This is an unusual book for me to review, but it is so gorgeous and would make such a perfect gift, I had to share it with you. Of course, in my opinion books are always great gifts, but if you’re looking for a spectacular book that can be enjoyed as an art object, and if you are looking for something different for people who love colouring books, I bring you:
Uzbekistan: An Experience of Cultural Treasures to Colour by Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva.
From the blue and gold splendours of Samarkand to the holy city of Bukhara, the architectural heritage of Uzbekistan is simply extraordinary.
Over the 2,000 year history of the Silk Road, its fertile oases have attracted countless travellers and conquerors who have profoundly made their mark on human history, such as the conqueror Tamerlane or the scientist Ulugh Beg, who discovered the sundial. All have bequeathed an inheritance whose legacy can still be admired today.
By its geographical position, Ancient Uzbekistan was created from a melting pot of different cultures. Iran, the Eastern Steppes, Siberia, India and China have all added their own influences on the local arts. Over the centuries, due in many parts to the Silk Road, these exchanges have continued to grow. Cities such as Samarkand, Bukhara, Tashkent and Khiva became famous in the Middle Ages not only for their cultural wealth, but also for science.
In homage to this rich heritage, this book is a celebration of the arts and pictorial traditions of Uzbekistan. Photographs of architectural works, murals, ceramics, tapestries and ornamented textiles highlight the country’s cultural treasures, accompanied by short texts explaining their historical significance. On the right-hand page, the reader is given the opportunity to color in their own drawings based on the beautiful photographs provided.
The author was the daughter of the previous president of Uzbekistan, diplomat, philanthropist, and had been delegate of Uzbekistan to UNESCO for a number of years. She has run charities for children, worked to promote gymnastics in her country and has always promoted her country’s literary, historical, and cultural heritage.
Thanks to Rosie and the whole team at Pen & Sword for providing me a hardback copy of this gorgeous book that I freely chose to review.
This is not one of the usual books I review, but over the last few years I’ve become acquainted with adult colouring books through my mother, who loves them, and when I saw this one I realised this was something a bit different from most of the colouring books I’d seen. First, this is a hardback book, and it is not about a subject like flowers, or animals, or even a film. It is a book that promises “an experience of cultural treasures to colour” from Uzbekistan, and it does deliver. The book contains photographs of places, objects, ornaments, textiles… It is divided into distinct sections:
Architecture: with photographs of ancient temples, palaces, and modern mosques and other buildings, with brief explanations of the history and the significance of the building, in one page, and in the opposite page, the drawing to colour (in some cases of the reconstruction of the ancient building).
(Here I loved the winged horses and the beautiful geometrical ceiling decorations).
Ganch carvings. Intricate and beautiful, this section includes several pages of designs for free colouring, without corresponding photographs. In case you are not familiar with ganch carvings (I didn’t know the name but recognised it when I saw pictures), you can find more about it here).
Here, there are some deceptively simple and some incredibly detailed (like the one featured in the cover of the book). I’m a big fan of mosaics and loved this section.
Glazed bowls. If you love pottery, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one.
The textiles section includes some richly coloured woven carpets, amazing dresses (iroki embroidery) and gowns.
These are fairly recent and incredibly beautiful as well. Although there are some fairly modern in style, others make one think of the Arabian Nights.
The quality of the print, the paper, the colours, the selection of contents, and the sheer beauty of the book is a joy. It is perhaps such a pretty object that I am not sure that many people will dare to colour it and risk ruining it, but I can see it inspiring many, and also making many people wonder about the country and its history.
If you are looking for an unusual present for somebody who loves colouring book, or simply somebody who might appreciate a beautiful book about the arts, craft, and architecture of Uzbekistan, I’d recommend it.
Ah, and observe that Pen & Sword are offering a great discount on the book at the moment, if you buy it directly from their website (and the price is very reasonable nonetheless).
Thanks to Rosie, to Pen & Sword and the author for this wonderful book, thanks to you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and review, and always, always, keep smiling.
Today I bring you a book I really enjoyed. It’s historical fiction, and it’s about the history of Spain, the story of young Katherine of Aragon. I hope there will be more to come as I was fascinated by it (although of course, the rest of the story wouldn’t be in Spain but…)
Falling Pomegranate Seeds: The Duty of Daughters (The Katherine of Aragon Story Book 1) by Wendy J. Dunn
Doña Beatriz Galindo.
Tutor to royalty.
Friend and advisor to Queen Isabel of Castile.
Beatriz is an uneasy witness to the Holy War of Queen Isabel and her husband, Ferdinand, King of Aragon. A Holy War seeing the Moors pushed out of territories ruled by them for centuries.
The road for women is a hard one. Beatriz must tutor the queen’s youngest child, Catalina, and equip her for a very different future life. She must teach her how to survive exile, an existence outside the protection of her mother. She must prepare Catalina to be England’s queen.
A tale of mothers and daughters, power, intrigue, death, love, and redemption. In the end, Falling Pomegranate Seeds sings a song of friendship and life.
“Wendy J. Dunn is an exceptional voice for Tudor fiction and has a deep understanding of the era. Her words ring true and touch the heart, plunging the reader into a fascinating, dangerous and emotionally touching new world.” ~ Barbara Gaskell Denvil
“Dunn deftly weaves a heartrending story about the bonds between mothers and daughters, sisters and friends. Each character is beautifully crafted with a compassionate touch to draw the reader into every raw emotion, from triumph to tragedy.” ~ Adrienne Dillard, Author of Cor Rotto
Wendy J. Dunn is an Australian writer who has been obsessed by Anne Boleyn and Tudor History since she was ten-years-old. She is the author of two Tudor novels: Dear Heart, How Like You This?, the winner of the 2003 Glyph Fiction Award and 2004 runner-up in the Eric Hoffer Award for Commercial Fiction, and The Light in the Labyrinth, her first young adult novel.
While she continues to have a very close and spooky relationship with Sir Thomas Wyatt, the elder, serendipity of life now leaves her no longer wondering if she has been channeling Anne Boleyn and Sir Tom for years in her writing but considering the possibility of ancestral memory. Her own family tree reveals the intriguing fact that her ancestors – possibly over three generations – had purchased land from both the Boleyn and Wyatt families to build up their own holdings. It seems very likely Wendy’s ancestors knew the Wyatts and Boleyns personally.
Born in Melbourne, Australia, Wendy is married and the mother of three sons and one daughter–named after a certain Tudor queen, surprisingly, not Anne.
Gaining her Doctorate of Philosophy (Writing) from Swinburne University in 2014, Wendy tutors at Swinburne University in their Master of Arts (Writing) program.
I obtained a copy of this book as a gift and I freely review it to share my opinion with other readers.
I’ve been reading several books about the Tudors, Anne Boleyn in particular, recently, and I’ve always been intrigued by Queen Katherine (perhaps because I’m Spanish, but also because of what she went through and her family connections) and I was pleased to have the opportunity to read this book.
This novel chronicles the early years of Katherine of Aragon, daughter of Queen Elizabeth I of Castile and Queen Ferdinand of Aragon (who became known as The Catholic King and Queen), from age five up to the point where she sets off towards England, to become the wife of Arthur, then heir to the throne of England. The story is told from the point of view of Beatriz Galindo, who was called La Latina because she was reputed for her knowledge of Latin, and the Queen chose her as the instructor for her daughters (Katherine in particular) and as a personal friend. The historical figure of Beatriz Galindo is as interesting as those of the members of the royal family, and the author manages to bring them all to life, turning them into human beings, with their loves, their hatreds and pettiness, their opinions (that we might on not agree with), and their losses that are many and very personal ones.
It is a fascinating historical period in Spain, with the joining of the two crowns, the battles to conquer territory from the moors, and later the first expeditions of Christopher Columbus to America. By using Beatriz, a learned woman with her own mind and feelings, but close enough to the action, we get to share in the events but we are also provided with sufficient distance to be able to make our own minds up and to speculate. We might have liked to know why certain characters did certain things, but other than when they talk directly to Beatriz, we can only speculate about it or take notice of other’s opinions.
Although told from the point of view of Beatriz, the novel is written in the third person, and the writing is fluid and beautiful, with great descriptions not only of places and events (including those of battles or bullfighting) but also of characters and behaviours, including not only those they engage in but also those expected of the royal family, no matter what the circumstances. (You might be hurting inside, but you must remember who you are. You might be frightened but nobody should know.) The position of women in the historical period, both royals and not, is often subject to reflection and comes to the fore in the events that unfold and in the difficult relationship between the King and the Queen. There are also scenes that make us ponder religious wars and prejudice. There are sad moments and moments of joy and learning. We get a good sense of Katherine’s childhood, upbringing and her circumstances and gain a good picture of her as a girl and an infanta.
I enjoyed the writing, the story, that is fascinating, and particularly the relationship between all the women in the book, Queen Isabel with her daughters, with Beatriz and her friends, and also that of Katherine with María, her companion, destined to remain with her once she goes to England. Some historical figures come out of it better than others and I recommend this book to anybody keen on learning more about Katherine of Aragon and the historical period, particularly the court of Spain at the time.
One word of warning: there is some violence (not graphically described), and also a sex scene, that is not the most graphic I’ve read, but it’s not behind closed doors either.
Thanks to the author for her fabulous novel, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment and CLICK!
I am trying to get up-to-date and catch up with the reviews I haven’t shared (I’m sure I’ll miss some but…) so I can start sharing them as I read the books. Today it’s the turn of a non-fiction book that travel and literature fans will love.
Berlin. A Literary Guide for Travellers by Paul Sullivan and Marcel Krueger.
An alternative guide for those looking for the literary heart of Berlin.
Located at the centre of the ever-changing politics of Europe, Berlin has a rich literary and creative history: from the socialist literary salons of 18th century Prussia and the rise of Expressionism in the 20th century to the explosion of creativity during the Weimar period and those who captured life on both sides of the divided city after the Second World War.
Written by local experts, this new guide offers travellers a glimpse into the compelling body of literature on Berlin, charting the bars, cafes and neighbourhoods in which much of it was created. Here travellers will discover the pub where Joseph Roth wrote The Radetzky March just a year before he left Berlin on the day that Adolf Hitler was elected Chancellor, and the apartment where Nabokov spent some of the most productive years of his career. The authors also chart the up-and-coming neighbourhoods that are enticing writers and artists from all over the world today.
A Note From the Publisher
I.B.Tauris Literary Guides for Travellers were recently voted among the 24 best indie travel guides by FATHOM. Also in the series: Sicily, Florence and Tuscany, Tangier, Venice, Scotland, The French Riviera
‘A rich and learned companion for every lover of Berlin; bursting with anecdote and alive with history. A must.’
– Rory MacLean, author of Berlin: Imagine a City
Paul Sullivan is a Berlin-based writer & travel photographer and the founder/editor of Slow Travel Berlin. His words and images have appeared in The Guardian, BBC, Sunday Times Travel, The Telegraph, Nat Geo UK and more, and he has written several books on music and travel, including the HG2 Berlin, Rough Guide to Berlin, National Geographic Walking Berlin and Wallpaper Berlin. You can check out his photography galleries here.
His articles and essays have been published in the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian, Reykjavik Grapevine, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Le Cool Dublin, Slow Travel Berlin, the Matador Network, CNN Travel and Spotted by Locals, amongst others. He has translated Wolfgang Borchert and Jörg Fauser, and his commercial translation clients include Gidsy, new talents – biennale cologne, University of Bielefeld, Fuhrwerkswaage Kunstraum and the Enveritas Group.
Together with Seamus Heaney, Roddy Doyle and a bunch of other great Irish writers Marcel currently holds the world record for ‘Most Authors Reading Consecutively From Their Own Books’ at the Irish Writers’ Centre.
In 2009, together with the other contributors, he won the Irish Blog Awards for their writings in the Dublin Community Blog.
Thanks to NetGalley and to I.B.Tauris for offering me an ARC copy of this book that I voluntarily choose to review.
This is a book that does what it says on the tin, and much more. The authors share a great wealth of research that they divide by neighbourhoods, not only of the writers born in Berlin but also of those who emigrated to the city or visited and produced some significant piece of work inspired by their stay or travels. Providing a detailed historical background into the birth and development of the city, it also describes the most important buildings in each area, and their significance to culture, be it official culture or underground and resistance.
The book contains brief biographies of the authors it discusses, from the Grimm Brothers, Mark Twain, David Bowie and Iggy Pop, to writers published within the last five years. It illustrates the city with quotes and extracts from a variety of works, from poems, songs, novels… I’ve personally discovered fascinating stories of parks housing suicidal literary lovers, of breweries that became hubbubs of culture and neighbourhood life through the centuries, of resistance on both sides of the wall, of writers who continued to create no matter how dire their circumstances, of heroics and controversies, and of a city that has suffered and endured as much as its citizens. Destroyed and rebuilt, fragmented and reunited, it has provided fertile ground for literature and artistic creation through its history and this guide offers the reader a taster that is sure to encourage further exploration.
I haven’t visited Berlin personally, but I finished the book with an urgency to go, and with the feeling that anybody who visits Berlin taking this guide with them will see it through a myriad of perspectives and live an unforgettable experience.
I hope to read more of these literary guides and to be able to take them with me on future trips. Highly recommended to lovers of travel and literature alike.
Thanks to NetGalley, I.B. Tauris and to the authors for this book, thanks to all of your for reading, and remember to like, share, comment and CLICK!
Rich Marcello, the author of this novel, got in touch with me asking for a review. As the book sounded well-wroth a read but I was buried under a mountain of books, I agreed to review when I could and also made some suggestions as to other venues for reviews. Finally, I’m pleased to say I’ve read it.
Here, the novel, including the press release that the author kindly sent me.
The Beauty of the Fall by Rich Marcello
A TECHNOLOGY EXECUTIVE CHARTS A HIGH-RISK, UNCONVENTIONAL PATH WHILE GRIEVING THE LOSS OF HIS SON
Dan Underlight, a divorced, workaholic technology executive, suffers lingering grief over the death of his ten-year-old son, Zack. When Dan’s longtime friend and boss fires Dan from RadioRadio, the company that he helped create, he crashes and isolates himself.
Willow, a poet and domestic violence survivor, helps Dan regain his footing. With her support, Dan ventures on a pilgrimage of sorts, visiting Fortune 500 companies to flesh out a software start-up idea. He then recruits three former RadioRadio colleagues and starts Conversationworks, a company he believes will be at the vanguard of social change.
Guided by Dan’s leadership, Conversationworks enjoys some early successes, but its existence is soon threatened on multiple fronts. Will Dan survive the ensuing corporate battles and realize the potential of his company? Or will he be defeated by his enemies and consumed by his grief?
The Beauty of the Fall takes Readers on Intriguing Journey
In Rich Marcello’s new novel, The Beauty of the Fall, Dan Underlight, a divorced, workaholic technology executive, suffers lingering grief over the death of his ten-year- old son, Zack. When Dan’s longtime friend and boss fires Dan from RadioRadio, the company that he helped create, he crashes and isolates himself.
Willow, a poet and domestic violence survivor and advocate, helps Dan regain his footing. With her support, Dan ventures on a pilgrimage of sorts, visiting Fortune 500 companies to flesh out a software start-up idea.
When Dan returns home with a fully formed vision, he recruits the help of three former RadioRadio colleagues and starts Conversationworks, a company he believes will be at the vanguard of social change. Guided by Dan’s generative leadership, Conversationworks enjoys some early successes, but its existence is soon threatened on multiple fronts. Will Dan survive the ensuing corporate battles and realize the potential of his company? Or will he be defeated by his enemies and consumed by his grief?
This captivating, idea-driven novel appeals to readers who are interested in exploring a technology based solution to many of our current social problems, and to readers who are interested in father-son relationships, gender equality, and working through grief.
About the Author
Rich is a poet, a songwriter and musician, a creative writing teacher, and the author of three novels, The Color of Home, The Big Wide Calm, and The Beauty of the Fall.
As anyone who has read Rich’s work can tell you, his books deal with life’s big questions: love, loss, creativity, community, aging, self-discovery. His novels are rich with characters and ideas, crafted by a natural storyteller, with the eye and the ear of a poet.
For Rich, writing and art making is about connection, or as he says, about making a difference to a least one other person in the world, something he has clearly achieved many times over, both as an artist and a teacher.
“Few novels are as intelligent and relevant as The Beauty of the Fall. Almost none is as eloquent, compelling, heartbreaking, and ultimately, uplifting.” — Mark Spencer,
Faulkner Award winner and author of Ghostwalking
“Rich Marcello’s The Beauty of the Fall takes the reader on two intriguing journeys: the exciting coffee-fueled rise of a high-tech start-up and the emotional near-collapse of the man behind the revolutionary company, his personal journey through grief and healing.”
––Jessamyn Hope, author of Safekeeping
“Rich Marcello’s third novel, The Beauty of the Fall, intermixes poetry and prose fluidly throughout the manuscript, and in fact, incorporates poetry as one of its major themes. As a practicing poet, I was swept away by the lyrical language, the characters, and the unexpected twists and turns in the plot. Overall, a great and inspiring read!” — Rebecca Givens Rolland, author of The Wreck of Birds
I received an ARC copy of this book that I voluntarily review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team.
This beautifully written novel touches on many subjects that are important at different levels: some, like loss (be it the death of a child, a divorce, the loss of not only a job but also a life-project) can be felt (and there are heart-wrenching moments in the novel) understood and managed at a very personal level, others, like the role of communications technology (who must control it? Should it remain neutral or become involved in the big issues? Should it ally itself with governments or be creatively independent?) or domestic and gender-related violence, although no doubt having a personal component, also seem to require global solutions. This ambitious novel tries to give answers to many of these questions and it does so through a first person narrative interspersed with poetry.
The novel is narrated by Dan Underlight, whom we meet at a particularly difficult time in his life. His son died a couple of years earlier and he feels guilty about it (we learn the details quite late in the novel), he is divorced, and now, the technology company he helped to create, and by extension his business partner and the woman he’d been closer to than almost anybody else for many years, fires him. His job, the only thing that had kept him going, is taken away from him. He has no financial worries. He has a good severance pay, a huge house, two cars, but his life is empty. Through the novel, Dan, who still sees his son, has conversations with him and wants to start a project in his memory, meets many people. Most of them are enablers. He has known Willow, a woman who works helping women victims of domestic violence, and herself a survivor (although she doesn’t talk much about it, at least with Dan) for some time and eventually, their friendship turns into a romantic relationship for a while. He has also been attending therapy with Nessa, a very special therapist (as a psychiatrist I was very curious about her techniques, but working in the NHS in the UK I must admit I’d never even heard of a Buddha board) since his son’s death, and during his peculiar pilgrimage, he gets ideas, encouragement, and a few brushes with reality too.
Much of the rest of the novel is taken up by Dan’s creation of a new company, based on his idea that if people could converse about important subjects and all these conversations could be combined, they would reach agreements and solve important problems. As conversations and true communication in real life amount to more than just verbal exchanges, there are technical problems to be solved, funding, etc. I found this part of the novel engaging at a different level and not having much knowledge on the subject didn’t detract from my interest, although I found it highly idealistic and utopian (not so much the technical part of it, but the faith in the capacity of people to reach consensual agreements and for those to be later enforced), and I also enjoyed the underhand dealings of the woman who had been his friend but seemed somehow to have become his enemy. (I wasn’t sure that her character came across as consistent, but due to the subjective nature of the narration, this might have more to do with Dan’s point of view than with Olivia herself).
Dan makes mistakes and does things that morally don’t fit in with the code he creates for his company, or with the ideals he tries to live by (he is human, after all) and things unravel somewhat as life has a few more surprises for him, but, without wanting to offer any spoilers, let’s say that there are many lessons he has learned along the way.
As I said before, the language is beautiful, and the poems, most of which are supposedly written by Willow, provide also breathing space and moments to stop, think and savour both the action and the writing style.
First of all, let me confess I was very taken by this novel and I couldn’t stop reading it and even debating the points with myself (I live alone, so, that was the best I could do). I was also touched by both the emotions expressed and the language used. As a sensorial reading experience, it’s wonderful.
Now, if I had to put on my analysing cap, and after reading some of the reviews on Goodreads, I thought I should try and summarise the issues some readers have with the novel.
The themes touched are important and most people will feel able to relate to some if not all of them. Regarding the characters and their lifestyle, those might be very far from the usual experience of a lot of readers. Although we have a handful of characters who are not big cheeses in technology companies, those only play a minor part in the book. The rapid expansion of the technology and how it is used in the book is a best case scenario and might give readers some pause. Personally, I could imagine how big companies could save money using such technology, but charitable organisations, schools or libraries, unless very well-funded, in the current financial times when official funding has become very meagre, would have problems being able to afford it all, and that only in theoretically rich countries. (The issue of world expansion is referred to early on in the project but they decide to limit their ambitions for the time being).
Also, the fact that issues to be discussed and championed were decided by a few enlightened individuals (although there is some debate about the matter) could raise issues of paternalism and hint at a view of the world extremely western-centred (something again hinted at in the novel). Evidently, this is a novel and not a socio-political treatise and its emphasis on changing the US laws to enforce legislation protecting equality, women’s rights and defending women against violence brings those matters the attention and focus that’s well-deserved.
For me, the novel, where everything that happens and every character that appears is there to either assist, hinder, or inspire Dan (it is a subjective narrative and one where the main character is desperately searching for meaning) works as a fable or perhaps better a parable, where the feelings and the teachings are more important than the minute details or how we get there. It is not meant to be taken as an instructions manual but it will be inspirational to many who read it.
In summary, although some readers might find it overly didactic (at times it seems to over-elaborate the point and a word to the wise…) and might miss more variety and diversity in the characters, it is a beautifully written book that will make people think and induce debate. This is not a book I’d recommend to readers that like a lot of action and complex plots, but to those who enjoy a personal journey that will ring true with many. It is a touching and engaging read to be savoured by those who enjoy books that challenge our opinions and ideas.
Thanks to the author and to Rosie, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment and CLICK!
As I promised, I have more reviews to share, and today I bring you one for a book I’ve read as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team.
Roots Entwine by Victoria Bastedo A quest, reminiscent of the fairy tales of yesteryears.
Hidden in the trees is a boy with a mysterious past and powerful ability—will the team that found him have to watch him die?
15-year-old Joaquin can hear a man’s heart beating a half a mile away. He can see in the dark when others are stumbling. One whiff and he can tell what was served for yesterday’s dinner. But then he needs near-coma sleep to heal his brain from the searing pain. He’s a Phoshat, and his ability comes with a price.
Rumors spread about the mysterious Phoshat living in the forest around his family’s estate. Then Kallum comes, the tall stranger who leads a mission team for the king. He’s determined to add a Phoshat to the list of talents that his team boasts. He takes on the responsibility of a teenaged, untested Phoshat, and they set out, but soon it’s evident that Joaquin’s gift is so powerful that it almost swings out of control. As their journey goes on and unconsciousness overwhelms Joaquin over and again, Kallum begins to question whether Joaquin is ready for the dangerous mission that’s growing more intense every day.
Joaquin wonders too. Why was he born different than everyone else?
Roots Entwine is a young adult fantasy adventure. A tree standing alone shades no one, but entwining his life with his team moves Joaquin towards the inevitable choice he must make for them. It’s up to him to decide what the sum of his life will be, and if his inborn ability will be a curse to him or the gift that saves his friends.
I was born in Kansas City, Mo, in the very early sixties. Called the City of Fountains, one of my favorite memories is when my mom took us kids to play in one of the fountains. We climbed on the horses. Stood on the spewing nozzles. Threw in pennies and dived for them again with our eyes closed. But while my siblings tried to invent crazy near-dangerous fountain feats, I played to the side, my mind busy. I was inventing an adventure, with some high fantasy elements. The journey to becoming a writer has been a fun one for me. God blessed me with an active imagination characterized by the glazed-over-fogged look on my face. I’m a Christian, a wife, and a mother of six and now a proud grandmother of two.
https://www.amazon.com/Victoria-Bastedo/e/B00J1UHDS2/ My review:
I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and I obtained a free ARC copy of the novel through the group. I voluntarily chose to write this review.
I am not the biggest reader of YA fiction, although on occasion I read it and enjoy it. I’m not a big reader of fantasy either but something in the description of this book intrigued me.
The story of Joaquin and his adventures, although told in the third person, is narrated from his point of view. At fifteen, he is not a typical teenager (if there’s such a thing), as he’s different to the rest of his family (he’s blond and has blue eyes, and as he’s also a second child, it turns him into the victim of family legend, and he becomes a secret, somebody who must hide in the forest and whom nobody outside of the family knows exists). The story is set in a world that’s different to ours (it appears less technologically advanced, as people walk or ride horses only, and don’t seem to have any ways of communicating other than sending messengers to each other), with different kingdoms that live by different laws and rules, and have little relationship with each other. To Joaquin’s forest arrives a stranger from another kingdom, looking for a man to join his expedition. Although Joaquin is not a man yet, he has something the stranger wants. Because Joaquin is not different by his looks only, but he also has a ‘gift’ or ‘curse’ (depending on how one looks at it). He’s a Phoshat. He has the ability to open up his senses and perceive smells, hear things, notice vibrations… very far away. He’s not the only one with such power, but he’s selected to go on a mission to stop a dangerous villain.
The book is a quest (if you’re familiar with Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, it fits perfectly with his description of the monomyth), a bildungsroman (where Joaquim, who’s lived having little contact with others, learns how to become a member of a team, and how to be a man), and has elements of the fairy tale (the special powers that are not exclusive to Joaquim, the different kingdoms, the magical trees, the legends…). A fascinating aspect of the story is the duality of Phoshat. It is a gift, as it allows Joaquin to experience things more intensely, and can be put to use helping others, but it comes at a price. Every time Joaquin uses it, he feels ill, to the point where he’s unable to do anything and has to rest and sleep, for hours or even days at a time. There’s also the risk that if he overuses it, he might lose his mind or die. Throughout the book we also discover that Phoshat is neither good nor bad in itself; it depends on how the person uses it.
Joaquim, despite being a Phoshat, is a young boy, fairly naïve, curious and impulsive, as it pertains his age (well, at least in the world where the story takes place. It’s very difficult to imagine a boy of fifteen with so little exposure to the world nowadays), but he’s also intelligent and learns quickly. He makes mistakes, he gets fed-up with the members of his team, whom he doesn’t understand at first, and who mistrust him because of his age and his abilities.
The story is told at a leisurely pace, and although they get involved in a number of adventures, those are not gripping and edge-of-your-seat extraordinary events (mostly to do with Joaquin trying to learn to control his gift and earning the trust of his companions) but a part of the journey. Towards the end, things pick up as Joaquin and his friends are in real danger and he gets to prove himself (I don’t want to share any spoilers but there’s a very good twist).
There are interesting names to go with the story (although they are all different enough to not result confusing), and enough descriptions to give a flavour of the places without going over the top. For me, the most interesting passages were the ones describing how Phoshat works, and also the special connection between Joaquin and the trees and forest.
The novel can be read as a straight fantasy adventure, but it also works as a fable to illustrate the ills of the lack of tolerance and the failure to accept those who aren’t like “us”, and also as a tale to remind us that together we can achieve much more than as individuals, no matter how special we think we are.
I was slightly disappointed by the fact that there weren’t many female characters and those that appeared played very traditional roles (mothers, daughters, wives…) There is a young girl, Malaya, who takes an interest in Joaquin (it’s mutual), and she speaks her own mind and is quite rebellious, but she does not step outside the constraints of her ‘feminine’ role. I know perhaps it’s become a rule that girls are the protagonists of many stories, but I missed them having more than a bit part.
An interesting story, for those who enjoy taking their time getting to know the characters, reminiscent of the fairy tales of yesteryears.
Thanks very much to the author and to Rosie for this opportunity, thanks to all of you for reading, and if you’ve enjoyed it, like, share, comment and CLICK!
Ah, and after hearing about Book Pebble, I decided to have a go and promote the first book in my series Angelic Business through them today, 6th of December. If you’re an author, and you have a few good reviews for a book you’re thinking of running a promo on, this is a free option.
My book is being featured on Tuesday, December 6th, 2016 at www.BookPebble.com. Check it out for free and bargain ebook deals! Thanks!
Today I bring you a new book that’s very special to me. I read it and reviewed it in Spanish a while back and have known the author, Estrella Cardona Gamio, who has been writing for many years, and her sister Concha, who looks after the promotional and technical side of their small and independent publishing company, from early on in my publishing journey. After chatting about it, they decided to ask me to translate it, and now, it’s available in English. I share the translated version of my review too, so you can get some idea of why I liked it so much. And if you want to read more about the author and her views on her novel, you can check this interview in Lit World Interviews.
LETTER TO CHARO is not a novel like all the rest in its presentation. For starters, it is an epistolary novel, a genre that was fashionable in other eras and that has left us works like DANGEROUS LIAISONS to mention a particularly fine example. It’s a very interesting genre because through its structure, and in the first-person, intimate stories are narrated that slowly reveal the most closely guarded secrets of its characters.
In LETTER TO CHARO, the reader will find the story of two friends who’ve known each other from childhood and carried on being friends through the years and the distance when the husband of one of them, for work reasons, has to move to London with his family. Throughout the years they exchange letters, until a certain day when an event that has nothing to do with either of them, the death of a famous Italian cinema actor, Marcello Mastroianni, sends them on a trip down memory lane unearthing confidences that had been hiding for decades and discovering two people who are complete strangers to each other.
Another peculiar characteristic of this novel is that the letters that are exchanged between the protagonists open with one dated the same day when I first started writing LETTER TO CHARO, and, the intervals between the letters are authentic. The truth is that I wrote the novel as if its protagonists were dictating it to me.
In this work, romantic and sentimental, you’ll find various degrees of love revealed in detail: tenderness, nostalgia, rivalry, egotism, envy, jealousy and uncontrollable and wild passion. You should not miss it, follow my advice.
I have tried to respect the style of the author and the sense of urgency and closeness of the correspondence written to (mostly) those close to us, which follows the style of our speech and the wanders of our mind, rather than grammar rules or best-practice when writing formal texts. I have adapted casual expressions but have always tried to maintain the meaning and the spirit of the original.
With regards to titles of books and/or movies mentioned in the book, I’ve adopted the ones more commonly used, although sometimes different editions or movies in different countries might be known by different titles. I have added only a few parenthetical notes where I felt that the general reading public might not be familiar with the term and it is fundamental to follow the gist of the story.
I am very grateful to the author and to her sister for giving me the opportunity to translate this short novel that I fell in love with as a reader.
Here my own review translated:
This is an epistolary novel collecting the letters exchanged between two friends that know each other from youth but have been living in two different countries for years (one in Barcelona, Spain, and the other one in London, UK), and other letters of those close to them (sometimes characters that are important to the story, like Charo’s husband, Antonio, others that are minor characters, like Francis, her friend’s son), and even from characters whose relationship with the two friends is tangential at best (like the last letter, that adds a totally external perspective to the situation). Nowadays, when real letters are falling from grace, it’s wonderful to bring them back and realise how many things can be said (and left unsaid) using that form of social interaction.
In the novel’s description, the author reveals to us her creation process. The date of the first letter is the actual date when she began to write the story and perhaps that explains partly why these letters feel so vivid and authentic. Although the novel is short, we get to know the characters (even though sometimes our impressions might be wrong), through their exchanges with others, through what they tell us, and what they don’t. Love stories, stories of lost loves, dreams, mistakes, misunderstandings, and the day to day of living together that each person experiences differently. Friendships that aren’t so and routines that we don’t quite know why we keep going.
I loved the characters that feel familiar and recognisable but not because of their conventionality. The letters and the style of each one reflect perfectly the personalities of the characters and the differences between them. And the references to other eras and situations make us share in the atmosphere and the experiences of the protagonists. The author proves that long expositions and pages and pages of descriptions are not necessary to develop not only a story but even two lives.
I read a comment where the reader said the novel had reminded him of ‘Cinco horas con Mario’ (Five Hours with Mario by Miguel Delibes) and it’s true that some of the letters felt like confessions, be it because they aren’t sent to the addressee (and therefore become letters to oneself) or because the author of the letters explains things to a reader that perhaps exists only in his or her imagination (because the real recipient is not the person they have created in their minds).
I recommend it to all those who enjoy a fresh read, brief and of great quality, with characters that will make you think. I am sure that from now on I’ll always remember this novel every time I watch one of Marcello Mastroianni’s movies.
On Friday I usually bring you new books and/or authors. Recently I read a new YA book by a new author and I loved it. I’ve shared the review in Lit World Interviews even before it was published, but by the time you see this, it will already be on sale. I can’t recommend it enough.
The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You
Trixie Watson has two very important goals for senior year: to finally save enough to buy the set of Doctor Who figurines at the local comic books store, and to place third in her class and knock Ben West–and his horrendous new mustache that he spent all summer growing—down to number four.
Trixie will do anything to get her name ranked over Ben’s, including give up sleep and comic books—well, maybe not comic books—but definitely sleep. After all, the war of Watson v. West is as vicious as the Doctor v. Daleks and Browncoats v. Alliance combined, and it goes all the way back to the infamous monkey bars incident in the first grade. Over a decade later, it’s time to declare a champion once and for all.
The war is Trixie’s for the winning, until her best friend starts dating Ben’s best friend and the two are unceremoniously dumped together and told to play nice. Finding common ground is odious and tooth-pullingly-painful, but Trixie and Ben’s cautious truce slowly transforms into a fandom-based tentative friendship. When Trixie’s best friend gets expelled for cheating and Trixie cries foul play, however, they have to choose who to believe and which side they’re on—and they might not pick the same side.
Stephanie Perkins meets 10 Things I hate About You in The Only Thing Worse than Me Is You, a fresh, romantic debut from author Lily Anderson inspired by Much Ado About Nothing.
Here is my review:
Thanks to Net Galley and to St. Martin’s Griffin for providing me a free ARC copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.
When I read this book was a modern take of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing for young adults I could not resist. It’s one of my favourite Shakespeare’s comedies and it’s had pretty good adaptations to screen. I am very partial to Ten Things I Hate About You and I hoped this would be as good if not better.
Told in the first person, this novel’s narrator is Trixie (Beatrix, of course), who is a fiercely intelligent and feisty shrew. She’s a geek, loves comic books, TV series (Dr Who among them), and attends a school for gifted youngsters, that is a fascinating ecosystem, with its own rules, its fights for top position and ranking, and it’s aristocracy (all based on merit, intelligence and hard work). Her two friends, Harper and Meg, are also very clever but very different to her in their unique ways (Harper, who is kind to a fault, lost her mother years back and her family life is fairly empty despite the money, and Meg’s psychologist parents seem to track any behaviours that might fit in some theory or other, and she is always trying to classify friends and actions around her as if they took place in a lab). Of course, there would be no school without boys, and Trixie has a long-term enmity with Benedict (Ben), who shares many of her hobbies and dislikes but who can’t open his mouth without aggravating her. Everybody but the two people involved know the pair are a perfect match, but making them see it proves a hard task. Students start getting suspended and they don’t realise at first that behind exams, essays, tests, balls and functions, there is somebody messing up with pupils’ results with dramatic consequences.
The characters are as clever as is to be expected from the school they attend, and at their age, they know everything. Their references to both pop culture and Culture with capital letters are flawless, witty and make for a great read. The dialogue is fast, clever, and funny (I must confess to laughing out loud quite a few times), and appropriate to the age of the characters. Although they are clever, they are also young, naïve, and at times very innocent and that makes them plausible teenagers. They are friends of their friends, they confront serious moral issues (for their age) and they are articulate, wholesome but sometimes mean.
I remember talking about a young adult book to a reader who told me he couldn’t remember having met girls as clever as the ones in the book. Well, I did, and although perhaps the interests might vary depending on the person and the era of our school years, I appreciate a young adult book where the young protagonists are clever, study, and care for each other. And are very funny too.
I thoroughly recommend this book to anybody who likes high-school young adult novels (I have no doubts adults will like it too), and I’m sure people who enjoy Shakespeare and pop culture references will have a field day. And I look forward to more books by the writer.
Here a bit about the author, whom I think we’ll be hearing plenty about:
Lily Anderson is a school librarian and Melvil Dewey fangirl with an ever-growing collection of musical theater tattoos and Harry Potter ephemera. She lives in Northern California, far from her mortal enemy: the snow.
Thanks to Net Galley and to St Martin’s Griffith for the book, thanks to Lily Anderson and plenty of success (she’s touring the book so check where she’s going) and thanks to you for reading, and if you’ve enjoyed it, like, share, comment, and CLICK!
On Fridays I normally bring you new books and/or authors. As I’ve told you I’m in the middle of a bit of a reading and translation spree, and when checking the books I’d read recently I realised that I hadn’t shared the review for one of them (that I’d had my eye on for a while but had resisted so far…) Demon Road by Derek Landy (YA, fantasy, horror…) and these days, the second book in the trilogy was being released, so I thought that was a bit of a strike in two. Review the first book and share the second (that is already waiting in my kindle)…
So, first things first….
The epic new thriller begins.
The creator of the number one best-selling Skulduggery Pleasant series returns with the story of a girl on the run from everything she loves…and the monsters that await her.
For anyone who ever thought their parents were monster…Amber Lamont is a normal 16-year-old. Smart but insecure, she spends most of her time online, where she can avoid her beautiful, aloof parents and their weird friends.
But when a shocking encounter reveals a horrifying secret, Amber is forced to go on the run. Killer cars, vampires, undead serial killers and red skinned, horned demons – Amber hurtles from one threat to the next, revealing the terror woven into the very fabric of her life. As her parents close in behind her, Amber’s only chance rests with her fellow travellers, who are not at all what they appear to be….
Witty, action-packed and heart stoppingly thrilling, Demon Road will take you on an epic road trip across the supernatural landscape of America.
Demon Road (The Demon Road Trilogy, Book 1) Kindle Edition by Derek Landy A road trip, a quest and a coming of age story to hell and back
Thanks to Net Galley and to Harper Collins Children’s Books for offering me a free copy of the novel in exchange for an unbiased review.
Demon Road is a coming of age novel of sorts. Amber, the protagonist, is sixteen and discovers that her parents, whom she’s always known weren’t exactly ordinary, are demons and so are their friends, and now she’s started turning too. Worse still, they’re determined to eat her to comply with the terms of a deal they made with the Shining Demon in exchange for power (not that they are particularly sorry about that). With the help of one of her parent’s friends, who’s decided the demonic lifestyle is no longer for her, Amber sets off on a journey to try and save herself by making her own deal. She travels in a car that’s not quite what it seems, with Milo, a bodyguard/chauffer that isn’t what he seems either. The novel follows them in their journey through the different stages of their trip, investigating the many clues, trying to find the one individual who might hold the secret to solving her problem.
Demon Road is also a road trip. The protagonist and her team (Milo and Glen, another character who’s also made a rather stupid deal and has ended up lumbered with a death mark) travel through the Demon Road of the title, a supernatural route linking strange beings, places and happenings, where everybody knows more than they say and people are never who they seem to be. The adventures Amber and her friends/associates (the relationships are open to interpretation) get into are fascinating and varied, going from towns haunted by supernatural serial killers, others with vampires gone out of control, a witch in love in the depths of a forest, winged creatures in New York, and lots of hiding and fighting. Any of the adventures they get involved in would make a great story in its own right and they ensure the plot keeps moving along at a good pace and never gets boring.
Demon Road is a quest. Amber makes a deal which results in her having to look for the only person who’s ever managed to trick the Shining Demon. Every stage of her quest brings her in contact with people, both human and supernatural beings, which have an impact on her and how she sees the world. She also has to come to terms with her new self and not all she learns is positive. As a hero (or heroine) she’s flawed. She can be compassionate and human, and the next minute act on impulse and hurt somebody. She can be quite clever at times and make stupid mistakes at others. She’s easy to anger and lacking in self-confidence but she can be magnificent. She’s not an immediately likeable character although her sense of humour and her capacity for self-reflection make her interesting. Like in all quests, the main character’s search becomes a search for her true self.
Because of all these things, and although the overall pace of the book is reasonably fast, it can feel uneven. It is composed of a number of set pieces interconnected by the trip resulting in a fair amount of telling rather than showing, as they always come upon places or events that have to be explained and grasped, and things slow down at that point and then accelerate when the action comes. Some of those episodes feel more rushed than others (for me the episode with the witch didn’t seem to quite fit in with the time allocated to it, and the bonding between the women and Amber seemed too fast, considering the amount of time they were together. On the other hand I loved the idea and the concept of that story) as if the clock counting down Amber’s time to complete her mission would speed up and slow down. Although it’s true that time is relative and the story is told from a subjective perspective…
The book is written in the third person although it follows Amber’s character and we get her insights and point of view. The writing is dynamic and easy and despite its length, the novel is a quick read.
We have very little information about most of the characters, although that’s in keeping with Amber’s point of view, and it helps us share her feelings, emotions, confusion and attempts at making sense of what’s going on. Milo and his relationship with his car is very intriguing and, at least for me, one of the big successes of the novel. We get some hints of his story but I get the feeling there’s much more to come. Glen might be a divisive one that some readers might love and others hate. I found him at times annoying but at others endearing. Although there are some characters that don’t seem to have any redeeming qualities, most of them are grey rather than black or white, and I thought that added to the complexity of the book and gave it a touch of realism.
There isn’t a love story (at least not so far) and although that might put some readers of the genre off, I didn’t mind so much. The ending is both an ending and it sets off the stage for the next chapter in the story.
In sum this is a novel that packs a lot of stories into a single book, with characters that are interesting if not immediately likeable, and although not perfect, it’s a great read. I’m looking forward to the next book.
Desolation (The Demon Road Trilogy, Book 2) by Derek Landy
THE EPIC NEW THRILLER CONTINUES.
Book two in the mind-blowing new supernatural thriller from bestselling author DEREK LANDY, creator of international sensation Skulduggery Pleasant.
Reeling from their bloody encounter in New York City at the end of Demon Road, Amber and Milo flee north. On their trail are the Hounds of Hell – five demonic bikers who will stop at nothing to drag their quarries back to their unholy master.
Amber and Milo’s only hope lies within Desolation Hill – a small town with a big secret; a town with a darkness to it, where evil seeps through the very floorboards. Until, on one night every year, it spills over onto the streets and all hell breaks loose.
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