Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE DRIFT by C. J. Tudor (@cjtudor) (@PenguinUKBooks) A jigsaw puzzle of mysteries in a dystopic but not so-distant future #bookreview #2023publication

Hi all:

I don’t normally review books months in advance of their publication (as I’m always behind with my reading), but, for some reason, I read a comment about this book, and as I’ve been following the author for the last few years and have always enjoyed her novels, I managed to convince myself that I had missed the launch of the book, managed to get hold of a review copy, and rushed to read it as soon as I could, only to discover that it is not due to be published until the 19th of January 2023. I considered programming the post for later, but as I don’t know what my circumstances will be like by then, and the book is already available for pre-order, I thought I’d share the review with you. I’ve realised that the author had published a book of short stories as well, and I hope to bring you those in the near future.

This is a good one.

The Drift by C. J. Tudor

The Drift by C. J. Tudor

An overturned coach. A stranded cable car. An isolated chalet . . .

Three groups of strangers. A deadly killer. No escape.

THE DRIFT . . . survival can be murder

Praise for C. J. Tudor:

‘C. J. Tudor is terrific. I can’t wait to see what she does next’ Harlan Coben

‘Britain’s female Stephen King’ Daily Mail

‘A mesmerizingly chilling and atmospheric page-turner’ J.P. Delaney

‘Her books have the ability to simultaneously make you unable to stop reading while wishing you could bury the book somewhere deep underground where it can’t be found. Compelling and haunting’ Sunday Express

‘Some writers have it, and some don’t. C. J. Tudor has it big time’ Lee Child

‘A dark star is born’ A. J. Finn

https://www.amazon.com/Drift-C-J-Tudor-ebook/dp/B092YVZJQJ/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Drift-C-J-Tudor-ebook/dp/B092YVZJQJ/

https://www.amazon.es/Drift-English-C-J-Tudor-ebook/dp/B092YVZJQJ/

Author C.J. Tudor
Author C.J. Tudor

About the author:

C. J. Tudor lives with her partner and young daughter. Her love of writing, especially the dark and macabre, started young. When her peers were reading Judy Blume, she was devouring Stephen King and James Herbert.

Over the years she has had a variety of jobs, including trainee reporter, radio scriptwriter, dog walker, voiceover artist, television presenter, copywriter and, now, author.

Her first novel, The Chalk Man, was a Sunday Times bestseller and sold in thirty-nine territories.

https://www.amazon.com/C-J-Tudor/e/B074WBT1GL/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Penguin UK for providing me an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

I discovered C. J. Tudor when she published her first novel, The Chalk Man, and I had no doubt that her name would become a familiar one for many readers. I have read several of her novels since (all of them, if I’m not wrong), and I also have a collection of her short stories already waiting on my reader. I am happy recommending her books to readers who love thrillers with a touch of menace and more than a few drops of dark humour. Her writing is fluid and engaging; her plots are gripping, and her protagonists always have a surprise or two in stock for us. She is the real deal.

All of this is in evidence in her latest novel, which is due to be published in January 2023.

The description of the plot is sparse, and that is for a very good reason. As you can guess, the action of the book is divided into three settings, and readers of classic mysteries will soon realised that they all seem to be variations of the isolated location mystery: a number of characters are locked (sometimes physically, sometimes not) in a place that is not easily accessible to others, where strange things start to happen (characters disappearing and being murdered are the most common). One of the characters becomes the de-facto investigator (sometimes a real investigator, sometimes not), and readers follow this character’s attempts at finding out what is going on. So, here we have a similar situation, only that we have three stories taking place in three different locations, in a fairly dystopian version of the not-so-distant future (although nowadays not quite as outlandish as it might have been a few years back) where the population has been decimated by an infectious illness. We have two groups of survivors headed to the same safe place, and the third is a group of people actually working and living at that safe location. I can’t share too many details of the story without revealing too much, but I can say that two of the characters whose point of view we follow are women (one, Hanna, a young student, and the other, Meg, an ex-policewoman), and then there is Carter, who works at the Retreat. All of them are survivors, all of them keep secrets, and you would be right if you thought these groups must be connected somehow. But no, of course, I can’t tell you how.

Those readers who worry about different storylines and points of view making things confusing don’t need to worry. Although the three stories are narrated in the third person, each section is clearly labelled, and the three characters are quite different in their thoughts and outlooks, so confusion should not be an issue. For those who appreciate having advance warning, there is violence; there are pretty graphic scenes that have made some reviewers class it as horror (I think it is a combination of both thriller and horror, but I love horror, so that is a plus for me), and there is nothing cozy about the story (even though there is a dog and… No, I can’t say). Also, those who prefer not to read and/or think about pandemics after COVID-19 might want to give it a miss.

Anybody who doesn’t fall into these categories appreciates a well-written, tightly plotted, and gripping story (stories) that will keep their mind going and wandering about what is really going on and who is doing what should read this novel. I liked the two female protagonists in particular (not that they were without their issues and contradictions), but even in the case of the male, their circumstances and their sheer determination to keep going made me side with them and keep reading. The story centres on the plot, which is beautifully and cleverly constructed, but the characters have to face many personal and moral challenges, and some of the questions and decisions they have to make will have all readers wondering about right and wrong and about what they would do if they were in the same circumstances.

Despite the tense atmosphere and the dire straits, the characters find themselves in, or perhaps because of them, the author also offers us some glimpses of humour (mostly dark), some beautiful descriptions, and thought-provoking reflections that allow us to catch our breath. There are some wonderful little details that we only become fully aware of at the end (oh, and I love the ending, mini-epilogue and all), and I am very impressed by the talent of the author to make all the pieces of the puzzle come together seamlessly. People who love a mystery will probably start to tie some threads early on, and some will be faster than the characters (although, of course, we have more information than they have, and we are not under the same kind of pressure), but, my guess is that most won’t be disappointed when everything is revealed.

In sum, this is another great novel by C.J. Tudor, and one that I am sure will keep her followers coming back for more. And those who haven’t read her yet, if you like the sound of this, what are you waiting for? 

I leave you a few quotes, although I recommend checking a sample online if you aren’t sure the writing style will suit your taste.

Here’s the other thing my grandpa taught me. You´re either a good guy or you’re a survivor. And the earth is full of dead good guys.’

One of the characters, when asked why they care, says:

Because caring is all we have left. If we stop caring —about life, about other people— who are we? What have we become?’

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, it’s also a oneway street. No going back.

 Thanks to the publisher, the author, and to NetGalley for this very early ARC copy (there might be changes to the final version, although I didn’t spot any evident mistakes), and thanks to you all for your patience, your comments, and for reading my reviews and sharing them around. Make sure you keep reading, and never forget to smile. ♥

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog The School for Good Mothers: A Novel by Jessamine Chan (@jessaminechan) (@HutchHeinemann) Not an easy read, but one that will make you think about families and social control #TheSchoolforGoodMothers #NetGalley

Hi all:

I am not a mother, but recently I have read two books that shine a pretty special light on motherhood. You might remember my review for Chouette, and this one, although totally different, I think will also stay with me for a long time. And it has a fantastic title as well.

The School for Good Mothers: A Novel by Jessamine Chan

An Instant New York Times Bestseller

A Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick

In this taut and explosive debut novel, one lapse in judgement lands a young mother in a government reform program where custody of her child hangs in the balance.

Frida Liu is struggling. She doesn’t have a career worthy of her Chinese immigrant parents’ sacrifices. She can’t persuade her husband, Gust, to give up his wellness-obsessed younger mistress. Only with Harriet, their cherubic daughter, does Frida finally attain the perfection expected of her. Harriet may be all she has, but she is just enough.

Until Frida has a very bad day.

The state has its eyes on mothers like Frida. The ones who check their phones, letting their children get injured on the playground; who let their children walk home alone. Because of one moment of poor judgment, a host of government officials will now determine if Frida is a candidate for a Big Brother-like institution that measures the success or failure of a mother’s devotion.

Faced with the possibility of losing Harriet, Frida must prove that a bad mother can be redeemed. That she can learn to be good.

A searing page-turner that is also a transgressive novel of ideas about the perils of “perfect” upper-middle class parenting; the violence enacted upon women by both the state and, at times, one another; the systems that separate families; and the boundlessness of love, The School for Good Mothers introduces, in Frida, an everywoman for the ages. Using dark wit to explore the pains and joys of the deepest ties that bind us, Chan has written a modern literary classic.

 https://www.amazon.com/School-Good-Mothers-Novel-ebook/dp/B093JHS53T/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/School-Good-Mothers-Handmaids-century-ebook/dp/B09FGD85XB/

https://www.amazon.es/School-Good-Mothers-Novel-English-ebook/dp/B093JHS53T/

Author Jessamine Chan

About the author:

Jessamine Chan’s short stories have appeared in Tin House and Epoch. A former reviews editor at Publishers Weekly, she holds an MFA from Columbia University and a BA from Brown University. Her work has received support from the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Wurlitzer Foundation, Jentel, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center, the Anderson Center, VCCA, and Ragdale. She lives in Chicago with her husband and daughter.

https://www.amazon.com/Jessamine-Chan/e/B092BKD9NX/

My review:

I thank NetGalley and Random House UK, Cornerstone, Hutchinson Heinemann for providing me an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

I heard a lot of comments about this novel, was intrigued by its subject, and I can honestly say this is a book that won’t leave anybody indifferent.

The author is well-known for her short stories, but this is her first novel, and as she explains in the author’s acknowledgments at the end of the book, she had been working on it for many years before it saw the light. It seems that it started as a short story, but at the recommendation of a writing mentor at a workshop, Chan felt encouraged to develop the concept. Readers who are interested in the writing process will enjoy reading the author’s note, as it gives a good sense of what inspired her, which writers influenced her, includes a bibliography for those interested in her sources, and it also gives an account of how many people play a part in the final product, from the author and her family to the institutions providing support of all kinds.

The description of the novel gives a reasonable overview of the plot, although I am not sure everybody who has read it would agree on the way the book is characterized in the last paragraph.

We have all heard stories of neglectful parents, and/or parents doing things that seem unthinkable, like kidnapping their children, harming them, or even killing them. I have often thought that in this day and age when one can hardly do anything without having “training” and holding “a certificate” (at least in most Western societies), it is amazing that one of the most difficult things to do, raising a child, requires no qualification and there is no supervision or education provided to ensure that young people of a certain age know, at least, the very basics. As if the author had read my mind, in this book, the authorities create a School for parents (yes, for the bad mothers of the title, but there is also an equivalent school for bad fathers, although with fewer students and much more lenient), and “dystopic” doesn’t quite make it justice. The action takes place in a world that sounds exactly like ours and in the present (or at least not in a particularly distant future) in the USA, and that increases its impact, because it is not that difficult to imagine something like this happening (although perhaps some of the details are a bit fanciful and stretch credibility slightly, but only slightly).

Frida, the main protagonist, does something that is definitely bad (I am not a mother, so I cannot speak with any inside knowledge, but I think it is understandable although I cannot imagine anybody would condone it), although not, by far, the worst thing we hear about in the novel, and she is not the most sympathetic of characters. And that is, perhaps, what makes it a particularly effective but tough book to read. Because it is very easy to feel sorry for a character who is tender-hearted, kind, and nice, and feel outraged for the way s/he is treated, but here, we not only meet Frida (whose story is narrated in the third person but from her limited point of view), but also some of her peers, and none of them are people most of us would want as friends in normal circumstances, especially once we learn about what landed them at the school. But Frida gets to care for them and we do as well, and we also feel their frustration, their pain, and their desperation. Those of you who are parents, imagine if everything you did when you were with your children (and even when you were not with them) was recorded: every word, every move, every gesture, every look… and all that evidence was judged in comparison to some perfect standard impossible to achieve (and most of the time, impossible to explain by the teachers and impossible to understand by the students).

Apart from motherhood (parenthood), issues such as identity, legacy, family expectations (grandparents, relatives…), cultural differences, prejudice, desire, temptation, mental illness, privacy, mono-parental households, single mothers, the difficult (almost impossible at times) balance between profession and personal life/ work and family life, and big questions like who gets to decide what is the best for a child, and how far can laws and society go to regulate certain aspects of our lives… This is a book of big ideas, and I am sure book clubs would find plenty to discuss here, although I suspect some readers will not feel comfortable reading it and might abandon it before the end.

I enjoyed the writing style, even though I am not a fan of the use of present tense (we follow Frida’s story, chronologically, for over a year, and this is narrated in the present, although there are memories and thoughts about the past or a possible future that also make an appearance), but it suited the tempo of the story, which follows the seasons and the school programme, and it progresses at a slow pace. (I am not sure “page-turner” is a good definition, at least not if it makes us think of non-stop action and a quick pace). One of the strong points of the novel is the way it describes the thoughts of the main protagonist, her doubts, her guilt, her second-guessing herself and others, and also the way it explores her feelings, her efforts to control herself, to be seen to be doing the right thing, however hard it might be (and still failing sometimes). Although the story is poignant and very hard, there are some lighter and witty (even bitchy) comments and moments that make us smile. Yes, I’m not ashamed to confess I cheered when Harriet, Frida’s daughter, bit the horrible social worker, and although I don’t think any fragment can do justice to the novel (and if you want to get a better idea of how well the book would fit your reading taste, I recommend checking a sample of it), I thought I’d share a few brief quotes:

Here, Frida is talking about Susanna, her husband’s new girlfriend:

The girl is on a mission to nice her to death. A war of attrition.

 Perhaps, instead of being monitored, a bad mother should be thrown into a ravine.

 Harriet is wearing a gray blouse and brown leggings, like a child of the apocalypse.

 What little she knows about the lives of saints comes back to her now and she thinks, this year, she might become holy.

 “A mother is a shark,” Ms. Russo says. “You’re always moving. Always learning. Always trying to better yourself.” (You’ve probably guessed that’s one of the members of staff at the school).

 The ending… I am not sure I’d say I liked it, but I think it fits the novel perfectly, and I cannot imagine any other ending that would work better. Readers seem very divided by it, and some felt it ruined the novel for them, while others loved it. It is open to interpretation, but I like to imagine that it shows Frida has learned a lot about herself and about being a mother in the school, but not perhaps the kind of lessons they had hoped to teach her.

 In sum, I enjoyed (although it is not the right descriptor, you know what I mean) this novel, and I am sure I’ll be thinking about it for a long time. I don’t think this is the kind of book to recommend to a young mother, or to somebody struggling with motherhood or thinking about it, but anybody interested in the subject of government control, education, parenthood, and keen on dystopic narrations should check it out. And I will be keeping an eye on the author’s career. I’d love to know what she writes next.

Thanks to the author, the publisher, and NetGalley for this book, thanks to all of you for your continued support, and remember to keep on reading, smiling, and safe (as safe as we can all be these days, at least). 

 Check what the publishers did in London to celebrate the publication of the book:

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog MEGACITY (Operation Galton Book 3) by Terry Tyler (@TerryTyler4) Too close for comfort but a must read. The whole series #dystopianstory

Hi all:

I bring you the review of the third book in a trilogy I’ve been reading by one of the authors I don’t hesitate to recommend (and who is also a member of Rosie Amber’s team of reviewers, whose reviews I also recommend):

Megacity (Operation Galton 3) by Terry Tyler

Megacity (Operation Galton Book 3) by Terry Tyler 

The UK’s new megacities: contented citizens relieved of the burden of home ownership, living in eco-friendly communities. Total surveillance has all but wiped out criminal activity, and biometric sensor implants detect illness even before symptoms are apparent.

That’s the hype. Scratch the surface, and darker stories emerge.

Tara is offered the chance to become a princess amongst media influencers—as long as she keeps quiet and does as she’s told.

Aileen uproots to the megacity with some reluctance, but none of her misgivings prepare her for the situation she will face: a mother’s worst nightmare.

Radar has survived gang rule in group homes for the homeless, prison and bereavement, and jumps at the chance to live a ‘normal’ life. But at what cost?

For all three, the price of living in a megacity may prove too high.

Megacity is the third and final book in the dystopian Operation Galton trilogy, and is Terry Tyler’s twenty-third publication.

‘As long as some of us are still living free, they have not yet won. Anyone who refuses to live as they want us to has beaten them. That’s how we do it. That’s how we win.’

https://www.amazon.com/Megacity-Operation-Galton-Book-3-ebook/dp/B09765ZKNH/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Megacity-Operation-Galton-Book-3-ebook/dp/B09765ZKNH/

https://www.amazon.es/Megacity-Operation-Galton-Book-3-ebook/dp/B09765ZKNH/

Author Terry Tyler
Author Terry Tyler

About the author:

Terry Tyler is the author of twenty-two books available from Amazon, the latest being ‘Megacity‘, the final book in the dystopian Operation Galton trilogy. Also published recently is ‘The Visitor‘, a post-apocalyptic murder mystery set in the same world as her popular Project Renova series. She is currently at work on a psychological thriller that centres round an internet dating con, but has not yet finished with devastated societies, catastrophe and destruction, generally. Proud to be independently published, Terry is an avid reader and book reviewer, and a member of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

Terry is a Walking Dead addict, and has a great interest in history (particularly 12th-17th century), along with books and documentaries on sociological/cultural/anthropological subject matter. She loves South Park, the sea, and going for long walks in quiet places where there are lots of trees. She lives in the north east of England with her husband.

https://www.amazon.com/Terry-Tyler/e/B00693EGKM/

My review:

I received an ARC copy of this book, which I freely chose to review.

I discovered Terry Tyler’s novels a few years ago and since I read the first novel in her Renova Series (Tipping Point), I have been lucky enough to read everything she has published (or almost). Although she writes in different genres (and, The Visitor, her previous novel, although set in the Renova world was a thriller), it is as if she had picked up some vibes, because she’s been writing dystopian novels, or novels set in dystopian universes recently, although those universes feel uncannily similar to ours (or to how ours might end up being some years down the line). This means that her books are gripping, impossible to put down, and at the same time chilling and very hard to read. There are so many events, topics, trends, behaviours, and attitudes we recognise, that is impossible not to worry about what that might mean for the future of humanity if we take her novels as a warning/prophecy.

This novel is the third (and final? I add the question mark because I know characters and stories often like to challenge their authors and keep demanding their attention, so, who knows?) in the Operation Galton series, and if Project Renova is set in a dystopian world that develops as a result of a deadly virus (of course, there is far more to it than that), Operation Galton, also set in a dystopian but not all that distant future, has the added dread of not being brought on by any catastrophic events, but it seems to develop, almost naturally, from social and political circumstances that are very similar to those happening around us (one might even say that, considering how things have gone these last couple of years, things have gotten worse in our own world). So, be prepared for strong emotions and shocking events, because although readers of the other two books in the series knew terrible things were going on, “you ain’t seen nothing yet”.

The story is divided into four parts, set in chronological order, from 2041 to 2062. While the two first parts cover a decade each, part three recounts the events that take place in the years 2061 and part of 2062, and part 4 is much more focused and tense, covering a much shorter period of time.

As is usual in Tyler’s novels, she does not focus on plot over characters, despite the complexities of the story and the world-building necessary to set the narrative. The descriptions are never overwhelming or heavy with details, and this works well because we see things from the perspective of characters who are either used to the type of world they live in or have far too many things going on in their lives to spend much time obsessing over every little detail. The story is narrated from the point of view of several characters, usually in alternating chapters: a young girl who loses her family in traumatic circumstances and ends up in a Hope Village (Tara); one of the boys she meets there and becomes friends with (Radar); a young woman living off-grid at the beginning of the story who ends up moving to a Megacity with her partner and paying a terrible price for it (Aileen); in part 3 and 4 we meet some other characters who contribute their own thoughts and perspectives (mostly Leah, and fleetingly, Xav, Skylar & Kush); and there are also some chapters from the point of view of the movers and plotters (Jerome, Ezra). Some are in the first person (Tara and Aileen’s), the rest are in the third person but we still get to experience what the character feels, at a little bit of distance (thankfully, in some cases), and there are a couple of chapters that recount what has happened and/or set the scene, also in the third person but omniscient, in this case. There is not a boring moment in the whole novel, but it is true that things accelerate as the narration moves along, and the last two parts will have readers totally engaged, worrying, suffering, and hoping with and for the main characters (and booing at the bad ones as well).

Tara and Aileen, although far from perfect, are genuinely likeable. Tara is tough, a survivor, but has a big heart and is vulnerable at the same time. Aileen has to cope with plenty of losses and heartache, and, worst of all, lies and continuous disappointments. If Tara’s circumstances throughout her life mark her as pretty unique (although some of her experiences are, unfortunately, not as uncommon as we’d like to believe), Aileen is a character easy to identify with, and they are both extremely relatable. Radar, whom we meet as a young boy, bullied and abused, does anything he feels he needs to do in order to survive, but he is far more complex than others give him credit for. I am trying to avoid spoilers, so I won’t go into much detail, although I must confess that I usually prefer baddies with a degree of complexity and ambiguity (because good and evil are not always, if ever, clear cut) and that is not the case here, but it is true that it makes for a “slightly” more reassuring story.

I have already said that there are many elements and events in this series that are eerily similar to things and trends happening today: the dominance of social media, the manipulation of politics by big money and powerful corporations, the rise of authoritarian and populist discourses, fake news, conspiracy theories… and subjects that also appear in the story and are not necessarily characteristic of dystopian novels, but are also very present in our lives: bullying, poverty, unequal access to jobs, education, and healthcare, sexual harassment, violence and abuse, drug use, peer pressure, complex family relationships… It is impossible to read this book (and the whole series) without thinking how easy it would be for things such as those to happen, and how there are many different ways to interpret or evaluate the same events, depending on your perspective. What might be a clear conspiracy theory for some, with no logical basis, might be a cry for freedom and independent thinking for others, and the difference might be impossible to tell when the atmosphere is one of mistrust and suspicion all around.

You’ve probably guessed by now that I’m going to recommend this novel and the whole series. You would be right. The author does include a link at the beginning of the book for people who have read the other two books a while back (or those who haven’t read them) to a brief summary of the previous two books, so, in theory, it would be possible for somebody who hasn’t read the other two books to read this book first, although I wouldn’t recommend it. I am sure people would enjoy the book and get a general sense of what had gone on, but the three books work well together and fit in like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, building up a clearer and more complete and global picture if read in the right order. There are also some characters who have appeared in previous novels who either make an appearance or are referred to, but even without that, because each one of the books focuses on a part of the whole project to create a new world order (and we get to experience it from a vantage point of view each time), the story moves naturally and evolves throughout the three books, so yes, do read it, but make sure you read the other two books first. You will enjoy a great story, with compelling characters you will be able to identify with, well-written and bound to make you think.

There is violence, some pretty extreme events take place, and as I’ve mentioned some of the subjects discussed, people who know they are bound to be badly affected by any of those would do well to avoid it. For those who like to get some idea of what the ending is like, let’s say that most matters are settled satisfactorily (personally, I felt this was perhaps a bit too fast and relatively smooth, considering everything that had gone on), although some are left open to the reader’s imagination, and the book ends up in a fairly hopeful note.

I recommend this book (and the whole Operation Galton series) to anybody who enjoys dystopian novels, and even those who have never read one but appreciate stories well-written, with strong characters, and don’t mind a story set in a near and more-than-a-bit troublesome future that doesn’t stretch too much the imagination. This is not a reassuring read, but it is bound to make readers look at things in a new light. And hope the author is wrong.

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

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog Adventures in Mythopoeia by John Dolan (@JohnDolanAuthor) For lovers of mythology, adventures, great characters, and fabulous writing

Hi all:

I’m back! I’m back in the land of easier internet access, so I hope I’ll be able to keep up with you all, although the holiday proved a bit busier and more challenging than I expected, and that means I have much more to do and didn’t manage to read as much as I expected. So things might be slow-going for the next few weeks, but I hope to get going at full speed soon(-ish).

I hope you are all well, and I bring you a book by one of my favourite authors, which I’m sure many of you already know. And this is quite a read!

Adventures in Mythopoeia by John Dolan

Adventures in Mythopoeia by John Dolan

“It was neither the best of times, nor the worst of times. It was somewhere in the middle. ”

Pádraig O’Breasail – publican, drunk and ex-Arsenal footballer – is up to his neck in debt to the Chinese gangster Mingzhu Tang. With time running out, the desperate Irishman goes for a tarot card reading at Driscoll’s Circus hoping to find a way out of his predicament.

Meanwhile, the world is descending into anarchy and his nephew Jason is considering quitting his job as a male escort.
Plus, there’s the little matter of the sheep…

So begins a modern-day epic drawing on the Greek Myths, Don Quixote, the Quest for the Holy Grail and Carl Jung’s treatise on UFOs. Packed with dark humor and eccentric characters, Adventures in Mythopoeia will take you on a madcap journey of criminality, enchantment, laugh-out-loud gags and British weather.

Bring your umbrella.

https://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Mythopoeia-John-Dolan-ebook/dp/B08MF2M6TZ/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Adventures-Mythopoeia-John-Dolan-ebook/dp/B08MF2M6TZ/

https://www.amazon.es/Adventures-Mythopoeia-John-Dolan-ebook/dp/B08MF2M6TZ/

Author John Dolan

About the author:

“Makes a living by travelling, talking a lot and sometimes writing stuff down. Galericulate author, polymath and occasional smarty-pants.”

John Dolan hails from a small town in the North-East of England. Before turning to writing, his career encompassed law and finance. He has run businesses in Europe, South and Central America, Africa and Asia. He and his wife Fiona currently divide their time between Thailand and the UK.

He is the author of the ‘Time, Blood and Karma’ mystery series and the ‘Children of Karma’ mystery trilogy. 

My review:

I have been following John Dolan since he started publishing books, and I am a devoted fan. He is one of those authors whose new publications bring joy to my heart, and I’m happy to recommend his novels to all and sundry. His name and his series always come to my mind when I think about detective novels with memorable main characters in unforgettable settings, and he is one of those gifted authors who manage to combine gripping plots with a cast of players that jump out of the page and become people we get to care about. Given all this, you won’t be surprised if I tell you that I did not hesitate in getting a copy of his newest publication, even though it promised to be something quite different from anything the author had written before. 

Well, it does deliver on its promise, that’s true, although it is also true that followers of the author’s career will recognise the writing style, the wit, and sense of humour, which are also Dolan’s trademark, and will be familiar with some of the excursions the plot and the characters’ thoughts take down philosophical and moral alleys, which are totally relevant when we consider the ambition of the author’s project in this book. As he explains at the end of this long volume (it is long in pages, but it is short if we consider how many stories and characters we can find inside, what a long historical period it encompasses, and how dynamic it feels when reading it), he had initially thought of writing three volumes to cover a large variety of mythological motifs, but when he realised the stories had become extremely intertwined, and there were far too many connections to find a satisfying way to split it up without disrupting the flow, he decided to write the whole story and publish it in a single volume. And it works, because although it seems impossible at the beginning, when one starts reading the prologue and the different parts, we soon realise that everything is interconnected, that characters that might seem to only play a minimal part in the story, might reappear again later in some important role, and the protagonists move around the British Isles, experiencing a variety of events, participating in all kinds of quests, reinventing themselves, and living several lives in one.

I am not even going to try to summarise the plot or to go into a lot of detail about what happens. The description, sparse as it is it, contains enough information to entice readers who are not afraid to try something different, and who are happy to explore stories with a bit of everything: classical Greek tragedies, Old Testament-style stories, pagan myths, Arthurian legend, more than a touch of the magical and paranormal, fate and destiny gone awry, archaeology true and imagined and its share of enigmatic objects, modern politics, race rage, life in the circus, travelling on a barge, characters setting off in their peculiar quests (for adventure, independence, knowledge, or all of the above), time-warps, talking cats and other fabulous pets, UFOs, cheating husbands, murderous gangs, assorted religious beliefs, love, hatred, revenge… Oh, and not forgetting the end of the world as we know it. I have not been all-inclusive, believe me. Readers who are as knowledgeable and well-read as the author —polymath is no exaggeration— will have fun discovering all the references and the origin of the many stories and characters. I confess that although I recognised some, I missed many, and I didn’t have the in-depth knowledge to get all the nuances even for those that I spotted, but I had a whale of a time nonetheless, and I agree with the author’s assertion that it is not necessary to know all the original stories to enjoy the book or follow the plot. You only need a bit of imagination, a willingness to go on a wild ride, and a sense of fun.

Those readers who like to be in the know and check everything don’t need to worry: the author explains which stories he took as a basis for the main narratives, and who the different characters correspond to. And those who worry about getting lost, don’t. On the one hand, this is not that kind of story. There are many connections, but things do come to a clear resolution at the end (although I wouldn’t talk about a happy ending, per se. This is not that kind of story, either). The story is told in the third person, from multiple characters’ points of view, but these are clearly signposted in the text, and the titles of the different chapters are descriptive enough to pinpoint where we are and what we are going to be reading about. Other worries? Well, there is a bit of everything people might feel offended by: violence, racism, prejudice, murders, suicide, sex, even incest, although none extremely explicit, and always in keeping with the mythological theme and the original sources. Although many of the reflections and the underlying issues are far closer to reality than we’d like to admit, I doubt that anybody embarking on the adventure, and with a previous knowledge of the author, will feel outraged or upset by the story, other than, perhaps, by the fates of some of the individual characters (my alliances changed over time, although Don and Dora are strong contenders to the title of my favourites, but other than two or three of the bad apples, I would happily meet and have a drink with most if not all the characters that make an appearance in this book). People who don’t want to read anything related to viruses and/or other causes of massive and mysterious destruction of human life might be advised not to attempt this book. Anybody else, if you have doubts if the book will suit your taste, I’d advise, as usual, to check a sample of the book. As it is quite long, it should give you a good idea of how you’ll feel. And, don’t worry. As I’ve said, there are no cliffhangers.

I won’t talk about suspension of disbelief. Let’s not be ridiculous. What does belief or disbelief have to do with mythology? If you have a sense of wonder, love adventures, accept that in life there should be a balance between joy and pathos, and know that there are stories much bigger than ourselves, and we are not the centre of the universe, I am sure you’ll love this book. If you have enjoyed Dolan’s previous novels, you’ll have a ball with this one, and you’ll spot a few familiar names along the way. I can’t wait for what the author will come up next. Whatever it is, I know it will be amazing.

 Thanks to the author for this wonderful book, thanks to all of you for reading and being patient, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep safe, and keep reading!

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE VISITOR: A POST-APOCALYPTIC MURDER MYSTERY by Terry Tyler. A twisted murder mystery in a twisted time #murdermystery #bookreview

Hi all:

I’m sharing a review of the latest book (to date) of an author who keeps visiting my blog. And she’ll carry on coming.

The Visitor by Terry Tyler

The Visitor: A Post-Apocalyptic Murder Mystery by Terry Tyler

In 2024, a mystery virus ravages the entire world. ‘Bat Fever’ is highly contagious and one hundred per cent lethal.

A cottage tucked away in an isolated Norfolk village seems like the ideal place to sit out a catastrophic pandemic, but some residents of Hincham resent the arrival of Jack, Sarah and their friends, while others want to know too much about them.

What the villagers don’t know is that beneath Sarah’s cottage is a fully-stocked, luxury survival bunker. A post-apocalyptic ‘des res’.

Hincham isolates itself from the rest of the country, but the deaths continue―and not from the virus. There’s a killer on the loose, but is it a member of the much-depleted community, or somebody from outside? Paranoia is rife, as friend suspects friend, and everybody suspects the newcomers.

Most terrifying of all is that nobody knows who’s next on the list…

The Visitor is Terry Tyler’s twenty-second Amazon publication, and is set in the same world as her Project Renova series, while being a completely separate, stand-alone novel.

https://www.amazon.com/Visitor-Post-Apocalyptic-Murder-Mystery-ebook/dp/B08ML72P2K/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Visitor-Post-Apocalyptic-Murder-Mystery-ebook/dp/B08ML72P2K/

https://www.amazon.es/Visitor-Post-Apocalyptic-Murder-Mystery-ebook/dp/B08ML72P2K/

Author Terry Tyler
Author Terry Tyler

About the author:

Terry Tyler is the author of twenty-two books available from Amazon, the latest being ‘The Visitor’, a post-apocalyptic murder mystery set in the same world as her popular Project Renova series. She is currently at work on ‘Megacity’, the third and final book in her dystopian Operation Galton series, after which she may decide to write something a bit more cheerful. Proud to be independently published, Terry is an avid reader and book reviewer, and a member of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

Terry is a Walking Dead addict, and has a great interest in history (particularly 12th-17th century), along with books and documentaries on sociological/cultural/anthropological subject matter. She loves South Park, the sea, and going for long walks in quiet places where there are lots of trees. She lives in the north east of England with her husband.

https://www.amazon.com/Terry-Tyler/e/B00693EGKM

My review:

I received an early ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

I have read and reviewed a number of novels written by Terry Tyler, both in her Project Renova Series (I have to catch up with a volume of short stories, but otherwise, I think I’ve read all of them), and also in her Operation Galton series (I’m eagerly waiting for the next one). I am aware she writes in other genres, and I’m sure I’ll get to read some of her other works too, but, for some reason, I seem to be drawn towards her dystopian novels (perhaps these feel like particularly dystopic times, one way or another). She is a great writer and manages to combine gripping plots, a credible and varied cast of characters (very recognisable), and an immersive fictional world, which closely resembles or reminds us of our daily lives, especially for those who live or know the UK fairly well.

As the book’s description and the author’s note at the beginning explain, although the novel is set in the Project Renova world, it is a thriller/murder mystery, and it is not necessary to have read any of the books of the series to enjoy it or follow the action. That doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it if you have read the whole series or some of it, rather, you’ll hit the ground running, as you’ll have much more background information than the characters do. Not that it will help you discover who the murderer is, but… That would kill all the fun, wouldn’t it?

This being a Terry Tyler’s book I wasn’t expecting a standard crime novel, and yes, although lovers of the genre and those who are fans of mysteries will still find plenty of red herrings, assorted clues, twists and turns, and plenty of potential suspects (at least to begin with), things are a bit more complicated than usual. This is not a frantically paced story, where we hardly have time to breathe. Of course, there are hints of things to come from the very beginning, but there is a slow build-up and the early part of the book is dedicated to providing a solid background to the story, explaining how the virus started and took hold, while at the same time introducing us to the four friends who seem destined to be the main characters in the story. Of course, things don’t go according to plan, and although a group of four meets up in the village of Hincham to take advantage of the foresight of Sarah’s uncle in building a fully stocked (and secret) bunker, there are some changes.

The idea of setting the thriller in a small village isolated due to a pandemic is very clever. It turns on its head the convention (of subgenre) of a mystery set in an old house or an isolated island (or a ship, like one I read recently), because apart from the limited cast of characters and the lack of resources to investigate, in this case, there is limited to no hope that there will ever be any meaningful help coming from outside (or it is dispelled very soon).  And the paranoia, accusations, and blaming of outsiders are further enhanced by the lack of information, loss of contact with the outside, and the quick loss of modern life comforts and resources (no electricity, no running water, no police, no telephone, no local services at all…).  While the characters have many other things to worry about, the fact that what should be one of their strengths (being a small community where everybody knows everybody else) seems to have become a weakness and mistrust is rampant, makes the situation much harder. There’s nowhere to hide and nobody will come to the rescue.

Tyler creates a very credible and recognisable village in Hincham, and most readers will feel familiar with the setting and the characters, which are quite recognisable and realistic. As always, the author shows her strength in her development of the characters, especially the four sharing Sarah’s cottage, and although we don’t get to know that much about some of the villagers or the other strangers, there is enough there to create clear a picture in our mind. The visitor of the title is somewhat different, but I won’t go into any detail about it, as I want to avoid spoilers. For the same reason, I don’t want to talk about the characters too much, but let me say that although I didn’t like most of them (I confess I wasn’t particularly fond of Jack, who is the main narrator. There is nothing wrong with him per se; it’s probably me being me), that didn’t impact my enjoyment of the novel. I liked Finn and Avalon in particular, and I liked what I saw of a couple of the villagers, but we don’t get to know them well enough to make a full judgement of them. Oh, and yes, I’ll freely admit to really liking the baddy. (I won’t get into detail or analyse what possible pathology there might be or why the Visitor behaves that way, as this is not a psychopathology textbook and does not intend to be). So there.

The story is told from a variety of characters’ points of view and in different narrative voices. I’ve mentioned that Jack is the main narrator, and he tells his story in the first person, but he is not the only one. Several other characters tell parts of the story in the first-person from their own perspective (the Visitor as well): some are important characters, and some quite incidental, which offers readers a slightly less claustrophobic or one-sided view. (There is no head hopping or confusion possible, as each chapter is clearly labelled with the name of the character or characters whose perspective we read). There are also some chapters in the third-person, some depicting the scenes of the murders, but not all. And there is the odd comment hinting at an omniscient point of view (or perhaps something slightly different, but I’ll keep my peace). Otherwise, the story is narrated chronologically, and other than some instances of sharing/narrating past events and the mandatory reveals towards the end (secrets there are aplenty, and people who have kept information hidden also), the story flows well, with no major detours. I mentioned the build-up at the beginning, and the pace does increase as people are killed and others leave, but it never becomes frantic. There is plenty of time for readers to make conjectures and scratch their heads, pondering the clues.

There are plenty of references to pop culture, TV series, music, fashion, UK everyday life, social media, writing (Jack is a writer) that help flesh out the era and the place, and lovers of all things British will appreciate. There are some dialogue gems and some dark humour (very sharp and dry, which I really enjoyed), and the writing is, as I’ve come to expect from this author, flawless. (No, I won’t share any quotes because it’s difficult not to slip up and give something away).

The one thing I found a bit jarring was the issue of COVID-19. Because the original Project Renova series was written well before it appeared, there is no mention of it in the other books (and yes, I kept thinking about the series as the illness developed and became a pandemic). Here it is mentioned often, mostly by people who think the “bat fever” will be the same, and they talk about just isolating for a few days, make jokes about hoarding toilet paper, etc. Although at first, I liked the connection to reality, I soon found it difficult to read, and it also kept stretching my suspension of disbelief, as the characters talked and acted as if COVID-19 had only lasted a few months and had been a minor inconvenience that was over in no time at all. Perhaps that was how things looked like after the first wave, but unfortunately, that was only the beginning. The touch of realism is broken by what has happened since, and imagining that people will be so blasé about it only three or four years down the line —the story is set in 2024, and yes, I know about COVID-19 deniers, and that attitude is well reflected in the novel— didn’t quite work for me. I guess it’s difficult to know what to do when reality becomes truly stranger than fiction and catches up with our fictional stories in ways we didn’t expect, but I would much rather have assumed Project Renova took place in an alternate reality where COVID-19 hadn’t happened. I don’t know if the author intends to make changes to some of the other titles in the series, although I hope not.  But it’s her story.

Did I guess who the guilty party was? It’s difficult to talk about it without giving anything away, but let’s say I had my suspicions, and I guessed some of the other secrets that are revealed at the end, although not all. I’ve already said I truly liked the baddy, and don’t worry, although there is the possibility of further stories for some of the characters, there is no big cliff-hanger. When it comes to warnings to readers… I think the main one is the fact that there are references to COVID-19, and I know I’m not the only one who still finds reading about the topic quite difficult. This is not a blood and gore story, but there is violence (even if not described in excessive detail or graphically and although it is not the most important aspect of the story), of course, so people who prefer cozy or gentle mysteries should stay away.

I recommend this book to fans of Terry Tyler’s books, to people looking for thrillers with a difference (especially those who enjoy an interesting setting and realistic characters), and to anybody who appreciates a claustrophobic backdrop with dark undertones, doesn’t mind a touch of the unexpected, and loves all things British.

 Thanks to the author for her new book, for her acknowledgments (bloggers included. Yes, me too!), thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and especially keep safe, and keep smiling!

 

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview DEAD OF WINTER: JOURNEY 2, PENLLYN by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene (@teagangeneviene) A must-read serial #fantasy

Hi all:

I bring you the second journey in the new serial by one of my favourite authors and bloggers, Teagan Geneviene.

Dead of Winter Journey 2. Penllyn by Teagan Geneviene

Dead of Winter: Journey 2, Penllyn by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

Journey 2, Penllyn picks up where the first installment, Dead of Winter: Journey 1, Forlorn Peak stopped. The supernatural warning, “Winter is coming!” continues to haunt Emlyn. Her father has heard her utter those words, and he is displeased to say the least. In fact, her family situation in general is becoming more perilous.

As if visitations from ghosts weren’t enough, another entity has started coming to her. She isn’t sure whether he is a spirit or something else, but he gives her the same prophetic warning.

Now Emlyn’s father has begun to behave strangely.

Join Emlyn on this strange journey to the neighboring village of Penllyn. Try not to look over your shoulder…

https://www.amazon.es/gp/product/B08VMNSF97/

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08VMNSF97/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08VMNSF97/

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:

Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene is one of the authors whose novels, novellas, blog posts, and serials —as is the case here— I’d put on my TBR list as soon as I hear about them. Sometimes I’ll even reserve a slot before they are published, because I know I’ll be in for a treat. Even when she publishes a work in a genre I don’t usually read, as is the case here, I don’t hesitate, because I know her characters and their adventures will capture my imagination, and she always takes good care of her readers, making sure that nobody can get lost or miss an important element of the story because of the way it is told.

After reading and reviewing Journey 1. Forlorn Peak in her serial Dead of Winter (you can check my review here), I had been eagerly waiting to read more of Emlyn’s story. Here, the young protagonist (only twelve years old) experiences further strange happenings (even for a girl who can see spirits), and goes through hopeful and exciting moments (visiting Penllyn, a much bigger village sounds promising, and at first she imagines her father might finally acknowledge all she had learned and want her help with the business), but also scary and disappointing ones (when she observes her father’s strange behaviour, she starts to wonder if he might be planning something quite different).

The trip to Penllyn introduces some interesting characters (I love the cook at the inn and her young helper), highlighting, at the same time, that not everybody is fond of the Brethern or particularly taken with their religion and rules, especially when it comes to their attitude towards women.

We also follow Zasha, Osabide’s niece and one of the Deae Matres’s members, and her protector/travelling companion, Tajín, and learn a bit more about them and the Deae Matres in the process, although this insight contrasts with Emlyn’s own —none too positive— brief second-hand experience of this intriguing group of women.

I enjoyed the narrative style, the way the plot is developing and adding more narratives and points of view to the story, layering the connections between the characters, the events, and the supernatural elements. There are compelling descriptions of people and places and numerous signs of wonders to come. The characters are growing in importance and complexity as well, as we get to know more about Emlyn’s world, a place fraught with danger and magic in equal measure.

The author has also included a cast of characters and locations, which she will keep adding on as the story progresses, which greatly assists readers in clarifying any possible doubts about who is who and how the different people and places are connected.

The only thing I don’t like is the fact that we’ll have to wait for a bit to get Journey three, but the advantage of getting the story in instalments is that it’s easy to fit it into our reading schedule, between two longer books, or even as a break from other activities. It is incredibly easy to get lost in this world, and I recommend this serial to anybody who enjoys a story beautifully told, with a dark and menacing undertone, and characters you’ll feel compelled to follow. Even if you’re not a big fan of fantasy, I recommend that you give it a try. I’m sure you won’t regret it.

Thanks to the author for her story, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, keep smiling, and above all, keep safe.

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog WASTELAND (Operation Galton Book 2) by Terry Tyler (@TerryTyler4) It ends with a bang, not a whimper #dystopia

Hi all:

I bring you another book by one of my favourite authors. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Wasteland (Operation Galton Book 2) by Terry Tyler

Wasteland (Operation Galton Book 2) by Terry Tyler

“Those who escape ‘the system’ are left to survive outside society.  The fortunate find places in off-grid communities; the others disappear into the wasteland.”

The year: 2061. In the new UK megacities, the government watches every move you make.  Speech is no longer free—an ‘offensive’ word reaching the wrong ear means a social demerit and a hefty fine.  One too many demerits?  Job loss and eviction, with free transport to your nearest community for the homeless: the Hope Villages.

Rae Farrer is the ultimate megacity girl – tech-loving, hard-working, law-abiding and content – until a shocking discovery about her birth forces her to question every aspect of life in UK Megacity 12.

On the other side of the supposedly safe megacity walls, a few wastelanders suspect that their freedom cannot last forever…

Wasteland is the stand-alone sequel to ‘Hope’, the concluding book in the two-part Operation Galton series, and Terry Tyler’s twenty-first publication.

https://www.amazon.com/Wasteland-Operation-Galton-Book-2-ebook/dp/B087JZ2DT5/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wasteland-Operation-Galton-Book-2-ebook/dp/B087JZ2DT5/

https://www.amazon.es/Wasteland-Operation-Galton-Book-2-ebook/dp/B087JZ2DT5/

Author Terry Tyler
Author Terry Tyler

About the author:

Terry Tyler is the author of twenty-one books available from Amazon, the latest being ‘Wasteland’, a dystopian thriller set in the UK in 2061, the stand-alone sequel to ‘Hope’. Other recent releases include ‘Blackthorn’, a stand-alone post apocalyptic drama related to her Project Renova series. Proud to be independently published, Terry is an avid reader and book reviewer, and a member of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

Terry is a Walking Dead addict, and has a great interest in history (particularly 14th-17th century), and sociological/cultural/anthropological stuff, generally. She loves South Park, Netflix, autumn and winter, and going for long walks in quiet places where there are lots of trees. She lives in the north east of England with her husband.

https://www.amazon.com/Terry-Tyler/e/B00693EGKM

My review:

I received an ARC copy of this novel previous to its publication, and I’m pleased to finally be able to review it of my own free wall.

I discovered the author of this novel a few years back, and I am aware that she writes in a variety of genres, but for some reason, every time I think of reading one of her books in a different genre, another one of her dystopic novels comes my way, and I can’t resist their call. I have read and reviewed The Project Renova Series and also Blackthorn (an offshoot of that series), and I read the first novel in this series (or duo of novels, unless the author decides to return to this world later), Hope (you can find my review here) a little over a year ago. Circumstances have changed since I read the first novel, and the Coronavirus health crisis has made me think of the Project Renova Series, especially Tipping Point, very often. But many other worldwide events have kept Hope also quite fresh in my mind.

What to say about this author? Reading her reviews of books by other authors (that I recommend as well) one learns that although she enjoys a well-plotted story, she needs meaty characters to engage with as well, and paper-thin characterisation doesn’t cut it for her and that is reflected in her books. The plot of this novel, like that of Hope, is gripping, don’t get me wrong, but what always makes me fully engage with a story is believing in the characters and connecting with them, not always because I like them.  When it comes to this author’s novels, even those characters I don’t like feel true, human, and relatable, down to their weaknesses and their evil ways.

I don’t want to ruin this novel for anybody, so I won’t go into the plot in too much detail. The story takes place in the same dystopic but recognisable future world featured in Hope, but almost forty years later (in 2061). Those who worry about starting to read a series in the middle don’t need to worry too much, as the novel starts slowly and there is enough world building and information about the way things work for readers to quickly pick up and settle into the story, although I’m sure anybody who starts to read here will want to know what happened before (and I recommend reading both books and in the right order if at all possible). For those who read the first novel a while back, there’s no need to worry either, because the author offers us a link to a summary at the beginning of the book. Having said that, the main characters are completely new, and although we do get the odd reference to some of the characters in the previous book (and some make a fleeting appearance in this volume), it is not necessary to remember every detail of the first book to enjoy this one, and this novel can be read independently.

Things have moved further along, the mega-corporations control everything in people’s lives (their diets, their contacts, their jobs, exercise regimes, transportation, opinions…), and the government is preparing the new phase of their plan. If they had managed to solve the problem of homelessness and poverty by removing, rehousing, and warehousing the people they found no use for (or those who could be disruptive), they now go a step further. I had mentioned “the final solution” in my review of the previous book, and this novel echoes that mentality, and, as many reviewers have mentioned, reminds us of Orwell’s Big Brother, but also of other dystopias (I kept thinking of Huxley’s Brave New World).

The main character, Rae, one of the inhabitants of a megacity, discovers that her early childhood and personal circumstances are very different to what she’d been told and decides to try and find out the truth and locate her family, despite the risks this might involve. Although when we meet her she is only a young woman who is not totally happy with her life (she is a counsellor but is frustrated at having to follow guidelines and dish out the same trite advice to everybody, and her boyfriend is self-obsessed and not very caring) but she does not question it, she evolves through the novel, grows, and learns to think for herself. Her story is told in the first-person and it occupies a big part of the book. That works well because it allows us to explore different aspects of the world order, as she travels between them trying to find her family. But we also get snippets of the stories, told in the third person, of a variety of characters, from one of the big and powerful who is behind much of what is to come, to a young man who ended up in a Hope Village and discovers that, no matter how bad things are, they can always get worse. There are others as well, and that allows us to experience, through the eyes of the characters, the ramifications of this operation and what it does to the population. Scary doesn’t quite cover it. It is terrifying, precisely because it feels so plausible, and because many of the things we hear the characters say (or read, or watch) are so similar to what we experience in our everyday lives that it is impossible not to pause and gasp.

No privacy, government monitoring of our lives, total control of information, the abysmal division between the haves and the have-nots, the cult of popularity, the importance given to looks and appearances above everything, the spinning of news and the emergence of fake news, the demolishing of any discordant voices, the pressure to conform, bullying and backstabbing at work, the cuts of the funding for social projects… The list of the issues brought up by the novel that could be out of today’s newsfeed is endless, and it seems to have become even more pressing and shocking now than when I read the first book.

When I think about this book and about the author, I’m reminded of the dialogue of a play I read years back, when one character explained that a clairvoyant is a person who “sees clearly”.  And yes, this is what Tyler is, a clairvoyant, not so much because she can predict the future (I hope she’s got it wrong, but I wouldn’t bet on it), but because she sees what’s happening around us with tremendous clarity. And she can write about it, for sure.

So, yes, I loved this book, although “loved” is perhaps not the right word for such a book. I enjoyed it immensely but I kept my fingers crossed and can’t but hope that the things in it that haven’t happened yet will never come to pass. I enjoyed the ending, at least for some of the characters I’d come to care about, (but the author takes no prisoners and this is not a cosy and happy ending by any stretch of the imagination); there are plenty of twists (if you needed a proof that we can make assumptions and reach the wrong conclusions when we read, this book delivers in a big way); and if you are looking for a gripping read that you won’t forget any time soon, I recommend it without reservations. If you are looking for a book that will take your mind off things and you’ll forget as soon as you’ve turned the last page, this isn’t it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Thanks to Terry for this fantastic novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, keep smiling, and above all, keep safe.

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog KNIGHT IN PAPER ARMOR by Nicholas Conley (@NicholasConley1) Scary, inspiring, and ultimately life-affirming #RBRT #Sci-fi

Hi all:

Today I bring you the review of a book by an author that impressed me with one of his novels a few years back:

Knight in Paper Armor by Nicholas Conley

Knight in Paper Armor by Nicholas Conley

Billy Jakobek has always been different. Born with strange and powerful psychic abilities, he has grown up in the laboratories of Thorne Century, a ruthless megacorporation that economically, socially, and politically dominates American society. Every day, Billy absorbs the emotional energies, dreams, and traumas of everyone he meets—from his grandmother’s memories of the Holocaust, to the terror his sheer existence inflicts upon his captors—and he yearns to break free, so he can use his powers to help others.

Natalia Gonzalez, a rebellious artist and daughter of Guatemalan immigrants, lives in Heaven’s Hole, an industrial town built inside a meteor crater, where the poverty-stricken population struggles to survive the nightmarish working conditions of the local Thorne Century factory. Natalia takes care of her ailing mother, her grandmother, and her two younger brothers, and while she dreams of escape, she knows she cannot leave her family behind.

When Billy is transferred to Heaven’s Hole, his chance encounter with Natalia sends shockwaves rippling across the blighted landscape. The two outsiders are pitted against the all-powerful monopoly, while Billy experiences visions of an otherworldly figure known as the Shape, which prophesizes an apocalyptic future that could decimate the world they know.

https://www.amazon.com/Knight-Paper-Armor-Nicholas-Conley-ebook/dp/B08CLSSX8Z/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Knight-Paper-Armor-Nicholas-Conley-ebook/dp/B08CLSSX8Z/

https://www.amazon.es/Knight-Paper-Armor-Nicholas-Conley-ebook/dp/B08CLSSX8Z/

Author Nicholas Conley
Author Nicholas Conley

About the author:

Nicholas Conley is an award-winning Jewish American author, journalist, playwright, and coffee vigilante. His books, such as Knight in Paper Armor, Pale Highway, Clay Tongue: A Novelette, and Intraterrestrial, merge science fiction narratives with hard-hitting examinations of social issues. Originally from California, he now lives in New Hampshire.

www.NicholasConley.com

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 read and reviewed Conley’s novel Pale Highway (you can check my review here) a while back, and it left a long-lasting impression. A book that although falling under the aegis of Science Fiction did not easily fit into any category and provided a unique reading experience.

Conley’s new novel shares some of the same characteristics. It is set in the not too-distant future, a dystopian future where the United States seems to have become more parcelled out and separate than ever —different populations are segregated into newly created states [immigrants have to live in certain areas, the Jewish population in another state, the well-to-do elsewhere…]—, where huge corporations have taken over everything, and prejudice is rampant. From that perspective, the book fits into the science-fiction genre, and there are also other elements (like Billy’s powers, the way the Thorne Corporation is trying to harness those powers…) that easily fit into that category, although, otherwise, the world depicted in it is worryingly similar to the one we live in. Although there aren’t lengthy descriptions of all aspects of the world, there are some scenes that vividly portray some parts of the town (Heaven’s Hole), and I would say the novel is best at creating a feeling or an impression of what life must be like there, rather than making us see it in detail. Somehow it is as if we had acquired some of Billy’s powers and could “sense” what the characters are going through.

I don’t want to discuss the plot in too much detail, as there is much to discover and enjoy, but the book is also, at some level, a rite of passage for the two young protagonists, who might come from very different backgrounds and traditions but have much in common (they’ve lost beloved family members to unfair treatment, discrimination, and manipulation; their grandmothers have played an important role in their lives; they are outsiders; they are strongly committed to others…), and who help each other become better versions of themselves. Although there is a romantic aspect to their relationship (it is reminiscent of “insta love” that so many readers dislike) and even a sex scene (very mild and not at all descriptive), the story of Billy and Natalia’s relationship goes beyond that. I don’t think I would class this novel as a Young Adult story, despite the ages of the protagonists (at least during most of the action), but that would depend on every reader. There is plenty of violence, death of adults and children, instances of physical abuse and serious injuries of both youths and adults, so I’d recommend caution depending on the age of the reader and their sensitivity to those types of subjects.

The book can be read as a metaphor for how the world might end up looking like if we don’t change our ways (and I thought about George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm often as I read this novel), or as a straight Sci-Fi novel where two young people, one with special powers and one without, confront the government/a powerful tyrannous corporation to free society from their clutches (think the Hunger Games, although many other examples exist). It’s easy to draw comparisons and parallels with the present (and with other historical eras) as one reads; and the examples of bullying, abuse, extortion, threats, corruption… might differ in detail from events we know, but not in the essence. There is also emphasis on tradition, memory (the role of the two grandmothers is very important in that respect), identity (Billy’s Jewish identity, Natalia’s Guatemalan one, although she and her family have to pass for Mexicans at some point), disability, diversity, poverty, power, the role of media…

I have talked about the two main characters, who are both heroes (each one in their own way) and well-matched, and their families feature as well and play an important part in grounding them and making us see who they are (although Billy’s family features mostly through his memories of them). We also have a baddie we can hate at will (he is despicable, but I didn’t find him too impressive compared to others, and I prefer baddies with a certain level of humanity rather than a purely evil one), another baddie who is just a bigot and nasty (not much characterization there), and some others whose actions are morally wrong but whose reasons we come to understand. The circumstances of Billy and Natalia are so hard, and they have such great hearts that it is impossible not to root for them (I’m a big fan of Natalia, perhaps because she saves the day without having any special powers and she is easier to identify with than Billy, who is such a singular character), and their relatives and friends are also very relatable, but as I said, things are very black and white, and the book does not offer much room for shades of grey.

The story is told in the third person, although each chapter follows the point of view of one of the characters, and this is not limited to the two protagonists, but also to Thorne, and to one of the scientists working on the project. There are also moments when we follow some of the characters into a “somewhere else”, a vision that might be a memory of the past, or sometimes a projection of something else (a possible future?, a different realm or dimension?, the collective unconscious), and these chapters are quite descriptive and have an almost hallucinatory intensity. The Shape plays a big part on some of those chapters, and it makes for a much more interesting evil character than Thorne (and it brought to my mind Lovecraft and Cthulhu). Readers must be prepared to follow the characters into these places, although the experience can be painful at times. I was touched and close to tears quite a few times while I read this book, sometimes due to sadness but others the experience was a happy one.

The book is divided up into 10 parts, each one with a Hebrew name, and as I’m not that familiar with the Jewish tradition I had to check and found out these refer to the ten nodes of the Kabbalah Tree of Life. This made me realise that the structure of the book is carefully designed and it has a significance that is not evident at first sight. That does not mean it is necessary to be conversant with this concept to read and enjoy the book, but I am sure there is more to it than meets the eye (and the Tree of Life pays and important role in the story, although I won’t say anything else to avoid spoilers). The writing is lyrical and beautiful in parts, and quite horrific and explicit when it comes to detailing violence and abuse. This is not a fast page-turner, and although there is plenty of action, there are also moments where characters talk, think, or are even suspended in non-reality, so this is not for those who are only interested in stories where the plot is king and its advancement the only justification for each and every word written. I often recommend readers to try a sample of a book before purchasing, and this is even more important for books such as this one, which are not easy to pin down or classify.

From my references to Orwell you will know that this is a book with a clear message (or several) and not “just” light entertainment, but I don’t want you to think it is all doom and gloom. Quite the opposite, in fact. The ending is positive, hopeful and life-affirming. Those who like endings where everything is resolved will love this one, and those who are looking for an inspiring novel and are happy to boldly go where no reader has gone before will be handsomely rewarded.

I had to include the quote that opens the book, because it is at the heart of it all, and because it is so relevant:

The opposite of love I not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference. Because of indifference, one dies before one actually dies. To be in the window and watch people being sent to concentration camps or being attacked in the street and do nothing, that’s being dead. Elie Wiesel.

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

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview SURVIVOR SONG by Paul Tremblay (@paulgtremblay)(@TitanBooks) It masterfully blurs the line between dystopia and reality #horror

Hi all:

Today I bring you a new book by an author I was curious about but hadn’t yet read.

Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay

Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay

A riveting novel of suspense and terror from the Bram Stoker award-winning author of The Cabin at the End of the World and A Head Full of Ghosts.

When it happens, it happens quickly.

New England is locked down, a strict curfew the only way to stem the wildfire spread of a rabies-like virus. The hospitals cannot cope with the infected, as the pathogen’s ferociously quick incubation period overwhelms the state. The veneer of civilisation is breaking down as people live in fear of everyone around them. Staying inside is the only way to keep safe.

But paediatrician Ramola Sherman can’t stay safe, when her friend Natalie calls her husband is dead, she’s eight months pregnant, and she’s been bitten. She is thrust into a desperate race to bring Natalie and her unborn child to a hospital, to try and save both their lives.

Their once familiar home has becoming a violent and strange place, twisted in to a barely recognisable landscape. What should have been a simple, joyous journey becomes a brutal trial.

https://www.amazon.com/Survivor-Song-Paul-Tremblay-ebook/dp/B084Q4BH8K/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Survivor-Song-Paul-Tremblay-ebook/dp/B084Q4BH8K/

https://www.amazon.es/Survivor-Song-Paul-Tremblay-ebook/dp/B084Q4BH8K/

Author Paul Tremblay

About the author:

Paul Tremblay is the author of the Bram Stoker Award and Locus Award winning THE CABIN AT THE END OF THE WORLD, winner of the British Fantasy Award DISAPPEARANCE AT DEVIL’S ROCK, and Bram Stoker Award/Massachusetts Book Award winning A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS. A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS is in development with Focus Features. He’s also the author of the novels The Little Sleep, No Sleep till Wonderland, Swallowing a Donkey’s Eye, and Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly (co-written with Stephen Graham Jones).

His newest book is the short story collection GROWING THINGS AND OTHER STORIES.

His essays and short fiction have appeared in the Los Angeles Times and numerous “year’s best” anthologies. He is the co-editor of four anthologies including Creatures: Thirty Years of Monster Stories (with John Langan). Paul is on the board of directors for the Shirley Jackson Awards. He lives outside of Boston, Massachusetts, has a master’s degree in Mathematics, and has no uvula. You can find him online at www.paultremblay.net. twitter: @paulgtremblay

He is represented by Stephen Barbara, InkWell Management.

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Titan Books for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

I have read a number of glowing reviews of Tremblay’s novels and being a horror fan, I was eager to read one of his books. When I found this one was available for request and read the description, I requested it although wondering if, in the current situation, I’d dare to read it. Then I read a review of it by one of the reviewers of horror I trust and decided to take the plunge. I’m pleased to report it was the right decision.

The description does justice to the plot. This is one of those novels that seem to start with a big “What If”, and we have a clock ticking to ramp up the tension. The fact that the situation has become familiar and requires far less suspension of disbelief than it might have when it was written adds nuance to the story and also increases the chill factor. Yes, the details are different (there is a virus, but it is a variety of the rabies virus rather than a coronavirus, and therefore the illnesses are very different, thankfully), but the background situation and the consequences of the health emergency are eerily similar (lack of resources, lack of PPE, confusion, hospitals overwhelmed, lack of coordination, fake news, conspiracy theories, nay-sayers, heads of governments ignoring scientific advice…). Rather than going large, the author brings the crisis to a personal level, focusing on the story of two women, one British who emigrated and studied Medicine in the US, Ramola, or Rams, and the other, her best friend, Natalie, Nats, married and in the late stages of pregnancy. They shared an apartment while they were students, and although their lives have changed, they’ve kept in touch. Things go wrong very quickly, and Ramola is soon forced to make decisions that place her professional duty in the balance against her friendship. Would you put your duty to society before your friendship or your love for your family? This is a question many of us have probably wondered about, and many have been forced to face for real in recent times.

The story turns into a nightmarish road trip where almost everything is against the protagonists. There are infected animals (and people) on their way, roadblocks, and rogue patrols wandering the streets, and every time they seem to get a break, a new obstacle or delay makes survival more and more difficult. And, of course, we have the illness itself, which turns humans (and animals) into raging wild beasts.

I have mentioned some of the themes, and although this is a dystopian story that feels like reality at the moment (unfortunately, reality is looking grimmer than this novel’s scenario), and it does have much in common with zombie stories (no matter how insistent Rams is that the infected are not zombies, and, of course, they are not dead but ill, their behaviour is quite similar), it is also a story about friendship and the families we create. We have not only Ramola and Nathalie, who are like sisters, but also other characters (especially a couple of teenage boys, Luis and Josh, who are like brothers, share a dark secret, and whose story is given space as well). There is no lack of social commentary either:  there is a strong indictment of the lack of training, of PPE, and of resources in general that hospitals and health providers have to contend with, and also support for the usefulness (indeed need) of vaccines and vaccination campaigns. (Tremblay explains at the end that his sister works at a small hospital and she gave him a lot of information.  They make a great team). Although none of it is original, it does work well, and the focus on only a few characters makes it very compelling.

The story is written in the present tense (for the most part), in the third person, although the chapters alternate between the points of view of Natalie and Ramola in the three main parts of the novel. There are also a prelude, and interlude, and a postlude, which are told from a seemingly omniscient viewpoint, where the narrator provides a frame and a commentary on the story itself (we are told this is not a fairy tale, it is a song, and we are also given information about the larger scale of things, and even told about the future). My experience with present-tense narration has not always been good, but I felt it worked well here, as it makes readers feel as if the story was taking place right now, and as the main narrative develops over a few hours, it does bring home the relativity of time, how two minutes can feel like two hours or vice versa. The book has some lyrical passages, and it’s particularly strong when reflecting the way our minds can wander even at the most inconvenient moments, and how we all have our own protective mechanisms (telling ourselves stories, taking refuge on events from the past, fairy tales…). The author writes fluidly, and he makes good use of the alternating points of view, and of other devices, like Facebook chat pages, the video diary Natalie is keeping for her child… This also provides variety and a bit of a break from the tension of the story.

I’ve read some reviews where people didn’t like the book because they didn’t like the main characters. It is true that because of the way the story is told if you don’t connect with the two protagonists, I don’t think the story will work. We don’t know everything about the two characters straight away, as much is revealed through the novel, as they think about the past, about shared experiences, and also about the future. For me, the relationship between the two characters felt real. They often knew what the other person was thinking, they cared for each other and it was like reading or witnessing the interaction between two close friends, where not everything needs to be said, and there is a lot of background to the relationship that will not be evident to strangers. Being a doctor, I probably felt closer to Ramola and her difficult situation, but I enjoyed the story and I also got to like Luis and Josh (and some of the minor characters as well).

The ending… Well, if there wasn’t a postlude, the ending would be ambiguous but the postlude makes up for it, and we get a satisfying ending (if not particularly surprising). I confess I’m not a fan of happy endings for horror novels (or films), but this is not standard horror, and despite the warnings about this not being a fairy tale, I do think it reads like a fairy tale for adults (or a scary tale). And perhaps the ending is right for the times we are living. Let’s hope…

So, yes, I recommend this novel to fans of Tremblay, and to readers of horror or dystopian fiction in general. I’d advise readers to check a sample, in case the present tense narration doesn’t work for them, and if you prefer your stories big and your disasters of world proportions, this is not that kind of story. Although the focus is on a couple of characters (mostly), there is plenty of violence, blood, and guts, so I wouldn’t recommend it to those who prefer their thrills to be subtle and understated. Also, if you are concerned about reading this story right in the middle of a pandemic and are very anxious about the news, I’d recommend waiting for a while before reading it, because it does hit very close to home. I look forward to reading more novels by this author.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher and the author for the novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, keep smiling, and above all, keep safe. ♥

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog BLACKTHORN by Terry Tyler (@TerryTyler4) Terrific characters and a ray of hope in a dark, dark world #sci-fi

Hi all:

I bring you a book by an author that is a big favourite of mine, and one connected to one of her most popular series. Terrific!

Blackthorn by Terry Tyler

Blackthorn by Terry Tyler

The UK, year 2139.

One hundred and fifteen years ago, a mysterious virus wiped out ninety-five per cent of humanity.

Blackthorn, the largest settlement in England, rose from the ashes of the devastated old world. It is a troubled city, where the workers live in crude shacks, and make do with the worst of everything.

It is a city of violent divisions, crime, and an over-populated jail block, until a charismatic traveller has a miraculous vision, and promises to bring hope back to the people’s lives.

Blackthorn falls under Ryder Swift’s spell, and the most devoted of all is the governor’s loyal servant, Lieutenant August Hemsley.

Twenty-one-year-old Evie has lived her whole life in the shacks. She and disillusioned guard Byron Lewis are two of a minority who have doubts about Ryder’s message. Can they stand against the beliefs of an entire city?

https://www.amazon.com/Blackthorn-Terry-Tyler-ebook/dp/B081Z3M8W4/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blackthorn-Terry-Tyler-ebook/dp/B081Z3M8W4/

https://www.amazon.es/Blackthorn-Terry-Tyler-ebook/dp/B081Z3M8W4/

Author Terry Tyler
Author Terry Tyler

About the author:

Terry Tyler is the author of twenty-one books available from Amazon, the latest being ‘Wasteland’, a dystopian thriller set in the UK in 2061, the stand-alone sequel to ‘Hope’. Other recent releases include ‘Blackthorn’, a stand-alone post apocalyptic drama related to her Project Renova series. Proud to be independently published, Terry is an avid reader and book reviewer, and a member of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

Terry is a Walking Dead addict, and has a great interest in history (particularly 14th-17th century), and sociological/cultural/anthropological stuff, generally. She loves South Park, Netflix, autumn and winter, and going for long walks in quiet places where there are lots of trees. She lives in the north east of England with her husband.

https://www.amazon.com/Terry-Tyler/e/B00693EGKM

My review:

I’ve read quite a few novels by Terry Tyler, and the whole of the Project Renova series, and I was looking forward to this one as well, as it is a story set in one of the settlements we visited in the last novel in the series, Legacy(you can find my review of Legacy here and there are also links to the rest of the novel available on that post).  Blackthorn is a pretty memorable place and my previous visit to that world made me think of Westworld (the old movie rather than the series, which I haven’t watched), because it was like an amalgamation of the worst of Ancient Rome and a Medieval court. Some of the events that happened in that novel are bound to be fresh in the minds of readers, and they are referred to in this novel, but I think even people who haven’t read any of the other novels in the Renova Series would be able to enjoy this one, as the author does a great job of creating a vivid world, and it’s not difficult to understand the rules and get to know the characters that play the different parts. Yes, those who have read the whole series will have a fair more background, and it fits in beautifully with the rest, but that should not deter new readers from trying it (and judging by the reviews, it seems that many new readers have enjoyed it as well).

I don’t want to go into a lot of detail about the plot, because there are a number of surprises, and the author has built them up perfectly and paced the story so that we discover each bit of information with the characters at a particular point in the story, sharing in their feelings and emotions, and that helps explain and justify their actions. Most of the story is told in the first person present tense, by the three main characters: Evie, a young girl, a shacker (because there is a strict social order, and where you are born determines your lot in life in Blackthorn. It’s very difficult to rise above one’s station and those who try pay dearly for it), who works in a bakery and leads a very modest life (she has no other option), clever, witty, and a bit of an outsider; Byron Lewis, a guard from a family with a long tradition in Blackthorn but also a bit of an outsider; and Lieutenant August Hemsley, who is a good an honest man, a bit of a loner and has always tried his best to do his duty, remaining blind to some of the most unsavoury aspects of life in Blackthorn. There are also brief chapters told in the third person (and in italics) that offer readers some hints and clues as to other things that might be going on behind the scenes and that our three narrators have no access to. Although those three get to learn plenty about what is really going on, readers get an even closer look at the darkness and horror most of the population are completely unaware of. This is a dystopian novel, science-fiction about a possible future if civilisation were to collapse (in this case due to a virus, a particularly scary thing to read at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic), and it touches on a lot of themes: social control, organised religion, faith, spirituality, and tradition, power and manipulation, family, friendship and identity…

I have mentioned the main characters and the way the story is narrated. There are other characters who play important parts, like Ryder Swift, an outlier who used to visit Blackthorn every year, charismatic, good at telling stories and a favourite with the shackers, who becomes something of a religious leader; Wolf North, the governor, a master manipulator who is one of the darkest characters in the whole story, and many others with smaller parts, like Evie’s friends and relatives, the other guards, the women who live in the House of Angels (I’ll let you learn about that when you read the story)… but if I had to choose one, my favourite would be Evie, who reminded me of Lottie, one of my favourite characters in the whole of the Project Renova series. Tyler excels at creating characters, some likeable, some dislikeable, but all real human beings (no matter what strange worlds and circumstances they might live in), and we see how the three protagonists grow and develop during the novel (the three of them are keen readers, so that helps the connection as well), refusing to be defined by socially-designated roles and categories and coming into their own. This helps us engage with them and feel touched, marvelled or horrified by their experiences, and we feel sorrow when we leave them (although the author hints at a possible follow up on some of the characters’ adventures).

Notwithstanding the author’s focus on her characters, she manages to create a truly compelling and realistic world in Blackthorn, one that might feel fairly alien to our daily experience, and we might not like, but one we can understand, and some aspects of which might be uncomfortably recognisable. Her description of the different parts of the city, the conditions the inhabitants have to live in, their routines, their way of life, their hardships and/or privileges are seamlessly woven into the story, rather than told in long stretches of information dumps, and we learn all we need from wandering around Blackthorn’s streets with the narrators, sharing in their observations, their day-to-day life and their adventures. We see their homes, their places of work, we follow them to the bakery, the prison, the outskirts, the governor’s home, the bars, their friends’ homes, and we get to know the hidden spots in Blackthorn as well. This is done in a fluid style, with an eye for detail that does not disrupt the narrative or interrupts the plot (even when there are short chapters that take us back to earlier moments in the story), and the writing is perfectly in sync with the narrative, not calling undue attention to itself but rather serving the story. There are contemplative and beautiful moments; there are some funny touches; some truly horrific events, and some touching and hopeful passages as well. Tyler’s writing mastery keeps increasing with every novel as demonstrated by this book.

The ending hints at new beginnings and at many more stories. It brings some wonderful surprises and some disappointments (not totally unexpected), but I won’t go into detail. I loved it, and, for me, it is a hopeful ending.

This is another great novel by Terry Tyler, and one set in a world that most readers will be able to connect with. I loved its unlikely mix of characters, the fantastic baddy (Wolf North his pretty up there with the best, or worst, depending on how you look at it), the masterful way the story is told, and how it makes us pause and think, about the past, the present, and the future. A few words of warning, there are some violent scenes (not extreme but upsetting), some very dark and nasty happenings, and its take on official religions could be challenging for some readers. Personally, I can’t wait to read the sequel to Hope.

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

GET MY FREE BOOKS
%d bloggers like this:
x Logo: Shield Security
This Site Is Protected By
Shield Security