Monday, May 17, 2010

THE TAVERNIER STONES by Stephen Parrish

The Tavernier StonesThe Tavernier Stones
by Stephen Parrish

May 1 2010 by MIDNIGHT INK
Paperback, 384 pages

0738720569 (isbn13: 9780738720562)

rating: 5 of 5 stars

 "There's a dead guy out there."

When a very old body and an even older gem surface in a bog in northern Germany, persons worldwide realize they're the missing clues to the Tavernier stones, a lost cache of legendary jewels.  Amish-born cartographer John Graf throws in his lot with scholar-turned-thief David Freeman in this modern-day treasure hunt.  Together with David's gorgeous partner-in-crime Sarah, they race around the world.  They don't know it, but they're up against a German Kommissar, a rival crook, and a penurious gentlewoman who bears a striking resemblance to the Wicked Witch of the West.


You know when you find the perfect pair of jeans? It's when you try them on in the fitting room, checking from all angles, and realize, "Wow, these make my butt look amazing." That's how you'll feel about Tavernier Stones (more or less). Reading this book makes you look - and feel - amazing.

Let's be honest. I wouldn't have picked up Tavernier Stones on my own. I'd read the first chapter at Book Roast (RIP), and I'd ordered a copy in support of Stephen, a friend in our 100+ person writing circle. Still, considering I'm named after a YA fantasy heroine, I didn't expect to adore this one quite so much as I did. I inhaled it - reading time: 2 hours, 47 minutes.

Stephen Parrish, much like a snake charmer, coaxed me out of literary complacency with a novel of intelligence and wit (o, the wit; the startling humor!) As a lover of YA, I'm suspect of harsh, bitter writing. Parrish's writing can be mellifluous, almost poetic. He's not permanently jaded about the human condition, as evidenced by this early, poetic statement about John Graf:

His eyes stared frankly and uncritically, and if he made people feel transparent, he compensated by finding no flaws in their vitreous souls.

Of course, as a theologian, I'm suspect when religion garners mention on the book jacket. Parrish, however, dealt justly with the Amish faith and culture. As an intellectual, I'm suspect when mathematics code takes an entire chapter. Parrish keeps the pace going. The plot doesn't lag even in the chapters featuring pigpen cipher. Plus, I congratulated myself after I puzzled my way through the clues (with Parrish's omnipresent guidance).

I'm afraid one particular strength of this novel will be overlooked, because it's so seamlessly and naturally assumed in Parrish's writing: its organic feminism. For example, Parrish could have flattened Sarah (Smith) Sainte-James into a caricature pancake. (And the one character who is flattened - literally - defies gender stereotypes.)  Instead we see, as Graf does, through to Sarah's potential. As she develops her own strength, she realizes this is who she could have been all along. I liked Sarah, by the end (despite the fact that she's responsible for the worst romantic choice since Jo picked Dr. Baer over Laurie.)


If your favorite authors include Danielle Steele, Stephanie Meyer or Sarah Dessen, this is not a book you'd love.  Everyone else will enjoy, if not devour, this fast-paced, carefully crafted treasure hunt.  It's certainly gift-worthy, an absolutely perfect Father's Day gift, right down to the dedication Parrish makes to his daughter.

Barbara Martin



Adventures in Reading, Mark Terry, spyscribbler, Mom and More, murmurs, Richard Levangie, Christopher M. Park, Work in Progress, Adventures in Writing, Jen K. Blom, Hoosblog, Jude Hardin, Travis Erwin

Monday, May 3, 2010

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT 7SS: Stephen Parrish

Little can be said about Stephen Parrish; less should be. He was one of those chaps in the group of "serious writers" into which I stumbled about two years ago.  His killer wit and strange attachment to improper spelling make him weirdly endearing.

Parrish's debut novel The Tavernier Stones was released officially on May 1. It's an intellectual's adventure story spanning two continents, Amish and Catholic religions, cartography, gemology and more math than I could ever learn. All without being stuffy or irrelevant.

You can learn important stuff about Stephen at some of his other blog tour stops (see below).  For all the non-important stuff, here is my own interview with Mr. Parrish.



Step #1
LIGHTNING ROUND

  • beer or wine? Wine, red, full of spice.
  • Miss Snark or Evil Editor? Miss Snark. I just can't picture Evil Editor in stiletto heels.
  • rich or brilliant? Brilliant, no question about it. If I think a girl is pretty, then discover she's an airhead, a strange thing happens to my perception: I no longer think she's pretty.
  • clever or sincere? If you let me replace "sincere" with "authentic," then I choose it over clever. Be who you really are and I don't care if my jokes go over your head.
  • celebrity crush: Cate Blanchett.
  • a phrase you use often: "Don't make me come over there and sit on you."
  • favorite movie: The best movie ever made, if movies can be ranked, is "Ben Hur."
Step #2
TELL US about any of your weird writing habits or idiosyncracies. (ie, What’s one “thing” you need to write, the thing without which the creative juices would cease to flow?)

I have to have a title, even if just a working title, before I can write a single word. And I have to have a name for a character before I can make him do anything. Otherwise it's just a matter of laying down words, any words at all, to seed the composition. And a good way to pick up tomorrow where you leave off today is to quit in mid-sentence.

Step #3
TEACH US one or two of your favorite vocabulary words.

1. Boner. Being out of vogue makes it funny. Also, I was formally reprimanded recently for using it in business correspondence, so naturally I employ it every chance I get. Boner, boner, boner.

2. Brain, used as a verb, i.e., to brain someone, to strike him on the head. Francis Parkman liked this verb when describing one person attacking another from behind: "He brained him unawares." That such expressions have fallen out of vogue is one of the crises the English language faces in modern times.

3. Metaphysical. Nobody really knows what it means, but it sure sounds heavy.

Step #4
BOOK BLANKS
  • The last book I finished reading was The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama.
  • I gave it five stars.
  • One word to describe it is fuckingbrilliant.
Step #5
QUESTION: What was the most challenging Tavernier Stones sequence to write?

The church scene, during holy mass, during which the image of the cross descends on the wall. I started out describing the entire Catholic mass in exquisite detail, intertwining the observations of various characters as the sun rose and the hour approached noon. But characters were eliminated in subsequent revisions, and I was under pressure to shorten and simplify the scene. It has been rewritten so many times and is so overworked that I can't bear to look at it.

Step #6
QUESTION: I’m dying of curiosity. Which Disney movie did Zimmerman feature?

"Beauty and the Beast." Belle, a book lover, is my favorite Disney babe.

Step #7
GIVE US THE SCOOP. Tell us something about yourself that’s exclusive to In Search of Giants (ie, has never been publicized in print or podcast interviews.)


Everyone who knows me believes I'm an atheist. (Erica Orloff insists I'm Buddhist, and I love her for it.) The label is fair; I don't believe in any formally recognized doctrine, certainly no dogma, and I wish every religious tome could be replaced by the eleven beautiful words that comprise the Golden Rule.

Having said that, I was trained as a mathematician. There are theorems so beautiful, so intricate, so breathtaking, the idea they exist by chance is unexceptable. The universe has architecture. Architecture necessarily implies an architect.

Did the Red Sea part? Did Lot's wife turn into salt? I don't think so. Did the universe randomly assemble itself so that Galois Theory, the utter mindboggling power of infinite series, and Euler's Identity just happened, like hitting the right lottery numbers over and over? I don't think so.



My sincere thanks to Stephen Parrish for this interview, my review copy of his book, and a newly-found Skype addiction.  I'll be posting my own review of The Tavernier Stones on Wednesday; and on Friday, I'll hold a contest so that you can win your very own copy of this debut novel. Plus, Stephen has generously offered a piece of the Berlin Wall as an additional prize. Imagine that as a paperweight!

Until then (and..because you might have to garner information for Friday's contest....), go check out these other places that feature Stephen Parrish:


MORE TOUR SITES
Adventures in Reading: On word-cutting. 

Mark Terry chats with Steve about marketing your book.  Well, their books.  Not your book.  You have to do that yourself, you lazy thing.

Jen K. Blom: Is Steve a dog or a cat person?

Hoosblog: An explanation of the title "Greatest Jewelry Salesman in the World"

Jude Hardin: The possibility of an American signing tour

Travis Erwin: What is Steve's secret publishing-jackpot fantasy?

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