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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD by Ailish Sinclair (@AilishSinclair) Sisterhood, ancient Scottish history and plenty of poetry and magic #RBRT

Hi all:

I bring you a book by an author I’ve been intrigued by for a very long time, because of the many fans she has on Rosie’s Book Review Team, and I finally got to read one of her books. It was quite an experience.

Sisters at the Edge of the World by Ailish Sinclair

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD by Ailish Sinclair

When Morragh speaks to another person for the very first time, she has no idea that he is an invader in her land.

What she does next constitutes a huge betrayal of her people, threatening her closest relationships and even her way of life itself.

As the conflict between the Caledonian tribes and the Roman Sons of Mars intensifies, can she use her high status in the community to lessen the coming death toll or even prevent outright war?

Set in 1st century Northern Scotland, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD is a story of chosen sisters, fierce warriors, divided loyalties and, ultimately, love.

 https://www.amazon.com/Sisters-Edge-World-Ailish-Sinclair-ebook/dp/B0BBH5QS1Y/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sisters-Edge-World-Ailish-Sinclair-ebook/dp/B0BBH5QS1Y/

https://www.amazon.es/Sisters-at-Edge-World-English-ebook/dp/B0BBH5QS1Y/

Author Ailish Sinclair

About the author:

Ailish Sinclair trained as a dancer and taught dance for many years, before working in schools to help children with special needs. A short stint as a housekeeper in a castle fired her already keen interest in untold stories of the past and she sat down to research and write.

She now lives beside a loch with her husband and two children where she still dances and writes and eats rather a lot of chocolate.

 https://www.amazon.com/Ailish-Sinclair/e/B07XCCJ8P3/

https://ailishsinclair.com/

My review:

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

I have read many glowing reviews of Ailish Sinclair’s previous books, and when I saw this one, I thought it was my chance to finally get to read one of them. I must confess to not remembering the exact details when I started to read the story, and I found it a pretty unique reading experience.

Morragh, the main protagonist, doesn’t talk at the beginning of the story (we don’t know if she can’t or chooses not to), at least she doesn’t talk to other people, but she communicates with gods, animals, and can see the future, We know all that because the story is narrated in the first person, from her point of view, and that gives the story a special feel, as she doesn’t experience things as most of us do. Reality, dreams, and visions of the past and the future (her own and others’) are all one for her, and she doesn’t always know when she is being herself or when she is being inhabited by the goddess. The language is poetic, made up of impressions and abstract images, and I felt as if I was in the middle of an ancient world I didn’t know the rules of, witnessing something momentous but alien. Her relationship with her sister (Onnagh) —who is not her biological sister but rescued her from a tragic fate— is one of the strengths of the book for me. I loved the bond between these chosen sisters, because, despite their closeness, they don’t always see things the same way. There are conflicts, moments when they don’t understand each other, and moments of anger and disappointment, but, ultimately, theirs is the strongest relationship in the book, as the beautiful title indicates.

Morragh learns much during the book, about love, about men, the importance of speaking, and the trade-off of communicating and interacting with the larger community, as there is something to be gained and something to be lost by changing her ways. Ultimately, though, she does what she thinks is right and necessary, even if it doesn’t always seem wise or advisable. Being her (as we know because we are inside her head) is not easy, and that is what makes her, her decisions, and her actions, such an extraordinary character.

The description of the book contains enough details of the plot, so I won’t add too much to it. There are quiet and contemplative moments when Morragh reflects, thinks, chats to her sister and peers, meets new people… and there are also rites, battles, fleeing, tragedy, and plenty of drama for those who love action, although they are not what fans of most historical fiction would expect. This is not an objective account full of detailed descriptions of clothes, strategies, and locations, as if the reader was an observer watching everything from the sideline, but a whirlwind of impressions, thoughts, and feelings, as if one was suddenly dropped in the middle of the battle. And some of the events take on a magical and mythological quality that adds much to the story but are not the usual fare of narrowly-defined historical fiction.

I am not very familiar with Celt folklore and mythology or ancient Scottish history, so although I enjoyed the story, I was grateful for the historical note the author includes at the end of the book. It clarifies which parts of the novel are based on historical fact, giving readers the opportunity to explore that era of Scottish history further if they are interested, and it provides locations for those keen to visit Aberdeenshire. I also enjoyed her comments about the process of creating the novel. Having read it, I can easily understand why it took her so long to write and publish it. The melding of the magical, mythological, historical, fictional, and, especially, emotional elements of the story, require a special kind of talent. And plenty of time and work.

There is much pain, death, loss, and destruction in this novel, but there is also plenty of love, loyalty, a sense of community, dedication, self-sacrifice, generosity, a sense of duty… There are moments of joy and very sad moments too, but, in my opinion, the sense of wonder and hope prevails, and I loved the ending.

Here are a few fragments of the novel, although I recommend checking a sample of the book to be sure the style suits the reader’s taste. 

She did not get to be a child, my dear sister. Not after she saved m. And I am so sad for this. Onnagh should have been carefree and full of joy and fun and had someone to care for her too. 

We cannot go back. Not ever. And nor should we. We can learn from the past, but we must only ever create the new. Water flows ever on. As do we.

And we all change.

 The small metal discs are shiny with the heads of men who have been made important on them. These are the men who play games of war and conquest. But these are not the men who will fight or die in those games. There we differ from Rome. Our leaders will be among us in the fullness of the fray. The heads on these coins? They will stay in their grand and shiny stone houses, eating the oily little fruits that I have come to love. These metal men are not in any danger.

 From some of the reviews I’ve read, I understand that the book is set in the same location as some of the author’s previous novels, but not having read any of them, at times I missed having access to more standard descriptions of the places and the people who play a part in the story, but, in all fairness, I don’t think it would have suited the style of writing, which at times reminded me of stream of thought, especially when Morragh was experiencing unusual events.

I cannot compare this novel to others by the author, but I am pretty sure her fans will enjoy this story as much or even more than the previous ones, and those who are looking for a strong females protagonist, love lyrical and expressive writing styles, and favour stories with a touch of magic and ancient mythology, particularly set in Scotland, should put it on their list. They are bound to discover a new author to follow, and a protagonist they’ll never forget.

Thanks to the author, to Rosie, and to all the members of her team for their support, thanks to all of you for reading and always being there. Remember to stay safe, to do whatever makes you happy, and to always keep smiling. 

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA by TJ Klune (@tjklune) A fable/fairy tale for adults full of whimsy and quirky characters with a hopeful message #LGBT #fantasy

Hi all:

I bring you a review with an addendum because… Well, you will see why.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

A NEW YORK TIMES, USA TODAY, and WASHINGTON POST BESTSELLER!
A 2021 Alex Award winner!
The 2021 RUSA Reading List: Fantasy Winner!
An Indie Next Pick!
One of Publishers Weekly’s “Most Anticipated Books of Spring 2020”
One of Book Riot’s “20 Must-Read Feel-Good Fantasies”

Lambda Literary Award-winning author TJ Klune’s bestselling, breakout contemporary fantasy that’s “1984 meets The Umbrella Academy with a pinch of Douglas Adams thrown in.” (Gail Carriger)

Linus Baker is a by-the-book case worker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He’s tasked with determining whether six dangerous magical children are likely to bring about the end of the world.

Arthur Parnassus is the master of the orphanage. He would do anything to keep the children safe, even if it means the world will burn. And his secrets will come to light.

The House in the Cerulean Sea is an enchanting love story, masterfully told, about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.

“1984 meets The Umbrella Academy with a pinch of Douglas Adams thrown in.” —Gail Carriger, New York Times bestselling author of Soulless

https://www.amazon.com/House-Cerulean-Sea-TJ-Klune-ebook/dp/B07QPHT8CB/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/House-Cerulean-Sea-TikTok-made-ebook/dp/B095Z4YRLP/

https://www.amazon.es/House-Cerulean-Sea-English-ebook/dp/B07QPHT8CB/

Author TJ Klune

About the author:

TJ KLUNE is a Lambda Literary Award-winning author (Into This River I Drown) and an ex-claims examiner for an insurance company. His novels include the Green Creek series, The House on the Cerulean Sea and The Extraordinaries. Being queer himself, TJ believes it’s important—now more than ever—to have accurate, positive, queer representation in stories.

https://tjklunebooks.com

https://www.amazon.com/TJ-Klune/e/B005LDJ9Z8/

My review:

This is the first book I have read by TJ Klune, and I didn’t know much about him or his books before. This story feels like an adult fairy tale, although I think it would be suitable for teens and YA as well. I also think it can fit into the category of an adult coming-of-age story, as the protagonist, Linus Baker, finds himself and learns to be his own person throughout the story, which covers just a few weeks of his life.

Linus Baker, the main character, is a grey man who lives in a grey world and has a grey job. The reviews mention 1984 and the similarities with the protagonist of George Orwell’s story are evident (minus the political angle. This book feels much more YA than that), and it also reminded me of the protagonist of Brazil, working at his little desk, and swallowed up by a strange world whose rules he tries to live by. Linus has no close friends, he doesn’t get on with his peers or his superiors at work either, and he only seems to care about his cat (it doesn’t appear to be mutual), his music (he loves to listen to records), his sunflowers (a splash of colour in his otherwise grey life), and his job. He lives by the book of Rules and Regulations of his organization and reads it as if it were the Bible. Suddenly, he is sent on a special mission, an extremely secret one, and he discovers an orphanage on an island very close to his dreams of a tropical paradise. The sea is blue (well, cerulean), the skies are sunny, and everything would be wonderful, almost like a vacation, if it weren’t for the peculiarities of the magical children who live at that orphanage. Well, and of the master of the orphanage and…

The novel looks at prejudice, persecution, harassment, intolerance, fear of the other, and the way society tends to lock away those who make it feel uncomfortable or don’t easily fit in. We are all familiar with such issues, that thankfully, have been changing in recent times, but not everywhere, and there’s still plenty of room for improvement. The novel is also full of hope; it explores the idea of found and chosen families; of finding a place you really belong to, and of how we can all help change things, one step at a time. There is also love (a couple of sweet ‘queer romances’, as they are described by the author) although it doesn’t become the dominant element of the novel, and the main romance is one of those “will-they/won’t they” situations where everybody else sees what is going on before the protagonists do.

The six children living at the orphanage are magical in totally different ways: some can do things, some are just… well, nobody knows exactly what kind of being they are, others have powers that can turn them dangerous, and all of them have been abused and marginalised because they don’t fit in. In a society that encourages compliance, surveillance, and uniformity, they are too visibly different. And that causes fear in the population, and it is encouraged by the powers that be.

Linus is reluctant and suspicious at first, but it seems that his superiors misjudged him. He is not just a bureaucrat without a heart who follows blindly the rules and remains detached and professional at whatever cost. He is genuinely devoted to the spirit of the job and cares about the children’s welfare, and that means he learns to see them for who they really are.

I loved the characters, especially the children, and Arthur and Zoe, the adults on the island, as well (later we meet some of the inhabitants of the town who are also formidable, Helen, the mayor, most of all); the way the story is told, like a fairytale; Linus’s transformation (which never becomes overdramatic or unbelievable); and the wit, humour, and quirkiness of it all. Some of the descriptions are as magical as the story, and by the end of the novel, I wanted to visit the island and meet the children and the rest of the characters as well. There are some reveals too, as things are not as they seem in more ways than one, but I wasn’t surprised by what we discover, and I think many readers will have guessed, or at least suspected, what we find out. But that didn’t spoil the enjoyment for me, and I hope that will be the case for most readers.

If I had to mention something I liked a little less, it would probably be the fact that “the message” of the novel is made quite evident and repeated in different ways, and readers who prefer subtlety and are fond of a less-is-more approach might feel it is heavy-handed. This fable makes its point clearly and somewhat forcefully, but it does have its heart in the right place, and the style of the story does fit into the genre, as does the fact that the story is not set in a specific time or real location (there are some vague references, mostly to do with music, but that is all). Some readers also felt that there are too many negative comments about the weight of the protagonist, but as we see the story from his point of view (although it is narrated in the third person), this seems to be another element of his lack of insight into who he really is, and further evidence of how much he has internalised society’s standards and opinions.

I have mentioned that the children have suffered abuse in the past, and they aren’t the only ones in the novel to be victims of prejudice. This is not described in too much detail, and it is mostly left to readers’ imaginations, but I would advise caution to those who feel they might be upset by such topics. You might also want to read my addendum to the review, as that might affect your feelings towards reading it.

The ending is as happy as it should be, and there is a final surprise thrown in (well, a couple) that will delight readers.

 Readers who are fond of fantasy, fairy tales, fables, and particularly enjoy adult coming-of-age stories and those who like quirky characters and Young Adult books should check this novel. It does have a positive message, and it wraps it up into a whimsical story full of heart. Highly recommended.

Just a few quotes as a taster:

These children aren’t animals. You aren’t on a safari with binoculars, watching them from a distance. How are you supposed to evaluate the children if you don’t even take the time to know them?’

‘We all have our issues. I have a spare tire around my middle. His father is Satan. Nothing that can’t be worked out if we try hard enough.’

‘Hate is loud, but I think you’ll learn it’s because it’s only a few people shouting, desperate to be heard. You might not ever be able to change their minds, but so long as you remember you’re not alone, you will overcome. ‘

‘Why can’t life work whatever way we want it to? What’s the point of living if you only do it how others want you to?’

 Addendum:

When I was checking the reviews of this novel, having almost finished it, I found out that there was a fair bit of controversy going on about it. Many reviewers that had given it good (or at least fair) reviews at first, went back to change their reviews and give it only 1 start (You can check the novel’s entry in Goodreads if you want to read about it in more detail).

It seems it all stems from this interview:

https://www.jeffandwill.com/biggayfictionpodcast/2020/03/16/episode-232-tj-klune-on-the-house-in-the-cerulean-sea-extraordinaries-and-greek-creek/

In the interview the author refers to this article:

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

Here another article about it, this time from the Indigenous Foundations:

Sixties Scoop

There’s plenty of information about the Sixties Scoop available, but it seems that a lot of the people who read the novel had never heard of it. I hadn’t either, although, unfortunately, such things have happened before (and we can but hope they won’t happen again, but perhaps they are already happening) in other places, and other things that share similarities with it have happened, even though the circumstances were different. (In my country, many children from Republican and/or communist families were removed from them and “given” in unofficial adoptions to people loyal to Franco’s regime in the years after the Civil War and up to the 1970s. The case of the Australian aborigines is well-known, and I have reviewed books talking about similar subjects before).

Some readers felt the author was exploiting the story and the children and the communities involved.

If we take into account that nobody would have known about it if the author hadn’t freely mentioned it on one occasion (I read some other interviews, and it never came up); it doesn’t appear as if he was trying to use the historical events and people’s interest in it to sell his story, but I know these days it is difficult to know what might or might not cause outrage. I am sure many writers have read some horrific stories or news items that have sent them down a pathway that has resulted in a book that is very far from the original event, because authors are influenced by many things, and inspiration can take bizarre forms sometimes.

In any case, you don’t need to worry about the book upsetting you because of mentioning the real events or being very close to the facts. That is not the case, although that doesn’t mean the story doesn’t have an emotional impact, because it does. But you can always read the reviews, the comments, and counter-comments and make your own minds up.

Thanks to the author for this book, thanks to all of you for reading, commenting, sharing, and liking, and remember to keep smiling and keep making the best of things. ♥

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog Dead of Winter: Journey 13, The Harbor by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene (@teagangeneviene) Old friends, strong enemies, wonders, worries and only one journey left #fantasy

Hi, all:

I bring you the last but one Journey of Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene’s Dead of Winter. And the author has shared that she has finished the last journey, so I will bring you that one pretty soon, I am sure, as I can’t wait to know what happens!

Dead of Winter: Journey 13, The Harbor by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

Dead of Winter: Journey 13, The Harbor by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

A great battle begins. Action abounds as many threads are drawn together. Arawn has amassed overwhelming legions of the dead. Another unexpected but powerful foe comes into the battle. All of Emlyn’s companions and friends are in grave danger as they face insurmountable odds. Two goddesses could even the odds, but gods and goddesses are known to be unreliable. Will they help? Or will they do more harm than good?

Meanwhile the goal of the Society of Deae Matres is to re-create the Binding to again trap Arawn and any other nightwalkers in the Realm of the Dead. Yet, what about Boabhan and Lucetius? Boabhan is at least half nightwalker. Lucetius, her son, was conceived when Arawn violated her while attempting to turn her. Will they be trapped in a new Binding along with their worst enemy? This is revealed in Journey 13.

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

Kindle:  relinks.me/B09TN3NDX1

Paperback:  relinks.me/B09TN1F58B

Author Teagan Geneviene

About the author:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

My review:

I’ve been following this novel, which the author decided to publish using the serial format, from the first journey. And now that there is only one more instalment left, I can honestly say it has been quite the journey. The author decided to divide the book up into Journeys, transforming the original novel to make it more compatible with the serialisation, and adding extra materials and new scenes as she went along. Journey is the perfect word for each one of these gems, not only because the characters visit many locations in the fantastic universe created by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene, but also because Emlyn, the main protagonist, undergoes quite a transformative experience, and an emotional journey that takes her from childhood to adulthood (almost), and transforms her from a shy, quiet, ignored and forgotten girl, into an independent, brave, and determined young woman, one with skills, powers, and abilities beyond anything she could have ever dreamed.

In this particular journey, there are quite a few surprises. We have interesting asides about Gods, Goddesses, (with their suspect morals and as many vices as they have virtues), and their behaviour towards human beings. Some of the most fascinating characters we have met throughout the previous journeys make an appearance here, bringing with them allies and forces to help fight the war, although that is not without its added complications. How will they all interact with each other, and how invested they will be in the future of the inhabitants of the world? Will their own hatreds and their wish for revenge blind them to what might be best for Emlyn and her friends? Can the past be repeated, and if it can, should it be, when the consequences might be devastating for some?

While the “adults” make plans, Emlyn has a chance to reflect and wonder what the consequences of those plans might be. Although she still has doubts about her own skills and the role she has to play, many of those fantastical beings who come to their aid see her differently from her travelling companions, trust her and shower her with compliments and accolades. They believe in her and know her fate is linked to that of her world.

Hesitant still, but emboldened by the confidence some very important players have placed on her and worried about the fate of one of her friends, she sets off on one more journey, aware of the risks, but determined to play a part and not be left behind.

The journey ends up on quite a cliffhanger, although at this stage of the story, doing otherwise would be almost impossible.

I enjoyed everything: being reacquainted with some of my favourite characters from previous journeys; learning more about the past and about how the goddesses, the Deae Matres, the dead kings, and the many wondrous creatures get on with each other, and what their relationships, alliances, and disagreements are like; seeing Emlyn having a few moments with some of her friends and thinking about the future; seeing her figure out things that others (older and more experienced) have missed, and getting an opportunity to observe the tactical moves of both parties and how the war evolves.

Another unmissable chapter, once again enhanced by the beautiful writing, the powers of description and observation of the author, and her inclusion of a cast of locations and characters at the end.

As always, I recommend it to anybody who enjoys coming of age stories, especially those with a taste for fantasy, whimsy, wonderful and highly imaginative writing, and characters and creatures you’re unlikely to forget.

To fully enjoy the experience, the journeys should be read in the right order, and to make that easy for everybody, I include the universal links to all the previous journeys as well.

Universal Purchase Links

Journey 12, Goddesses

Kindle:  relinks.me/B09P5LJY13

Paperback:  relinks.me/B09NTTZ9J8

Journey 11, the Sumelazon Escarpment

Kindle:  relinks.me/B09M7Q19XT

Paperback:  relinks.me/B09M4QWDYK

Journey 10, Pergesca

Kindle:  relinks.me/B09J6TH8TD

Paperback:  relinks.me/B09J7GFWYV

Journey 9, Doors of Attunement

Kindle:  relinks.me/B09F8Y5DML

Paperback:  relinks.me/B09F1BB9RW

Journey 8, The Lost Library

Kindle:  relinks.me/B09C6MPTYT

Paperback:  relinks.me/B09C34XR7P

Journey 7, Revenant Pass

Kindle:  relinks.me/B098MS8P48

Paperback:  relinks.me/B098GV1G5V

Journey 6, The Fluting Fell

Kindle:  relinks.me/B096CPJNSX

Paperback: relinks.me/B096CPJNSX

Journey 5, Llyn Pistyll Falls

Kindle:  relinks.me/B09431TD6G

Paperback:  relinks.me/B0942KC471

Journey 4, The Old Road

Kindle:  relinks.me/B092G5LB7R

Paperback:  relinks.me/B092M51Y88

Journey 3, the Fever Field

Kindle: elinks.me/B08XTNZ9M8 

Paperback:  relinks.me/B08XXY3JXF

Kobo:  Dead of Winter: Journey 3, the Fever Field eBook by Teagan Riordain Geneviene – 1230004609599 | Rakuten Kobo United States

Journey 2, Penllyn

Kindle:  relinks.me/B08VMNSF97

Paperback:  relinks.me/B08VLMR2KD

Kobo:  https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/dead-of-winter-journey-2-penllyn

Journey 1, Forlorn Peak

Kindle:  relinks.me/B08RBBVRGX

Paperback:  relinks.me/B08R7RH4F5

Thanks to the author for this serial that has kept us on our toes, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and keep smiling and safe!

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

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

Hi all:

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

Author Teagan Geneviene

About the author:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Dead of Winter: Journey 11, the Sumelazon Escarpment. 

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

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

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

Kindle:  relinks.me/B09M7Q19XT

Paperback:  relinks.me/B09M4QWDYK

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Universal Purchase Links

Kindle:  relinks.me/B09P5LJY13

Paperback:  relinks.me/B09NTTZ9J8

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview DEAD OF WINTER: Journey 7, Revenant Pass and Journey 8, The Lost Library by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene (@teagangeneviene) Powers, new and old, connections, and a quest.

Hi all: Today I bring you the review of two more of the Journeys that comprise Dead of Winter. Hold on to your seats, because things are getting wild!

I am a fan of multi-talented Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene, follow her blog (where she creates wonderful serials, with the participation of her readers), and have read several of her novels and novellas. She writes in a variety of genres (and she likes to experiment and combine those, rather than stick to the rules), but there are always elements of fancy, wonder, and magic weaved into her stories. Although I don’t usually read fantasy, I have no hesitation reading or recommending this series, even to people who aren’t that keen on the genre. I love the way she combines some unlikely and beautifully described settings with wonderful characters, playful dialogues (her love of research is legendary, and she always finds historically accurate words and long-forgotten expressions that delight readers), and highly imaginative storylines. No matter how many of her books you read, you’re bound to be surprised by her stories.

Author Teagan Geneviene

About the author:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Dead of Winter Journey 7. Revenant Pass by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

Dead of Winter: Journey 7, Revenant Pass by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene 

Dead of Winter: Journey 7, Revenant Pass begins with the ancient watcher’s memory of the Library of the Society of Deae Matres — and its fall. We also get a look into the thought process of treacherous Arawn. Then the story picks up where we left Emlyn and company, trapped in the Realm of the Dead.
This Journey is shorter than some, but adventure abounds. Some characters go missing. You’ll have to read to learn more.
Come, be a part of the Journeys.

Kindle:  relinks.me/B098MS8P48

Paperback:  relinks.me/B098GV1G5V

 

My review:

I was provided an early ARC copy of this book, which I freely chose to review.

I am a fan of the author, I have read all the journeys in Dead of Winter so far and think the serial format suits the story well, because it builds up the characters, and the connections between them are revealed slowly, without overwhelming the readers. People who don’t have a lot of time to read don’t need to worry about getting too caught up in the story and not being able to stop. The author has chosen the length of the episodes and the perfect point to split up the novel, and we come to the end of each journey both satisfied with what happens and left wanting more.

This episode, although short, is very important, as we get to understand who Haldis —whom we knew as the Watcher in the early journeys— is (although we might have had our suspicions), and how her story links to that of the Deae Matres. It hints at what is to come, and it drags us even deeper into the story. Some of the connections and the links that we might have suspected are coming to the fore, and some of the questions we might have had are slowly getting answered.

We see things from the perspective of several characters (even the baddy), and we also get deeper into Emlyn’s thoughts, her doubts, her sensations, and that makes us empathise even more with her. She is quickly getting out of her shell and learning about other cultures and lifestyles, although she still doubts herself at times and wonders what her right place is and what the future holds in stock for her.

This journey includes some wonderful descriptions, as usual, and action scenes and scary moments aplenty. We are getting closer than ever to learning what happened in the past and discovering how that history is linked to the protagonists and the present. The warnings and the threats feel more urgent as well, and events seem to be speeding up. Characters disappear, mysteries abound, and there are many questions left answered.

I loved this journey, and I felt as if things were falling into place. I am in awe at the way everything is interconnected, and I can’t wait to learn what happens next. Thankfully, I won’t have to wait long.

Just a reminder that this is a complete story split up into journeys, and readers need to read them in order to be able to follow the plot and fully appreciate its complexity. The author includes a list of characters and locations at the end, so even if it’s been some time since you read the previous journey, you can easily refresh your memory and pick up the story where you left off.

Recommended to anybody who loves great characters, beautiful writing (whatever their thoughts on fantasy), and imaginative stories, especially to those who appreciate shorter reads but like the idea of a serial.

Dead of Winter Journey 8. The Lost Library by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

Dead of Winter: Journey 8, The Lost Library by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

Throughout the previous volumes the fantasy aspect of this epic has gradually built. In Journey 8, that fantastical element comes to the fore.
Emlyn and her companions search for the fabled Lost Library. The entire world is at risk, so they hope answers will be there. However, a new complication arises and the fate of one Deae Matres hangs in the balance.
Meanwhile Arawn, who tore the Veil between the worlds of the living and dead, tries to make an evil alliance with a long dead king who was known for his ruthlessness.
Remove the limits from your imagination and join Emlyn and company on this extraordinary adventure.
 

Kindle:  relinks.me/B09C6MPTYT

Paperback:  relinks.me/B09C34XR7P

My review:

Journey 8 is a gripping one, as there are plenty of adventures, and we gain some fascinating insights into some of the characters’ backgrounds (already hinted at in Journey 7) and learn more about the history of the Deae Matres and the lost library of the title.

As the author tells us in her preface, this journey is slightly different in structure, as Haldis, the Watcher, has now become part of the action, and she is intriguing, to say the least. She becomes a guide to the rest of the characters, but she is unreliable, partly because she is old, and her memory is far from perfect, and partly, perhaps, because there are things she is keeping to herself.

Arawn, the baddiest of the bad, makes an appearance that puts an even darker spin on things, and although the Deae Matres are together again, things are not as they were before. Haldis promises there is a solution, but not everybody is convinced by her suggestion.

Three of the protagonists of the story embark on a quest, becoming seekers (I’m trying to avoid any spoilers), and what they find reminded me of some of the most imaginative and wonderful stories the author has come up with in her blog and in previous novels. She definitely delivers in her promise of fantastic elements. Her descriptions are eye-poppingly incredible and beautiful, and I can’t wait to see what else the trio will find.

Just a quick reminder that you need to read all the journeys in order, and it is easy to catch up on previous adventures as the author includes a list of characters and settings at the end that is updated with each installment, as relevant.

A magical read that is becoming more intense and intriguing as it goes. Unmissable.

Thanks to the author for keeping the story coming (it has become something to look forward to, and reliable as well), thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, keep reading, and about all, take care and stay safe. 

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE DEVIL AND THE DARK WATER by Stuart Turton (@BloomsburyBooks) (@stu_turton) A delightfully elaborate magic trick

Hi, all:

Here comes a book that kept popping up on blogs and articles about new books, and I was intrigued by the author and the title, so…

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

‘If you read one book this year, make sure it’s this one’ Daily Mail

CHOSEN AS A BOOK OF THE YEAR BY THE GUARDIAN, SUNDAY TIMES, DAILY MAIL, FINANCIAL TIMES, DAILY EXPRESS AND i PAPER

WINNER OF THE BOOKS ARE MY BAG READERS AWARD FOR FICTION
SELECTED FOR THE BBC TWO BOOK CLUB BETWEEN THE COVERS AND THE RADIO 2 JO WHILEY BOOK CLUB

An impossible murder

A remarkable detective duo
A demon who may or may not exist

It’s 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, is being transported from the Dutch East Indies to Amsterdam, where he is facing trial and execution for a crime he may, or may not, have committed. Travelling with him is his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes, who is determined to prove his friend innocent, while also on board are Sara Wessel, a noble woman with a secret, and her husband, the governor general of Batavia.

But no sooner is their ship out to sea than devilry begins to blight the voyage. A strange symbol appears on the sail. A dead leper stalks the decks. Livestock are slaughtered in the night. And then the passengers hear a terrible voice whispering to them in the darkness, promising them three unholy miracles. First: an impossible pursuit. Second: an impossible theft. Third: an impossible murder. Could a demon be responsible for their misfortunes?

With Pipps imprisoned, only Arent and Sara can solve a mystery that stretches back into their past and now threatens to sink the ship, killing everybody on board…

‘A glorious mash-up of William Golding and Arthur Conan Doyle’ Val McDermid
‘A superb historical mystery: inventive, twisty, addictive and utterly beguiling … A TRIUMPH’ Will Dean

From the author of the dazzling The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, winner of the Costa Best First Novel Award, comes an audacious and original new high concept murder mystery.

https://www.amazon.com/Devil-Dark-Water-Stuart-Turton-ebook/dp/B0843JLDDN/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Devil-Dark-Water-Stuart-Turton-ebook/dp/B0843JLDDN/

https://www.amazon.es/Devil-Dark-Water-Stuart-Turton-ebook/dp/B0843JLDDN/

Author Stuart Turton

About the author:

Stuart Turton is a freelance travel journalist who has previously worked in Shanghai and Dubai. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is his debut novel. He is the winner of the Brighton and Hove Short Story Prize and was longlisted for the BBC Radio 4 Opening Lines competition. He lives in West London with his wife.
@Stu_Turton

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17160667.Stuart_Turton

My review:

Thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing and to NetGalley for providing me an ARC copy of this book, which I freely chose to review.

Although I’d heard about Turton’s first novel, I haven’t read The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, but I was sufficiently intrigued by the comments about it, by the description of his second novel and by its setting to request a copy on NetGalley. I’ve seen The Devil and the Dark Water mentioned in many of the 2020’s lists and that was the final push I required to read it. I enjoyed the novel (what a romp!), although I suspect some readers might find it problematic, and I wouldn’t recommend it without a few words of caution. Also, I read a pretty early ARC copy, with formatting issues, and from some of the more detailed reviews I’ve read it’s evident that there are some added elements I had no access to, and there might be other changes, so I won’t go into too many specifics, to avoid confusing readers of the final published version.

The description above gives plenty of clues as to the plot, and I want to avoid spoilers. I’ve read some reviewers comparing it to a cross between a classical mystery (more Sherlock Holmes than Poirot, in my opinion) with a pirate adventure novel, and that is pretty accurate. It did remind me of an old-fashioned adventure/mystery novel (Dumas, Scott, or even Poe), but also what other authors used to call romance (not in the sense of a love story, although that might play a part as well, but a bit more of a supernatural/”magical” touch, not fitting totally in the fantasy realm or what we understand as magical realism either, but not that far from them), like some of Hawthorne’s novellas and short stories. As is sometimes the case in some of those, there are plenty of flights of fancy, detours and small paths visited, and the story is not written completely in keeping with the modern tenets of avoiding any telling and only including information that is necessary to the furthering of the plot. Quite a few of the negative reviews insisted that the book could have been edited and made much shorter, and the plot would not have suffered, and they were right, but I wasn’t too bothered about that, as I was enjoying the ride. As I came to the end of the novel, what it made me think about the most, was one of those very elaborate magic tricks, where a lot of attention is played to the staging, in order to ensure our attention is misdirected, and we are distracted, losing track of the main action, and therefore being taken by surprise at the grand reveal. I think Turton would be a great magician.

I was curious about the setting of the novel and the fact that it all takes place (or almost all of it) inside a big ship makes this the equivalent of a mystery in a grand mansion, with important twists, as they are even more isolated than the inhabitants of an isolated big house. I recently read and reviewed a modern take on that kind of mystery (Banville’s Snow) and although this is completely different, it proves that the genre keeps inspiring authors, at least to find new ways to subvert it. Even though the novel appears to fit into the historical fiction bracket, the author —on a note not included in the ARC copy I read that I’ve seen mentioned by other readers— has explained it has to be considered fiction and not expected to accurately reflect the era, and it is true that he took too many liberties with the period and even the nautical setting for history buffs or seafaring connoisseurs not to be disappointed if they read it expecting precision. Despite that, there were some general reflections about the colonial enterprise, witch-hunting, wars, and the differences in social order that made the novel go beyond a standard uncomplicated entertaining adventure. That is not to say that any of those subjects were treated in depth, but I felt they added to the story.

I won’t dissect all the characters, as there are far too many (some readers complained that it was difficult to tell them apart, the Dutch names didn’t always help matters, and that was the case as well for the many roles, positions, and aristocratic titles of some of the characters), and not all of them play important parts. Samuel Pipps is, if you want, the Sherlock Holmes of the story, brilliant and incredibly gifted, but not always the best at mixing with people or being sympathetic to their feelings or needs. In the novel, he is locked up due to some accusation, and we hear of him more than get to see him in action, and that means that Arent Hayes, the Dr Watson of the story and the one writing their adventures, gets to be the investigator. He is quite a character, and we learn plenty about him during the book, most of it interesting and some quite surprising. He is the most complex character, and I liked him a lot. Apart from him, I also liked most of the main female characters, especially Sarah and her daughter Lia, who seem to fall into the category of women going beyond their historical role of the period that has become quite popular these days. Isabel was another favourite of mine, especially because she is not of aristocratic blood but has managed to rise by virtue of her effort, her smarts, and her thirst of knowledge, and she can see beyond the stories and rumours that scare others. There are many grey and dark characters as well, some we get to know better than others, some pretty ambiguous, but there are a lot that we don’t learn anything about, because they are little more than a part of the cargo, like the animals or the spices they carried, and far less valuable when it came to the company. That felt quite true to life, although it was not one of the aspects of the story that challenged the genre (and I don’t think that was the aim of the author either).

The story is told from many different points of view, although more attention seems to be paid to Arent and Sarah, but not exclusively. That does not mean that we are given more clues than they are and, in fact, as I’ve said before, there are plenty of distractions, blind alleys, and there are many twists and red herrings that make it easy to lose sight of what is important and what is not. The author manages to draw some vivid pictures in one’s mind, and some of the scenes seem taken from a movie (and I’m sure it would turn into a spectacular one with the right creative team), although as I’ve said, the style is not exactly what many would expect from a modern book. The language is not historically accurate either, but that does not seem to have been the author’s intention. I won’t share any fragments, as I’ve already mentioned that the ARC copy had some issues that I’m sure have been solved in the published version, but I would advise people interested in reading it to check a sample. I found it easy to read in general, but as is the case with many classic mysteries, it’s necessary to remain attentive and try not to miss any clues. I understand from some reviews that the published version of the novel also contains a map of the ship, and I’m sure that would help follow the action and see how some of the scenes connect more easily than by just reading the text.

Did I guess the guilty party? Well, I worked out some of the mysteries involved, but not all, and although I reached the right conclusion pretty close to the end, I wouldn’t say I had dotted all the “i”s and crossed all the “t”s. We do get the expected big reveal scene at the end, so don’t fret too much about having missed anything. Some of the conventions are adhered to, mystery fans will be relieved to hear. The ending is happy (?) although perhaps morally ambiguous, and I know some readers weren’t too pleased about it. I enjoyed the wrapping up of everything (yes, it is far-fetched, but I’ve already said it reminds me of a high-end magic trick, so that’s not surprising), although I’m not so sure about the implications of the actual ending, if one were to take it seriously. But I don’t.

I recommend it to people who aren’t looking for an accurate historical novel but enjoy old-style adventure novels and mysteries, and appreciate more varied and enterprising female characters than tend to be the rule in that genre. Also, to those who don’t mind a touch of the magical and the unexpected (although I don’t think the classification of metaphysical I’ve seen it under is correct) and aren’t after a hard-hitting modern narrative. I am aware that some readers of Turton’s first novel weren’t impressed by this one, although some enjoyed it as well, so you might want to temper your expectations if you have read him before. I can’t comment on it directly, but after reading this one I’m more intrigued to catch up on his debut novel. In sum, it is great fun, especially if you love adventures and don’t take it too seriously.

Thanks to NetGalley, to the publishers, and of course the author, for this fun adventure, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to take care, be safe, and keep reading, reviewing and sharing if you find something you like. ♥

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog FACE THE WIND (Little Sister Island #2) by Caren J. Werlinger A perfect reading refuge in these hard times#RBRT

Hi all:

I bring you the second book in a series not intended as such at first, but one I’m very happy to return to.

Face the Wind (Little Sister Island #2) by Caren J. Werlinger

Face the Wind (Little Sister Island #2) by Caren J. Werlinger

Kathleen Halloran has never been happier. She and Molly Cooper have built a life together, living in her grandmother’s cottage. The family drama of the past has calmed down. She and Molly will soon be aunts. Life on Little Sister Island is everything Kathleen could wish for… until the island begins to send ominous signals that change is in the wind.

Living beside a different ocean, Meredith Turner tries to make sense of her dreams—dreams of an island she’s never seen but can’t forget. After an ancestry test throws her family into chaos, the tempest that follows blows Meredith and her parents clear across the country, to the island of her dreams.

For Louisa Woodhouse, it feels the end is near. With no one to follow after her, she’s the last of her line on Little Sister, and her secrets will go with her. Soon, the Woodhouse name will join the others that now exist only in the island’s genealogy records.

But Little Sister Island has its own magic—rhythms and seasons and tides and currents that even the best-laid human plans can’t fight. And in that magic is a warning—a storm is coming.

https://www.amazon.com/Face-Wind-Little-Sister-Island-ebook/dp/B08GJQRXQK/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Face-Wind-Little-Sister-Island-ebook/dp/B08GJQRXQK/

https://www.amazon.es/Face-Wind-Little-Sister-Island-ebook/dp/B08GJQRXQK/

Author Caren J. Werlinger
Author Caren J. Werlinger

About the author:

Bestselling author Caren Werlinger published her first award-winning novel, Looking Through Windows, in 2008. Since then, she has published fifteen more novels, winning several more awards. Influenced by a diverse array of authors, including Rumer Godden, J.R.R. Tolkein, Ursula LeGuin, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Willa Cather and the Brontë sisters, Caren writes literary fiction that features the struggles and joys of characters readers can identify with. Her stories cover a wide range of genres: historical fiction, contemporary drama, and fantasy, including the award-winning Dragonmage Saga, a fantasy trilogy set in ancient Ireland. She has lived in Virginia for nearly thirty years where she practices physical therapy, teaches anatomy, and lives with her wife and their canine fur-children.

https://www.amazon.com/Caren-J.-Werlinger/e/B002BOI2ZI

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, check here if you want to get your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for the ARC copy of the book, which I freely chose to review.

I have read and reviewed two of Werlinger’s novels before this one, and I’ve become a fan (although I have yet to read any of her fantasy novels, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time). I read When the Stars Sang, the first book in the Little Sister Island series (although I don’t think it was intended as a series at first), a while ago and loved it. (You can check my review here). I couldn’t wait to go back to Little Sister, and my second visit more than lived up to my expectations. I am not sure I’d dare to say that I enjoyed this novel more, but I had, at least, as great a time reading it as I did the first, and I was happy to see that this second instalment revisits the characters and places we have come to love, rather than being a totally separate story, although I am sure readers who come across this book first will catch on pretty quickly (but will end up going back to read the first one, no doubt).

All I said about the first novel applies to this one as well. I wasn’t surprised when I read that the author had many requests to carry on writing about the island and its characters, because both, the setting and the people in it are unforgettable. The mix of Celtic and old-Irish tradition with Native-American folklore, the strong sense of community, the way the inhabitants bond with each other and are like a big family, the way of life there (beautiful but harsh at times, stripped down to the bare bones but precious, not fully “connected” [no mobile phone signal], in tune with nature but at times at the mercy of its whims, gentle but risky and dangerous…), and the way they hold onto ancient rituals and traditions whilst at the same time embracing diversity, new technologies, and adapt to changes and challenges, makes it a place where many of us would love to live in, even if we’d never be allowed to (or perhaps because of it).

The story is told in the third person, as the previous one, although we see things from more perspectives this time. We follow Katheen and Molly’s adventures again, and we get to see how their life has been since we last met them. Kathleen has taken to the island and is growing into her new role with gusto, and Molly is happy as well, even with some ongoing concerns about her family, especially two of her brothers. But there are also new characters, Rae and her parents the most important of those. Rae and her mother, Irene, who live all the way across the country, in Oregon, have been having vivid dreams about a storm and a sinking ship most of their lives. A series of coincidences and decisions with unexpected consequences make them travel to Little Island looking for answers. And let me tell you that they find much more than they bargained for.

Little Island is sending its inhabitants messages they are having some trouble deciphering, and Louisa Woodhouse has to face a secret from her past that she had kept hidden from everybody, even her father and sister. How will it affect the island and its inhabitants?

I warmed up to Rae quickly. Although she seems a bit insecure at first (her boyfriend has cheated on her, and she is determined not to let anybody else hurt her), she is also determined to find an explanation for her dreams, loves her parents (even when they do things she doesn’t like and annoy her no end), and has a strong bond with her dog, Jasper. Her mother, her father, and the dog are wonderful in their own right, and few of us would hesitate to invite them into our homes. They quickly become attuned to life in Little Sister and wish they could stay. Most of the characters we met in the previous novel appear again, and Aidan, Molly’s older brother, plays an important part in the plot. Of course, Blossom, Kathleen and Molly’s dog, also plays a role; he and Jasper become pals, and they make a strong winning team. (I do so love them)!

The story includes a variety of topics: adoption, what makes a family, secrets, lineage, history, destiny, romance (there are no explicit sexual scenes but I think fans of romantic novels will find much to enjoy) and second chances, life and death, how our priorities change with age, pets, new beginnings, and what is really important. There is a price to pay for living in a place like Little Island, and the characters, both old and new, get a harsh reminder of that in this novel.

The writing is gorgeous. There are lyrical moments, beautiful descriptions of landscapes, food, and even feelings and emotions. There are also scary and action-packed moments, which we experience at times as observers and other times as full participants. There are contemplative moments and reflections that made me pause in my reading and will stay with me. There is much joy but also tragedy. As happens in life, it is not all sunny and rosy, and we close the book sad to leave, but with a smile on our faces because things are as they should, and the future looks hopeful and full of opportunity.

A few samples from the book to offer you a taster:

“Life here is no more tragic than elsewhere. It’s just more condensed. When you know everyone, when it involves visitors to your home, when things threaten your home, you feel them more deeply than when it’s just something you hear on the evening news.”

“Beauty isn’t one-sided. Sometimes it comes up with a terrible cost.”

“I think some people need the storm, they need that rush of constantly fighting to stay afloat. For years, I was like that, but now I know, it was only because I was afraid of the calm. In the calm, there’s nothing to fight, no waves battering you from outside, trying to sink you. The calm forces you to listen, to look at your own reflection. And I never liked what I saw.”

Do I recommend this novel? Yes. It is beautiful, it takes place in a wonderful setting, it’s inspiring, its characters are engaging and easy to bond with, and there are intrigues, mystery, and magic to keep us coming back for more. I’d love to live inside this book, and I’d love life to be a bit like it is in Little Island, but I guess  I’ll have to make do with reading about it, and I hope you give it a go as well. You’ll feel better for it.

Thanks to Rosie and all the members of her team for the support, thanks to the author for this wonderful book, and thanks to all of you for reading. Remember to keep safe, and like, share, comment, click, review, and keep smiling under your masks!

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog The Earthling’s Brother by Earik Beann(@EarikB) A heart-warming, fun, and light sci-fi novel, with fabulous characters #RBRT

Hi all:

I bring you a new book by an author who has visited my blog before, and I suspect will come back int he future.

The Earthling’s Brother by Earik Beann

The Earthling’s Brother by Earik Beann

Sam never knew his parents. In fact, he’s never met another human—or seen a sunrise, smelled a flower, or eaten a regular meal. All of that is about to change.

It’s night in the desert, but he doesn’t feel the cold. The sky is clear, and the stars twinkle at him. He has never seen the sky from Earth before. Everything looks so strange. So . . . alien. He shakes his head in wonderment and laughs. He can’t stop smiling. This is Earth!

There is a building ahead. Other people will be inside. His heart skips a beat as he takes a step forward, the rocks crunching under his bare feet. He has dreamed of this moment for as long as he can remember.

But that which can be found can just as easily be lost again. It would have been better had Sam’s arrival gone unnoticed. But the artificial life form known only as the Authority is not one to miss such things. Nearly as old as time, and almost as powerful, the Authority was built by an ancient civilization as both an enforcer and a war machine, the destroyer of worlds. It has been watching Sam his entire life. Watching, and waiting, and judging. And now, it has decided that it’s time to act.

https://www.amazon.com/Earthlings-Brother-Earik-Beann-ebook/dp/B083F74XKL/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Earthlings-Brother-Earik-Beann-ebook/dp/B083F74XKL/

https://www.amazon.es/Earthlings-Brother-Earik-Beann-ebook/dp/B083F74XKL/

Author Earik Beann
Author Earik Beann

About the author:

Over the years I’ve been involved in many small businesses, including software development, an online vitamin store, specialty pet products, a commodity pool, and a publishing house. You could say I’ve got a bad case of serial entrepreneurism. But above and beyond all that, my original love has always been writing and telling stories.

As a teenager, I wrote two fantasy novels during summer break. Neither were published–which is probably for the best!–but I loved working on those books, and learned a lot by writing them. Later, I authored six technical books on very esoteric subjects related to financial markets. Those were meant for an extremely niche audience, and would be insanely boring to anyone outside that specific group of people.

In October 2017, I found myself at ground zero in the middle of the Tubbs Fire. A group of nine of us snuck back into our neighborhood in the middle of a mandatory evacuation zone, formed a vigilante fire fighting force, and saved our block (and an apartment complex!) from certain destruction. Working on my memoir of those experiences brought me back to those summers as a teenager spent working on my fantasy novels, and rekindled a deep love for writing that I had somehow forgotten about. Now it’s all I really want to do anymore.

I live in California with my wife, Laura, and our Doberman and two Tennessee barn cats. When not thinking of stories, I enjoy practicing yoga, riding my bike, and playing the Didgeridoo.

https://www.amazon.com/Earik-Beann/e/B001K8RRKW

My review:

I am writing this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you’re looking for reviews, I recommend you check her amazing site here), and I thank her and the author for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

I have read two other books by Beann, one a science-fiction novel and the other a non-fiction book, enjoyed both, and loved the cover and the premise of his new book, and I’m pleased to say that I wholeheartedly recommend it as well.

The book reminded me of yesteryear science-fiction movies, but with a touch of self-awareness, humour, and diversity that made it thoroughly modern. It made me think of The Day the Earth Stood Still, Starman (the movie) and, to a certain extent, Terminator, especially the beginning, although here we have a bit of a twist, and more than one being from outer space (but I’ll try not to spoil the story).

The story is not hard science-fiction, and I suspect lovers of detailed scientific explanations and high-tech might find this book too light, but the setting is very compelling, there are plenty of adventures, and lots of fun to be had. And the characters are all winners.

Maria Rodriguez is a great protagonist. She works hard, loves her sick nephew and tries her best to help him get better, looks after everybody, and she is willing to help, no matter what. She gives “Sam” the benefit of the doubt, even if she thinks he is under the influence of some drug or other and a bit weird, and she ends up being pulled into an adventure that we’d all love to find ourselves in. Sam is another great character, like a grown-up child, and allows us to see ourselves from a completely fresh perspective. What would somebody from another world think about us? Mustafa… Well, I won’t tell you anything about Mustafa, other than he’s amazing, and we also have a proper villain (I’m talking about you, Sanders), and some other not very nice characters, although they don’t get off lightly. I particularly liked “Mother”, which is quite a special character but shows a great deal of insight into the workings of the world, despite her limitations, and Pepe… I think all readers will love Pepe.

The story has a bit of everything: there are some quasi-magical elements about it (be careful what you wish for!); we have police persecutions and interrogations; we have references to migration policies and to asylum hearings (this is priceless!); we have alien civilizations intent on destroying the world as we know it; trips to Las Vegas and big winnings at the casinos; a road-trip; flying secret planes; a stand-off between USA and Canadian soldiers, and even a little bit of romance thrown in.

The writing style is smooth, easy-to-read, and there are plenty of action scenes, humour, suspense, and some pretty scary moments as well. Although there is destruction, mayhem, and violence, it is not very extreme or explicit, and most of it is only referred to in passing. All these elements, and the story, that has an all-around feel-good happy ending, make this book perfect for YA readers, in my opinion, and I think older children might enjoy it as well, although I’d recommend parents to check it out beforehand.

In sum, this is a joy of a book. It can be read as a fun and light sci-fi adventure book, although it does deal in topics that are serious, current, and it has a message that humanity would do well to listen to. It suits all ages, and it leaves readers smiling. What else should we ask for? (Oh, and I especially recommend it to any Canadians out there!)

Thanks to Rosie for her fabulous group and to all its members, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling!

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog #Bookreview THE LABYRINTH OF THE SPIRITS by Carlos Ruiz Zafón Trans. (@ZafonOficial) (@orionbooks) A magical visit to Barcelona and to the world of books and stories. Unmissable!

Hi all:

It’s with great pleasure that I bring you a wonderful book.

The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruíz Zafón
The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruíz Zafón

The Labyrinth of the Spirits: From the bestselling author of The Shadow of the Wind (Cemetery of Forgotten Books 4) by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and Lucia Graves

The long-awaited new novel from the author of the global bestseller and modern classic, The Shadow of the Wind.

As a child, Daniel Sempere discovered among the passageways of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books an extraordinary novel that would change the course of his life. Now a young man in the Barcelona of the late 1950s, Daniel runs the Sempere & Sons bookshop and enjoys a seemingly fulfilling life with his loving wife and son. Yet the mystery surrounding the death of his mother continues to plague his soul despite the moving efforts of his wife Bea and his faithful friend Fermín to save him.

Just when Daniel believes he is close to solving this enigma, a conspiracy more sinister than he could have imagined spreads its tentacles from the hellish regime. That is when Alicia Gris appears, a soul born out of the nightmare of the war. She is the one who will lead Daniel to the edge of the abyss and reveal the secret history of his family, although at a terrifying price.

The Labyrinth of the Spirits is an electrifying tale of passion, intrigue, and adventure. Within its haunting pages, Carlos Ruiz Zafón masterfully weaves together plots and subplots in an intricate and intensely imagined homage to books, the art of storytelling and that magical bridge between literature and our lives.

‘For the first time in 20 years or so as a book reviewer, I am tempted to dust off the old superlatives and event to employ some particularly vulgar clichés from the repertoire of publishers’ blurbs. My colleagues may be shocked, but I don’t care, I can’t help myself, here goes. The Shadow of the Wind is a triumph of the storyteller’s art. I couldn’t put it down. Enchanting, hilarious and heartbreaking, this book will change your life. Carlos Ruiz Zafón has done that exceedingly rare thing – he has produced, in his first novel, a popular masterpiece, an instant classic’ Daily Telegraph

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Labyrinth-Spirits-bestselling-Cemetery-Forgotten-ebook/dp/B07DCY1MX1/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Labyrinth-Spirits-bestselling-Cemetery-Forgotten-ebook/dp/B07DCY1MX1/

Editorial Reviews

Review

“THE LABYRINTH OF THE SPIRITS is the sublime culmination to a truly outstanding series…a reading experience not to be missed…As long as you actually open a door to the labyrinth and enter it, all is well. As to not reading the Cemetery of Forgotten books at all, that is obviously a grave error.” (Publishers Weekly, ShelfTalker)

“Ruiz Zafón clearly has had a great deal of fun in pulling this vast story together…His ability to keep track of a thousand threads while, in the end, celebrating the power of storytelling is admirable…. A satisfying conclusion to a grand epic that, of course, will only leave its fans wanting more.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

“Gothic, operatic, and in many ways old-fashioned, this is a story about storytelling and survival, with the horrors of Francoist Spain present on every page. Compelling…this is for readers who savor each word and scene, soaking in the ambiance of Barcelona, Zafón’s greatest character (after, perhaps, the irrepressible Fermín Romero de Torres).” (Booklist)

Author Carlos Ruiz Zafón

About the author:

Carlos Ruiz Zafón is the author of six novels, including the international phenomenon The Shadow of the Wind. His work has been published in more than forty different languages and honored with numerous international awards, including the Edebé Award, Spain’s most prestigious prize for young adult fiction. He divides his time between Barcelona, Spain, and Los Angeles, California.

https://www.amazon.com/Carlos-Ruiz-Zaf%C3%B3n/e/B001JOSYGI/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Weidenfeld & Nicolson (Orion Publishing Group) for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I enthusiastically and freely chose to review.

I read the first two novels of the Cemetery of the Forgotten Books series years back, in Spanish. I have recommended The Shadow of the Wind to anybody who would bother to listen to me (probably multiple times, sorry) and was enthralled by the complex tale of creation and mental unravelling span by The Angel’s Game. In the maelstrom of the last few years, somehow I lost track of the series and missed the publication of The Prisoner of Heaven (although I have been trying to locate a copy since I started reading this volume), but when I saw the last novel in the series was being published in English and offered on NetGalley, I knew it was my chance to catch up. As I also do translations and had read two of the novels in their original Spanish version, I had the added interest of scrutinising what the translation into English would look like. Well, I must say I thought it was superb, in case I forget to mention it later. Lucia Graves (daughter of Robert Graves, here you can read in interview with her) manages to capture the style of the author, the complexity and beauty of his language, and translates the local peculiarities of the dialogue, helping readers feel the joy and the intoxicating and magical experience of reading the original. Hats off!

If you’ve read up to this point, you’ll likely have guessed that I loved this novel. To get it out of the way, I’ll clarify that I think it can be read by itself, or as a starting point to a reader’s visit to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, and although perhaps somebody who starts by reading this book will feel s/he knows already the whole story, I suspect they’ll feel curious and intrigued and will want to learn the full details of the stories that come to fruition here (this is my case as well). Here, the author of the story inside the book, Julián, (yes, the story is full of books and writers) explains how the series works better than I can:

The way I dreamed of it, the narrative would be divided into four interconnected volumes that would work like entrance doors into a labyrinth of stories. As the reader advanced into its pages, he would feel that the story was piecing itself together like a game of Russian dolls in which each plot and each character led to the next, and that, in turn, to yet another, and so on and so forth. The saga would contain villains and heroes, and a thousand tunnels through which the reader would be able to explore a kaleidoscopic plot resembling that mirage of perspectives I’d discovered with my father in the heart of the Cemetery of the Forgotten Books.

This is a long novel, and a complex one, although not one difficult to read or follow (I don’t think). As the quoted paragraph says, there are many stories here, and many memorable characters, some dead, some alive, and some… (among them, Alicia Gris, femme-fatale, spy, little girl, seductress, avenging angel, long-suffering survivor of a terrible war; Daniel Sampere, bookshop owner extraordinaire searching for answers; Fermín Romero de Torres, whimsical, fun, full of life and common-sense, witty, heroic, down-to-earth;  Julián Sempere, the stand-in for the author and heir to a long tradition; Isabella, a mysterious figure much of the action revolves around; authors David Martín, Julian Carax, Víctor Mataix; the fabulous Vargas, a hard-working an old-fashioned honest policeman with some secrets of his own; the complex Leandro; the horrifying Hendaya; the intriguing Rovira…). The story moves back and forth in time, from the time of the Civil War in Spain (1938) to its aftermath during the Franco regime, and into 1992. We visit Madrid, Paris —however briefly— although the main setting, and the main character, is Barcelona, in all its glory and horror.

In the darkest corner of her heart, Barcelona, mother of labyrinths, holds of mesh of narrow streets knotted together to form a reef of present and future ruins.

I kept thinking what genre one would fit this book into. Amazon has it listed in the categories of literary fiction, historical fiction, and mysteries. All true, I guess. There are secrets, mysteries, action, revenge, intrigues, crimes, murders, torture… The novel reminds me, in some ways, of the big adventures and narratives of old, novels by Victor Hugo (whose pen, possibly?, makes an appearance in the novel), Jules Verne, the Dumas (father and son), with its sprawling narrative, its wondrous descriptions of people and events, its historical background (the Spanish Civil War and the postwar years, accurately reflected through a fantasy lens), and even its gothic setting (we have mysterious mansions, dungeons, cells, castles, underground passages, true labyrinths…). This book bears homage to literature, to books, to authors, to the power of imagination, and to the magic of reading.

The book talks about books and writing and contains plenty of advice on writing, some of it contradictory, and there are many different types of writers contained in its pages. It is metafictional at its best, and I was not surprised when I read that the author also composes music. There are variations on a theme in evidence (stories are told and retold: sometimes different versions, sometimes from different perspectives, and in different formats). There is plenty of showing, there is telling from direct witnesses, or third-hand, there are documents that bring us missing pieces from the pens of those who are no longer able to tell their own stories, and everybody gets a chance to tell his or her own story, be it in the first person or the third, be it directly or through a narrator. The author has explained that he writes his novels in a similar way to how movies are conceived and designed, and that is evident when one reads the story, as it is impossible not to visualise it. Carlos Ruiz Zafón professes his admiration for Orson Welles and that comes across loud and clear in this book. But, however much he loves movies, he believes books can conjure up worlds that no filmmaker would be able to bring to life, and that is his stated reason for not selling the rights for the film adaptation of the series. Part of me would like to watch it, but I am convinced I’d be disappointed, so incredible is the world the author has built.

I have mentioned the style of writing when I talked about the translation and I have shared some quotes. I kept highlighting and highlighting text while I was reading it and I found it very difficult to select some to share, but I hope the few fragments I have included will pique your curiosity and make you check a sample if you are not sure if you would like it (you would!). One of the tips on writing contained in the book highlights the importance of the way the story is written, above and beyond the plot, but in this case, the two mix perfectly.

I have mentioned some of the themes, the historical background, and the mystery elements included in the story, with some gore and violent scenes, but there are plenty of magical, lighter, and funny moments as well, and I wanted to share a couple of sentences from Isabella’s notebook that I particularly enjoyed, to illustrate the sense of humour (sometimes a bit dark) also present:

We were three sisters, but my father used to say he had two daughters and one mule.

I didn’t like playing with the other girls: my specialty was decapitating dolls with a catapult.

I’m not sure what else I can tell you to try and convince you to read this book. I am from Barcelona and love the city, even if some of the places mentioned in the novel no longer exist (or not in their original form). You could use the book as a guide for a visit (and I know there were tours visiting some of the streets and settings of The Shadow of the Wind), or you could lose yourself in the labyrinth of your imagination. You could imagine the movie, cast the characters, or put yourself in their place (I’d happily be Alicia Gris, pain and all). If you need to live some adventures and take a break from your life, go on, enter the labyrinth and visit the cemetery of the forgotten books. You might never want to find the way out. I am rearing for another visit soon.

Ah and when I read this article about the pleasures of slow reading, I immediately thought of this book and decided to share it with you. Because this is one of those books that are better enjoyed and savoured slowly.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/sep/14/joe-moran-pleasures-of-slow-reading?

Thanks very much to NetGalley, to the publisher, and to the author and translator, for this fabulous book, thanks to all of you for reading and for putting up with my enthusiasm and if you’ve enjoyed it, like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling and reading!

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview LOVE, LIES, AND HOCUS POCUS: BEGINNINGS (THE LILY SINGER ADVENTURES, BOOK 1) by Lydia Sherrer (@LydiaSherrer) For book lovers, readers who enjoy banter and fun dialogues and who prefer their fantasy set in a quasi-quotidian world. #Iamreading #fantasy

Hi all:

Today I bring you a book that’s a bit out of my usual but…

Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus. The Lily Singer Adventures Book 1. Beginnings by Lydia Sherrer
Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus. The Lily Singer Adventures Book 1. Beginnings by Lydia Sherrer

Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus: Beginnings (The Lily Singer Adventures, Book 1) by Lydia Sherrer

Saving the world is such a bother when it makes you late for tea.

By day, book-loving wizard Lily Singer manages library archives. By night? She sleeps, of course. In between, she studies magic and tries to keep her witch friend Sebastian out of trouble. Much to her displeasure, he finds it anyway and drags her along with him.

From unmaking ancient curses to rescuing a town lost in time, Lily and Sebastian fight to avert magical mayhem. Meanwhile, Lily’s mysterious past begins to unfold–a past hidden from her by those she trusts most. Will she be able to discover the truth despite them?

Beginnings is the first installment of the Lily Singer Adventures urban fantasy series. Full of unexpected twists and snarky humor, this story has been known to cause: loud snorts of laughter, inexplicable craving for tea, and loss of work productivity. If you enjoy magic-filled adventures like Harry Potter and Sabrina the Teenage Witch then you’ll love Lydia Sherrer’s delightful new series. Pick up Beginnings to enter your magical escape today!

https://www.amazon.com/Love-Lies-Hocus-Pocus-Beginnings-ebook/dp/B01DB5ITIK/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Love-Lies-Hocus-Pocus-Beginnings-ebook/dp/B01DB5ITIK/

Editorial Reviews

Review

Magic, mayhem, and mystery combine in this exceptional debut novel from author Lydia Sherrer. A natural storyteller, Sherrer sets out from page one to spin her tale in a voice that is in turns both snarky and sincere, and you know right away you’re in for an unforgettable ride.

Book-loving Lily Singer–librarian, archivist, and wizard–prefers tea (with scones) to trouble any day. But with a friend like Sebastian, a witch who can’t seem to stay away from trouble, Lily rarely gets to stay snuggled up in her safe, cozy library for long. When trouble calls, Lily–however reluctantly at first–leaves her magic studies behind and joins forces with Sebastian, and together they harness their individual gifts and skills to battle the pesky magical forces of evil and world domination.

Sherrer is a world builder by nature, and she presents a unique perspective on the origins of supernatural gifts and the obligations they place on those so gifted. With a keen eye for human nature, she never gives us one-dimensional characters. Her world’s inhabitants–human and otherwise–have layers; their complex backstories give them credible motivation and make it impossible to characterize them as all bad or all good. They’re real, multidimensional beings, and Sherrer’s competent writing brings compassion, conscience, and empathy to the table, making her world easy to believe and hard to put down when the book ends.

So it’s a good thing she’s written a sequel… –Lori Brown Patrick, Editor at Grammarwitch LLC

Lydia Sherrer’s Beginnings offers readers a new look at modern fantasies, painting delightful, fast-paced dilemmas in episodic format. Her idiomatic chapters boast a crisp, learned tone. The slightly more formal episodes pair nicely with her humorous and sometimes less-than-clean interlude. The tension increases from one segment to the next, allowing readers a gradual look into the protagonist’s dreams, mirroring her own inability to face some of her deepest wants.

This magical parallel to our own world takes readers into a vivid reality painted with love, laughter, and a great deal of research. This is a page-turning experience for even non-fantasy readers. –Brittany Thibodeaux, Book Reviewer at Brittanys Lair

Author Lydia Sherrer
Author Lydia Sherrer

About the Author

Lydia Sherrer is a fantasy author whose goal is to leave this world a better place than when she found it. Growing up in rural Kentucky, she was thoroughly corrupted by a deep love for its rolling countryside, despite all the mosquitoes and hay-fever. She was instilled with a craving for literature early on, and her parents had to wrestle books away from her at the dinner table. Though she graduated with a dual B.A. in Chinese and Arabic, having traveled the world she came home and decided to stay there. She currently resides in Louisville, KY with her loving and supportive husband, and their very vocal cat.

When not writing or promoting her next book, Lydia enjoys ocarina playing (think Zelda), traditional archery, costume design, and art. She believes dark chocolate and tea are legitimate sources of nutrition, and one day hopes to visit every country in the world.

Lydia is not just out to write good books, but to make the world a better place, one story at a time. Her goal is to write with a purpose and inspire others to reach for their dreams, because she’s reaching for hers and loving the adventure. You can learn more about her and her books at http://lydiasherrer.com/

https://www.amazon.com/Lydia-Sherrer/e/B01BW1XE9E/

My review:

I’m not sure why, but I don’t usually read a lot of fantasy. I used to, when I was younger, and I enjoy movies and series about it, but these days I don’t seem to have the patience for some of the world building, complicated names, and tonnes and tonnes of characters that seem to be the usual fare in many of these stories. When I saw this book and read what it was about, something made me check the ‘look inside’ feature on Amazon, and I enjoyed what I read. And yes, I was right. I did enjoy the book.

Although I love a good story and an ingenious plot, I’m a characters’ reader first and foremost. And that was what attracted me to this book. We have a female character, Lily Singer, a librarian, bookish and studious, shy, socially awkward, conservatively dressed (a pencil skirt, a blouse, and heels are her uniform), and a wizard (yes, not a witch). And a male character, Sebastian Blackwell, a charmer, full of social graces, always looking for a shortcut rather than hard work, casual and untidy, and always able to get on the good side of people. Well, most people. Ah, and a witch (yes, a witch). Although in classical literature men used to represent the intellect while women were nature, the intellectually superior woman paired with a man who is more into faith or instinct rather than brain is not unusual these days (from the X-files to Harry Potter, and even the Simpsons), and here it works well. The two characters like each other (so far not in a romantic way, although all is possible and I haven’t read the rest of the novels in the series), and drive each other insane (opposites attract), but their abilities complement each other and they make a good team. Where Lily studies spells, books, and ancient knowledge, Sebastian can get help from fae and mundane alike (mundane are non-magical beings, although Sebastian has no powers of his own. That’s what distinguishes wizards from witches, who have to channel other beings’ powers). Their interaction is fun, light, and humorous, and their backgrounds are more similar than they realise. They are comfortable with each other but not to the point of revealing all their secrets to the other. And there is plenty of room to further develop their relationship in future books.

The book is divided into a couple of stories or episodes. The first is one is a full case that gives the reader a good sense of who the characters are and what their relationship is like. It’s a ghost story, a case that Sebastian has been booked to solve but he needs Lily’s assistance. This story, although, written in the third person, is told from Lily’s point of view, and it has all the elements ghost story novels would love. A haunted house, the ghost of a man trapped by a scorned woman, spells… There is an interlude, again in the third person, from Sebastian’s point of view, that introduces what will be the next case, which is quite a personal one for Sebastian, as somebody has stolen a family heirloom, a magical object that alters time. Sebastian’s point of view helps us understand the young man better, and gives us insight into some of his actions that Lily lacks. Lily has to come to the rescue once again, in a case that introduces complex elements and concepts, including a time loop, and discusses in more detail elements of world building and the powers peculiar to objects, wizards, and witches in this world.

Both stories are quick paced and interesting, and although the cover (that I think is superb) perhaps seems geared towards a younger audience, the book touches on issues such as drinking, terminal illnesses, and its take on magic is more philosophical and scientific than would be expected in books for a younger audience. There are delightful characters (a fae that loves mouldy pizza, for example), there are things that make one’s mind boggle (the time loop), and the information about this alternative world is interspersed with the story, without slowing down the action or requiring pages and pages of explanation. The glossary at the end (the book ends at around 92% in e-book format, and the rest is the glossary, about the author, and a sample of the next book in the series) clarifies further some of the aspects of the story and some of the terms used, but there is enough explanation in the text itself to understand the plot without needing to go backwards and forwards to check the terms/

A couple of quotes from the text:

Criminals were sadly predictable, especially those with so little self-respect as to wear their pants around their knees.

Though probably only thirty or forty, her wrinkled skin, sunken face, and stringy hair made her look more like fifty. (Sorry, this one I highlighted because I’m 52, so I worried that’s how women in their 20s think of us…)

As I haven’t read Harry Potter, I can’t comment on similarities and differences, but there is a conversation between Sebastian and Lily about the nature of magic (including mention of the books with the boy with the scar) and here is what Lily says:

But unlike in stories, magic is part of nature, it doesn’t defy it. The only reason mundanes call what wizards do “magic” is because it’s science they don’t understand yet.

The book is set in the South of the USA (the library where Lily works is in Atlanta, Georgia) and the location and language add to the charm. I don’t want to enter into a lot of detail to avoid spoilers, but let’s say that I’d love to have access to some of the spells and magical objects Lily uses (oh, book lovers; you have no idea what she can do with books!).

In summary, this is a fun read, two stories in one book, set up in a recognisable world, with some added ‘magic’ and magical creatures, familiar but not quite as we know them, whose main characters become our friends and are people we’d like to spend more time with. Recommended to readers who like fantasy but prefer to engage with the characters rather than to read detailed descriptions and a lot of world-building, and who are looking for fun dialogues and quick-paced stories. Ah, and if you love cats, you’ll adore Sir Edgar Allan Kipling.

I was sent an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Thanks to the author for her book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and REVIEW!

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