standards he set for himself.

When he leaves, people talk about him;
How he can converse on a broad range of subjects
without putting on airs, without showing off.
They talk about how he puts others at ease.
Ladies want his attention. Men want to be him.


Best of 2018

Hi, everyone. It’s good to be back on my blog to highlight the books I enjoyed most in 2018. Leif Enger, the author of one of my favorite novels, Peace Like A River, published a new book this year titled Virgil Wander. Much like his previous novels, Virgil Wander explores life in the Upper Midwest with a mix of insight and wonder that I have grown to love in his stories. He brings a large cast of characters to this story, which was something new for Enger. His previous novels have felt a bit more intimate, with fewer characters. This book was worth the ten year wait since his last book.



I read Dark Matter by Blake Crouch on the recommendation of my friend, Hannah, who has a YouTube channel called From Beginning To Bookend that you should definitely check out. Dark Matter is a book that will appeal to a wide range of readers. Hannah describes it as a cyberpunk techno-thriller. Even if that description doesn’t sound like the kind of story you usually read, you should still give this book a chance. It will appeal to almost every reader of fiction. Everyone I know of who read it after I talked about it, finished it quickly just like I did. One word of advice- don’t read the synopsis on the back. Just start on the first page and enjoy the ride.

dark matter


One of my favorite genres over the past several years has been Southern fiction. One of the best examples of this kind of story that is read this year is Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. I picked this book up as a souveneir of my first time to visit Asheville, NC, last summer. Allen combines the North Carolina setting with elements of magic realism reminiscent of Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic into a story that just makes you feel good, like a pot of hot chicken noodle soup on a cold night.

garden spells


Wishtree by Katherine Applegate is a middle grade book written from the perspective of Red, a 200+ year old oak tree inhabited by all kinds of animals. On the first day of May, several people who live near the tree write down a wish and tie it to one of Red’s branches. One little girl in particular, enjoys visiting Red. But others in the neighborhood don’t like her habit of coming around. Wishtree is a kid-friendly story about tolerance that I thoroughly enjoyed.



Elmet by Fiona Mozley is the story of a poor family fighting a wealthy landowner to save their home. The lyrical writing along with a rural setting make it easy to mistake it for Southern fiction. But the setting is actually northern England. Family, love, loyalty, and justice are a few themes taken on in this wonderful debut.



Melmoth by Sarah Perry, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, and Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens are three of the books I plan to read in 2019. It will be interesting to find out if they appear on this list in a year’s time. Meanwhile, what were some of your favorite books that you read in 2018? Did you read any of my picks? If so, what did you think of them? As always, thanks for reading.

Best of 2017

What usually comes to mind as I think of my “best of” list are primarily books. This year I’ll include music and movie recommendations as well. Beginning with books, I continued reading Southern fiction this year, as my interest was piqued in that genre toward the end of last year. One of my favorite books of the year was Gap Creek by Robert Morgan. It came out in 1999, so I was quite late to this one. But I consider it a must read of the genre: a chronicle of the ups and downs in the marriage of a young couple. By turns heart-wrenching and inspiring, I love this story.


Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt was a very different book than what I normally pick up. Not since I binge-read most of Stephen King’s books more than ten years ago have I come across a more suspenseful and scary story than this one. Black Spring is a picturesque town in the Hudson Valley. But it is haunted by the Black Witch- a 17th century woman whose eyes and mouth are sown shut. What happens when a group of the town’s teenagers go viral with the haunting is the stuff of nightmares.



Solar Bones by Mike McCormack was one of the most interesting books I’ve read in years. It was named Irish Book of the Year for 2016, and was in contention for the Man Booker Prize. Marcus Conway sits at his kitchen table and considers the events that took him away and brought him back home. His thoughts unfold stream of consciousness style, while he contemplates events of both local and world significance. This is a challenging and rewarding story.

solar bones


Changing subjects, last spring I was thrilled to be able to see the Broadway musical, Once, based on the film of the same name. The film instantly became a favorite of mine the first time I watched it, after a friend recommended it to me not long after it released in 2007. So when I heard it was being adapted for Broadway, I knew I needed to see it if it came to a stage near me. And I’m so glad it did. The story follows an Irish vacuum repairman who moonlights as a street musician. He has a chance meeting one day with a Czech immigrant, who has her own musical aspirations. They connect on both a musical and personal level, and decide to record an album of original songs.

The movie progresses with a quiet, restrained power that drew me in and still has a hold on me to this day. The live show has those same moments of tenderness and pathos. But the humor is presented in a more lively and dramatic (for lack of a better word) way. By the time the company reprised “Falling Slowly” to end the show, I was in tears. If you’re a fan of musical theater, this is worth seeing. A word of caution: there is some language and off-color humor in this show.



La La Land was my favorite movie that I saw this year. It released late in 2016, but I am not usually attracted to movies that are hyped as much as this one was. So I avoided it for a while, before finally deciding I would take a chance and watch it. Similar to Once, La La Land follows two creative dreamers: Sebastian, a Jazz musician, and Mia, an aspiring actress. The movie tells the story of the struggles and triumphs of their romantic and creative lives. The big song from this movie, City of Stars, inspired a poem I published on my blog earlier this year.


Thanks for reading. And I would love to know what books, movies, music, and whatever else you enjoyed this year.

The Harry Potter Tag

I saw this post on Jenny’s blog here. As a big Harry Potter fan, I had to fill it out with my answers. The original idea for this was to fill it out when someone tags you. I wasn’t tagged, so I’m not going to tag anyone. But if you see this and decide to do it, I’d love to see your answers.



1. What house are you in?

The most difficult question first. Here’s where I reveal my Harry Potter nerd status. I’ve thought about this a lot, and I feel like I haven’t figured it out for sure yet. I could see myself in Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff. But I think no matter which house I were sorted in, I would stand out as different from the other students. I’m going to say Hufflepuff.


2. What is your Patronus?

A dog.


3. What is your wand?

Ash wood, unicorn hair core, brittle flexibility.


4. What would your boggart be?

I think my boggart would be similar Harry’s- basically fear itself.


5. What position would you play in Quiddich?

Probably a seeker, since these players are usually the smallest on the team.


6. Would you be a pure-blood, half-blood or muggle born?

Probably the second most difficult question to answer. I’ll say pure-blood.

7. What job would you want to have after leaving Hogwarts?

Writer or professor.


8. Which of the Deathly Hallows would you choose?

The Cloak of Invisibility.


9. Favourite book?

The Goblet of Fire.


10. Least favourite book?

The Order of the Phoenix.


11. Favourite film?

The Goblet of Fire.


12. Least favourite film?

The Order of the Phoenix.


13. Favourite character?

So many great ones come to mind: aside from the three main characters, there is Cedric Diggory, Neville Longbottom, Ginny Weasley and Luna Lovegood. Right now I’ll say Longbottom.


14. Least favourite/most hated character?

Tie between Gilderoy Lockhart and Delores Umbridge. Also there’s that Voldemort guy.


15. Favourite teacher at Hogwarts?

Minerva McGonagall.


16. Least favourite teacher at Hogwarts?

Tie between Lockhart and Umbridge.


17. Do you have any unpopular opinions about the series?

I don’t think of Hufflepuff as a lesser house compared to the others. I know Hufflepuff has increased in popularity recently. But I think this still remains somewhat of an unpopular opinion.


I’m always up for a conversation about all things Harry Potter. I look forward to seeing other people’s answers to these questions.


They lie on their backs, shoulder to shoulder,
staring up at the stars. Wondering, is she the one?
Is he? But the most important thing is this moment;
the cool of the grass, the warmth of each other.
The universe hears their question. Attention and
patience will bring the reply. Until then,
with hopeful smiles on their faces,
they wish on each falling star.

Standing now, hand in hand. The Milky Way
stretching across the sky, looks brighter
than ever. Are we really made of stars?
These two people feel that to be true.
The night sky fills them with reverence,
wonderment, and love. They turn toward
each other. And the stars in each other’s
eyes give them the answer they seek.



When we met, our connection was immediate, unmistakable.

Everyone around us noticed, too. The music of our hearts played

for each other, and for all to hear. We found in each other,

a part of ourselves that we had been searching for. Learning

each other was discovering ourselves. We seemed to already know

what we would find before it happened. But forever was not

to be for us. And, somehow, we knew it.

Sometimes, love is better that way. A bright flame for a time,

then, like embers, glowing forever in the memories and hearts

of those it touched, and leaving two people changed for the better.

She will remember me. I know this just as I know the reverse.

Ours is not a fairy tale ending. It’s much more real.

My guess is that you know this love, too.

Two people, a chance meeting, and a lifetime of memories.


The best books I read in 2016

I read lots of good books in 2016 across several different genres. I always enjoy revisiting a few old favorites as well as discover new books and authors. Here are a few of the best books I read this year.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead will probably be the last book I finish this year. It is without a doubt one of the best. I discovered Whitehead through the recommendation of a friend in the early 2000s. His first book, The Intuitionist, had come out to much critical and commercial acclaim. I read it and liked it. But I didn’t read any of his subsequent books over the years, until The Underground Railroad. I recognized it’s author from his first book. And I couldn’t ignore this book after it won the National Book Award. His writing impressed me in his first book, and it wowed me in his latest one. Whitehead’s story of that famous “railroad” is brought with a combination of well-done research, sympathetic characters, and self-assured, lyrical prose. I will be reading the books of Whitehead’s that I missed, and I give his latest book my highest recommendation.


The second book on my list is also historical fiction. It comes from one of my favorite writers that I discovered this year. Erika Robuck writes historical fiction revolving around the lives of famous writers. She caught my attention with novels based on the lives of two of my favorite authors: Ernest Hemingway (Hemingway’s girl) which is pictured above, and F. Scott Fitzgerald (Call Me Zelda). She has written several other novels as well. Robuck has a wonderful way of writing about complex characters and relationships, while painting a clear picture of the specific time and place. I was also honored she accepted my invitation to talk about her books, and writing in general on my podcast, La Literati.



I read A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman with my friend, Jenny. It’s a story about a grumpy curmudgeon who has his life disrupted by people he would rather not have anything to do with. What follows is a novel with equal amounts of humorous and heart-warming moments. I’ve also recently seen a movie trailer, so I look forward to watching the film adaptation of this story.



Next on my list is unique in that it is a one-act play written by my friend, Briana Morgan. Touch is a drama that takes place in a world where deliberate physical contact is a crime. The main character has never spent much time questioning this taboo. But the arrest of some of her classmates changes this. She decides to do it, and discoveres the power of touch, and how it affects people. It’s a short, thought-provoking read that I enjoyed.



I am a great fan of Westerns. This is probably due to my Dad’s enjoyment of John Wayne movies. In time, I came to love the Westerns that Clint Eastwood starred in. At any rate, I seek out these types of stories in books and movies. Fortunately, there are quite a few good ones to be enjoyed. True Grit is one of my favorites. I watched the movie with John Wayne playing the role of Rooster Cogburn. But I didn’t learn that it was a book until the remake came out with Jeff Bridges playing the marshal. I love this story, and prefer the remake to the original, which is a point of friendly contention between my Dad and me.



The last two books I want to mention are science fiction and fantasy, respectively. In Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, we are in the year 2044. Wade, the main character, like many other people don’t care much for the real world. Their escape is the OASIS, which is a virtual utopia created by James Halliday. Halliday has hidden clues to a golden egg: a massive fortune that is promised to the person who can solve all the riddles steeped in 1980s pop culture references. Halliday grew up in that decade, as I did. So that made this story a fun read. But even if you don’t understand or like all of the pop culture references, there is still the virtual quest with some romance added to the mix to keep you entertained.



The last book is a modern fantasy, Uprooted by Naomi Novik. I heard about it through a combination of online buzz, and friends working at Barnes & Noble who kept asking me if I had read it yet. The Dragon is not a literal dragon, but a man. He is a magician who lives in a tower outside of town. The Dragon protects the town from the evil forces in the Wood. As part of the arrangement, the Dragon takes a girl from the town every ten years to serve him and live with him in the tower, after which time she leaves to start her life over eslewhere.

The time for the next choosing is nigh. And Agnieszka fears what everyone thinks, that the Dragon will choose her best friend Kasia. But he doesn’t choose her. What follows is a very original story with elements of folklore and fairy-tale.


So these were a few of my favorite books that I read this year. I would love to hear what you thought of any of these that you read. And what books would make your list of the best books you read this year?

A Scholarly Gentleman

My friend, Tosha, shared this with me in honor of my upcoming birthday. She is the best friend I could ever ask for, and an extremely talented writer and singer. Her blog is a wonderful read. I highly recommend it.

One of my best friends is celebrating his birthday soon and I wanted to do something special for him. Niles and I go way back and we’ve been seen some (insert curse word here) Twelve years of friendship and our bond just grows stronger. This is my tribute to a gentleman with a lovely creative […]

via A Scholarly Gentleman — Everything I Never Told You