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Book reviews Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings FREE Rosie's Book Team Review

#Bookreview ‘Going Against Type’ by Sharon Black (@Authorsharonb) and Chapter 7 of Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings #TuesdayBookBlog

Hi all:

Yes, you’re in the right place and I’m still sharing the prequel to my story, but as I had another post booked for Friday (a great new book) I felt I should share this book I read as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team. It’s a completely different read to my own book, but I like to mix it up and I know you do too. And now…

Going Against Type by Sharon Black
Going Against Type by Sharon Black

Going Against Type by Sharon Black. A quirky romance that turns expectations on their heads

I am reviewing this novel as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team and I thank her and the author for providing me with a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

Going Against Type is a romantic comedy that turns many conventions and expectations on their heads. The female protagonist, Charlotte, who goes by Charlie, is a sports journalist who’s always been mad about sport and wanted to be a footballer when she was younger. She still exercises regularly and loves watching and talking about sports more than anything. She’s just out of a traumatic relationship where she sacrificed her sense of self and personality for a man who never appreciated it, and she’s not keen on repeating the same mistake again. Derry, the male protagonist, is also a journalist, but he’s an expert on clothes, fashion, the arts and celebrities in general. They work for rival newspapers and somehow end up writing anonymous features where they take opposing points of views about everything. Their columns and their bickering on the page become popular, but what neither expects is the fact that opposites attract and despite their personal baggage and their different approaches to life they fall for each other, without knowing they are journalistic rivals.

The story is told in the third person, mostly from Charlie’s point of view. She is younger and less confident, still trying to establish herself as a serious sports journalist. Not only her interest in sports, but also her lack of self-awareness, dislike of fashion and shopping, and concentration in her career marks her as different to most female protagonist of what has been called chick-lit. She’s insecure, and her relationship with her friends is strong, but she’s also family-oriented, focused on her work and refuses to drop everything when a handsome man just happens to turn up. Derry is also not your usual eye-candy. Although in appearance he is a Don Juan who goes out with as many models and flashy women as he can, we later discover he’s also had bad experiences, and he’s mostly straight in his dealings with Charlie (apart from keeping from her his writing identity).  Despite his reputation, if anything Derry seems a bit too good to be true (and reminded me of some comments about men in romantic novels written by women being a female fantasy rather than real men. Although that’s part of the appeal).

Not being a big sports fan in general, I was more interested in Derry’s line of work than in Charlie’s (apart from fashion, that is not my thing either), and I empathised with her doubts as to what they had in common. On the surface at least, it seems a case of opposites attract, although we do realise later in the novel that they share similar emotional experiences. Perhaps a more detailed account of their dates and time spent with each other would give the readers a better sense of their relationship and where the attraction between the two comes from. They are both likeable characters, the content of their columns —that is shared in the novel— is funny and witty, and some of their exchanges (on paper more than live) remind one of the good old classic comedies, like Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy’s films (although to my mind not quite as sharp). They do go to watch one of their movies at some point in the novel, that I thought it was a nice touch.

If you want a very light romantic read, set in gorgeous Dublin, with a background in the world of journalism, quick-witted and fun, with no erotica or daring sex scenes, I recommend you this novel. It’s perfect to pick up anybody’s spirit.

Here I leave you a preview if you want to have a look:

And more links:

http://amzn.to/1SLrdnI

http://amzn.to/1SLrgQk
Just in case you haven’t heard I published the prequel and it’s FREE, hopefully in most places by now . (If not, please report to Amazon adding the link to one of the other sites, as they need to be informed of links in each place it seems)

Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings by Olga Núñez Miret. Cover by Ernesto Valdés
Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings by Olga Núñez Miret. Cover by Ernesto Valdés

Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings by Olga Núñez Miret

How far would a writer go for a killer story? This is the question psychiatrist Mary Miller must answer to solve the first mystery/thriller of her career. You can get to know the main characters of this psychological thriller series for FREE and test your own acumen and intuition in this novella about the price of ambition.

Dr Mary Miller is a young psychiatrist suffering a crisis of vocation. Her friend Phil, a criminalist lawyer working in New York, invites her to visit him and consult on the case of a writer accused of a serious assault. His victim had been harassing him and accusing him of stealing his story, which he’d transformed into a best-selling book. The author denies the allegation and claims it was self-defence. When the victim dies, things get complicated. The threshold between truth and fiction becomes blurred and secrets and lies unfold.

Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings is the prequel to Escaping Psychiatry a volume collecting three stories where Mary and her psychiatric expertise are called to help in a variety of cases, from religious and race affairs, to the murder of a policeman, and in the last case she gets closer than ever to a serial killer.

If you enjoy this novella, don’t forget to check Mary’s further adventures. And there are more to come.
Here you can check a preview live:

AMAZON (e-book)    KOBO NOOK APPLE    SCRIBD

PAGE FOUNDRY
But as I promised you to publish the whole of the story in my blog, here is Chapter 7. But don’t forget to download the story, to tell people about it, and if you like it, to review it too if you can. Ah, and next week, THE LAST CHAPTER!

7.     Inside Knowledge

Mary put the phone down, smiling. She was convinced that Phil would be wondering how she knew Lance had left, but she doubted he’d reach the right conclusion. It was true that he didn’t know the content of the conversation she’d had with him at the Hamptons, but that wasn’t all. Sometimes his set ideas and preconceptions blinded him to what should have been evident. But that was for the best. Mary had decided, in advance, to pretend to be surprised when he gave her the news, but in the end she hadn’t managed. It was lucky he hadn’t reached the right conclusion, as Mary didn’t want to risk Phil getting into any trouble over her own decisions and behaviour.

She knew Lance had left because… Yes, because Lance had phoned her. If Phil had phoned her on Tuesday, or early on Wednesday, it would have been a genuine surprise, but Lance had phoned her on Wednesday evening. She’d just come back from a long day at work and her phone had been ringing as she walked into her apartment. She’d grabbed the phone and said, “Hello!” convinced that she was too late.

“Hello, Mary? Do you remember me?”

The voice was familiar and it took her only a few seconds to remember where from. “La… Lance? But how did you get my number?”

“Where there’s a will there’s a way. It wasn’t very difficult but I don’t want to get anybody into trouble. After our conversation on Saturday, I wanted to catch up with you.”

“OK.”

“You might want to take a seat.”

Mary had obeyed, wondering what he was going to tell her.

“Thinking about it, it might not come as such a big surprise to you after our chat. I left Wright’s firm on Monday morning.”

“Wow.”

“Well, when I left on Sunday—and, by the way, sorry for not saying goodbye, but I needed time to think—I kept churning and churning everything that had happened and everything we had talked about in my head. And by the time I got home I had decided I had to do something. I needed to make amends. I had to atone for my actions and for the consequences of such actions.”

“But it wasn’t your—”

“I know, I know. I remember what you told me. Still, I felt guilty. I knew I couldn’t work with Oliver Fenton. I couldn’t defend him. And as I kept thinking about it, I realised I couldn’t carry on working in Wright’s firm, either. Similar ethics and ambition had already resulted in the death of an innocent and tortured man. It scared me to think how much more damage I could do if I carried on with that kind of work. So I went there on Monday and I just told him I was leaving, and that I cared too much about ethics and morality to carry on working there, or something of the sort. And I walked out. I had expected to feel anxious or scared or worried, but no. I just felt free.”

“What are you going to do now?”

“That’s the best of all! As soon as I walked out of the building it hit me. I am a lawyer. I’d caused terrible harm because I only cared about fame and my own reputation, but the law would help me achieve what it should really be about, Justice. So I went to the District Attorney’s Office and offered my services. My only condition was that I wanted to take up the case against Fenton. If not as principal, at least to be a part of the team. They agreed that I could be in charge, even if unofficially, under supervision.”

“Fantastic!”

“And that’s the other reason why I wanted to talk to you. I wanted to give you the news, but I also wanted to talk to you about the case. If you feel you’re in a position to talk about it. I’ll understand if you think you shouldn’t, as I know your standing in the case was quite unclear.”

“I’m not sure I will be of much help, but Fenton refused to be assessed, and other than my opinion about his mental health, there’s no documentation or a contract or a report that I have put my name to. I guess it would all be considered hearsay and would not stand up in court. Personally, I don’t think of him as a client, and although Percy Wright said he wanted to work with me in the future, nothing was formalised. And there was no exchange of money. Talking about such matters, how can you go from one side to the other? Isn’t there the issue of privileged information, et cetera?”

“Well, officially the DA will be the one running the show. And as Wright had insisted that he had overall responsibility, I am not listed in the documentation. It’s Percy Wright and team. Well, as you might have noticed, that’s the way he works. There might be issues later on, but we are hopeful that Fenton might plead guilty and that would save everybody a lot of time and effort.”

“In exchange for a reduced charge?”

“No… Perhaps a slightly reduced sentence.”

They were both quiet for a few seconds. Eventually Mary had to ask, “You said you wanted to talk to me about the case. As I told you, I’m not sure I’ll be of any help but ask and we’ll see.”

“I noticed from your reply to Mrs Roberts on Saturday, and from our later conversation, that you didn’t seem particularly sympathetic to Fenton’s version of events. From the little I know of you, I had the sense that although you might not like the guy personally, there was something else behind it.”

Mary had been wondering why she felt as she did about Fenton, too. “It’s nothing major, but we did have a brief conversation that at the time gave me pause, and later I’ve been replaying in my head.”

“Go on.”

“When he heard about the assessment, he decided that I wanted to know about his childhood, and he gave me a quick version of his biography. OK, it was brief, so it’s possible he decided to leave it out, but considering he’d talked about it in such detail and it was so central to his book, he never mentioned having worked on a phone helpline.”

“Interesting indeed.”

“Then I asked him if he had any hypothesis as to why Miles Green might have thought he’d based the book on him. I suggested that perhaps the details fitted him and he said that wasn’t his fault. And he added, ‘And I didn’t write about him. Or about…’ I had the feeling he stopped himself from saying something else, something incriminating. But I’m not sure what. Although I wonder—”

“What about?”

“I told Phil, when I finished reading the novel, that it didn’t ring true to me. Not sure why, but it doesn’t.”

Lance was quiet for what seemed like a long time.

“I told you I didn’t have anything specific or that could be used in a court of law,” Mary said.

“Oh, I think you’re wrong on that. Anything else?”

“I wasn’t very convinced about the timing. He was talking as if Green had been harassing him non-stop for a long time, but it hadn’t been that long. Ah, and he mentioned an injunction, but I’m sure nobody had talked about it. At least whilst I was present. The first time Percy and the team interrogated him, he mentioned the police and said they had told him to reveal his source, but nothing else. It’s probably nothing. I’m basing all that on impressions, a brief conversation with him that he was reluctant to engage in, and a couple of other interactions with you all.”

“You’re a gold mine. I’m in your debt.”

“I just hope justice is served.”

“I’ll be in touch. If you don’t mind.”

“Of course not. Good luck!”

Just in case you’ve missed any of the previous chapters, here are the links:

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

If you’re intrigued and you haven’t caught up with the three others stories I’ve published featuring Mary and Phil, I just wanted to remind you that Escaping Psychiatry is available for only $0.99 only until the end of February. Rather than give you the description, you can have a look a read and preview it directly from here:

And a few links:

AMAZON (e-book) KOBO NOOK APPLE SCRIBD

PAGE FOUNDRY  PAPER

Thanks so much for reading and you know… Like, share, comment and of course CLICK!

Categories
Book reviews

#Bookreview for #RBRT Planting the Seeds of Love. A Novella by N.N. Light (@NNP_W_Light) It will make you smile

Hi all:

As you know, as I’m publishing the prequel to my book Escaping Psychiatry on Tuesdays, I’m trying to catch up on Fridays and combine my usual new books and authors feature with reviews. Today I bring you a review I did for Rosie’s Book Review Team. I hope you enjoy it!

Planting the Seeds of Love by NNLight
Planting the Seeds of Love by N.N. Light

I’m reviewing this novella as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team and I was offered a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

This romantic novella (with no erotica) centres on a young woman, Sally. When her grandfather dies she goes back to his farm that she’d left to study in the city. His death and his testament turn her ordered life upside down. She has a boyfriend in the city, Trevor, and she plans to have a coffee shop back there. But in his will her grandfather asks her to look after the farm and to do it with the help of her childhood friend, Jack. They used to play together as children, and he was the knight in shining armour to her beautiful princess. The farm is in financial difficulties, but those can’t compare to the troubles of the heart Sally gets into. Ultimately she must decide if she wants to stay in the farm (now turned into a brewery) with Jack, or go back to the city with Trevor.

This is an easy read, with likeable characters. There are no major complexities and although the two male characters confront each other, there is no big drama or real tragedies on the way, although there are mishaps and worries. Most of the difficulties Sally experiences are down to her heart and her lack of clarity about her true feelings. The author is good at capturing the nuances of the emotions and the subjective state of mind of the main character whilst avoiding explicit scenes. She is also particularly skilled at creating romantic scenes, without going into too much description or detail, allowing the readers to use their own imagination and put themselves in the characters’ place.

Planting the Seeds of Love will make you smile and it’s the perfect read for when you want something short, sweet and not taxing. The perfect break from a heavy day; it will lift your spirits.

Links:

http://amzn.to/1JAGsMX

http://amzn.to/1JAGsMZ

Don’t forget to visit the page of the author and follow here for news about her work:

http://amzn.to/1JAGsN1

If you feel curious, check this preview:

Thanks so much to N.N. Light for her novella, thanks to Rosie for organising the review team, and thanks to all of you for reading. And don’t forget to like, share, comment and CLICK!

Categories
Book reviews New books

#Newbook and #bookreview Beside Myself by @A_B_Morgan. What Makes Us Who We Are?

Hi all:

On Fridays I normally bring you new books, but as I’m sharing my book on Tuesdays, I decided to take the opportunity and combine a new book (it was only published on 14th January) with my own review of the book.

Beside Myself by Ann Morgan 

beside myself by Ann Morgan
beside myself by Ann Morgan

Description:

Helen and Ellie are identical twins – like two peas in a pod, everyone says.

The girls know this isn’t true, though: Helen is the leader and Ellie the follower.

Until they decide to swap places: just for fun, and just for one day.

But Ellie refuses to swap back…

And so begins a nightmare from which Helen cannot wake up. Her toys, her clothes, her friends, her glowing record at school, the favour of her mother and the future she had dreamed of are all gone to a sister who blossoms in the approval that used to belong to Helen. And as the years pass, she loses not only her memory of that day but also herself – until eventually only ‘Smudge’ is left.

Twenty-five years later, Smudge receives a call from out of the blue. It threatens to pull her back into her sister’s dangerous orbit, but if this is her only chance to face the past, how can she resist?

Beside Myself is a compulsive and darkly brilliant psychological drama about family and identity – what makes us who we are and how very fragile it can be.

My review:

Thanks to Net Galley and to Bloomsbury for providing me a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Beside Myself is a complex story of swapped identities. Two identical twins, Helen and Ellie, swap places, as a game, when they’re only six years old, and they never go back again to their original identities. Helen, the cleverer one, who used to bully her sister, becomes the clumsy one, with no friends, and the scapegoat and victim, and Ellie, becomes a new version of Helen. The novel questions what makes us who we are. Our names? The preconceived ideas others have from us? What we ourselves come to believe?

The story is dark and the way it is written adds to its harshness and to its subjectivity. The chapters alternate between two time frames, one the present of the story, told in the third person, and the other one told chronologically from the time of the swap, initially in the first person, and then, after an incident that makes Helen (now Ellie) dissociate from herself, in the second person. There is little doubt of who is telling the story (apart from perhaps at the very beginning, when Helen is in a state of utter abjection and discovers that her sister is in hospital, in a coma), and we get to live from inside of the protagonist’s head, and see from her point of view, the psychological states she goes through. We share in the character’s experiences, including her anger, confusion and her feelings of powerlessness. We experience the abuse, humiliation, rape, illusions and also her disappointments and dashed hopes. People consistently let her down and she feels trapped in a life and a fate that is not her own, although she has contributed to it. She’s become to embody the monster of her tattoo.

The book works well as a vivid portrayal of a complex mind confronted with an impossible situation, although some of the details of the story call for a degree of suspension of disbelief (and of course the story is subjectively narrated from the point of view of the one character and the reader can’t but wonder at times with her, if she might not have imagined the whole thing). I’m not sure if what happens at the hospital with her sister is to be taken literally (as it is medically not possible) but it is more important what Helen thinks and where that takes her. Considering the general tone of the novel, the ending is satisfying as it provides answers to many of the doubts and questions that plague the novel, and it also shows us the protagonist taking charge of her own life.

This novel is an uncomfortable read but a gripping one, and a novel that nobody will forget in a hurry. It is sure to take readers to places they have never been and they don’t want to be. And that’s one of the roles of good literature.

http://amzn.to/1PHieNu

http://amzn.to/1PHieNw

It’s also available in audio, paperback and hardback formats.

And just in case you want to check a preview:

Thanks so much to Bloomsbury, Ann Morgan and Net Galley for the novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and I hope you like, share, comment and CLICK!

 

Categories
Book reviews Recommendations Traducciones/Translations

#Newbook Shiny Bones by (@enriquelaso), review and #megagiveaway

Hi all:

As you know on Fridays I usually bring you new books and guest authors and today, I bring you an author who has featured in my blog before, Enrique Laso. The circumstances are a bit special, as this is book two in his very successful psychological thriller series of Ethan Bush, and it’s still more special because I’ve translated this novel.

As I read the original in the process, of course, I decided to give you my impressions in an informal review. The review is of the story, not of my efforts translating the book (and we’ve counted with Express Editing Solutions invaluable services too), but I thought you might find it interesting.

Shiny Bones de Enrique Laso. Traducción Olga Núñez Miret
Shiny Bones by Enrique Laso. Translation Olga Núñez Miret

SHINY BONES

A NEW ETHAN BUSH NOVEL
The FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit special agent Ethan Bush must investigate a serial killer in Nebraska…
A GRIPPING HEART-STOPPING THRILLER
The monster lives in each one of us. We are beasts that have learned, over the centuries, to control ourselves, to restrain our basic instincts and live peacefully in society. We are, after all, fully domesticated and well-trained beasts.
Only on rare occasions, the wild animal that hides deep in our entrails goes on a rampage, giving rise to an insane nightmare…

If you enjoyed novels like ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ or TV series as ‘Criminal Minds’ or ‘True Detective’… this is the story that you have been waiting for.
FROM THE NOVEL:
The county police had cordoned off the zone less than an hour after the boys’ find. A pathologist established that the remains were human, although a large part of the skeleton was missing. In fact, what was missing was what would have been most helpful in the task of identifying the body: the cranium.
“Do you have any clues as to how long have those bones been here?” the sheriff asked, perplexed. His head was full of the terror that he knew would grab hold of his entire community just a few hours later.
“Not long. And one of the boys has told us that he comes for walks in this area often and they weren’t here a few days ago.”
“But this stiff croaked some years ago, don’t you think?” asked the sheriff, pointing at what looked like a tibia. Never in his life had he seen such a thing, and it perturbed him.
The pathologist looked at the grayish sky, where clouds were growing and thickening threatening to release a good downpour. But that storm would only be a child’s game in comparison with what was hanging over the county where he lived.
“I don’t know,” he replied, laconic.
“What do you mean, you don’t know?” asked the sheriff, who felt he’d got a completely senseless answer. These were the remains of a skeleton; therefore one didn’t need to be an eminence in medicine to deduct that the guy, no matter who the hell he or she was, would have stopped breathing a very long time ago.
“These bones have been thoroughly cleaned. They have been manipulated. Without studying them in detail, right now I can’t tell you if the owner died yesterday or over ten years ago.”

THE BLUE CRIMES review on Amazon:
‘And so proceeds Enrique’s THE BLUE CRIMES and the manner in which he places Ethan Bush and team in the resolution of crime is tense, suspenseful, and at all times involving. This is quality mystery writing by a voice new to most of us – a welcome addition to the thriller genre’
Grady Harp, TOP-100 Reviewer/ Hall of Fame/ Vine Voice

Shiny Bones by Enrique Laso. The second Ethan Bush novel. Translation Olga Núñez Miret. You don’t need to be weird to solve the case, but it helps.

As I had mentioned when I read the first novel in this series, thrillers that purport to follow the investigation of complex crimes usually have two fundamental elements that go almost hand in hand: the crimes and the investigation (which allow the readers to put their wits to the test), and the investigators, individuals or teams, and less often, the criminals.

It is true that if the crimes are highly intriguing or very strange the book might be interesting even when those doing the investigating aren’t gripping individuals. On the other hand, there are times when the personality and the adventures of those doing the detecting are more interesting than the crimes themselves (as is the case in many ‘cozy mysteries’ like many of Agatha Christie’s novels). The best novels of the genre manage to achieve a balance between the two.

Shiny Bones has a bit of everything. The case is extremely convoluted and twisted, clearly the work of a complex and traumatised mind (and no, I’m not taking about the writer), but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to solve, quite the opposite.

And we also have Ethan Bush, an FBI psychologist who comes back, as arrogant, intelligent and annoying as before (in The Blue Crimes). The mature Etan Bush of years later offers us his comments and reflections, not only about the case (where he keeps many things quiet, of course), but also about his own actions, therefore acting as an ersatz reader (or perhaps more accurately, author).

This time Ethan doesn’t have his team at his disposal (that in fact is not “his” team, as his boss keeps reminding him throughout the novel), and he’s obliged to work with the Nebraska State Patrol, the local force, and has to try and reach a compromise with them, although that doesn’t mean he doesn’t try to use all the tricks in the book to get his own way. His intelligence, his skill manipulating people, and even his feelings are put to the test in this case that’s a big challenge for him.

To those of you who enjoy solving the cases whilst you read the novel, I’m afraid I have to tell you that, although you’ll have many suspects, you won’t be able to guess who did it. Even with that it will make you think and question many things.

Personally I am eager to go back to Kansas to discover who murdered Sharon Nichols, a case that’s central to The Blue Crimes but never solved, and I’m waiting anxiously the arrival of Las libélulas azules (The blue dragonflies).

As I mention above I’m happy to disclose that I’ve translated the novel. The book has also undergone professional editing/proof-reading. Due to this circumstance I haven’t shared this review in selling channels, although the original is a review of the Spanish novel, rather than of my own efforts in translation.

Link:

relinks.me/B01A4O3ZD0

Just in case you’d like to know more, I interviewed Enrique for Lit World Interviews, here and I reviewed his first novel in the series The Blue Crimes, here.

Ah, if you think you’d like to know more about getting you books translated, in this page I talk about it (I talk about other things too but, keep reading…). I believe every author and every book deserves the chance to reach a wide international audience and to be read by as many people as possible, and I’d love to help achieve that with my translations. If you want to see examples of books I’ve translated, you can check here.

AFTER CHRISTMAS GIVEAWAY
AFTER CHRISTMAS GIVEAWAY

Oh, and before I forget, I’m taking part in a wonderful GIVEAWAY organised by fabulous author and always hard at work promoting others Marie Lavender. You can visit her blog here. If you want to be in with a chance to win an incredible collection of FREE BOOKS (more than 100 books to be won and more than 215 chances to win), come to this page from 12 PM EST pm 15th January:

http://marielavender.blogspot.com/2016/01/after-christmas-mega-multiauthor-book-giveaway.html

It runs from today, the 15th of January until the 23rd, so be quick!

Thanks so much to Enrique for  the book and the opportunity to work in such a successful series, thanks to Marie for inviting me to participate in the giveaway, thanks to all of you for reading, and you know, like, share, comment and CLICK!

Categories
Book reviews

A few more #Bookreviews: Nirvana (2nd), The Secret Chord and Satin Island.

Hi all:

Happy New Year!

I thought I’d start the year sharing some reviews that I’ve shared elsewhere (Lit World Interviews) but just in case you hadn’t seen them, I felt I should try and share them here too. These are all very different books, but books that I’ve enjoyed and I hope you can find one you like the sound of.

The first one, Nirvana, is a very special case, as I read an ARC copy over the summer, and then was offered the final version to review again by the publishers. Here is the original post.

Nirvana by J.R.Stewart
Nirvana by J.R.Stewart

Nirvana by J. R. Stewart. Revised version and revised review. Still about bees, and virtual reality, less grief and politics.

Thanks to the publishers (Blue Moon Publishers) and Net Galley for providing me with a new copy of the revised version of the novel.

Let me explain why I’m reviewing this novel for the second time. Nirvana was gifted to reviewers in Net Galley and it garnered many reviews. I was one of the people who downloaded it and reviewed it over the late summer and published a review, aware that the book would not be published officially until later. The site offers you a chance to be kept informed or contacted by publishers with news about the authors and I said I’d be interested. I had a member of the PR department for the publishing company contact me and ask me if I’d be interest in reading the revised version. I was curious and they obliged and sent me the book.

It took me a while to get around to it but when I did I was surprised by how much it had changed. Rather than a revision it was a full rewrite. The story is about a dystopian future where the bees have died, and with them most of the plants and animals. The ‘Hexagon’ controls everybody’s lives, food and entertainment have become big businesses, and virtual reality is the only way people can experience life as it was, but this is also monitored, and very expensive. The really rich can live in a virtual reality paradise, called The Bubble, and there are several in different countries (although the story is set in Canada, near Toronto). Nirvana is the virtual reality system where the protagonist (Larissa Kenders) works and it has been created in its majority by her live-in boyfriend Andrew. Andrew disappears and the authorities tell Kenders he is dead. But he keeps appearing to her whilst she is in Nirvana, and although initially she thinks he is just a virtual reality creation, soon she realises that’s not the case. The rest of the book becomes her attempt at following the clues he gives her to retrieve something hidden but very important to the future of humanity whilst trying to remain alive. It’s difficult to know who she can trust and there are traps and conspiracies everywhere.

The novel now fits more neatly within the YA/NA dystopian genre. The story is told only from the point of view of the protagonist, Larissa Kenders, and in the first person present. It is told chronologically, and that avoids some of the confusion of the previous version. It also allows for a closer identification with the main character, and the reader gets to know more about her, about her activism and how her music was always socially conscious (even if she later realises things weren’t as she thought and she might have been playing into the hands of the big corporations). She is younger than in the previous book, although I wasn’t clear of the timeframe, as she’s supposed to be still 17, bus she has been engaged in campaigns in the past, is a famous singer, and has known Andrew, studied at university and visited many places with him before the Earth became practically a desert. It’s true though, that it falls with the genre’s convention that young protagonists seem to have lived several normal lives by the time we get to meet them.

It is easier to empathise with Kenders in this version and we also get to see more of her relationship with Andrew before he disappears. There are bad characters clearly delineated, some heroic ones (more so because doubts were cast upon them), and a more optimistic outlook. It ends with a big hook and the chase starts again, as it should in a series.

Sadly I missed what I had noted in my first review as perhaps not fitting in the genre. I liked the disquisitions about physics and musical theory that have not disappeared, and there is much less emphasis on the politics and funding of research (it is mentioned, but in passing). Perhaps the author will write, at some point, the book that according to her biographical note she had thought of writing, looking at the truth hidden behind the virtual reality industry and research. I’ll be waiting.

In summary, this is solid YA book, with romance, angst, chases, mystery, a strong, talented and intelligent female character, and an interesting world with a strong ecological theme and a warning. Look after the bees and the Earth before all you have left is just a holographic image and your memories.

Link:

http://www.amazon.com/Nirvana-Book-1-J-R-Stewart-ebook/dp/B014LLM1XW/

Here an excerpt just in case:

“It worked!” Andrew rubs my hands together. “How did it feel?”

Even though a strong pressure is still pushing on my head, I assure him, “Like a cooling sensation running throughout my body. As if someone turned a tap on.”

Andrew’s use of an implanted, microscopic wireless device that links neural activity directly to electronic circuitry still needs some tweaking. He’s always pushing the envelope for this virtual reality system, and he keeps any changes close to his belt until he’s completely beta tested everything, so we are the guinea pigs.

Not that I mind–everyone has some kind of nanotechnology in their body–but we are the only ones who have them in our brains. Nanobots are used within circulatory systems to destroy tumours and regulate blood pressure, but Andrew’s research takes science beyond medical treatment. Andrew is the head programmer for Nirvana, sohe can do things differently. Usually this kind of research would be conducted on lab animals, but that’s where my influence has changed his procedures.

“Look at me.” His brown eyes search mine. “You can see everything?”

I nod. And then I do a short dance to test every limb, all a part of our startup procedure.

Nirvana is a refuge from the real world, which has growing complications regarding the stability of our environment and life in general, not to mention a crumbling economy and massive unemployment rate. It’s Hexagon’s virtual reality system, a way they keep the populace placated and appeased while they exert absolute rule and control.

While it’s a difficult time in the world for many people, I can still eek out a living as a musician. People need entertainment and an escape, and although we don’t have the glitzy concert venues of the past, we still offer music in the dreary concrete halls of bunker complexes.

In Nirvana, however, things are different. Programmers code at a fast pace to recreate the world as it once was. They pull in images, video feeds, and audio to superimpose into a virtual world that feels as real as the one we knew just a few years ago, before the Extinction happened.

Ah, and if you fancy reading the article in Lit World Interviews that has both reviews, here it is.

As you know I love Net Galley and there are some true gems one can find there. Here, first, a book I loved.

The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks
The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks

The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks. A fascinating King David, warts and all.

Thanks to Net Galley and to Little Brown Books UK for offering me a free copy of The Secret Chord in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve always thought that the Bible, the Old Testament in particular, is full of fantastic stories, and there are very few plots you won’t find there. Fratricide: check. Murder: check. Incest: check. Adultery: check. Epic disasters: check. Wars: check. Love: check. Magic and miracles: check. Battle of Good versus Evil: check. Prophecy: check. No matter what your beliefs are, as storytelling goes, it’s in a class of its own.

David’s story is a very good example of it. As the author observes in her comments, he is one of the first characters whose story we follow from beginning to end. It has all the elements a fiction writer could wish for: rag to riches, the weak confronting and winning the battle with the mighty, unjustly accused and outlawed makes a comeback and becomes King. He’s also elected by God. A great fighter and leader but a deeply flawed character. He has great joys, but through his own behaviour, brings tragedy and disaster to his family. Like the best heroes, he is also an antihero.

Brooks chooses a narrator, Nathan, the prophet, to tell David’s story. It all starts as Nathan’s attempt to distract the King, who is upset because he has been asked to remain in the palace after a near miss during a battle. Nathan suggests that buildings and palaces won’t make him live in the memory of people, but telling his true story will (a beautiful justification of the power of storytelling). David decides that Nathan should hear the story from others, not himself, and he does not hesitate in sending him to talk to those who might not have that much good to say about the King, including his mother, his brother, and his first wife. Although we go back and forth in time, through the different versions and witnesses, the action starts at a pivotal time in David’s story as he’s about to commit a series of crimes that will be severely punished.

I loved the book. I hadn’t read anything by the author before, but now I will. She writes beautifully, giving voice to the different characters and bringing them to life. The reader experiences Nathan’s visions, is a privileged observer at King David’s court, and although we know (the same as Nathan) what will happen, it is impossible to not get emotionally involved, and worry and suffer with them. Descriptions of David’s playing and singing, dancing to the glory of God are full of wonder and magic. The book pulls no punches either, and descriptions of some of the brutal acts are also vividly rendered.

For me, the book is the story of an extraordinary man, who did many wrong things, but also many great things, and who loved God and his people, even if sometimes he loved himself a bit too much. He is a warrior, an artist, a statesman, a father, a husband, and a faithful servant of God (most of the time). He acknowledges his wrongdoing and does not shy away from his responsibilities. He’s a human being.

Nathan is also a very interesting figure, at times unable to talk despite what he knows, only a passive observer of the tragedy to unfold. But that’s his role, and despite everything, he is loved and cherished by David and later by Solomon. And he is a great stand-in for the reader, knowing but silenced, frustrated and disgusted at times by the King’s actions, but also at time in awe and moved by him.

I couldn’t help but read some of the comments about the book and it seems that most of the people who’ve taken issue with the book, do not like the suggestion of a relationship between David and Jonathan, Saul’s son (and brother of his first wife). It is strange that in a story with murder, incest, rape, pillage and more, the one thing people find upsetting is the suggestion that David might have had a homosexual relationship. It proves that we all bring our own mind-set to our reading experience.

I am not an expert in Bible studies or that particular historical period so I can’t comment on how accurate the book might be in its detail, but for me it brought to life the times, the people and the events.

I finished the book with a greater appreciation for the figure of David (and particularly thankful that the author decided to end the book at that particular point, and on that note) and a wish to read more of Brooks’s books. If you have an open mind, love lyrical writing and are intrigued by the times and the people of that historical period, this is a unique book.

Links:

http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Chord-Geraldine-Brooks-ebook/dp/B00URUOJGY/

And another one from Net Galley. I confess this one is not for everyone.

Satin Island by Tom McCarthy
Satin Island by Tom McCarthy

Satin Island by Tom McCarthy. What do you read for?

Thanks to Net Galley and to Jonathan Cape for providing me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Honestly? I enjoyed the book. On the other hand, would I recommend it? Well, it depends.

The book is narrated in the first person by U., an anthropologist working for a global corporation, which at the beginning of the book has secured a project that will change everything. We never quite know what this project is, and it seems nobody else knows either. U.’s contribution to the project is celebrated, although he has no idea what that contribution might have been. His job also consists of creating a report. A report about everything. He’s at liberty to choose how to do it. But how would you go about it?

  1. chats constantly about things that might appear unconnected, but his job —in so far as he knows what it is— seems to be to find connections. He talks about Lévi-Strauss and his thoughts about anthropology and tribes, he collects random data (about oil-spills, parachuting accidents, airports and places…), he goes to conferences and gives lectures he seems totally unprepared for, but his search for meaning is thwarted, and it’s difficult to know if it’s the world’s fault or his own. Perhaps, as he mentions, Lévi-Strauss was right, and eventually it all becomes reduced to either new tribes that get absorbed into the everyday and stop being weird, or tribes that are so weird they are completely meaningless and cannot be processed using our current methodology.

The book reminded me of many things, although I didn’t consciously try to find similarities or connections. Perhaps it’s a side effect of reading it. It did remind me of reading literary theory, in particular the French Theorists (Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida), and how much I liked them (although I was in a minority position in the American Literature class, I must admit). There are moments when the absurdity of everything made me think of works like Terry Gillian’s Brazil or some of Kafka’s or Orwell’s books (minus the pathos.) There were moments breathtakingly beautiful and poetic, usually found in something mundane. (Wonderful examples are the descriptions of the videos one of his colleagues’ shoots and later watches on a loop. But other things too: traffic, people skateboarding, dreams, even the Ferry to Staten Island…). And even moments where it seemed as if he’d found an explanation, a brilliant who-done-it that later comes to nothing, much as happens with his thoughts of rebelling and disturbing the set order. Flashes of genius in a pan.

Recently I read a very long book, stylistically interesting, trying to be about everything and for me too full of itself and failing. This is a book that possibly is about everything. Or about nothing (the difference might be only one of degree), and thankfully doesn’t take itself too seriously.

My opinion. Yes, I really loved this book. With regards to recommending it… Well, it has no plot, not much on the character side of things, it’s clever, it’s beautifully written, and it might make you think, although probably not reach many (if any) conclusions. So there you are. If with all that you want to read it, I hope you enjoy it. And if not, that’s all right too.

Link:

http://www.amazon.com/Satin-Island-Tom-McCarthy-ebook/dp/B00PI0P0NE/

Thanks so much for reading, and I hope you like, share, comment and CLICK! And keep reading!

Categories
Book reviews Rosie's Book Team Review

#RBRT #BookReview Shattered Lies by S.J. Francis (@sjfrancis419) Two families and many lies #TuesdayBookBlog

Hi all:

I hope you’ll forgive the appearance of the blog. At the moment I’m doing a Branding course, and I’m planning on changing quite a few things, but I’m trying to go slowly.

As promised I’ll start sharing the prequel to my Escaping Psychiatry series from next week, but today I wanted to take the chance and share the review of a novel I’ve read recently as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team. First I share the description and editorial reviews.

Shattered Lies by S.J.Francis
Shattered Lies by S.J.Francis

Shattered Lies by S.J. Francis

She wants to know the truth, but some secrets might be better left alone…
Kate Thayer has a good life as a veterinarian, running the family horse farm–until she uncovers an act of unimaginable treachery by those she trusted most and learns that everything she knew about herself was a lie. Her paternal grandmother, the woman who raised her, is behind a number of devastating secrets Kate is compelled to discover. But the deeper she digs, the more betrayal she finds, changing her life in ways she could have never foreseen.

Editorial Reviews

“Francis writes a poignant and moving tale of bigotry, deceit, and the ultimate betrayal, where the people who you are supposed to be able to trust are the ones who tell the most devastating lies.” ~ Taylor Jones, Reviewer

“… The title implies a mystery novel or an action novel. When I first started to read this novel, I thought this would be a regular old-school mystery. Boy, was I surprised to find that the title implies so much more than the genre. The story is heartfelt and very real. I am very impressed with S.J. Francis. The way the author wrote the novel was super amazing and fascinating. She transported me back in time and made me feel the pain and confusion of a grandmother who thought she was doing the right thing…” -Rabia Tanveer for Reader’s Favorite

“Shattered Lies is the story of the cruel, inhuman things man does to man and the tangled webs we weave trying to cover up our heinous behavior. It’s a heart-warming and heart-breaking tale of a young woman who discovers that everything she believed about herself, her parents, her very life, is nothing but a lie.” ~ Regan Murphy, Reviewer

“SJ Francis examines the destruction of one family’s foundation under the weight of lies in her thoughtful and wonderful book, Shattered Lies… Shattered Lies explores the painful legacy of bigotry and how such a legacy can destroy many lives.  In doing so, SJ Francis writes with raw honesty using language that has become embedded in the culture of racism.  It will be uncomfortable and unpleasant for the reader at times. But I do applaud Francis’ efforts. She has crafted a memorable book that will leave a lasting impression. A very thought provoking book.” ~Tracy, The Writing Piazza

From the Author

FYI:

NOTE: 10% of this book’s sales from both editions will be donated to the Polycystic Kidney Foundation to help fight this insidious disease that strikes both adults and children. For more info about this disease see: pkdcure.org/

Here, my review (4 stars):

Shattered Lies by S. J. Francis. Family lies, race, and life in the South

I’m reviewing this book as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team and was offered a free ARC copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

The novel, as promised by the description, deals with important themes: family relationships, adultery, betrayal, secrets, lies, race, loss and grief, illness… The story shows us how two families, the Thayers and the Johnsons, who’ve always lived close to each other in the family ranch of the Thayers, a white Southern family, while the Johnsons (African-American) worked for them in a variety of capacities and lived within the grounds, are much more closely linked than they appear at first sight. Kate Thayer, the youngest of the family, finds a diary written by her mother that opens up a Pandora’s Box of secrets and lies, including suicide, child abandonment, and questions about her own identity.

Emotions run high for all the protagonists and also the less important characters, and as the story is narrated in third-person limited point of view it allows the reader to see things from inside the heads (and the hearts) of different characters. This does not make it confusing but instead it gives readers an opportunity to better understand some of the characters, which at first are difficult to like or empathise with (like Katherine, Kate’s grandmother).

The novel is full of emotionally tense moments, and many secrets are revealed very early on. That results in much of the story delving into the changing emotions of the characters (from anger, to guilt, to fear, and back again), with the rhythm of the story speeding up and slowing down at times rather than providing a totally smooth ride.

Despite punctual references to current times (several mentions of Obama, the years when different events took place, and comments about how things have changed over generations), the story seemed to live in a time of its own and in its own environment, creating a somewhat claustrophobic sensation. The only interferences by the outside world take place in the train (where there is a nasty experience with some white youth, and a nice encounter, which to Kate exemplifies the fact that people can fight against prejudice at a personal level, no matter what pressures they are subjected to by their environment), and later in the hospital, although even that serves mostly as a background for the family’s battles and eventual peace. This is mostly a personal story, although it reflects wider themes.

The North and the South are depicted as fairly different worlds, nowadays still, and the codes of behaviour and the topics brought to my mind Faulkner’s novels (although the style and the treatment of the material is completely different). It seemed difficult to believe that in the late 1980s nobody would have spotted that Olivia, Kate’s mother, was pregnant with twins (even if she didn’t want an ultrasound), and that the doctor wouldn’t  think of calling for help when he realised the delivery was not going well (especially as this is a family of means). But perhaps the details are not as important as the experiences in this melodrama that ultimately provides a positive message of hope and forgiveness.

This is an emotionally tense read, with some slower and somewhat iterative self-reflective moments, and some faster ones, exploring issues of identity, prejudice and family that will make you think about your own priorities and preconceived ideas. Ah, and 10% of the royalties go to the Polycystic Kidney Foundation, a very good cause (and relevant to the story).

Links to the author and the book:

Her Black Opal Books Author Page:

http://www.blackopalbooks.com/author-bios/bio-sj-francis

Her ShoutOut:  http://bit.ly/1r3oynM

Her web page: http://www.sjfranciswriter.com

Follow her in:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sjfrancis419

Face Book: https://www.facebook.com/pages/SJ-Francis/480058115420325

More Blogs: sjfranciswriter.blogspot.com 

A Book Review 4 U: abookreview4u.blogspot.com

A Consumer’s View: aconsumersview.blogspot.com

OnefortheAnimals:    onefortheanimals.blogspot.com

Pinterest:   http://www.pinterest.com/sjfrancis419/

Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/u/0/104831238907682620486/about

Good Reads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8423986.S_J_Francis

Thank you all for reading, and you know what to do, like, share, comment, and CLICK! Thanks for your patience!

Categories
Book reviews

#Bookreviews ‘Unexpected Gifts’ by S.R. Mallery (@SarahMallery1) and ‘Women on the Brink’ by G. Elizabeth Kretchmer (@gekretchmer). Women’s stories and histories. #TuesdayBookBlog

Hi all:

With Christmas just a few days away, I’m trying to share as many of the reviews I have pending before the end of the year as I can, to make sure you have enough to read over the holidays. Also, I have to warn you I’m planning on having some reshuffling, maintenance and hopefully improvements (and a bit of a move) in the blog over the next few days. I hope I won’t disappear completely, but one never knows… If I do it’s most likely a technical problem rather than anything else… (she said, holding on tight).

After all that, time to share reviews. Today I’m revisiting two writers whose work I really enjoyed the first time around, so I repeated. Here they are.

First, S. R. Mallery with Unexpected Gifts:

Unexpected Gifts by S.R. Mallery
Unexpected Gifts by S.R. Mallery

First, the description:

A TRUE AMERICAN FAMILY SAGA: Can we learn from our ancestors? Do our relatives’ behaviors help shape our own?
In “Unexpected Gifts” that is precisely what happens to Sonia, a confused college student, heading for addictions and forever choosing the wrong man. Searching for answers, she begins to read her family’s diaries and journals from America’s past: the Vietnam War, Woodstock, and Timothy Leary era; Tupperware parties, McCarthyism, and Black Power; the Great Depression, dance marathons, and Eleanor Roosevelt; the immigrant experience and the Suffragists. Back and forth the book journeys, linking yesteryear with modern life until finally, by understanding her ancestors’ hardships and faults, she gains enough clarity to make some right choices.

Here, my review:

Unexpected Gifts by Sarah Mallery. The power of stories and the value of remembering the past.

Having read Mallery’s book of stories Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads I was looking forward to reading her novel. And although not unexpected, it definitely was a gift. The story of Sonia, a young woman studying psychology, in a complicated relationship with the lead singer of a band, and plagued by rituals and other symptoms of OCD, her story frames the novel and provides a conduit for telling many other stories. Through her we get to know her parents, and when her mother suggests she might find direction and some useful ideas by checking the attic and the family boxes that have accumulated there, each box goes on to reveal something about her family members and helps her discover more about herself.

The book is beautifully written, with vivid descriptions of places and people, that in a few sentences transport the reader to the recent (and less recent) past) and to locations and situations that spread from the new to the old world and from America to Bulgaria, via Vietnam. The structure of the novel is clever and works well in progressively unveiling Sonia’s heritage. Every time she reaches a conclusion about one of her ancestors, the next bit of information or evidence contained in the box corresponding to that person makes her reconsider and reach a better understanding (if not always a kinder opinion) about their lives. The box within a box or the Russian wooden dolls that must be opened up or peeled back to discover what hides inside (that are also mentioned in the novel) work well as a metaphor or visual representation for the structure of the novel.

The stories will affect or touch people differently, but they are all interesting and revisit crucial historical events and periods, adding a personal perspective. We have Vietnam War veterans, the hippy movement, European emigrants arriving in Ellis Island, American Suffragettes, Racial Conflict and Race Riots, the McCarthy era Communist witch hunt, Dance Marathons and the Depression Era, and romances that seem to be fated to end up badly. By exploring the past, Sonia seeks a way of understanding her behaviour and of breaking up patterns that result in sadness and unhappiness. I don’t want to reveal too much, but can add I enjoyed the ending that brought closure and a nice conclusion to the novel.

I recommend Unexpected Gifts to anybody who enjoys a good novel, with a solid historical background and strong characters, especially to people who prefer variety and many different stories. As the book is structured I think it will also appeal to readers of short stories and of anthologies of different styles of writing, as it provides multiple voices and many narrations in one single volume. Another great achievement for the author.

Links:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00YWGATTU/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00YWGATTU/

Here the link to her author page (and don’t forget to follow her):

http://www.amazon.com/S.-R.-Mallery/e/B00CIUW3W8/

And G. Elizabeth Kretchmer’s Women on the Brink.

Women on the Brink by G. Elizabeth Kretchmer
Women on the Brink by G. Elizabeth Kretchmer

The description:

Women on the Brink is a stunning collection of loosely linked stories in which women aged thirteen to ninety must face the unwelcome realities of their lives. Sometimes gritty, sometimes humorous, and always compassionate, G. Elizabeth Kretchmer’s prose takes the reader on a compelling ride alongside these ordinary women as they wrestle with family relationships, self-esteem, socioeconomic status, maternal obligations, and need for independence.

In “Skydancer,” a young mother resents her newborn baby. In “Float Away,” an at-risk teen is desperate to find a new home. A minister’s wife struggles with secrets in “Liar’s Game.” A despondent housewife longs for purpose in “Alligator Poetry.” The protagonist in “Tasting Freedom” wrestles with decisions about her aging mother’s care. And in “From Here to Cafayate,” a woman refuses to give up on the perpetually flawed relationship she has shared with her sister for nearly ninety years.

Each story is enhanced by one of fourteen original poems contributed by talented poets specifically for this collection and its themes. Although the stories stand alone, they are further strengthened by the relationships among the various characters throughout the collection. Readers of Ms. Kretchmer’s first novel, The Damnable Legacy, will also delight to find that some of the characters from that novel have reappeared here.

The women in this collection may or may not be the type you’d invite over for lunch. Some of them are tough. Some aren’t all that likeable. Some might not see the world the way you do. But they’re compelling in their own right as they reflect women in today’s world—women who have come along a difficult path—and as they courageously take control of their lives.

My review:

Women on the Brink by G. Elizabeth Kretchmer. The World if Full of Possibilities if you Dare.

I was offered a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I read and reviewed Kretchmer’s novel ‘The Damnable Legacy of a Minister’s Wife’ this summer and was fascinated not only by the story (the Alaskan setting also helped) but also by the complex characterisation and the psychological insights. When I was offered a copy of ‘Women on the Brink’ I didn’t hesitate.

The book combines short stories by Kretchmer with poems that are interpretations of themes, feelings or sensations related to the stories that follow. The title perfectly reflects the nature of those stories. The women in them are at different stages of their lives, from teenagers trying to find themselves, to elderly women escaping a retirement home, but they all find themselves at a point when they question their lives as they are and what they are going to do next.

I enjoyed the different settings and characters, the writing style, easy to read and varied, adapting well to the different stories —some more introspective, some more comedic— and also the open-endedness of them. In ‘Bridge Out’ the main character, who after retirement decides to become a trucker, mentions ‘Thelma and Louise’ and like that movie, the stories show women going their own way, and these are many different ways. Perhaps piloting their own plane, going away to help in a disaster zone, confronting their past… And we never see them crash. Because one of the messages of this collection is that the world is full of possibilities if you only dare.

For those who have read the author’s previous novel there are some familiar characters, and there are also characters mentioned in several stories and who appear in more than one, hinting at the interconnectedness between all of our lives.

Although I wouldn’t say my circumstances are exactly those of any of the women in the stories, I identified with the feelings and the emotions described, I cheered (worriedly) for the ‘Girls Against Perfection’, and I thoroughly enjoyed the transformation of Margee in ‘Coco Palms’, from obedient wife to avenging warrior.

I would quite happily have read more about any of the characters in the stories, and confess I could see quite a few of them turned into much longer works (I loved the light touch in ‘Accelerant’ and Maureen, the perhaps not-as-confused-as-she-seems grandmother, is a fabulous character). Despite their length, the author creates fully-fledged characters and situations in each one of the stories, condensing descriptions and sharpening her prose, with not a word spare.

The poems complement beautifully the book and provide an effective and lyrical link between them.

I recommend it to all readers, those who enjoy short fiction and poetry, and also those who don’t read short stories, because we should challenge ourselves and they might be pleasantly surprised.

Links:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/1513702351/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1513702351/

The link to the Author’s page (and don’t forget to follow!)

http://www.amazon.com/G.-Elizabeth-Kretchmer/e/B00L2T253I/

Thanks to S.R. Mallery and to G. Elizabeth Kretchmer for their novels, thanks to all of you for reading, and you know what to do, like, share, comment and CLICK!

Categories
Book reviews

#BookReviews Two magical books: ‘Alchemy’ by Ailsa Abraham (@ailsaabraham) and ‘Bad Moon’ by Anita Dawes #TuesdayBookBlog

Hi all:
I know I’ve been telling you for a while that I had reviews pending to share, and I thought as you might have a bit of time to read over the holidays (ha!) I’d bring you some before the year ends. (Doesn’t time fly!)
Here two books that although very different share fabulous plots, strong female characters and a good deal of ‘magic’, ‘secrets’ and very unexpected things. Both writers are also great bloggers and I’m sure will keep coming back.
First:

Alchemy by Ailsa Abraham
Alchemy by Ailsa Abraham

Alchemy by Ailsa Abraham. Sometimes perfect solutions bring unexpected problems.

Ailsa Abraham’s novel Alchemy starts with a premise that would be the perfect ending for many novels, in appearance promising an idyllic utopian future for all. With a mysterious thriller-like beginning, a discovery that for once falls in the right hands, and a deal too good for all governments to ignore, one wonders where the story will go from there. Fascinating and enlightened characters appear and then quickly get to work, and new characters, whose relationship to the previous ones is not always evident at first, make an entry.

There is magic related to Pagan religious practice, and we follow two young children, a boy and a girl, as they discover their faith and are trained to reach the highest ranks. Do not worry if you’re not very versed in the different pagan practices and groups, as Adrian, a Professor in Ancient Religious Studies and once born (not magical) and his girlfriend, Helen, a thriller writer, serve as a point of contact and questioning guides into the ins and outs of the new world religious order. And if you thought everything seemed too nice to be true, there’s evil at work and dangerous alliances that put humanity at risk. A pair of unlikely hero and heroine will have to step forward and pay the price.

If you think fights over fuel and religious wars are responsible for all that’s wrong in our world, read this book and you might think again. Alchemy is a novel that combines a plot interesting from an ethical and philosophical point of view, with a good story and fascinating characters that I hope will be further developed in other books in the series. And if you like a good romantic story of impossible love, Riga and Iamo are far more interesting than Romeo and Juliette. (And two of the most intriguing characters I’ve met in recent times).

If you have an open mind and like to explore big questions whilst being transported to worlds both familiar and completely alien to ours, you should read this book. If you love adventures that go beyond the usual, don’t miss it. If you love beautifully written books with great characters, this one is for you too. In summary, if you have a bit of imagination and enjoy reading, give it a go. I am looking forward to reviewing Shaman’s Drum soon.

Links:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00I3A4HCQ/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00I3A4HCQ/

Paper:

http://www.amazon.com/Alchemy-Ailsa-Abraham/dp/1909841501/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Alchemy-Ailsa-Abraham/dp/1909841501/

Here, her Amazon page so you can keep up with her news. And don’t forget to follow!

http://www.amazon.com/Ailsa-Abraham/e/B00AYKUBQ4/

And her blog:

http://ailsaabraham.com/

And:

Bad Moon by Anita Dawes
Bad Moon by Anita Dawes (and Jaye Marie, her sister, as they are a team)

Bad Moon by Anita Dawes. Blood Ties and an Unforgiving Fate.

Bad Moon is narrated in the first person by Annie, a young girl who lives happily with her family: mother (Ruby), father (Jed), and older brother (Nathan). She adores her father, although her mother’s behaviour is far from exemplary (she regularly invites other men to her home and that results in incidents with her husband, who takes it out on the men and seem remarkably tolerant of his wife’s behaviour). At first, Annie is worried that she might end up becoming a woman like her mother when she grows up and thinks it is all due to her mother’s family (her father says that her mother was born under a ‘bad moon’ and she comes from ‘the Hills’ where people seem to have their own morality and rules of behaviour). The inhabitants of the Hills seem to be directly related to those of The Hills Have Eyes or the banjo players in Deliverance. What Annie doesn’t know is that things are worse than she ever could imagine. She has lived all her life in a world of lies and secrets. She is convinced she must learn the truth to avoid history repeating itself and is prepared to go to any lengths to achieve that. The costs are high indeed.

Annie does not have much formal schooling (she decides to leave school when she realises things aren’t as they should) but she is extremely articulate, and some of the descriptions of the landscape surrounding her home, of her experiences and dreams, her mystical feelings on visiting the caves previously inhabited by a Native-American tribe, and her reflections are beautiful and lyrical. We might disagree with some of her decisions but it is difficult not to admire her determination. She never tries to be liked or makes excuses for her own behaviour (she might blame others at times, but despite not being a believer or having much in the way of role models, she does question her actions and tries to make things better), and she is neither all good nor all bad. It’s a testimony to the skill of the author that although Annie’s head is not a pleasant place to be in, we can’t help but wish she’ll succeed and live to see another day.

With themes including incest, rape, infanticide, murder, cannibalism, paedophilia and plenty of violence, this is not a gentle novel or an easy read. There is sex and violence, although these are not graphically rendered, but anybody with a modicum of imagination will be left with many powerful images difficult to forget. The strong intuition of the main character, the roles of fate, blood and family history and the communities portrayed turn this book into a tragedy where instead of kings and gods we have as protagonists a family in the outskirts of society and outside of history. (The historical period of the story and the outside society are not described in detail and this adds to the sense of claustrophobia an entrapment.)

If Annie is a heroine, a tragic hero or an anti-hero is open to interpretation and I haven’t decided yet. I’m not sure I’d like to meet her in real life, but I know I’d like to read more about her.

Links:

http://www.amazon.com/Bad-Moon-Anita-Dawes-ebook/dp/B009BK3AYS/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bad-Moon-Anita-Dawes-ebook/dp/B009BK3AYS/

Paper:

http://www.amazon.com/Bad-Moon-Anita-Dawes/dp/1326330179/

 

Here is her Amazon page to keep up with her news. And don’t forget to follow!:

http://www.amazon.com/Anita-Dawes/e/B0034NUE10/

And her (and sister Jaye Marie’s) blogs:

http://jenanita01.com/

http://anitajaydawes.blogspot.co.uk/

Thanks to the authors for two great books, thanks to you all for reading, and don’t forget to share, like, comment, and CLICK! And Keep Reading!

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