Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Review of R, Murry's book The Audubon Caper

The Audubon Caper: Untold Story of the Theft of an American Treasure

Written by R. Murry

Guest Reviewer: Theresa Braun

R. Murry’s The Audubon Caper was a fast-paced story.  There are so many things going on in this creative non-fiction tale.  One of the greatest things about this book is that it’s based on a true story.  I kept thinking about that as I read, noting that definitely truth can be stranger than fiction.  Murry’s writing lets us really get to know him.  He’s frequently very open about his thoughts and feelings throughout the tale, something I really enjoyed.  We see him get caught up in drugs, booze, and sex, very fitting for the 70s scene—yet he graduates from college and accomplishes a lot, such as surviving Viet Nam and a number of other military feats.  Some other adventures include running drugs and flying off to Haiti.
            The story keeps us on our toes, shifting from the present and going into the past, and around again.  Murry tells us one of the reasons he gets involved in stealing the Audubon paintings is because of being loosened up by cocaine and scotch.  His rich college buddy van Zandt ends up roping Murry into the theft by using the powers of friendship.  In addition, Murry has vowed to van Zandt’s father to keep an eye on him, keeping him out of prison.  We see Murry getting in way over his head and that’s before we learn about the big named mafia guys who are connected to van Zandt.    
            Much of the story takes place in Key West, where the theft and the trial take place.  Murry’s colorful description of Key West is well done, as are his noting of details of his characters, giving us a rundown of what they wear and drink.  We get a really good historical sense of the significance of the Audubon paintings, something Murry does well.  It’s also fascinating how easily these artistic treasures are taken.  
Dancing with the FBI is one of the best parts of the story.  Murry explains his complex feelings about having already served his country in war and then having to serve his country to help catch the mob.  The trial where Murry testifies about his involvement in the Audubon Caper is really intense.  We see his having to think about himself and his new wife he hopes to be reunited with at the end of the story.  Murry has to outsmart van Zandt’s lawyer and many other players in the whole legal debacle.  We want to see him succeed and make it into the witness protection program as he is promised by the FBI.  Murry builds effective suspense at the end of his tale and we get a satisfying conclusion—partly because we know he lives to write about it. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Review of Theresa Braun's Groom and Doom

Review of Theresa Braun's Groom and Doom

Reviewed by R. Murry

Ms. Braun writes very well about the love story of Angela and her Greek god Stavros.  One statement, in the Pre-Wedding part of the tale, says a lot about what will follow.  Angela gets a psychic reading that basically states the love affair won’t work.  She gets upset and cries – she cries many times in the story.  Her friend consoles her by saying, “Forget him (His reading.) There’re always Whackos out there.”

Well, I’m not saying Whacko is a word I would use for all the characters in this novella, but I would say that the main characters lack mental fortitude.  Angela is living in a fantasy world when it comes to her love for Stavros.  She loves the mystic of the Greek world he’s from.  To her, he is not like any other man she knows, meaning he is not endowed with the masculine side she sees in others she has dated.

What Angela doesn’t see is that he is not the man, who stands up for his own - his lover – first.  It’s not in his character.  He is lovey-dovey though.  This character flaw doesn’t come out until the Wedding Trip, where his father, Georgius, is the main “Axe hole,” as Theresa states towards the end of her story.  She doesn’t even stand up for herself or her family.  Fools and whackos fall in love for stupid reasons.  Who am I to judge?

The Love Birds are in Greece for their marriage.  All doesn’t go the way Angela or Stavros cared for, because his father presents problems every chance he can against the wedding proceedings.  A non-excuse in my mind is his wife died eleven months ago; and the family must mourn her death for twelve.  A Greek tradition is not properly revered and stains the whole wedding celebrations – end of world.

Everything else in this novella is secondary but important to the characters development: family members fight over who gets what – cars, rooms, places at dinner, background, setting, etc., while preparing for the wedding.  All could have been avoided if Angela asked Stavros one question when he said he loved her and asked her “Will you marry me?”  That question should have been, “Which is it, me or your family?”  A harsh question, but it’s a realistic one before getting married. 

I know what the answer to that question would have been and so does Angela.  Then there wouldn’t have been a Greek Wedding in Greece.  The wedding would have been in the USA or there would not have been one.

Ms. Braun weaves a good story that shows the naiveté and flawed traits of her characters to their fullest.  This novella is geared towards women and is not the type of book I would normally read, but I must say it’s a tear jerker that soap opera fans would love.

Therefore, I give this endeavor FOUR STARS.


Interview with Theresa Braun, Author of Groom and Doom: A Greek Love Story

Interviewed by R. Murry.  A Review of Groom and Doom is forth coming.

Can you tell me a little about yourself?
I grew up in Minnesota and now live in South Florida.  I’m a recovering English teacher, having taught for about fourteen years.  Every minute I can get, I’m writing or doing research for my next project.  I would love to read more.  Finding symbolic or thematic meaning in a writer’s work is so much fun, which is one of the reasons I became an English teacher.  Also, I’m very interested in psychology and how people think and act.  Every day is a great lesson in character studies.  I’m also very fascinated by the unexplained, whether that be the possibility of past lives or the paranormal.  Ghosts, angels, demons, all interest me very much.

Do you remember the first story you wrote?
I’ve always been writing and creating things.  As a child I would write my own greeting cards for my parents and relatives.  I then started keeping a diary or journal.  There are notebooks upon notebooks of stories that I’ve started writing that are sitting in my closet right now.  I had the most fun in school when it came to creative writing—whether it be a poem or short story.

Were you inspired by someone or something?
Groom and Doom was inspired by my wedding in Greece.  The experience was so unbelievable, I knew that truth was stranger than fiction and I had to write the story.  Things are fictionalized and exaggerated, but there are definitely some real truths in it.  The whole process of writing it and making parts of it even more ridiculous was very cathartic for me.   

What do you like about writing a story?
I love the process of writing and getting in touch with the deepest part of myself.  I’d like to think that comes out in my work.  It’s also such a thrill to write a sentence and wonder, did I really write that?  I really believe that we often can tap into the collective unconscious.  That’s really what bonds us as human beings—we’re all somehow connected and can respond to universal truths.  Shakespeare is proof of that—it’s why he’s still relevant today.

Can you tell us about your book?
The main character tries to make sense of tragedy in her life and search for spiritual answers/meaning.  She tries to look at what happens to her as a way to find self-empowerment and be a stronger person.  One of the themes is "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger."  The book covers a wide range of life questions like can we live happily ever after with a soul mate, or is it more complicated than that?  I also try to get the reader to wonder why things really happen to us.  How can we learn from life experiences?  Although there are some tragic moments, I also make an effort to make situations and reactions to them humorous.  I feel we need to laugh at life and its circumstances as much as possible.  If we don’t laugh, we cry.  Laughing is always better.

How did you come up with the story?
During the wedding in Greece, I found myself taking notes and knew I would use them in a book.  To me, that was a sign I had to write the story.

What genre best fits for the book?
I’m not really sure how to answer that.  It’s part family drama, part romantic tragi-comedy; it’s spiritual, and so many other things.  I would probably say it falls most closely under chicklit, partly because my target audience is women.  

Are you working on something new at the moment?
I've already begun writing another novel set in Renaissance England.  It will have more sex and violence in it and will be part of a series.  The main character struggles to find herself and her personal empowerment in a time period when women had little power.  Gender roles and issues of self-esteem really fascinate me.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Write, write, and write some more.  Set aside a specific time to write and always carry a little notepad to take down thoughts.  What really helped me was to join a writers’ group.  I found great ones on  It’s a way to get feedback and to network.  I also found that it would make me write something every week to bring to the meetings—it’s a fabulous way to have a deadline.  Twitter has also been an incredible way to network.  There are so many writers who post tips or have blogs on writing. 

Which authors inspire you?
The list is endless and it really depends on my mood.  Vonnegut is one of my favorites because he took so many risks in his writing and because he often surprised me with his subject matter.  I love gothic literature—Frankenstein, Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  I also enjoy great satire—Catch-22 was an amazing read for me.  Books sometimes find me when I need them.  Eat, Pray, Love was given to me by a friend when I was going through a tough time.  It was the right book at the right time.  I really could go on all day about my favorite books or authors.  David Sedaris is such a superb comedic author—and I’ve met him personally.  He takes the time to talk to all of his fans and is very gracious.  That truly inspires me.

Where can people go to read your work?
The book is on Amazon and on Barnes and Noble.  Sample chapters are available on my website.

Where can people find you on the internet?

Is there anything else you would like to share with your readers?
I just hope that my readers will not only enjoy my books, but be able to gain something meaningful.  A successful book leaves us with something—an inspirational thought or discussion.  That is my wish for my readers.