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Monday, November 22, 2010

Reviewer Suggests Book for Holiday Gifts

A Packet of Dreams
Paperback (June 6, 2008)
By John Howard Reid
Author's Web site: http://www.authorsden.com/johnhowardreid
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Lulu.com (June 6, 2008)
Language: English ISBN-10: 1435719859
ISBN-13: 978-1435719859


Reviewed  by Joyce White

"The short stories are like a recipe book of different tastes. They encompass humor, romance, reality and fiction. All are smooth and heartwarming. Five Stars from me for Amazon and the author, John Howard-Reid."



This book, A Packet of Dreams, is John Howard-Reid’s third collection of short prose stories. It is a spirited little paranormal drama that takes place in a circus-like atmosphere between a concession barker and a mysterious but attractive young girl. Reid wrote the main character, Arthur Knight, as the slapdash old-fashioned barker and owner of the merry-go-round concessions. In the distance he heard and felt beckoned, “Dreams for Sale! Dreams for Sale!” The voice called out to his greed first and foremost. The young girl was dressed in what I perceived to be dowdy navel-like smock with silver buttons. Arthur was not impressed although he thought she was pretty. He said to her, “Even if you sell a dozen packets of dreams a day, I still don’t like it.” She replied quickly, “I don’t sell them, I trade them.” I thought it interesting that the young girl was trading dreams stationed right opposite the laughing clowns.

There were more questions than answers for Arthur. Who was this girl? Surely, she was no angel. Then he wondered if she was would-be religious nut or just plain nut. I think the girl’s uniform gave us the perception that she was a formal organization like the Salvation Army. He was still her first and only customer. She explained to him how our dreams flow from our inner hearts, thoughts, and longings. Our dreams reflect the very fiber of our souls much like any creative expression. Arthur was no longer amused when he heard how his packet of dreams would cost him but he couldn’t resist her. I loved this little piece for Reid’s optimism, imagination and courage to write such a fable that taught a good lesson for us all.

The next story was “The Reclamation of Edwin Drood. Charles Dickens' unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, has been a source of speculation and controversy ever since it was featured in a monthly edition of news daily years ago. There have been many films and books devoted to giving Dickens’s story a proper ending. He intrigued readers with a sort of soap opera of weird characters that appealed to the creative license in many writers. Some believe the final chapter was to have been set in the prison where Jasper awaits execution for the murder of Edwin Drood.

“It is no fun being buried alive,” remarked Edwin, stepping into the lamplight…but not scaring his murderer, Jasper …I am wrong. Wronged and wrong. Disguise from you is impossible. You know already that I come from somewhere and am going somewhere else.”

Some believe this story was a fictionalized account of the last five years of Dickens’s own life. Unfortunately, Dickens died before completing the last half of the novel. Some even believe Charles Dickens was trying to overcome skepticism of the supernatural. Perhaps, he was chasing his own ghosts when writing A Christmas Carol, so popular during the holidays. Dickens was known to have declared, “I have endeavored, in this Ghostly little book, A Christmas Carol, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humor with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.”

I’ve heard it said those that write do and those who can’t are critics. Obviously, they haven’t come upon John Howard-Reid. He is a bestselling, prizewinning author and writing contest judge, who have also worked as a publisher, editor, critic and bookseller. This third story I am reviewing is a short, comical and philosophical conversation about how to interest their library patrons into reading new authors and more recent books. I kind of agree there is not much instantaneous gratification for writing our hearts. This third story showed a simple little test of will power for a group of library patrons and writers. It was named Contest Blues. This story is a perfect example of how no two people are inspired in quite the same way. We each have innate talents and interests and we’re all quite stubborn in fulfilling our mission in life.

Mrs. Winthrop, the Chief Librarian, was described like many older female librarians, way too partial to the classics and a little dingy ready to retire this coming year. Unfortunately, it was very hard for any of the five selected judges to agree on anything. I enjoyed the line, “Cunning is the head that aspires to wear a crown.” They each aspired to wear the crown. The six finally decided they would hold a contest on original, unpublished work. They decided on 3,000 words and then argued about themes like prose, poetry, philosophy, true-life or essays. Each annoyed the other.

Honeywell, one of the judges referred to prose as a polished exposition of its central character’s dilemma, predicament or situation. James Joyce, the popular author, felt writing in English was devised to punish sins committed in previous lives. “It was decided about after four names and ninety-eight inconsequential words had been changed; and they finally picked the number one winner.” This was the first and final Jacobs County Literary Competition. I wonder why? The short stories are like a recipe book of different tastes. They encompass humor, romance, reality and fiction. All are smooth and heartwarming. Five Stars from me for Amazon and the author, John Howard-Reid

I like to end my review with one of the poems tucked in at the back of the book, Written In Exhile, by Rafael Alberti and Translated by Richard Ledham:

Who are you? You who call me from behind
So voicelessly from so far away?
With thoughts so terrifying, grave not gay,
Whispering my name to the appalled and silent wind?
Who are you? What cries do you try to find
What distant sounds endeavor to convey…
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Reviewer Joyce White may be found at http://www.wingedforarttherapy.com/ and http://www.sculptingtheheart.com/. She writes Sculpting the Heart Book Reviews and is author of Sculpting the Heart: Surviving Depression With Art Therapy and Sculpting the Heart’s Poetry.

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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

this would make a great gift for the holidays coming up

Anonymous said...

"Wild is the Heart" is such a touching read! Sona's poetry opens your mind and heart to the world.

"I travel. Traveling to be, to see and to understand." - one of my favorite lines and I can completely relate.

Pick up this book, read it, think about it and you will smile. Superb work, Sona!!! Looking forward to more!