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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog Dead of Winter: Journey 5, Llyn Pistyll Falls and Dead of Winter: Journey 6, The Fluting Fell by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene (@teagangeneviene) Things keep getting intriguing, dangerous and wondrous #fantasy

Hi all:

I bring you the review of the next two installments in the Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene’s serial Dead of Winter. The author has shared that we’re more or less halfway through, and I’m happy there’s much more to come yet, although the story is getting to a point where many of the strands seem to be coming together, although there is much we don’t know yet.

Here they come.

Dead-of-Winter-Journey-5.-Llyn-Pistyll-Falls-by-Teagan-Geneviene

Dead of Winter: Journey 5, Llyn Pistyll Falls by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

The titular dead of Winter begin this Journey in a collection of vignettes. The Veil separating the world of the living and the Realm of the Dead has indeed become thin. As feared the dead begin to enter the Realm of the Living. Small outbreaks of chaos are scattered across the world as spirits try to resume their old lives.

Also in those shorts, two characters are introduced who will come back into the story in future Journeys — Gregorios, and Mairead who recalls the circumstance that brought Zasha and Tajín together. The spirits also visit some characters from past Journeys.

Emlyn and company encounter the King of Hell, and this time, Arawn is not in a dream-like netherworld.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09431TD6G/

https://www.amazon.es/dp/B09431TD6G/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09431TD6G/

Dead of Winter Journey 6. The Fluling Fell by Teagan Geneviene

Dead of Winter: Journey 6, The Fluting Fell by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

Emlyn’s story continues in Journey 6, The Fluting Fell. She gains tragic insight into Boabhan… horrifying things that she is too young to know. This event also shows an unexpected softer side to another character.

The travelers reach an abandoned estate, Wych Elm Manor, although it is not completely unoccupied. It yields answers as well as questions. Emlyn finds clues that lead them farther into their journey. She also meets the silvery-haired young man again.

The travelers have put some distance between themselves and the Brethren of Un’Naf, but do even worse dangers await them? Danger deepens when they take refuge in a mysterious structure.

Come, be a part of the Journeys of “Dead of Winter.”

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B096CMTPVP/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B096CMTPVP/

https://www.amazon.es/gp/product/B096CMTPVP/

Author Teagan Geneviene

 

About the author:

Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene lives in a “high desert” town in the Southwest of the USA.

Teagan had always devoured fantasy novels of every type. Then one day there was no new book readily at hand for reading — so she decided to write one. And she hasn’t stopped writing since.

Her work is colored by her experiences from living in the southern states and the desert southwest. Teagan most often writes in the fantasy genre, but she also writes cozy mysteries. Whether it’s a 1920s mystery, a steampunk adventure, or urban fantasy, her stories have a strong element of whimsy.

Founder of the Three Things method of storytelling, her blog “Teagan’s Books” contains serial stories written according to “things” from viewers. www.teagansbooks.com

Major influences include Agatha Christie, Terry Brooks, David Eddings, Robert Jordan, and Charlaine Harris.

See book trailer videos here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoM-z7_iH5t2_7aNpy3vG-Q?

My reviews:

I’ve been following the serial Dead of Winter from its first instalment; I have read many of the author’s novels, and I also follow her blog, so I didn’t hesitate when she started publishing this serial, even though I am not a regular reader of fantasy. She has a great imagination, can make the most fabulous scenarios and characters come alive, and she knows how to keep her audience captive, as she has proved week after week when she weaves her tales in her blog, even managing to include in the stories elements that her regular readers contribute. So, I’m not surprised to love this story and to have become hooked on it from the very beginning.

Journey 5 is slightly different from the others, as, although we get to hear (or see) from Haldis, the Watcher, as usual (although she knows many things, she does not remember everything, and her process of rediscovering her memories mirrors Emlyn’s learning, while also guiding and intriguing us at once), we also get to witness with her some episodes that clearly demonstrate what the Deae Matres and Emlyn have suspected for a while, that the veil between the living and the dead has definitely been breached. New characters are introduced, that we are told will appear again, and I am eager to see what happens to them in the future, in particular one of the Deae Matres. And, while the dead might bring comfort and advice to some, to others they provide a terrifying and amply-deserved warning (yes, I’m thinking about you, Elder Pwyll).

And then we follow Emlyn’s journey with the Deae Matres; she realises she is being taught many lessons by all the women; and she starts making personal connections and friends with some of them as well, discovering fascinating affinities between herself and these women and learning about some of their wondrous powers.

We get to know more about these incredible women, we travel with them to vividly and wonderfully described places, we hear about distant lands and traditions, and the chapter ends in a hair-raising cliffhanger. What else could we ask for? Luckily, I had the next Journey in the serial already waiting for me, so I knew what to do. And I hope you follow my example.

 

Journey 6 of this serial is, in some ways, like a microcosm of the whole of our Journey so far. It contains adventures and wonderful and scary events aplenty; it has thoughtful and contemplative moments where the characters question their experiences, thoughts, and feelings; it includes beautiful settings, and it adds to our knowledge of the world the story takes place in and its different traditions and legends; it deepens our awareness of the mysteries underlying the story and how intricately they are woven into its fabric; and it manages to captivate us and keep its hold on us, because we have become as invested in the fate of the characters as they are. Having read some of the author’s other novels and her blog, I think most people who are familiar with her work will recognise certain elements and motifs that tend to appear in her writing no matter what the genre is, characteristic of her oeuvre, that will make her fans very happy.

This particular journey comes with a content warning by the author, as Emlyn shares a vivid dream of the abuse of one of the other characters (I am trying not to give too much of the plot away), and although not explicit, as Geneviene explains, it might be disturbing to people who have survived similar experiences. The warning also contains information and advice on who to contact for those who might feel personally affected or who need support. Although there are other dangerous and scary episodes in this journey, I agree that the vivid shared dream Emlyn experiences is the most disturbing part of it.

I had mentioned Haldis when reviewing Journey 5, and she expresses her doubts and confusion quite clearly at the beginning of this journey, while also leaving us some highly intriguing comments that bring some interesting connections and links to mind and leave us wondering.

Emlyn shows great courage but also an impulsive nature that had been kept under control by her circumstances until now. She is greatly affected by the dream mentioned, and that causes her to question many things and to go into a reflective mood, which seems to affect many of the other characters as well. This more contemplative aspect of the journey allows us to gain insight into some of the characters’ personalities and also to learn more details about their lives. We get to understand why some of the characters behave in the way they do, and also why their interaction with others can appear peculiar at times.

Emlyn gets dragged into the world of the Dead once more, and her experience leaves her with some answers but many more questions. It is clear that Emlyn is called to play an important part in the Deae Matres’ journey, and a new quest —full of magic and wonder— takes form.

In this journey, we get to visit some fascinating locations, and there are beautiful examples of the rich and textured descriptions the author has got us accustomed to (I loved the way she describes the clothes they find, but also the furniture, the landscape…). There are also more episodes of the dead coming into the world of the living, some glimpses at what might be behind some of the things that are happening, and an overall sense that the past, the present, and the future, life and death, and reality and dream might not be as fixed and separate as we’d all like to believe.

I wanted to mention a couple of things I haven’t talked about for a while. The author includes a list of characters and locations at the end of the book, to make sure people can check if they have any doubts and don’t feel lost if they cannot recall the full details about a character or a place. The beauty of this list is that it is updated with every Journey, and that means that not only there are no spoilers, but also that although new information is added with every journey, you don’t need to search through lots of characters and places you know nothing about, which are bound to cause confusion before we can locate the one we are looking for.

The other thing I wanted to mention is the wonderful illustrations that accompany each new chapter, which offer us a gallery of pictures and provide a perfect visual companion to the story.

Is there a cliffhanger? Well, we leave the characters in a pretty dire situation, that is true, although it is not as dramatic and dangerous as the point at what the story left us in the previous Journey. But I know I’ll be thinking about what will happen next until Journey 7 falls on my hands.

(I was provided with an ARC copy of this Journey of the serial, which I freely chose to review).

Thanks to the author for her story and for the care she has invested in the adaptation of her novel into a serial that keeps getting better and better, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to keep safe, keep smiling, review, share, and of course, never stop reading. ♥

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog MATT: MORE THAN WORDS by Hans M Hirschi (@Hans_Hirschi) A challenging and beautifully diverse reading experience #RBRT

Hi all:

I bring you the review of a book by an author I’m a big fan of:

Matt: More Than Words by Hans M Hirschi

Matt: More Than Words by Hans M Hirschi

Imagine…

…being locked inside your own body, unable to move at will, unable to speak your mind.

Born prematurely and with complications at birth, twenty-three-year-old Matthew Walker is neurologically injured and diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy. Unable to speak or voluntarily move his limbs, Matt depends on around-the-clock care and has never said a word—most people, including his mother, assume he never will. Then one day, Timmy, a new assistant to Matt’s care team, is sitting at the breakfast table with Matt when he notices a couple of regular taps from Matt’s right big toe. Has Matt finally found a way to break out of his involuntary prison?

Matt–More Than Words is the story of a life without that which most of us take for granted: the ability to communicate. It is a story of suffering, abuse, loneliness, family, friendship, love, hope, and—finally—a green light, a future.

“It is certainly daunting to walk in Matt’s shoes. You might not know anyone or ever have met anyone who has difficulty communicating to the extent that Matt has. But…these people exist.

“I am very pleased to see that a book like this one has been written, highlighting the situation of someone who has been unlucky to suffer such great difficulties with his body.”

—Eva Holmqvist, MSc, reg Occupational Therapist, Council Certified Specialist in Occupational Therapy, Sahlgrenska University Hospital

https://www.amazon.com/Matt-More-Words-Hans-Hirschi-ebook/dp/B085YCBMZC/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Matt-More-Words-Hans-Hirschi-ebook/dp/B085YCBMZC/

https://www.amazon.es/Matt-More-Words-Hans-Hirschi-ebook/dp/B085YCBMZC/

Author Hans M. Hirschi

About the author:

Hans M Hirschi has been writing stories ever since he was a child. Adulthood and the demands of corporate life put an end to his fictional writing for over twenty years. A global executive in training and channel development, Hans has traveled the world extensively and published a couple of non-fictional titles on learning and management.

The birth of his son and the subsequent parental leave provided him with the opportunity to once again unleash his creative writing, writing feel-good stories you’ll remember.

Having little influence over his brain’s creative workings, he simply indulges it and goes with the flow. However, the deep passion for a better world, for love and tolerance are a red thread throughout both his creative and non-fictional work.

Hans lives with his husband, son, and pets on a small island off the west coast of Sweden.

Contact Hans through his website at www.hirschi.se

https://www.amazon.com/Hans-M.-Hirschi/e/B00E0DP0EE/

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel.  We have just recently celebrated the sixth anniversary of the team, and it’s going from strength to strength. Don’t hesitate to visit if you’re a reviewer or a book lover either!

I have read quite a few of Hirschi’s novels and have enjoyed them all, and some are among my favourites in recent years. He combines some of the characteristics that I most admire in authors: he writes strong and diverse characters, no matter what particular challenges they might be faced with; he carefully researches the topics he touches on (even when some of them might seem only incidental to the novel, he makes sure nothing is left to chance) and uses his research wisely (never banging readers on the head with it); and he does not shy away from the ugliest and harshest realities of life, while at the same time always dealing sensitively and constructively with those. His stories are not fairy tales, and they force us to look at aspects of society and of ourselves that perhaps we’re not proud of, but if we rise to the challenge we’ll be rewarded with an enlightening experience. And a great read.

This novel is no exception. We follow the life of Matt, a young man diagnosed with cerebral palsy due to birth complications, for a few rather momentous months. The book, narrated in the third person, is told from three of the main characters’ perspectives. The novel is mostly Matt’s, or at least as good an approximation at what Matt’s experience might be as the author can achieve. It is a difficult task, and he expresses it better than I can in his acknowledgements at the end (‘How does one write about someone in whose situation you’ve never been? How do you give voice to someone who has none? And maybe, most importantly, how, without being insensitive, without objectifying, generalizing, stereotyping, in short without being a “dick”, do you tell a story that needs telling, about someone who could actually be out there, right now?’).  He also explains that he shared his early drafts with experts (people with cerebral palsy and their carers), and, in my non-expert opinion, he manages to depict what the daily life of the protagonist would be like. The other two main characters, Timmy, a professional carer who is Matt’s personal assistant at the beginning of the story but gets removed from his team due to a misunderstanding, and Martha, Matt’s mother, are also given a saying and some of the chapters are told from their perspective. Timmy is a lovely young man, a carer in the true sense of the word, and he has a real calling for the type of job he is doing. Martha is a devoted mother who found herself in a tough situation when she was very young and who has poured her heart and soul into looking after her son. Neither one of them are perfect (nor is Matt for that matter), and they make mistakes, lose heart and faith at times, and can feel overwhelmed or despondent, but they never give up and always have Matt’s best interests in mind.

Of course, I’ve already said that this is not a fairy tale. Far from it. We all know and have heard about some of the terrible things that happen: abuse, neglect, lack of resources, and although in this case there is no political and/or social oversight (Matt has access to a package of care and the family is reasonably well supported, something that unfortunately is not the case everywhere), somehow things still go wrong, and we get to see what it must be like to be the victim of such abuse when you are totally unable not only of physically defending yourself but also of even talking about it. Terrifying. Not everybody is suited for this kind of work, and it is sad to think that those in the most vulnerable circumstances can be exposed to such abuse. And yes, because of the level of need and the limited resources, sometimes the vetting procedures are not as stringent as they should be. (The current health crisis has highlighted how much we expect of some workers and how little a compensation they receive for their efforts).

Communication and how important it is to try and make sure everybody can communicate and become as independent as possible is one of the main themes of the book. The experience of living locked up inside your own body, with other people not even aware that you know what is going on around you and always making decisions for you comes through very strongly in the book. Matt knows and worries about how he is perceived by others, has internalised many of the attitudes he’s seen, and the comments he’s overheard, and many aspects of life we take for granted are like an impossible dream to him. Speaking, going for a walk, even deciding what to watch on television, are tasks beyond his scope. The research into ways to facilitate communication and to increase independence is highlighted in the novel, and the role new technologies (including AI) can play is explored. With the appropriate investment, there’s little doubt that this could make a big difference in the lives of many people.

Martha’s difficult situation (she wishes her son to fulfil his potential and be able to do what any other 23 years old normally does, but she’s also fiercely protective of him and does not want to get her hopes up for them to only be crushed again), the personal price she has to pay, the way she has to sacrifice any semblance of a normal life to keep looking after Matt, her worry about the future… are also convincingly depicted. And Timmy’s own feelings and his acknowledgment of his own limitations ring true as well. Family relationships feature strongly not only in the case of Matt, but also of Timmy, originally from Africa and adopted by Caucasian parents, a loving couple who accept him as he is, and Chen, Timmy’s friend and ex-boyfriend, whose parents are more understanding than he thought they’d be.

The writing style is compelling and descriptive, although the descriptions are focused on the emotions and feelings rather than on the outward appearance of people and things. I found the story moving, and although it is not a page-turner in the common sense of the word, I was totally engulfed in it and couldn’t put it down, even when some of the events were horrifying at times and made me want to look away.

The novel ends in a positive note, and I hope that in real life everybody in Matt’s situation will have access to a fulfilling life, if not now, in the very near future. As a society, we can do much to help, and we should.

This novel reminded me of Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo (yes, the famous screenwriter who ended up in the blacklist, one of Hollywood’s Ten), whose movie version I saw as a teenager (also directed by Trumbo), and I’ve never forgotten. The main character there is a WWI soldier who is so severely injured during the war that he ends up unable to move and to communicate, or so those around him think. Although the circumstances are very different (the main character there had led a normal life before and has many memories, although if that makes his life better is a matter of opinion), and I’m sure this novel will appeal to people looking for a book focusing on diverse characters and exploring the world beyond our everyday experiences. As I’ve explained, it is not a comfortable and easy read, but one that will challenge us and make us look at life with new eyes. If you are up for the challenge, the rewards are immense.

The author told me that he’d also done a project where they had turned the story of Matt into poetry, together with a dancer. I share it here:

Thanks to Rosie and her group, thanks to the author, thanks to all of you for reading, and watching, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, keep safe and always keep smiling!

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Book review Book reviews

#TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT THE UNRAVELING OF BRENDAN MEEKS by Brian Cohn (@briancohnMD) A good psychological portrayal of a young man suffering from schizophrenia and a mystery that is not all in his mind. #Bookreview

Hi all:

Today I bring you a book that is released TODAY and I had a chance to read before its publication thanks to Rosie’s Book Review Team. I had read another book by the author recently and was very curious….

The Unraveling of Brendan Meeks by Brian Cohn
The Unraveling of Brendan Meeks by Brian Cohn

The Unraveling of Brendan Meeks by Brian Cohn

THE UNRAVELING OF BRENDAN MEEKS is a first-person glimpse into the mind of a young man with schizophrenia as he deals with tragic loss. The result is a unique and unforgettable mystery clouded with hallucinations and fraught by paranoia.

Meeks is a young man born with a silver spoon jammed down his throat, a fact his domineering mother has never let him forget. Although he has nearly everything he could ever want—friends, money, a good education—Brendan’s life falls apart during graduate school when he begins to show signs of schizophrenia. Forced to drop out of school, he watches most of his friends disappear and his parents distance themselves further and further.

The only constant left in Brendan’s life is his loving sister, Wendy. When she turns up dead, he must ignore the insults and threats from the voices in his head to begin his own investigation. With the help of an odd assemblage of his few friends—a drug dealer, a meth addict, and a war veteran with a bad case of agoraphobia—he begins to uncover a conspiracy that may, or may not, be a byproduct of his own delusional mind.

Mystery, crime, murder, suspense, detective, schizophrenia, mental health, mental illness, substance abuse, drug abuse, heroin abuse, overdose, depression, suicide.

https://www.amazon.com/Unraveling-Brendan-Meeks-Brian-Cohn-ebook/dp/B074KPSD6B/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Unraveling-Brendan-Meeks-Brian-Cohn-ebook/dp/B074KPSD6B/

Author Brian Cohn

About the author:

Brian is an ER doctor practicing in St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives with his beautiful wife and their two rambunctious children. He was born in Birmingham, Alabama where he grew up loving to read. His passion for books continued through his college career at the UNC-Chapel Hill, and traveled with him back to Alabama where he attended the University of Alabama School of Medicine. He moved to St. Louis for residency training, met his wife, and fell in love with both her and the city itself. He has been practicing emergency medicine for over a decade and loves helping people every day, but turned to writing as a creative outlet.

A self-professed nerd, Brian has long enjoyed everything science fiction, from books to TV and movies. He is also a huge fan of great mysteries and thrillers, and is a sucker for a surprising plot twist. He writes the kind of books that he would want to read, reflecting a deep-seated curiosity about what motivates people to do the things they do.

When he’s not busy writing and taking care of patients, Brian loves to run, play with his children, and spend quiet time watching TV with his wife. If he can only figure out how to do all three things at once, he’ll finally have it made.

https://www.amazon.com/Brian-Cohn/e/B01MYVF8I0/

My review:

I’m writing this review as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team. If you are an author and are looking for reviews, I recommend you check here, as she manages a great group of reviewers and if they like your book, you’ve made it!

Having read and enjoyed Brian Cohn’s previous novel The Last Detective  (you can check my review here), I was very intrigued by his new novel. Although it also promised a mystery/thriller of sorts, this one was set firmly in the present, well, as firmly as anything can be when told by a character suffering from paranoid schizophrenia who rarely takes his medication. As I am a psychiatrist, and I read many thrillers, the book had a double interest for me.

As the description says, the story is narrated, in the first person, by the main character, the Brendan Meeks of the title. Although he is from a good family and had an affluent (if not the happiest) childhood, his mental illness disrupted his education (he was studying a Masters in Computer Sciences at the time), and his life. He now lives in a rundown apartment in St. Louis, surrounded by other marginal characters (a war veteran suffering from PTSD who never leaves the house, a drug-addict girl whose dealer has become something more personal, an understanding Bosnian landlord…). His main support is his sister Wendy. When she dies, he decides to investigate her death, and things get even more complicated, as his brain starts making connections and seeing coincidences that might or might not be really there.

Brendan is the perfect example of an unreliable narrator. His mental illness makes him misinterpret things, give ominous meanings to random events, and believe that everything that happens relates to him and “the code”. Brendan hears voices, abusive voices, mostly in the second person, that give him orders, insult him, tell him to harm himself and others… He has a complex system of paranoid delusions, all related to a “code” he believes was implanted in his brain, and he is convinced that there is a conspiracy of various agencies (mostly men dressed in dark suits driving black SUVs) that will stop at nothing to try and recover that information. Thanks to his parents’ money (as this is the USA, his access to care would be limited otherwise) he sees a psychiatrist once a week, but he rarely takes medication, as he is convinced that if he does, he won’t be able to escape these agents that are after him. Yes, the medication helps with the voices, but it does not seem to touch his delusions (if it is all a delusion). There are several points in the novel when Brendan ends up in hospital and is given medication, and then he seems to hold it together for a while, enough to go after some clues and make some enquiries, but the longer he goes without medication, the more we doubt anything we read and wonder if any of the connections his brain makes are real or just a part of his illness.

I thought the depiction of Brendan’s mental illness and symptoms was very well done. It brought to my mind conversations with many of my patients, including his use of loud music or the radio to drown the voices, his feelings about the medication, his self-doubt, the attitude of others towards him (most of the characters are very understanding and friendly towards Brendan, although he faces doubt and disbelief a few times, not surprisingly, especially in his dealings with the police and the authorities), and his thought processes. He is a likeable and relatable character, faced with an incredibly difficult situation, but determined to keep going no matter what. His sister’s death motivates him to focus and concentrate on something other than himself and his own worries, and that, ultimately, is what helps him move on and accept the possibility of a more positive future. He also shows at times, flashes of the humour that was in evidence in the author’s previous novel, although here less dark and less often (as it again fluctuates according to the character’s experiences).

The narration is fluid and fast, the pace changing in keeping with the point of view and the mental state of the protagonist. There are clues to the later discoveries from early on (and I did guess a few of the plot points) although the narrator’s mental state creates a good deal of confusion and doubt. The rest of the characters are less well-drawn than Brendan, although that also fits in with the narration style (we only learn as much as he tell us or thinks about them at the time, including his doubts and suspicions when he is not well), and the same goes for his altered perceptions of places and events (sometimes offering plenty of detail about unimportant things, and others paying hardly any attention at all).

Where the book did not work that well for me was when it came to the mystery/thriller part of it. There are inconsistencies and plot holes that I don’t think can be put down to the mental state or the altered perception of the character. There is an important plot point that did not fit in for me and tested my suspension of disbelief (in fact made me wonder if the level of unreliability extended beyond what the novel seemed to suggest up to that point and I became even more suspicious of everything), and I suspect readers who love police procedural stories will also wonder about a few of the things that happen and how they all fit together, but, otherwise, there are plenty of twists, and as I said, the build-up of the character and the depiction of his world and perspective is well achieved. Although the subject matter includes drugs, overdoses, corruption, child neglect, difficult family situations, abuse, adultery, and murder, there is no excessive or graphic use of violence or gore, and everything is filtered through Brendan’s point of view, and he is (despite whatever the voices might say) kind and warm-hearted.

I recommend it to readers interested in unreliable narrators, who love mysteries (but perhaps not sticklers for details or looking for realistic and detailed investigations), and are keen on sympathetic psychological portrayals of the everyday life of a young man suffering from schizophrenia.

Thanks to Rosie and to the author for this opportunity, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW!

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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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