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Book review Book reviews Rosie's Book Review Team Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog Dark Hunter: A town under seige. A killer within by F.J. Watson #RBRT #historicalfiction

Hi all:

I bring another of the books I discovered thanks to Rosie’s Book Review Team, and although this is the first fiction book by the author, she is well known for her historical books and her work on TV.

Dark Hunger by F.J. (Fiona) Watson

Dark Hunter: A town under seige. A killer within by F.J. Watson

The year is 1317, and young squire Benedict Russell has joined the English-held garrison of Berwick-upon-Tweed after the spectacular Scottish victory at Bannockburn three years earlier.

Serious and self-doubting, he can’t wait for his time there to come to an end. Living on the disputed territory between Scotland and England is a precarious existence, and as the Scots draw ever closer and the English king does nothing to stop them, Benedict finds himself in a race against time to solve the brutal murder of a young girl and find the traitor who lurks within Berwick’s walls.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09QV7VZJT/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dark-Hunter-F-J-Watson/dp/1846976111/

https://www.amazon.es/dp/B09QV7VZJT/

Author F.J. (Fiona) Watson

Fiona Watson is a medieval historian and writer. She is the author of A History of Scotland’s Landscapes, Scotland from Prehistory to the Present, and, with Birlinn/ John Donald, Under the Hammer: Edward I and Scotland. She was the presenter of the BBC TV series In Search of Scotland.

Fiona lives in rural Perthshire.

 My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for this opportunity.

I have never read any books by the author, but she is an expert in Scottish history and has written and talked about it often, and that is evident when reading this novel, that fits well in the historical fiction genre, with the added attraction of a mystery, the murder of a young woman, thrown in. The investigation of that murder would have been difficult enough in normal circumstances, but it becomes almost impossible in the trying and tense times Scotland, and particularly Berwick-upon-Tweed, are living through in the historical period the novel is set in.

I don’t want to discuss the plot in detail. I am not referring to what really happened during the siege of the city (that is easy to check, and the author doesn’t stray from the facts but puts plenty of flesh onto the bare bones that have reached us about the event), but to the mystery introduced by Watson. I don’t want to spoil the story for readers, and there are plenty of details that I feel need to be read to be appreciated, but I am pretty sure that most mystery readers would enjoy the story because although it is not conventional, they will recognise many of the elements of stories with amateur sleuths (a good observer, with no special training but clever, with particular talents to go beyond and see what others don’t, a keen eye for picking up clues and examining evidence, some very peculiar allies, some early forensic analysis of the scene of the crime, and even a cipher). But there are plenty of themes that play a part in the story and that will easily connect with all kinds of readers: doubts about one’s identity and profession (particularly relevant for the protagonist, a young man on the verge of adulthood); the difficulty in really knowing and understanding others (and not jumping to conclusions and judgements about those around us); how to go beyond appearances and listen to one’s heart; the importance of learning to accept our own priorities and ignoring other people’s opinions; issues of national identity, loyalty, duty…; conquerors and conquered and their relationship (changing at times), and particularly the way women are victimised and pay a big price in war situations (something we are all thinking about at the moment); the social differences of the period and how those dictated one’s fate…

There are many characters in this novel, and in some ways it made me think of Shakespeare’s historical plays, where there is a vast cast of characters with very complex relationships of power and influence between them. Here we have the same, with the complication of the added fictional characters. Although with so many characters it is impossible to get to know them all in-depth, the author’s skill in making us see things from the protagonist’s perspective means that it is difficult to tell apart the historical characters from those she has created for the story. Benedict is the perfect protagonist for this novel. He is an outsider, both to the situation and to the place, and that makes him the perfect guide for the reader, as we feel as puzzled and uncertain as he does. He is naïve and has little experience in soldiering and real life, as he was following religious studies before a family tragedy changed his fate and threw him in the middle of a dangerous and fairly alien situation. On the one hand, he is more educated than many of the men around him, even those in charge, and that gives him unique skills that help him solve the mystery and discover other behaviours far from exemplary. On the other, he is new to the politics and to the struggles for power that underpin many of the events that take place, and his view of army life and of the situation he finds himself plunged into, at least at the beginning of the story, is simplistic and unrealistic. He expects people to behave according to high moral standards, but he soon discovers those around him are only human beings and far from perfect, and the “enemies” are not big scary devils either. As the story is narrated in the first person and present tense from Benedict’s point of view, readers` opinions are coloured by his judgement, sometimes pretty quick and one-sided, and only get to appreciate the nuances of some of the other soldiers and inhabitants when the protagonist is confronted with evidence that contradicts his first opinion. To give him his due (and I did like Benedict because he is passionate and devoted to what he feels is his mission, and is willing to give a chance to people ignored by the good society), he is willing to acknowledge his mistakes, to change his point of view, and he is, at times, a good judge of character, even when that means going against general opinion. In her acknowledgements, the author describes Benedict as “priggish” and “naïve”, but she also refers to “his kindness and gentle spirit” and to a “less jaded view of the world” that reminds her of her son, and I cannot argue with that.

His love interest (and there is one, as there should be in a novel that is also a coming of age story) is, perhaps, my favourite character, and Lucy is fascinating and unusual for many reasons. It was refreshing to see a female protagonist (quite a few women appear in the story, although most don’t have big parts, as seems to be the case in many war stories) who isn’t conventionally beautiful but is irresistible nonetheless. The fact that she has to face many challenges, (other characters call her “a cripple”) but never bends to conventions or hides behind closed doors make her unique, although I have a soft spot for all the women in the novel, as they have to endure trials beyond those of the men, with little if any, acknowledgment.

Berrick-upon- Tweed plays a very important part in the novel, and it is more than a setting, as it does reflect the feelings and the changing fortunes of Scotland, England, and the people inside it, with its changing loyalties and sense of self. The author includes a map of the town with the main locations that play a part in the story, and that helps us better imagine the comings and goings of the characters and the intrigues that take place. (There was no cast of characters included in my copy, and I am not sure if that is to appear in the final version or the paperback copy, but I think it might be useful to readers to have a bit of added information about the characters, especially those based on real historical figures).

I enjoyed the writing. Apart from the first person present tense narration of most of the novel, the first chapter contains a brief fragment, in italics, told from a different point of view, whose meaning we don’t fully understand until much later in the story (but we might suspect from early on). There are descriptions of places, people, and everyday life that give us a good sense of what living in that period must have been like, and despite the tense atmosphere, there are lighter interludes as well. There are beautiful passages, some contemplative, reflective and poetic, and also some very tense and action-packed moments, although the rhythm of the novel, which takes place over a year, reflects well the seasons and the experience of the men at the garrison, with a lot of waiting, preparing and hanging around, and some frantic moments when all hell breaks loose. The alternating of quiet moments with fast-paced ones (and those become more frequent towards the end) accommodates well both, the historical events and the mystery, giving each enough time to develop. Mine was an ARC copy and there might be changes in the published version, but I share a couple of fragments I highlighted:

 I stretch and walk again, trying not to think about the passing of time, for such thoughts only draw it out like an arrow that is never sprung.

 Wandering downstairs before bed, I stand outside in the yard for a moment, watching the moon —waning now— cast her patient gaze upon us. The stars lie above, held up by angels. I pray that all will be well.

 I see, too, that we live in difficult times precisely because those, from the king down, who should behave the most honourably, the most justly, are little better than liars and thieves. This I have learnt.

 The ending… As I said, the historical events are easy to check, and the novel remains faithful to them, although it emphasises how things change and nothing is settled forever. As for the fictional characters, especially Benedict, the ending is fairly open but hopeful, and I liked that aspect in particular. And, do not fret, the mysteries are solved.

 I really enjoyed this novel, set in a historical period I knew very little about, and I particularly enjoyed the feeling of closeness and of sharing what it must have been like. I would recommend it to readers who enjoy historical fiction, particularly those interested in Scottish history, lovers of mysteries set in the past, those who enjoy puzzles and ciphers (I always feel I would like to be shown the actual text they are trying to decipher), and readers who enjoyed The Name of the Rose might want to check this one (although it has been a long time since I have read it or even watched the movie, so take that with a pinch of salt). This is not a cozy mystery, though, and readers should be warned about the use of strong language at times, violent scenes (not the most explicit I’ve read, but this is a war after all), torture, rape, and violence towards women (again, not explicit but disturbing nonetheless). But anybody who enjoys well-written and well-informed historical fiction set in the XIV century, are interested in the Scottish-English conflict and don’t feel the warnings apply to them, should check this novel. Fiona Watson’s move to fiction is a success, and I hope this will be the first of many of her novels to see the light.

Thanks to the author, the publisher, and to Rosie and her team for all their support, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, keep smiling, keep being kind, and keep safe.

Ah, and I wanted to let you know that I’ll be away from home for a couple of weeks or so, so don’t worry too much if you don’t see me around. I am not sure how much I’ll be able to connect while I’m away (I hope for a nice break with friends, so fingers crossed!), so I might not appear or be able to say much when I do, but don’t worry. I’ll be back soon. Stay well!

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog FAT THE OTHER F WORD by Dan Radlauer A coming of age story, recommended to lovers of sitcoms and anybody looking for an inspiring story #RBRT

Hi all:

I bring you a review on behalf of Rosie’s Book Review Team. This one is a YA novel about a topic that affects many but one I haven’t read many books about. It made me think about the nature of comedy.

Freedom of speech and comedy have always had a complex relationship, as many people insist that any topic can be the subject of comedy while others don’t agree. Who decides what is offensive and what is not? Although as outside observers we might think that some people are easily offended (when we don’t agree with their point of view and their annoyance at something somebody else had said or done), we all (or most of us) have something (or someone) that we would be likely to get upset by if it became the butt of a joke. How do we judge what is appropriate? Books are being banned again and such issues seem to be more relevant than ever.

And without further ado…

Fat: the Other F Word by Dan Radlauer

FAT: the other “F” word: a novel by Dan Radlauer

In “FAT: The Other ‘F’ Word,” Quincy Collins lives in two vastly different worlds. One where he’s a very heavy and awkward freshman at Beverly Hills High School, the other where he’s a Hollywood character actor in commercials and Indie films playing the comic relief or the despicable bully. Guess which world he likes better?

At the start of this Y.A. novel, Quincy gets his big break with a major role as “The Fat Brother” in a hot new Network Sitcom, only to find that wanting and having are two very different things.

First, “size discrimination activists” challenge the integrity of the character he’s portraying. Then his health struggles begin to undermine both his character on the show, and his self-assigned brand as “The Fat Kid Actor.” His dream gig becomes a nightmare, and he starts to question the role he’s playing on TV, as well as in real life.

“FAT: The Other ‘F’ Word” shows a unique person in a unique setting. It explores Hollywood, adolescence, and our culture’s attitudes towards different sized people. Quincy narrates the story with discovery, irony, pain and compassion as he learns that he can’t base his identity on the size of his body.

 https://www.amazon.com/Dan-Radlauer-ebook/dp/B09LQCDBX7/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/FAT-other-word-novel-Radlauer-ebook/dp/B09LQCDBX7/

https://www.amazon.es/gp/product/B09LQCDBX7/

Author and musician Dan Radlauer

About the author:

Dan Radlauer is an award winning composer and producer living and working in Los Angeles. After starting his career writing music for literally thousands of television and radio commercials, he started focusing on TV and Film work around 2001. His years doing “ad music” has given him a musical palette that spans from Head Banging Rock and EDM to full orchestral scores as well as world, Jazz and organic acoustics genres. Dan also is a busy music educator and mentor to aspiring young musicians as well as a consultant to various music educational organizations.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Radlauer

https://radmusic.net/

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for this opportunity.

This is the author’s first novel, and from the information he includes in the author’s note, it seems that he was inspired by some tragic family history to write about the topic, and it is evident that he feels a personal connection to it.

The main details of the plot are well summarised in the book’s description. Quincy Collins is a 14-year-old boy who lives in Los Angeles, in Bel Air (in the least fancy part of Bel-Air, as he explains), and who is an actor, although most of his experience comes from acting in commercials and always playing the overweight kid. He does not mind playing the part; he meets the same heavy boy actors at most auditions, and his best friend, Cole, is one of them. He is very aware of his size, as would be expected from a teenager, and his defense mechanism is humour. He is forever making fat jokes and enjoys the fact that people find him funny and laugh with him, rather than at him behind his back. He gets lucky (he also seems to be a good actor with a particular talent for comedy) and he is cast as one of the main characters in a sitcom. The writer of the show, Paul, is also a large man, and fat jokes are a big part of Quincy’s character in the series, despite the controversy, this creates with the network executives, who are worried about a possible backlash. Things get complicated when Quincy’s health starts to suffer, and he has to make some difficult decisions that affect his size. To make matters worse the protests by pressure groups insisting that making fun of fat people is not funny and calling the jokes in the programme “hate speech” start making Quincy reconsider his attitude towards the series and wonder what is acceptable and what is offensive. Is a fat joke acceptable if a heavy person tells it? Or is it offensive regardless of the size of the comedian telling it?

This is a coming-of-age story that focuses mostly on the issue of weight, health, what is acceptable as a comedy subject, discrimination, and self-identity. The main character, who narrates the story in the first person, is likeable, although his life is not one most fourteen years old youths would easily identify with. Some aspects of it would be like a dream come true for many kids his age (avoiding school and working on TV instead; meeting big stars and having a successful career at such a young age; living in a nice house with caring parents, and a younger sister who also loves him…), while others, like his weight and his health problems, would be a nightmare for anybody. Rather than hard-hitting realism, this YA story chooses a character whose life is in the limelight and whose decisions and actions are scrutinised by all and have a much bigger impact than that of most children his age. If we all know about bullying and the way peer pressure has been magnified by social media and the way our lives are always on display, whether we like it or not, imagine what that would be like for a child actor and one whose main issue is always on display. Quincy cannot ignore what is happening around him, and no matter how hard adults try to protect him, he is faced with some tough decisions.

This is not a novel about really good and terribly bad characters. All of the important characters are likeable once we get to know them a bit, and apart from one or two who are battling their own demons, most of them just seem to be supportive, encouraging and trying to do their jobs as well as they can. We might agree or disagree with some of their opinions or points of view, but they don’t have hidden motives or are devious and manipulative.

The writing flows well; the story is set in chronological order and there are no complicated jumps or convoluted extra storylines. Quincy comes across as a very articulate and fairly smart boy, and we see him become more thoughtful and introspective as the novel progresses, gaining new insights and maturing in front of our eyes. As he acknowledges, he is more used to spending time with adults than with children, and he is empathetic and moves on from only thinking about what he wants to do and what he enjoys, to considering other people’s perspectives. The same goes for his attitude towards food. Although sometimes the process Quincy has to go through to improve his health appears, perhaps, too easy and straightforward, there are moments when his struggling to keep up control is powerfully reflected in the novel and rings painfully true.

Other than the issue of weight, which is at the centre of the novel, I don’t think any other warnings as to the content are warranted. There is no violence, no sex, no bad language, and although some diversity issues are brought up, these are not discussed in detail or gone into in any depth (they are mostly used for comparison). People worried about how offensive the fat jokes might be… Well, that is a bit of a personal matter. We don’t see examples of the actual show, so most of the jokes are those Quincy himself makes, and, in my opinion, they are pretty mild (I struggled with weight when I was a child and a teenager, and I can’t let my guard down even now, so my point of view is not truly neutral), but be warned that some of the content might be hurtful, and it might be advisable to check a sample of the book if you have doubts.

I particularly enjoyed learning more about how a sitcom is filmed, and the whole process of creation, from the rewrites of the script to the wardrobe changes, and the interaction with a live audience. It felt as if I was there, and the author’s personal experience in that world shines through.

In summary, this is a solid YA first novel, with a likeable protagonist who has to face some tough decisions and some hard truths. The ending… is very appropriate and hopeful (although I would have preferred it to end with the end, that is a personal thing), and young people who are interested in acting and/or struggle with any self-image issues (not necessarily to do with weight) are likely to enjoy and feel inspired by the book. And adults will also find plenty to think about within its pages.

Thanks to Rosie and her team for their help and support, thanks to the author for his book, thanks to all of you for reading, liking, commenting, and sharing, and remember to stay safe, and keep smiling!

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog DEAD OF WINTER: JOURNEY 11, The Sumelazon Escarpment and JOURNEY 12, Goddesses by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene (@teagangeneviene) Wonderful new characters and a dark threat closing in #fantasy #bookreview

Hi all:

I’m not going to try to introduce the reviews of the two next journeys in the popular series Dead of Winter. Those who read my blog regularly know I’ve been following it for a year now, so, without further ado…

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. http://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?

https://www.amazon.com/Teagan-Riordain-Geneviene/e/B00HHDXHVM/

Dead of Winter: Journey 11, the Sumelazon Escarpment by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

Dead of Winter: Journey 11, the Sumelazon Escarpment. 

Meet a new character in this Journey of Dead of Winter. She is a Deae Matres whose encounter with Gethin Gwilym has an unexpected result. Next in Pergesca, we get better acquainted with a noblewoman or a “HaDritak,” who is an old friend of Zasha. She has a few tricks up her sleeves.

 Emlyn sees and experiences places, customs, and foods that are foreign to her. One of her gifts is growing.

 As the conclusion of Emlyn’s “Journeys” draws near, we see that our heroes are underdogs. They are out-manned, “out-spirited,” and under-powered — physically, magically, and politically. With no other recourse, they make use of deception and manipulation. Although, how can that possibly be enough?
Universal Purchase Links

Kindle:  relinks.me/B09M7Q19XT

Paperback:  relinks.me/B09M4QWDYK

My review:

What to say? Teagan Geneviene has managed to hook a non-high-fantasy reader like me, into this story, which I have followed since the first instalment, and now I have been reading it for over a year. The fact that it is divided up into short and manageable bits, and that it builds up slowly without dumping huge doses of backstory and never-ending descriptions of complex worlds into the readers laps, demanding absolute attention and devotion, has helped me stay the course so far, and I have to admit that I will miss it when it is over (and I know the end is approaching).

For those readers who might leave some time between one instalment (or Journey) and the next, the author includes a cast of characters and locations at the end, which is continuously updated with all the new information, and allows us to catch up or refresh our memories of what went before.

Although the central character and main protagonist of the story is Emlyn, we get the opportunity to see the world from some of the other characters’ perspectives as well, and in this journey —which is one of those where we get a chance to catch our breath, digest what has come before and get ready for what is to come— we meet some new characters as well.

A Deae Matres from ancient times finds one of the male characters (Gethin), tells him a few things aboout himself and his ancestors, and brings him a magical object as well. History is never quite past and gone in this story, and destiny, fate, family lines and legacy all play fundamental roles in the events.

Zasha comes into her own and shows us (and Emlyn and Osabide) that she has learned a lot about the inner workings of her world and the Deae Matres Society. HaDritak Baki, a friend of Zasha’s, is quickly becoming a new favourite of mine (she is a character!), and Lucetius, one of the most fascinating beings in a story full of them, comes back and proves that Emlyn was right in her feelings about being somehow connected to him. We meet a military man as well (and I do like him already), and Emlyn and Luce manage to do something quite extraordinary.

As I don’t want to spoil the story, I won’t give you any further details, but if I had to highlight something from this chapter, it would have to be the richness of the language and the beautiful descriptions of places, smells, foods, and most of all, clothes, which play a very important part in this Journey, especially for Emlyn. Oh, and there are some surprises in store about the Deae Matres Society, their membership, and their politics.

So, yes, don’t hesitate if you’ve already been following Dead of Winter and carry on reading it. The story keeps getting better and better and this journey is proof of that. If you haven´t started yet, you should, but do it in the right order, and begin reading Journey one immediately. You won’t regret it.

Dead of Winter: Journey 12, Goddesses by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

Dead of Winter: Journey 12, Goddesses by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene  

So far in previous Journeys of “Dead of Winter,” we’ve encountered villagers and city folk, religions, armies, and societies. We learned of terrifying beasts, nightwalkers, and the enigmatic Listeners. The final battle is at hand. Journey 12, brings us yet another type of extraordinary being – goddesses. Yet are they salvation? Or another complication… or even a threat.

Universal Purchase Links

Kindle:  relinks.me/B09P5LJY13

Paperback:  relinks.me/B09NTTZ9J8

My review:

You know you are hooked onto a series when you see or hear something and you wonder what the characters would say, see a piece of clothing and it reminds you of a dress one of them wears, or think about what might be happening there even when you are not reading it. And that is definitely what is happening to me with this series. I was watching TV and some of the things I saw in the news made me wonder what the Brethern of Un’Naf would have said if they had seen it, and I am sure I often stare at people because they remind me of one of the characters in Dead of Winter. Irrespective of the genre and how often you read it, if the story and the characters become alive for you and you care for them, you’ve found a new favourite.

I don’t want to reveal too much of the story for those who haven’t been following the series (you need to read the journeys in the right order, as the story builds up as it goes, and each journey is carefully designed to fit in neatly into the overall narrative), but things are coming to a head. Winter is no longer coming. It is here with a vengeance.

In this particular journey, as the blurb suggests, we have new beings that make an appearance, and it seems that they will play a big part in the events to come, at least some of them. The Goddesses of the title appear in the prologue already, and their magic spreads throughout the journey, where we also renew our acquaintance with other characters and get to see what is happening elsewhere, back where the first journey started.

Emlyn is happy to be joined again by a character she has become very fond of (sometimes the families we create are a much better fit than the ones we happen to be born into, as is the case here), and she even wonders about a possible romance (no, not for her, don’t fret); there are apologies and we get a new understanding of some past events, and other characters we have met before come bearing information and warnings.

I thoroughly enjoyed this journey, but some of the highlights for me were: the opportunity to see Emlyn become more independent, daring, and introspective; the way some characters got a chance to learn about new inventions and build up their knowledge by sharing it with others; our new insight into the feelings of one of the male characters (I am sure I wasn’t the only one wondering about this); the opportunity to learn a bit more about the World of the Dead and how thing work there; and especially the joy, playfulness, and sense of humour of one of the beings that comes into the story and makes quite an impression. Yes, she is a Goddess, and I love her already. Well, being a Goddess, I guess I adore her.

Although I haven’t been sharing samples, to avoid spoilers, I couldn’t resist including this one, because it made me laugh, and it shows how much more relaxed and at home Emlyn is now.

Here, Emlyn is talking about a character she met before, who suddenly turns up again:

She was the picture of everything Emlyn had always imagined a well-to-do young lady should be. Well, except of course for being dead.

We are coming close to the (final?) battle, and the preparations are in haste, so I recommend anybody who enjoys creative stories, wonderful characters, and colour worlds and hasn’t yet started reading this series to start now, as I’m sure you’ll want to be ready for the ending, which I have the feeling will be quite spectacular. I can’t wait, although, at the same time, I don’t want it to end. I’m sure you know what I mean.

Thanks to the author for these journeys, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to stay safe and take care, to keep smiling and reading, and to enjoy every minute. 

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview Dead of Winter, Journey 4, The Old Road by Teagan Riordain Geneviene (@teagangeneviene) Adventures, scares, legends, and stories. A monthly appointment I always look forward to #fantasy

Hi all:

I bring a big favourite of all my readers. We’ve reached Journey 4 in Teagan Geneviene’s Dead of Winter Serial.

Dead of Winter. Journey 4. The Old Road by Teagan Geneviene

Dead of Winter. Journey 4. The Old Road by Teagan Geneviene

Previously, Journey 3, The Fever Field left Emlyn on the run. Will the Society of Deae Matres be willing to help? After all, in Journey 1, they rejected her father’s plea to take her away. Journey 4, The Old Road features Boabhan, the Society’s most enigmatic adherent. Emlyn finds herself in another kind of danger when the archvillain from the prologue of Journey 1, Forlorn Peak returns to the story in this installment. Plus, she still has not outrun the Brethren. Meanwhile, Emlyn isn’t the only one at risk. This Journey finds many of our friends in harm’s way. This Journey is notably longer than the others. Some parts of the story needed to be told together, in one volume. Come, be a part of the Journeys of Dead of Winter.

https://www.amazon.com/Dead-Winter-Journey-Old-Road-ebook/dp/B092G5LB7R/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dead-Winter-Journey-Old-Road-ebook/dp/B092G5LB7R/

https://www.amazon.es/Dead-Winter-Journey-Old-Road-ebook/dp/B092G5LB7R/

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 review:
I’ve read all the previous journeys in the Dead of Winter serial and loved them (check my latest review here), as I have all the novels I’ve read by Teagan Riordáin Geneviene and also her blog. I’m always amazed by her imagination and her ability to bring to life all kinds of whimsical and wonderful characters and make the readers not only believe in them, but also care deeply for them. That is definitely my case with this story and its characters, and that is despite not being a big fan of fantasy. I usually don’t have the patience for high fantasy, because I like to jump straight into a story rather than have to spend a lot of time getting to understand the rules of the world the author has built. This serial obviates those problems. Not only we get bite-size instalments of the story once a month, but the author has created characters and situations we feel comfortable and familiar with from the start, while he keeps pulling us into an increasingly complex world.
Emlyn, the young protagonist, has a gift (although at first, it seems a curse to her, as it puts her in immediate danger and causes her to be the butt of abuse and prejudice), but despite the help of her friend and mentor, Osabide, there are many things about the world (the worlds) she doesn’t know about because knowledge is frown upon by the religious leaders in her town. Knowledge gives you freedom, and freedom is something they abhor. Following her adventures gives readers a great opportunity to learn about many wonders and to experience the excitement and the risk of the larger world through her eyes.
In the fourth journey, Emlyn gets a taste of what life is like travelling with the Society of Deae Matres, makes some new friends, and realises that many of her intuitions were right. She goes through a terrifying experience that introduces a dark character (that we’ll hear more about in the future, it seems), Arawn, one of the nightwalkers. We also learn about some of the stories and legends (or perhaps true stories?) of heroes, the binding (that seems intrinsically linked to Emlyn’s family), old goddesses, and I have to admit to being fascinated by the new information we gain about Boabhan, who although is one of the Deae Matres, is quite unique (no spoilers) and much older than all of them (it seems).
This is a journey full of adventures, very dynamic, with several lucky escapes and scrapes, unexplained and inexplicable moments, signs of things to come, rumours and questions, gathering of new information, and we also catch up with Emlyn’s trusted teacher, Osabide, whose safety is put to the test. And, Haldis, the watcher, opens the chapter with more and more memories that feed some new information into the story but leave us with more doubts and questions than before.
As has been the case throughout the serial, I enjoyed the beautiful descriptions of places, people, animals, clothes, and especially the way the author brings in songs, objects, nature, animals, and even smells into the story, creating a tapestry of characters and setting that crystallise into a three-dimensional story. If I’d liked Emlyn and Osabide from the very beginning, I’m quickly becoming fond of many of the more recent characters, no matter how different from the norm they are.
Although we can’t help feeling frustrated by the end of the journey, as we’d like to keep reading, the author again chooses what feels like a natural pausing point to stop her narration and keep us eager for more.
Her introduction to the new journey gives us enough to keep us thinking, and I am signed into this journey until the very end, I can assure you that.
I can’t recommend this serial highly enough. Even if you’re not a reader of high-fantasy, as long as you enjoy great characters, plenty of imagination, and are a fan of stories that keep getting wilder, more creative, and fantastic as they go along, you can’t go wrong with it. And it will become a monthly appointment on your diary you’ll be eager to keep.

Thanks to Teagan for the new installment (and I can’t wait to read the next), thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and especially, to keep safe and keep smiling. 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog DEAD OF WINTER: JOURNEY 1, FORLORN PEAK by Teagan Geneviene (@teagangeneviene) A great start to a beautiful and compelling fantasy serial

Hi all:

I bring you the review for a new story, or rather, the first “journey” of a new story by an author and blogger I’ve been following and reading for a while now, and whose work I’ve reviewed here on quite a few occasions. When she announced she’d be publishing Dead of Winter, I offered to share the news. I remembered she had mentioned the story to me (although I didn’t know the title or the ins and outs of it) years back and had told me she’d had to put it aside when she realised there was a central element to her story that also appeared in another series that had suddenly become very well-known and popular. She hadn’t been aware of it at the time of writing, and the stories were totally different, but she felt people might still question it. But, as a writer, and I’m sure many of you have experienced the same with personal projects, sometimes we can’t let go of certain things, because they keep haunting us, and Teagan has finally decided to publish it in instalments called “journeys” in this case.

I share my review of the first Journey, but I thought I’d borrow from her own presentation of the book, as she knows much more about it than I do. So first I share some of her own introduction and then follows my review.

Here, in Teagan’s own words:

Dead of Winter. Journey 1, Forlorn Peak by Teagan Geneviene

Dead of Winter: Journey 1, Forlorn Peak!

Dead of Winter will be a serial/series available through Amazon. (Maybe other sites as well, for the anti-Amazon among us.  If those sites cooperate, that is.  I have little patience for their shenanigans).

I call the installments Journeys, because the characters travel across the complex world I built, experiencing new cultures and meeting new people. These journeys will publish approximately monthly.  Length will range from 30 to 60 pages, or so.

This is the new video trailer for Journey 1
Here’s the Blurb

Dead of Winter takes place in a fantasy world that resembles some countries in the past of our own world.  In this monthly series we travel through many lands, each with a distinct culture.  The series begins in the Flowing Lands at Forlorn Peak (Journey 1).

The Brethren are fanatics who gradually took over the Flowing Lands.  They say all beliefs but theirs are heresy.  Women are little more than property.  Emlyn is only twelve, but to the Brethren she is an abomination.  Why?  She can see ghosts and other entities.  That’s a secret she can admit only to her teacher, Osabide.

The stronger Emlyn’s ability gets, the harder it is for her to hide it.  Now she has also gotten a supernatural warning that she knows is not about the weather, “Winter is coming!

As the veil separating the world of the living from the realm of the dead deteriorates, the danger accelerates.  Journey with Emlyn as she explores her world and its many cultures in Dead of Winter.

Universal Purchase Links

Kindle:  relinks.me/B08RBBVRGX

Paperback:  relinks.me/B08R7RH4F5

Some of you have seen this video with me narrating the prologue, and thank you so much for listening.  It took half a bottle of throat spray, but I did it.  The recording lasts fewer than three minutes and there are lovely images to entertain you. If you haven’t already, then I hope you will stop to listen.

Just in case you don’t know Teagan, here is a bit more information about her:

About the author:

Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene lives in a major east coast city, but she calls the desert southwest home. She longs to return to those magical lands.

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 southwest. Teagan most often writes in the fantasy genre, but she also writes cozy mysteries. Her blog “Teagan’s Books” contains serial stories written according to “things” from viewers.

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?

And check her own blog here:

https://teagansbooks.com/

Here is a list of the blogs that are sharing the news as well, so you might want to visit them (not only because of that, but because they are more than worth a visit or many).
Pat Alderman at e-Quips

Wallace Peach at Myths of the Mirror

Robbie Cheadle at Roberta Writes

Dan Antion at No Facilities

John W. Howell at Fiction Favorites

Gwen Plano at Blog Reflections… From the Desk of Gwen Plano

Mark Bierman at Adventures on Writing

And now, my review:

I have followed the author’s blog and the writing she shares there for a few years, and have also read and reviewed her novels, and I love her imagination and the beauty of her writing, so I am grateful for the ARC copy of this first instalment (journey) of her new serial, which I freely and eagerly chose to review.

I am not a big reader of fantasy, especially “high fantasy”, because I don’t have the patience for the laborious world building involved, the huge amounts of description, and because I need a quick connection with a character, and characters I can relate to (I don’t have to like them, and they don’t have to be anything like me, but there has to be something that pulls me towards them and makes me want to follow their adventures). But I’ve read some fantasy set in worlds that felt fairly familiar or recognisable to me, and where the main characters grabbed my attention straight away. And this was the case here.

Emlyn is a young girl who doesn’t fit in the very narrow and limited definition of womanhood the Brethern have imposed over the Flowing Lands, where she lives. Although in this first journey there isn’t a lot of detail about that world order or the setting, it is clear that the Brethern are some kind of religious fanatics with extreme views (especially where women are concerned), and women are not allowed to learn anything other than how to look after the house, their husbands and their children, are supposed to wear only subdued colours and to hide their hair. Healers or other women suspected of having access to knowledge or who’ve behaved in a manner unbecoming, according to them, get banished or worse.

The society seems to be a pre-industrial one, but not all places are ruled the same, and we get glimpses at what might be a different way of life, although it’s very early days in the story.

I liked Emlyn, who is special in many ways as the blurb hints at, and whose coming-of-age journey seems to play a big part in the story (or so I hope), and I also liked Osabide, her teacher, who hides depths Emlyn is only now beginning to discover. She lives an alternative lifestyle and guides Emlyn through a difficult life, where her family is less than understanding, and there seem to be dangers even under her own roof.

The author’s writing is beautiful, and although I’m not a fan of description per se, she manages to conjure up the natural world surrounding Emlyn, as well as her own experiences, that have more than a touch of the magical and the mystical about them. Even though the story is written in the third person, we see things from the point of view of the protagonist, and we experience her wonder, her fear, and also her excitement at being in the company of women who have a different and less limiting view of the world.

There are characters I dislike already, like Emlyn’s sister and her brother-in-law (he’s a creep!), but I’m sure there will be plenty more, as the second journey promises to offer us a closer view at how things work in Emlyn’s world.

I enjoyed the writing, the characters, the setting of the story, and I’m already hooked onto the imaginary world Emlyn inhabits. There’s nothing I disliked about it, other than I’ll have to wait until the next journey is published to read more. This early in the serial I don’t want to mention other stories that it might put people in mind of (I’m looking at you, The Handmaid’s Tale), but I think most readers are likely to be reminded of past events and historical periods and also about more recent developments in certain societies when they read this journey. A great start to the serial, recommended to all who love fantasy, strong female characters, anybody looking for a short read, and also those who enjoy beautiful writing and want to be transported to an imaginary world where anything might be possible. Highly recommended.

Thanks to Teagan for taking me along on this journey, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep safe, keep smiling (from behind the mask), and come back soon!

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE BOY AND THE LAKE by Adam Pelzman. A strong contender among my favourite reads of the year #RBRT

Hi all:

Another great discovery thanks to Rosie’s Book Review Team. I loved the cover as soon as I saw it, and the content more than matches it. Oh, this book made me think of fellow blogger and non-fiction author extraordinaire, D.G. Kaye (Debby for her friends), and her non-fiction writing.

The Boy and the Lake by Adam Pelzman

The Boy and the Lake by Adam Pelzman

The Boy and the Lake is a poignant and haunting coming-of-age story … a multifaceted, evocative and masterfully told tale.”
—Lynda Cohen Loigman, USA Today bestselling author of The Two-Family House and The Wartime Sisters

“Pelzman excels at creating an intensely atmospheric setting and revealing how it shapes his characters’ identities and worldviews … The narrative is full of rich, descriptive language … a well-developed vintage setting and classic but thought-provoking coming-of-age theme.” —Kirkus Reviews

Set against the backdrop of the Newark riots in 1967, a teenage Benjamin Baum leaves the city to spend the summer at an idyllic lake in northern New Jersey. While fishing from his grandparents’ dock, the dead body of a beloved neighbor floats to the water’s surface—a loss that shakes this Jewish community and reveals cracks in what appeared to be a perfect middle-class existence. Haunted by the sight of the woman’s corpse, Ben stubbornly searches for clues to her death, infuriating friends and family who view his unwelcome investigation as a threat to the comfortable lives they’ve built. As Ben’s suspicions mount, he’s forced to confront the terrifying possibility that his close-knit community is not what it seems to be—that, beneath a façade of prosperity and contentment, darker forces may be at work.

In The Boy and the Lake, Adam Pelzman has crafted a riveting coming-of-age story and a mystery rich in historical detail, exploring an insular world where the desperate quest for the American dream threatens to destroy both a family and a way of life.

https://www.amazon.com/Adam-Pelzman-ebook/dp/B08FRNB8X2/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Adam-Pelzman-ebook/dp/B08FRNB8X2/

https://www.amazon.es/Adam-Pelzman-ebook/dp/B08FRNB8X2/

Author Adam Pelzman

About the author:

Adam Pelzman was born in Seattle, raised in northern New Jersey, and has spent most of his life in New York City. He studied Russian literature at the University of Pennsylvania and went to law school at UCLA. His first novel, Troika, was published by Penguin (Amy Einhorn Books). He is also the author of The Papaya King, which Kirkus Reviews described as “entrancing,” “deeply memorable” and “devilishly smart social commentary.” The Boy and the Lake, set in New Jersey during the late 1960s, is his third novel.

https://www.amazon.com/Adam-Pelzman/e/B00J4DFTD2/

My review:

I received an ARC copy of this novel and I freely reviewing it as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, check here if you want to get your book reviewed).

For those of you who are in a hurry and prefer not to get too much background information about a book before reading it, I’ll tell you that this is a fantastic novel, one that brought me pleasant memories of the many great novels I read as part of my degree in American (USA) Literature, especially those written in the second half of the 20th century. I had never read any novels by Adam Pelzman before, but after reading this one I’m eager to catch up.

The description of the book included above provides enough details about the plot, and I won’t elaborate too much on it. There is a mystery (or at least that’s what Ben, the young protagonist believes) at the centre of the story, and when he insists on trying to find out the truth, despite his suspicions being dismissed initially by everybody, he sets into action a chain of events that ends up unravelling what at first sight seemed to be an idyllic upper-middle-class Jewish community. Despite efforts to maintain an outward appearance of order and harmony, there are signs of problems bubbling under the surface from early on. Not only the body of the woman Ben finds, but also the relationships in his family (his mother’s mood changes; his younger sister’s death prior to the novel’s action; his uncle’s desperate comedic efforts; his grandfather’s possibly not-so-clean business ethics) and there are also issues with others in the community (the father of his friend, Missy, and his difficulty keeping any jobs; the husband of the dead woman’s eagerness to replace her and his strange behaviour…), coupled with a general agitation and unhappiness with the global situation (the race riots in Newark are important to the plot of the story, and there are mentions of the many traumatic events the USA had experienced in the 1960s, from the deaths of JFK and RFK to the ongoing Vietnam War). If the novel can be seen as a coming of age story, with its customary theme of loss of innocence, it also represents the loss of innocence at a more global level, and there is plenty of symbolism in the novel to highlight that, including two toxic leaks onto the lake, with its accompanying death and destruction. Although the novel has a mystery at its heart, and people reading the beginning might think this will be a mystery novel or a thriller of sorts, I would describe it as a coming of age story cum literary fiction, and it reminded me of Philip Roth’s novella Goodbye Columbus (the story refers to it, although not by name). It also made me think of Brick, a 2005 film, not so much for its aesthetics and style (although most of the characters in the movie are high school students there is a definite noir/hard-boiled detective story feel to it) but for the way a seemingly implausible investigation ends up unearthing more than anybody bargained for.

Although Ben and his friend Missy are the main characters, there are quite a few others that play important parts, especially Ben’s parents (Abe and Lillian), his sister, Bernice and Helen, the dead woman, both present only through memories and recollections (more or less), his grandparents, the neighbours…  Also, the lake and its community (more of a character in its own right than a setting), New York, and Newark. Ben tells the story in the first person, and he is a somewhat reluctant hero, always worried about what others might think, always analysing what he has done and feeling guilty for his misdeeds (real or imagined), articulate but anxious and lacking in self-confidence. It is evident from the narration that his older self is telling the story of that year, one that came to signify a big change in his life and in that of others around him as well. He is not a rebel wanting to challenge the status (not exactly a Holden Caulfield), but rather somebody who would like to fit in and to believe that everything is as good as it seems to be. However, a nagging worry keeps him probing at the seemingly perfect surface. I liked Ben, although at times he was a bit of a Hamlet-like character, unable to make a decision, wavering between his own intuition and what other people tell him, taking one step forward and two steps back. I loved Missy, his friend, who is determined, no-nonsense, loves reading, knows what she wants, and works ceaselessly to get it. Ben’s father is a lovely character (or at least that’s how his son sees him), although perhaps his attitude towards his wife is not always helpful. Ben’s mother is one of those difficult women we are used to seeing in novels, series, and films, who appear perfect to outsiders but can turn the life of their closest family into a nightmare. She is a fascinating character, but I’ll let you read the book and make your own mind up about her.

The story is not fast-paced. The language includes beautiful descriptions, and the prose flows well, following the rhythm of the seasons, with moments of calm and contemplation and others of chaos and confusion. It recreates perfectly the nostalgia of the lost summers of our youth, and it is also very apt at showing the moment an insightful youth starts to question the behaviours of the adults around him, their motivations, and their inconsistencies. I know some readers are not fond of first-person narration, but I thought it worked well here, because it provides us with a particular perspective and point of view, one that is at once participant and outside observer (Ben’s family used to spend their summers at the lake but decided to move there permanently due to the riots).

I found the ending appropriate and satisfying, given the circumstances. The mystery is solved sometime before the actual ending of the novel, but the full dénouement doesn’t come until the end, and although not surprising at that point, it is both symbolic and fitting.

As I’ve said before, this is a great book. I’ve read many excellent stories this year, but this one is among the best of them. It is not an easy-to-classify novel, although it fits into a variety of genres, and it is not for people looking for a standard mystery read, where one can easily follow the clues and reach a conclusion. It is not a fast page-turner, and there is plenty of time spent inside the head of our young protagonist rather than moving from action scene to action scene. If you enjoy beautiful writing, psychologically complex characters, and a story full of nostalgia and a somewhat timeless feel, I recommend it. There is a background of violence and some very troubling events that take place during the narration, but these are never explicitly shown or described, and although there are plenty of disturbing moments (suicide, the death of a child, episodes of drunkenness…), in most cases we only witness the consequences of those. Readers who love literary fiction and coming of age stories and especially those interested in US Literature from the later part of the 20th century should try a sample and see how it makes them feel. I strongly recommend it.

Thanks to the author for the book, thanks to Rosie and all the members of the team for their support and encouragement (reviewers, don’t forget to check her blog as well. We are a friendly bunch), and thanks to all of you for reading, liking, commenting, sharing, and remember to keep reviewing and to keep safe. ♥

Categories
Book review Book reviews

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré (@abidare_author) An emotionally enriching experience

Hi all:

I bring you a debut novel I’ve really enjoyed by an author I’m sure we’ll keep hearing about.

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré

The Girl with the Louding Voice: Shortlisted for the 2020 Desmond Elliott Prize by Abi Daré

AS RECOMMENDED BY MALALA YOUSAFZAI
AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

STYLIST BEST BOOK OF 2020

‘A stunning novel – original, beautiful and powerful’ Rosamund Lupton

Meet Adunni, a teenage girl born into a rural Nigerian village.

Aged fourteen, she is a commodity, a wife, a servant.

She is also smart, funny, curious, with a spirit and joy infectious to those around her.

And despite her situation going from bad to worse, she has a plan to escape: she will find her ‘louding voice’ and get her education, so that she can speak up for herself – and all the girls who came before her.

As she turns enemies into friends and superiors into aides, Adunni will take you with her on a heart-breaking but inspiring journey from a small village to the wealthy enclaves of Lagos, and show you that no matter the situation, there is always some joy to be found.

‘A story of courage that will win over your heart‘ Stylist

‘An unforgettable novel’ Jeanine Cummins

‘A sparkling debut . . . marks the appearance of a strong and stylish new talent’ Harper’s Bazaar

‘A true original, this will open your eyes‘ Cosmopolitan

The BBC Radio 2 Book Club featuring THE GIRL WITH THE LOUDING VOICE is now available to listen to on BBC Sounds.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07SD4XJDQ/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07SD4XJDQ/

https://www.amazon.es/gp/product/B07SD4XJDQ/

Author Abi Daré

About the author:

Abi Daré grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, and has lived in the UK for over eighteen years. She studied law at the University of Wolverhampton and has an MSc in International Project Management from Glasgow Caledonian University as well as an MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck, University of London. The Girl with the Louding Voice won the Bath Novel Award for unpublished manuscripts in 2018 and was also selected as a finalist in the 2018 Literary Consultancy Pen Factor competition. Abi lives in Essex with her husband and two daughters, who inspired her to write her debut novel.

https://www.amazon.com/Abi-Dar%C3%A9/e/B083M6857Y/

My review:

Thanks to Net Galley and Hodder & Stoughton for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review, and I am happy I’ve been given this opportunity.

This is one of those books best enjoyed by immersing yourself in it. It is one of those novels that you can see with your mind’s eye and you can imagine being right next to the protagonist (it is narrated in the first person by Adunni, a fourteen-year-old girl with a very special voice) as the action happens, and you’d love to be able to advise or help her, to protect her from some of the things she has to go through and to warn her at times when she does something foolish. This is not a novel constructed for an analytical mind, where everything fits in neatly; all the characters are consistent throughout; there is not a paragraph of excess information; and where clichés and common places are avoided like the plague. Reading it, I got the feeling that this was a book written with the heart (and the author, in the acknowledgements, explains her process quite well), and it pulls at one’s heartstrings. It’s an emotional experience.

In this debut novel, we witness the coming of age of the main character, Adunni, who has to experience things that will be completely alien to most readers (we might have read about them, but, thankfully, many of us have never been exposed to them). Although this is no mystery novel, I won’t go into a lot of detail about the plot. There is child marriage, physical and sexual abuse, exploitation and servitude (she calls it “slavery without the chains” and it is quite an apt description), cheating and lies, poverty and desperation, and a fascinating look at Nigeria and at the huge contrasts there, from outright poverty to extreme wealth.  We have a mix of rural customs and traditions with high-tech and modernity, and a society where women are still subservient to men, and where education, rather than a right, is a privilege, especially if you’re a woman.

Adunni is a wonderful character. She has lost her mother to illness when we meet her, and she has become a mother to her younger brother, but still misses her own mother, who instilled in her the importance of getting an education and having her own voice. Unfortunately, her father does not keep his promise to his dead wife and decides to try to solve his financial difficulties by marrying his daughter to a much older man (she is to be the man’s third wife, as he wants to have a son, and that has not happened yet). Nobody seems to understand her reluctance to marry, as many of her friends see this as an opportunity, their best option, and their fate. You won’t be surprised if I tell you her marriage proves to be a harrowing experience, although she gets on well with the man’s second wife, who becomes a friend and mother-figure to her. Unfortunately, things go from bad to worse, she has to run away and ends up as a servant to a rich woman in Lagos. I wouldn’t say she jumps from the frying pan to the fire, but there is little to choose from between the two situations. What makes Adunni particularly endearing is the fact that through all her troubles she remains optimistic. She gets scared at times, she freezes and does not know what to do (and often takes rushed decisions she lives to regret), she talks too much and gets herself into trouble often (even when she thinks ‘I shouldn’t say that’, she often says it anyway), but even though she does not always do what is best for her, she tries hard to help others and at times puts herself at risk to defend others. She is also eager to learn and will take any opportunity to try, sometimes with hilarious results. She is innocent regarding certain things (she understands how rural society and things in her village work, but is totally naïve as to the workings of a great city), and also gives everybody the benefit of the doubt, always thinking the best of people, even after they disappoint her time and again. She misunderstands many things (she does think her English is much better than it really is, and her attitude towards the language endeared her to me, also a non-native English speaker), but she is never afraid to ask or question what she doesn’t understand, even when her questions are not welcomed. More than anything, she is a credible fourteen-year-old, who thinks she knows more than she knows, who has had to grow fast because of her circumstances, but still misses and needs her mother.

There are many other characters, most pretty memorable. If we think of the story like the typical quest (the hero’s journey concept), there are some characters who get in the way of Adunni achieving her dream, many horrendous (her husband, big Chief, Kola, his husband’s first wife, and Florence, her boss, although we get to understand that they are also victims of their circumstances), some misguided or unable to see beyond the conventions (like her father), and others who help her move on, like Ms Tia and Kofi. Ms Tia made me think of a fairy godmother (and there is plenty of Cinderella in the story and other readers have mentioned similarities to other books), but we do get to learn about her personal circumstances as well, and the relationship benefits both of them, as Ms Tia also learns things about herself in the process. Although the plot is not original, and yes, there are many similarities with other stories and books, the character’s voice and the way she touches everybody around her make it a compelling story and a delight to read.

I’ve mentioned that Adunni narrates the story in the first-person, but she uses broken English that can be jarring to begin with (as an English teacher I couldn’t help but keep correcting her grammar in my head), but I think it communicates clearly the character’s circumstances and serves her well to analyse and wonder at the world around her. She is very witty and comes up with some wonderful similes and comparisons when she first comes to the city, a completely new experience for her.  And she can communicate her feelings and describe them beautifully, even with her limited English. For example, at the beginning of the book, when her father is telling her about his plans for her marriage, she thinks: ‘But sometimes, like today, the sorrow climb out of my heart and stick his tongue in my face.’ Her mother’s advice to her is probably the most quoted fragment of the book: ‘Your schooling is your voice, child. It will be speaking for you even if you didn’t open your mouth to talk. It will be speaking till the day God is calling you come.’ And, if you’re wondering where the title comes from…I don’t just want to be having any kind voice… I want a louding voice.’ I know some readers have found the writing style off-putting, so I definitely recommend anybody thinking of purchasing and reading the book to check a sample first.

Some readers have complained about the ending. They feel it seems a bit too neat, rushed, and it does not seem to fit in with the rest of the story, but this is one of these books where you’re rooting for a character, and a hopeful and positive ending is the minimum she deserves. As I said, there is something of the fairy tale in the story, but the character works hard, studies, makes a big effort, and grows and evolves, without losing her hope and her enthusiasm, and hey, I enjoyed the ending. It might not feel realistic, but this is not that kind of novel.

I recommend this novel to readers interested in learning more about Nigeria and happy to accompany a delightful main character in her journey. She goes through some terrible experiences, so this is not an easy read, but it is a rewarding one. Make sure the writing style works for you, but if it does and you like the sound of it, go for it. It will pull at your heartstrings, and you’re likely to find a new favourite author. I will be eagerly waiting for her next book.

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE ANGEL OF EVIL: THE GREAT DEVIL WAR IV by Kenneth B. Andersen (@K_B_Andersen) Darker adventures and even more action #YAseries

Hi all:

I bring you book four in a series I’ve been following for a while. I’m not big into series, but this has me truly hooked.

The Angel of Evil: The Great Devil War IV by Kenneth B. Andersen
The Angel of Evil: The Great Devil War IV by Kenneth B. Andersen

The Angel of Evil: The Great Devil War IV by Kenneth B. Andersen

Book 4 in the multi-award winning series.

Nothing will ever be the same. Satina is gone, kidnapped by the enemy. Disobeying Lucifer, Philip heads out to find her, journeying into the deep darkness of Outer Reach.

But nothing can prepare Philip for the horror that awaits–or the demons he will face.

Meanwhile, Lucifer’s kingdom is threatened as the Great Devil War draws closer. All Hell is about to break loose…

THE GREAT DEVIL WAR is a gripping, humorous and dark tale about good and evil seen from a different perspective, set in a world beyond your wildest dreams.


Praise for The Angel of Evil

“Kenneth B. Andersen has a way of taking everything you think you know and turning it upside down in the most intriging and funny way … Filled with humor, death and romance – a mix that is absolutely captivating.” ***** – Goodreads review

“I loved every bit of it. A masterpiece.” ***** – Goodreads review

“Truly an amazing book.” ***** – Goodreads review

Over 2000 worldwide 5 star reviews of the series!

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07VKBF3P7/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07VKBF3P7/

https://www.amazon.es/gp/product/B07VKBF3P7/

Author Kenneth Bøgh Andersen
Author Kenneth Bøgh Andersen

About the author:

I was born in Denmark on a dark and stormy night in November 1976. I began writing when I was a teenager. My first book was a really awful horror novel titled Nidhug’s Slaves. It didn’t get published. Luckily.

During the next 7 years, I wrote nearly 20 novels–all of which were rejected–while working as a school teacher. The rest of the time I spent writing.

In 2000 I published my debut fantasy book, The Battle of Caïssa, and that’s when things really took off. Since then I’ve published more than thirty-five books for children and young adults in genres ranging from fantasy to horror and science fiction.

My books have been translated into more than 15 languages and my series about the superhero Antboy has been adapted for film, which is available on Netflix. An animated tv series is currently in development.

A musical of The Devil’s Apprentice opened in the fall 2018 and the movie rights for the series have also been optioned.

I live in Copenhagen with my wife, two boys, a dog named Milo and spiders in the basement.

You can read more on my English website www.kennethbandersen.com

https://www.amazon.com/Kenneth-B%C3%B8gh-Andersen/e/B0045ADTRM/

My review:

I received an ARC copy from the author but that has in no way influenced my review, which I freely chose to write.

This is the fourth book in The Great Devil War Series, a series that I’m enjoying enormously (you can read my review of the third book here), and I loved this part as well. As I warned in my review of the previous book, that one ended with a huge cliff-hanger, but you don’t need to worry; that is not the case here. And not only that, but many of the mysteries and questions that had yet to be answered from the rest of the series get their answers here (we even learn the meaning of life! No, I won’t tell you what it is. You’ll have to read the book to find out!). In many ways, this book felt like the end of the series. But, luckily, there is a teaser with the first chapter of the next book included, so you can breathe easy if you’ve loved the series as much as I have. If you’ve read the previous novels a while back, don’t worry; there is enough information of what went on before to bring you up to speed, but I would recommend readers who haven’t read any other novels in the series to start at the very beginning, otherwise they’ll miss a lot of the fun, and the story won’t work as it should.

I am not going to discuss the plot in detail, for evident reasons, but we have Philip taking control of the situation and coming to the rescue more than once, and there’s also a mystery at the heart of the book (Aziel, Lucifer’s sworn enemy, is up to no good, the Devil War of the title approaches, but how is he planning to win it?), with plenty of cryptic clues (people with a knowledge of the Bible might have their suspicions, but it’s not straightforward), red herrings, twists and turns, plenty of action; we revisit some of our favourite characters, and meet some new ones (I particularly enjoyed Samson’s guest appearance, but I won’t spoil the rest of surprises). As the description promises, all Hell breaks loose, literally, and it is epic. Oh, I loved the ending as well, although it feels bittersweet.

The writing is as good as in previous books, with vivid descriptions of places and characters that don’t detract from the flow of the story. If anything, I’d say this book is darker than the previous ones, and although there are humorous moments, there is plenty of suffering (both physical and psychological), more explicit violence (young adults who love gore, bloods and guts will be happy), and subjects such as loss, death, choice, free will, betrayal, identity, sacrifice… are explored in detail, always within the realms of the story. The character is growing up, and so are his concerns and the seriousness of the decisions he is confronted with.

I was a bit disappointed with the role of the female characters in this instalment. Satina is not in a position to act as she usually does, for reasons to do with the story, and none of the females seem to take active part in the big scenes, but this does not detract from the enjoyment of the adventures (although it is, perhaps, a lost opportunity).

I recommend this book, and the whole series, to YA and adult readers who love fantasy, adventures, are not squeamish and love a touch of horror, monsters and dark events. This is a great coming of age story as well, and it will suit readers who appreciate complex characters to go with their thrills and exploits. There are tonnes of risky moments, scares aplenty, and surprises to keep readers hooked. Oh, and although many questions are answered, I’m already mulling over some new ones. I’m looking forward to The Fallen Angel already.

Thanks to the author for keeping me on the loop and for all the fun, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to share if you’ve enjoyed it, keep reading, reviewing, and always, always, smiling!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog Human Flesh by Nick Clausen (@NickClausen9) A scary novella that asks us some uncomfortable questions #RBRT

Hi all:

Today I bring you a short but scary read, from Rosie’s Book Review Team.

Human Flesh by Nick Clausen
Human Fish by Nick Clausen

Human Flesh by Nick Clausen

THEY NEVER CAUGHT IT …

During the winter of 2017, a series of strange occurrences took place in a small town of northern Maine. A rational explanation for what happened has still not been presented. Now, for the first time, all available evidence is being released to the public from what is commonly known as the Freyston case.

Human Flesh was originally published in Danish to great reviews, and is now available in English. This dark winter horror story will also satisfy crime lovers, as the plot is told through written evidence in a fictitious murder case. For fans of Hannibal Lecter, and those who enjoyed the mood of Pet Sematary and the style of Carrie.

REVIEWS

“Great, mysterious and creepy … I couldn’t put it down”

★★★★★ Adventures of a Book Nerd

“All the planning it must have taken to put the story together is impressive. And the effect is enormous. It gave me chills and I still feel it”

★★★★★ Bookish Love Affair

Author Nick Clausen
Author Nick Clausen

About the author:

Began writing at the age of 18 with a promise of doing 1,000 words a day until he got a book published. Kept that promise 18 months and 13 manuscripts later. Done almost 30 books since then. Lived as a full-time writer since 2017. Began translating his books into English in 2019. Prefer horror, fantasy and sci-fi. Reside in Denmark. Is inspired by the stories of Stephen King, Neil Gaiman and Thomas Harris.

https://www.amazon.com/Nick-Clausen/e/B07NC5X94M/

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.

I am a fan of horror, had read great reviews of one of Clausen’s collections of short stories, and I liked the sound of this one (and the cover is pretty impressive as well).

This is a short horror novella that works at many levels. Its topic is fairly well known (especially to lovers of the genre, and as a psychiatrist I’m also aware of its diagnostic implications, although I won’t elaborate on that), but despite its short length, the author manages to capture the atmosphere of the story, the cold, the darkness, the weirdness and the horror (more psychological than graphic, although it has its moments) in the few pages available, using also a pretty interesting way of telling the story. As mentioned in the description, rather than a standard narration, we have what appears to be a compilation of documents pertaining to a mysterious case, and this will appeal as well to lovers of crime stories and police procedural novels (although if they are sticklers for details, they might be bothered by the supernatural aspects and by some bits and pieces of information that don’t seem to quite fit in, but…). This peculiar way of narrating the story forces readers to do some of the work and fill in the blanks, and that is always a good strategy when it comes to horror (our imagination can come up with pretty scary things, as we all know). It also gives readers a variety of perspectives and some background that would have been trickier to include in a story of this length otherwise. Does it make it more difficult to identify with any of the characters? I didn’t find that to be the case. The story (or the evidence) starts mildly enough. An accident means that a family cannot go skiing as usual for their winter holidays, and the father decides to send his two children (and older girl, Otha, and a younger boy, Hugh) to stay with their grandfather, Fred, in Maine.  Things start getting weird from the beginning, and Otha (who has a successful blog, and whose entries create the backbone of the story, making her the main narrator and the most sympathetic and easier to identify with for readers) is not the only one who worries about her grandfather, as some of the neighbours have also been wondering about the old man’s behaviour. The secret behind their grandmother’s death becomes an important part of the story and there are eerie moments aplenty to come.

The novella manages to combine well not only some legends and traditional Native-American stories with more modern concepts like PTSD, survivor’s guilt, but also the underlying current of grief that has come to dominate the life of the children’s grandfather. It also emphasises how much we have come to rely on technology and creature comforts that give us a false sense of security and cannot protect us again extreme natural conditions and disasters. Because of the age of the main protagonist, there is also a YA feel to the story with elements of the coming-of-age genre —even a possible love interest— and I’ve seen it listed under such category, but those aspects don’t overwhelm the rest of the story, and I don’t think they would reduce the enjoyment of readers who usually avoid that genre.

Is it scary? Well, that is always a personal call. As I said, there are some chilling scenes, but the novella is not too graphic (it relies heavily on what the characters might or might not have seen or heard, and also on our own capacity for autosuggestion and suspension of disbelief). There is something about the topic, which combines a strong moral taboo with plenty of true stories going back hundreds of years, which makes it a very likely scenario and something anybody reading it cannot help what reflect upon. We might all reassure ourselves that we wouldn’t do something like that, no matter how dire the conditions, but how confident are we? For me, that is the scariest part of the story.

In sum, this is a well-written and fairly scary story, with the emphasis on atmosphere and psychological horror rather than on blood and gore (but there is some, I’m warning you), successfully combined with an interesting way of narrating a familiar story. As a straight mystery not all details tie in perfectly, but it’s a good introduction to a new voice (in English) in the horror genre. I’m sure it won’t be the last of Clausen’s stories I’ll read.

 Thanks to Rosie and the members of her team, thanks to the author, and, most of all, thanks to all of you for reading, liking, sharing, commenting, and remember to keep reviewing and smiling!

 

 

 

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE WRONGFUL DEATH: THE GREAT DEVIL WAR III by Kenneth B. Andersen (@K_B_Andersen) Another fun and thrilling book in a great series. #YA

Hi all:

Today I bring you the third book in a series I’m really enjoying.

The Wrongful Death. The Great Devil War III by Kenneth B. Andersen
The Wrongful Death. The Great Devil War III by Kenneth B. Andersen

The Wrongful Death: The Great Devil War III by Kenneth B. Andersen

Multi-award winning series, published in 10 countries, movie rights optioned!

Continuing the dark adventure that begins with The Devil’s Apprentice and The Die of Death.

An unfortunate chain of events makes Philip responsible for the untimely death of the school bully Sam—the Devil’s original choice for an heir.

Philip must return to Hell to find Sam and bring him back to life, so that fate can be restored. But trouble is stirring in Lucifer’s kingdom and not even Philip can imagine the strange and dark journey that awaits him.

A journey that will take him through ancient underworlds and all the way to Paradise.

Buy now and enter a world like no other!

The Great Devil War is a gripping and humorous tale about good and evil seen from a different perspective, making the reader laugh and think. It’s filled with biblical and historical characters and set in a world beyond your wildest dreams. Or nightmares …


Readers on The Wrongful Death:

“One of the things I really like about these books is that you never really know where Kenneth will go with the story … Humorous and clever at the same time.” *****

“I like how the world in the story keeps expanding. *****

“I love that this book has a trip to other underworlds. Very much worth the read.” *****

Over 2000 worldwide 5 star reviews of the series!

If you’re a Harry Potter or Percy Jackson fan, you don’t want to miss the ride!

https://www.amazon.com/Wrongful-Death-Great-Devil-War-ebook/dp/B07MYN5KKB/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wrongful-Death-Great-Devil-War-ebook/dp/B07MYN5KKB/

Author Kenneth Bøgh Andersen
Author Kenneth Bøgh Andersen

About Kenneth Bøgh Andersen

I was born in Denmark on a dark and stormy night in November 1976. I began writing when I was a teenager. My first book was a really awful horror novel titled Nidhug’s Slaves. It didn’t get published. Luckily.

During the next 7 years, I wrote nearly 20 novels–all of which were rejected–while working as a school teacher. The rest of the time I spent writing.

In 2000 I published my debut fantasy book, The Battle of Caïssa, and that’s when things really took off. Since then I’ve published more than thirty-five books for children and young adults in genres ranging from fantasy to horror and science fiction.

My books have been translated into more than 15 languages and my series about the superhero Antboy has been adapted for film, which is available on Netflix. An animated tv series is currently in development.

A musical of The Devil’s Apprentice opens in the fall 2018 and the movie rights for the series have also been optioned.

I live in Copenhagen with my wife, two boys, a dog named Milo and spiders in the basement.

You can read more on my English website www.kennethbandersen.co

My review:

I received an ARC copy from the author but that has in no way influenced the review I freely chose to write.

I have read and reviewed the two previous books in Andersen’s series The Great Devil War (you can check my review here) and I loved them. I was more than happy when I heard the next book was ready and due for publication early in April. So, in case you are in a hurry, yes, I loved it as well. I have to add two caveats, though. The first one is a warning for readers who hate cliff-hangers. There is a big one at the end of the book. The book includes a teaser for book 4, and therefore we get a hint of what actually happens next, but the story itself is not completed in this volume. Yes, this is a series and is to be expected that the overall arch of the story will continue and is what happened with the two previous books, but they had a resolution to the main adventure in that particular tome, while that is not the case here. So if you hate cliff-hangers, stay away from this book, as it could make you quite angry. (I haven’t completely made up my mind about the subject. I don’t mind so much if I am sufficiently invested in the story and the characters, as I am in this series already, but if it’s totally unexpected and I don’t care for the characters, I am bound to not return to read the rest). The other caveat is a recommendation. There are enough reminders of Philip’s previous adventures in this novel to allow readers who’ve read the other books a while back to quickly find their bearings, but I don’t think it would work as an independent read, because there would be too much background missing to fully enjoy it. The series does not go into extremes of world building or descriptions, but by now there is a lot of information and mythology that, although based on common themes and concepts (Heaven and Hell, stories in the Bible), help create an environment that is a big part of its charm. So, if you fancy the sound of it, start with number 1 and keep going.

I’ve already said I enjoyed it, as much as the other books at least. We get a bit of exposure to Philip’s everyday life, but that doesn’t last long, and we’re soon back in Hell and with Satina, Lucifer, Lucifax, and the rest of our favourite characters. But there are some new ones as well. We get to meet the artist behind the horrific paintings adorning Lucifer’s castle (paintings where the condemned can be seen suffering and heard screaming), we meet Chimera, a fascinating creature (yes, I want one); we finally get to go to Heaven and meet Jehovah (I won’t give you any hints, but his relationship with Lucifer is… well, entertaining), also visit the garden of Eden, Saint Peter (I loved the fact that when he falls asleep his halo falls off his head), and we visit other underworlds, Hades in this case, and that brings us plenty of Greek mythology to contend with (and great characters as well).

There are also the guest star appearances, in Hell and in this case also in Heaven, famous figures from the past that Philip meets in his travels. I will keep my peace, but I particularly liked their encounter with a famous writer whose creations had also come to live. (Yes, Stephen King, be scared!).

The story moves at good pace, there is plenty of intrigues, action, betrayals, the quest motif, more than a hint of romance (but nothing explicit), and the humorous touches as well. The writing style is fluid and easy (the story is told in the third person from Philip’s point of view, as usual), and the characters are solid and engaging. The novel turns darker towards the end, and although the whole series has never been all light and fun (among the subjects discussed are family losses, reflections on good and evil, religious themes, guilt and its consequences, moral ambivalence, death and mortality to name but a few), the whole book hints at horrific things to come, and even the good things that happen come hand in hand with bad consequences. The main character is growing up and so are his concerns, and that makes it a series definitely worth following and watching for.

Any negatives? Well, apart from the cliff-hanger already mentioned, I guess that people who’ve just read the previous two books might feel they don’t need any reminders of the previous stories. (I didn’t find that a problem). I also wondered how well this series would work for young readers of cultures not so familiar with the Bible.  I guess it might work as just another fantasy world, but I suspect some of the in-jokes might be lost. Despite the fantastical setting, this is a pretty conventional story when it comes to the main character and his background, so it might not suit readers looking for a more inclusive and diverse kind of storytelling.

As I had said before, this is a book I’d recommend to readers of fantasy, both YA and adults, but it does have pretty dark moments, there is violence (some behind closed doors), and it will not suit people who prefer light reads or are particularly squeamish. Its take on religion can put some people off as well, but I guess the description of the series gives a clear indication of that. A great read and another gripping visit to the universe of the Devil War. I cannot wait for the next instalment.

Thanks to the author for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review and always keep smiling!

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