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2012: Midnight at Spanish Gardens by [Alexander, Alma]
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2012: Midnight at Spanish Gardens Kindle Edition

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Length: 352 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
Page Flip: Enabled

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Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 808 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Sky Warrior Book Publishing, LLC. (31 July 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005FG1CJW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,511,241 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
One of the pleasures of reviewing books on a blog is that from time to time an author will suggest you read their book, and as a result a little gem drops into your lap completely out of the blue, something that you would never, ever have found by yourself. This is one such book. It's rather a shame, actually, that the paranormal aspect will cause it to fall into a genre black hole, because it truly deserves a wider audience. Yes, it's paranormal fantasy, and perhaps it's technically urban, too, but it's not a romance, and there are no vampires or werewolves. It's about people, and the choices they make, and it's much closer to literary fiction than fantasy.

The premise is a simple one. Five friends from university days hold a reunion twenty years later on the eve of the predicted Mayan calendar apocalypse. During the evening, all five of them are mysteriously shown an alternate life and get to choose which one to stay in: the current life or the alternate. The five alternate histories are, in certain ways, like short stories, but they are all compelling and they fit perfectly into the overall story arc without feeling forced. There are some odd pacing choices - the earlier episodes are noticeably longer than the later ones, which puts them right on the edge of starting to drag. Quincey's alternate history in particular was both slow and overly schmaltzy, and I really wanted to hurry things along to find out how she would choose. Fortunately, the author's elegant writing style stops things from tipping over into overt sentimentality.

As the five step into their alternate existences, and decide which of the two lives they will choose, we learn a great deal about each of them, their personalities, the influences for good or bad on them, and their relationships.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It does not look very Spanish. It certainly doesn't look anything like a garden.

There are two important things you should know about this book before you start. One, it is a decent chunk of bookness - this is not a slim volume that someone wrote while on holiday, you are getting serious bang for your buck here, this is a proper book-length book. I mention this because some e-books are just really short.
Secondly, this was written by someone who is an internationally successful author, who has been published in dozens of languages and countries around the world, who has been writing and publishing successfully for many years. I mention this for the same reason - buying an e-Book is risky because there are zillions of wannabe amateurs out there, so sometimes you end up with a book that is not quite up to scratch, written by someone who has no idea, but this is most certainly, definitely not one of those.
Oh, and if you are looking for an adrenaline-fuelled ride with some wisecracking action hero and lots of car chases, then you have come to the wrong place. Please leave. Now. This is not the book you are looking for.
"Midnight at Spanish Gardens" starts with an enigma. You are drawn in to a group of likeable friends who are simply having a pleasant evening meal together at their local bistro, the "Spanish Gardens".
Yep, everything looks fine, then something happens - (I can't say exactly what it is without spoilering, so I won't). This leads to each character travelling different paths into alternate lives. If you saw and liked the movie "Sliding doors" this will resonate with you, only there were only two paths in that movie while this book has more depth.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars 17 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good for group discussion 9 Dec. 2012
By alfolsom - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book stimulated one of the best discussions our reading group has had in our ten year history. Part of this may have been due to the fact that the author was kind enough to join our discussion via Skype. I was afraid that maybe having the author present would inhibit criticism but this did not seem to happen and our experience was definitely enhanced. Even after we disconnected from Skype our discussion continued - I was surprised!

Prior to skyping, our discussion concerned the genre of the book. It is a fantasy but it is not Epic,High, or Urban. The writing is good and reads like literary fiction. There are no elves but there is a character named "Ariel" who may be a barista, a rebellious angel, a metaphor for change, or the guy who won't get that toilet fixed. Someone suggested the book is religious fantasy but spiritual fantasy may be more like it. It might be fantasy for people who don't want to think they are reading fantasy (thoughtful but non-dogmatic C.S. Lewis.)

This novel is written with multiple points of view and four (five?) of the characters experiencealternative versions of themselves. These alternative lives are the best part of the book. They represent the choices that everyone has to make during the course of our lives but in the heightened way of story. I would mark it as a literary success that you may not always agree with the choices the characters make - the writing is that strong.

Several of our members complained that the book was initially slow. I think that is because the author is nostalgic for the time and place and lovingly wants to recreate that for the reader. Our group talked about places that were special for us.

I found several of the characters to be underwritten. The Ellen/Alan section in particular is too short. It is thematically so large (how gender affects choice) that it could easily be a whole novel. However, the author does a good job showing how the family environment can change due to gender - and how that environment changes you.

A great book to stimulate discussion. I think it might be enjoyed by people who have read and liked "Replay" by Kenneth Grimwood Replay or "Glimpses" by Lewis Shiner Glimpses I bought another book by this author but haven't read it yet: The Secrets of Jin-shei
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The REAL Gardens 1 Sept. 2012
By Ed Rybicki - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have an unfair advantage in reading and reviewing this piece: I knew the author as a postgrad student here in Cape Town, which of course is where the REAL Spanish Gardens was, which means there are all sorts of hidden allusions I pick up on, and shared memories I can cash in on for getting to the Deeper Meaning.

Or not - it could all be me presuming too much on shared experiences for making sense of what is a VERY interesting book, on a number of levels!

I really liked the premise: using an "end of the world" restaurant rendezvous of a bunch of old friends / lovers / adversaries, to explore alternative life possibilities for each of them, by agency of a - what? Angel? Sprite? Alien? Who cares; Ariel is a fascinating and enigmatic character, and an improvement on the greasy-haired original in the REAL restaurant. Which really did offer the finest range of alcoholic coffees in the known universe. But I digress: her version is as good as the original, if Americanised for a wider audience, and she has been very deft indeed in weaving together a handful of threads that very easily could have got out of control - and bringing it all to a a well-crafted ending.

Alma is an author at the height of her powers, who has taken on a task of serious proportions, and written it well. I look forward to meeting the Spanish Gardens again, somewhere - in this universe, or another.
Ed Rybicki
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sheer delight 27 Sept. 2013
By ACFlory - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This intricate, beautifully crafted story tells the tale of a group of friends returning the The Spanish Gardens for their 20 year reunion. But The spanish Gardens is no ordinary student restaurant. Ariel the mysterious barman is not ordinary either. Neither is the bathroom with the 'out of order' sign on it.

One by one the friends are invited to step through the door of the wrong bathroom...to live the life they might have lived if they had made a different choice all those years ago.

The concept is brilliant and the writing is superb. You will love this one.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A magical little read 10 Jan. 2013
By Deborah T - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found this from a year-end 2012 indie reading list and was pleasantly surprised by the author. The book posits 'what if you chose a different path' for the five characters. Their relationships with each other, their families, careers, even sexual identity are all turned on end in viewing an alternate personal path; the kicker being that they then must choose wisely which path they want to take. Makes you think long after the book is finished. I like when a book sticks with me in that way.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new look at Faust, at free will, at Camus, at life choices 9 May 2015
By Carol Schmidt - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Alma Alexander is put into the genre of fantasy writer, but I consider her work to be closer to literary fiction. There really wasn't anything so fantastic that in this book that you had to work hard at suspending belief. It was an oft-told tale of what if you had made different choices in your life--if you chose to sell your soul for easy success as in a professor who should have kept at his own writing instead of developing his students' success, or if you chose self-fulfillment over parenting. The "gimmicks" in which these choices are revealed and offered again are not strange. Ariel is a most gentle and objective angel of sorts, who only near the end becomes personally excited when one of the five friends he has been following all their lives actually "gets" what the choices are all about. And so do we. Like the Faust legend, some choices are life-shifting and irreversible--you choose an easy, rewarding path versus the hard one that would have challenged your entire being but left you at risk of failure. Others are as easily reversed as a phone call. But in reality, at any point we have the choice to start over, to choose an entirely new path to follow, and all the paths are ourselves, our own potentials, some of which we get to explore in a lifetime, and others we leave behind. (In high school my art teacher and my writing teacher battled over my soul, both sure their areas were my best career choice, and I chose writing and never regretted it. But I was able to pick up art after retirement!) I think that is the point of the book, that at any point we can choose again, and even double back and pick up discarded paths, within reason. At 72 I'll never be able to be the ballerina I dreamed of at 6. The basic truth is the same as Camus' The Stranger--we are uncomfortable at the reality that we all can do complete about-faces at any moment, like the man who suddenly kills his mother, and no one can understand why unless he is seen as a monster from the start. They don't want to see that their own lives are tenuous, that at any moment they could reverse paths. They are "good" people, after all, solid, unchanging. It is the essence of Christianity and many other religious beliefs--free will enables you to turn your life around at any moment. A death bed, heartily felt confession is enough to gain the gates of heaven at the last minute. The prodigal son may return. This was an enjoyable book on the choices five friends made, and sometimes unmade, with the help of the gray-eyed Ariel at the mysterious Spanish Gardens college hangout.
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