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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog FIVE TIMES LUCKY by P. David Temple The perfect antidote for these colourless times #comedy

Hi all:

I bring you a funny book. I needed a change, and I thought you might enjoy it as well.

Five Times Lucky by P. David Temple

Five Times Lucky by P. David Temple The perfect antidote for these colourless times

In FIVE TIMES LUCKY, an intrepid traveler gets more than her share of tabloid celebrity. Who hasn’t wondered what life was like inside the velvet rope of the Hollywood in-crowd? In this fast-moving comedy by P. David Temple, the quest for fame has no boundaries…but celebrity has its downside. We follow ex-actress BunnyLee Welles, who returns to Los Angeles for her best friend’s wedding and finds that she is instantly recognizable. From the customs officer to the baggage clerk to the Lyft driver, everyone knows her single-dimple smile. They mimic her. They take selfies with her. They hand her unsolicited film scripts. In the four years she has been traveling abroad, her sole commercial role for Dial-a-Denture has recently become an online meme. Like it or not, BunnyLee is now famous.

It seems like everyone BunnyLee crosses paths with is seeking to exploit her notoriety. An old boyfriend from college is using material gleaned from their relationship to further his stand-up career. Another college acquaintance, a burgeoning local TV news reporter, trades on her friendship with BunnyLee for a scoop on the evening news. BunnyLee seeks shelter in the rambling estate of an aging Hollywood heartthrob whose own career has been derailed by a years-old altercation with Kermit the Frog on Sesame Street. He can relate to BunnyLee’s plight as others in his sphere—a duplicitous chauffeur, a social-climbing cook—vie for a piece of his fame. But as much as BunnyLee strives to keep things platonic, romance is a snake lurking in the underbrush. BunnyLee borrows Buck’s vintage Mustang and hits the road with her new puppy on what begins an odyssey through a culturally conflicted modern-day America. Along the way, car trouble leads to her rescue by an injured professional wrestler whose career is a cautionary tale about trading everything meaningful in life for the chance to bask in the limelight of fame.

“An engaging tale about celebrity, love, and the search for one’s place in the world. Temple’s prose is exact and full of color, capable of both madcap humor and wistful lyricism.” — Kirkus Review

“P. David Temple’s story provides numerous laugh-out-loud moments. Its special blend of humor, philosophy, romance and adventure will keep readers involved and guessing about the outcome to the end. The story ultimately questions the price and goal of fame and fortune, using a tongue-in-cheek observational style that is simply unforgettable.” — Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review

“A delightful and skilled writer, I enjoyed every moment. The whole thing went down as easily as a glass of bubbly.“ — Mitchell Levin, Senior Script Analyst, DreamWorks.

“I love the way the characters are drawn. [Temple] has a way of crafting characters who are human—flawed and real and dimensional. And so funny.”—Shanna McNair, Founder of the New Guard

“A delicious comic novel through the underside of Hollywood’s fame game. With a sure hand for deft cinematic prose and a remarkable ear for dialogue, Temple has crafted vivid characters that are often zany, sometimes seedy and always hilarious.”—Jerelle Kraus, Art Director, The New York Times

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08PQ6Y1YR/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08PQ6Y1YR/

https://www.amazon.es/dp/B08PQ6Y1YR/

Author P. David Temple


About the author:
New York-based author P. David Temple has worked in the entertainment industry in numerous capacities including director and director of photography, was a judge for the Emmys, and traveled for a stint as a cameraman for the World Wrestling Federation in the days of Hulk Hogan and André the Giant. He is a proud member of IATSE Local 52 film union. Temple has witnessed scores of Americans scaling the steps of fame. One piece of advice that he learned early on and is willing to share with the dauntless: “Be nice to the people you meet on the way up, because you will be meeting them again on your way down.”

https://www.amazon.com/P-David-Temple/e/B08RCWK25Q/

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you’d like to have your book reviewed, check here), and I was provided an ARC copy of the novel, which I freely chose to review.

I didn’t know the author before I came across this novel but after checking a sample of it, I thought it would be the perfect antidote to the dreary mood that seems to hang over everything these days. I looked forward to a light read. This is a funny book (laugh-out-funny at times), but it comes with its share of serious moments as well. And I enjoyed both aspects of it.

What to say about the plot of this novel… Well, I’ve said it’s funny, and it is a comedy, or rather, it touches on several comedy genres at once: a soap opera; a romantic comedy (yes, there is a central love story and other possible ones hovering around the edges); a quasi stand-up comedy routine full of jokes; a madcap comedy at times; there are elements of physical comedy; we have big spectacle as well (and it’s easy to see how handy the author’s experience with the World Wrestling Federation has been); a more intellectual/phylosophical-style comedy, and everything in between. The description of the novel does a pretty job at providing some semblance of a plot, and the story starts with BunnyLee, a —no longer so young— woman who after trying to become an actress has been working as an English teacher in Thailand for several years and is on her way back to LA to attend the wedding of one of her best friends. She is also going to stay at her friend’s apartment for a couple of weeks while she’s away on her honeymoon, but as her luck (she’s been told by a shaman priest that she is five-times-lucky) would have it, through a series of misunderstandings (I forgot to mention the farce, didn’t I?), she ends up staying as a guest in the house of an ageing Hollywood star, Buck LeGrande, who isn’t quite ready to become a has-been yet, and their friendship/perhaps-something-else falls victim to further misunderstandings and more than a fair bit of paranoia and jealousy. Somehow, the novel becomes a road trip for a while, and a whole host of new characters join the motley crew of BunnyLee, Buck, Buck’s chauffeur (and aspiring scriptwriter), Buck’s Chinese cook (for whom popular culture, media, and his Chinese relatives seem to be the source of all knowledge), and Puddles, the dog, a labradoodle and a true star. Austin, a cowboy and WWF celebrity on his way down, is also on the road, running away from a couple of women on a pink camper van, and their paths are, of course, set to cross. Characters from the world of professional wrestling, a local cowboy, a waiter, a Native American fish and game warden, staff at a Zen spa… also come into the story, don’t ask me to explain how. If you want to know, I invite you to read the book.

Fame, the world of TV and acting, Hollywood, celebrity culture, grief and loss, philosophy and the search for meaning, family relationships… these themes and more make it into the novel as well, and as I’ve said, despite the comedic elements I felt quite touched by the story at times.

I’ve mentioned some of the characters we come across, and although a few of them play small parts, all of them are pretty memorable. The book might be written as a comedy, and we might laugh at the characters at times, but they are not mere caricatures, rather all too human, and no matter how distant they might be from our everyday experience, they are universally recognisable and have endearing and redeeming qualities, even when (or because of) they are making total fools of themselves. Because, who hasn’t been there, especially when there are toupees and tight Spandex leggings involved? (If I had to choose one character, I admit to having a soft spot for Austin, the wrestler, although it’s difficult to top Puddles).

The book is narrated in the third person from a number of different points of view, which are clearly separated in the novel, so there’s no risk of getting confused about whose perspective we are following. This is a very self-aware novel, and an omniscient narrative voice sometimes pokes fun at the whole enterprise, in an interesting exercise of metafiction. It is a very visual novel with scenes that scream to be turned into set pieces in a movie or TV series, and this is combined with digressions where characters and/or author wonder about all kind of weighty subjects, from fate, to the nature of love and life itself. We have contemplative moments interspersed with scenes that explode in a whirlwind of action, energy, and laughter creating a perfect combination of light fun and reflection.

I have highlighted many jokes, insightful and crackwise comments, and many of the scenes, but some are far too long to share. As usual, I’d recommend readers to check a sample of the novel before deciding if it is a good fit for them, but I couldn’t resist sharing a few examples of what you might find.

Like the reader of fiction, one needed to have faith in his or her author, faith in the belief that the narrator knew how best to tell the story, faith that what may have seemed like irrelevant philosophical digressions were in fact well-crafted artifices both necessay and sufficient to the telling of a compelling story.

He wasn’t afraid of heights per se. It was the depths surrounding them that gave him pause —gravity being the one law you should never tempt breaking.

Like so many icons afoot these days in the pantheon of emerging American heroes, Chief Tenaya was a confluence of mixed metaphors. He was an icon in search of a meaning.

The ending fits both the comedy and the romance conventions. It ends up in a high note, and that’s exactly what most of us need right now.

So, if you’re looking for a fun/crazy read, with a bizarre catalogue of characters, are prepared to put your faith in the author and his criteria, are happy to follow him down some unusual and unexpected paths, and are looking for a break from the grey and dreary reality, this is your antidote. I hope this turns into a TV series or a movie, because it will be a hoot.

Thanks to the author for his novel, to Rosie and her team for all their support, to all of you for reading, and remember to keep smiling, to keep safe, and to keep reading!  

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview A Thousand Moons by Sebastian Barry (@FaberBooks). Sometimes it’s hard to be a Lakota woman

Hi all:

I hope you’re keeping well, or as well as possible in the circumstances.

I bring you another book by Sebastian Barry. Not for everyone, but quite extraordinary.

Cover of A Thousand Moons by Sebastian Barry
A Thousand Moons by Sebastian Barry

A Thousand Moons by Sebastian Barry

From the Costa Book of the Year-winning author of Days Without End

Even when you come out of bloodshed and disaster in the end you have got to learn to live.

Winona is a young Lakota orphan adopted by former soldiers Thomas McNulty and John Cole.
Living with Thomas and John on the farm they work in 1870s Tennessee, she is educated and loved, forging a life for herself beyond the violence and dispossession of her past. But the fragile harmony of her unlikely family unit, in the aftermath of the Civil War, is soon threatened by a further traumatic event, one which Winona struggles to confront, let alone understand.

Told in Sebastian Barry’s gorgeous, lyrical prose, A Thousand Moons is a powerful, moving study of one woman’s journey, of her determination to write her own future, and of the enduring human capacity for love.

‘Nobody writes like, nobody takes lyrical risks like, nobody pushes the language, and the heart, and the two together, quite like Sebastian Barry does, so that you come out of whatever he writes like you’ve been away, in another climate.’ ALI SMITH

https://www.amazon.com/Thousand-Moons-unmissable-two-time-winner-ebook/dp/B07Z5C4LN2/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thousand-Moons-unmissable-two-time-winner-ebook/dp/B07Z5C4LN2/

https://www.amazon.es/Thousand-Moons-unmissable-two-time-winner-ebook/dp/B07Z5C4LN2/

Author Sebastian Barry
Author Sebastian Barry

About the author:

Sebastian Barry was born in Dublin in 1955. His plays include Boss Grady’s Boys (1988), The Steward of Christendom (1995), Our Lady of Sligo (1998) and The Pride of Parnell Street (2007). His novels include The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty (1998), Annie Dunne (2002), A Long Long Way (2005) and The Secret Scripture (2008). He has won, among other awards, the Irish-America Fund Literary Award, the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Prize, the London Critics Circle Award and the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Prize. A Long Long Way, which was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Dublin International Impac Prize, was the Dublin: One City One Book choice for 2007. The Secret Scripture won the Costa Book of the Year Award, the Irish Book Awards for Best Novel and the Independent Booksellers Prize. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award, Christopher Ewart-Biggs award and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. He lives in Wicklow with his wife and three children.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sebastian-Barry/e/B001HD0UCC

My review:

Thanks to Faber and Faber and to NetGalley for offering me an ARC copy of this book, which I freely chose to review.

I read Barry’s Days Without End, loved it (you can read my review here) and couldn’t resist when I saw his next novel was available. This story follows on from the previous one, and it shares quite a few characteristics with that one. Although I’ve read some reviews by people who hadn’t read the previous novel and said that they felt this one could be read on its own, I wouldn’t dare to comment on that. Personally, because the story follows closely on from Days Without End, and it refers to many of the characters we had got to know there, I’d recommend readers thinking about taking up this series to start by reading the previous novel.

This story, like Barry’s previous book, is a historical novel, in this case, set in Tennessee shortly after the American Civil War. In the previous novel, we followed two characters, Thomas McNulty (the first-person narrator) and John Cole, through their adventures as actors, Indian hunters, and soldiers, and learned that they had adopted a young Lakota girl, Ojinjintka, renamed Winona; in this second book, we hear the story from Winona’s point of view. The couple of men have settled down now, and the fact that this is not only a woman’s story, but the story of a Native-American woman, means that her ambit of action is much more restricted and despite her efforts to take control of her own life, she’s often at the mercy of laws and circumstances that consider her less than a human being. Although she is loved by her adoptive parents and the rest of the extended family she lives with, that is not a general state of affairs, and if life had treated her badly as a child, she also suffers a major traumatic event here, as a young woman. No matter that she is educated (she keeps the books for a lawyer in town), strong-willed, and determined. She is either invisible (just an Indian girl) or a creature to be abused, vilified, and made to take the blame for other’s crimes. That does not mean what happens to her does not reflect the events in the larger society (we do hear about racism, about lynching, about the corruption of the law, about Southern resistance…), but we get to see them from an “other” point of view, and it creates a sense of estrangement, which I suspect is intended by the author. While Thomas and John were outsiders themselves and always lived in the fringes of society, Winona’s position is more precarious still.

I have mentioned some of the themes of the novel, and others, like family relationships, race, gender, identity (Winona remembers a lot about her life as a Lakota, and the memories of her mother, in particular, bring her much comfort and strength), and the lot of women also play an important part in the novel. There is also something of a mystery running through it, as there are a couple of crimes committed early on (one a severe beating of an ex-slave living with Winona’s family in the farm, and the other one her assault) and Winona spends much of the novel trying to clarify what happened and to get justice, one way or another, as the authorities are not going to intervene because neither of them is important enough. Although she turns into something of an amateur detective, this is no cozy mystery or a light adventure novel, and there are plenty of harrowing moments in it, so I wouldn’t recommend it to people who are looking for cheerful entertainment.

The characters are as fascinating as those from the previous novel, although we get to see them from a totally different point of view. It Thomas was the guiding consciousness of Days Without End, Winona’s voice (in the first person) narrates this fragment of the story. We get to see things from her perspective, and that also offers us an opportunity to reevaluate our opinion of the characters we already knew. We also meet some new characters, but because of Winona’s status (or lack of it), we are put in a difficult position, always feeling suspicious and expecting the worst from those we meet, because she has no rights, both because she is a woman and because she is an Indian woman. Her voice takes some time to get used to. She has been educated, but a bit like happened with Thomas in the previous novel, her speech and thoughts are a mixture of vernacular expressions and lyrical images. She is sometimes confused and can’t make sense of what is happening around her, and at others can show a great deal of insight. When she reports the dialogue and words of others —although she is quite an astute observer of others’ behaviour —, all the people she mentions talk pretty much the same, no matter how educated they are, and farm-hands and judges cannot be told apart from the way they speak. Although I felt for Winona at an intellectual level and was horrified by the things she had to go through, perhaps because of the estrangement I mentioned and of the style of the narrative, I didn’t find it as easy to connect at an emotional level. I liked her and I loved her insights and some of her comments, but I didn’t feel as close to her as I did to Thomas in the first book.

The writing is beautiful and poetic at times, while at others it can be difficult to understand due to the mental state of the character and to her peculiar style. It reminded me of the stream-of-consciousness narration typical of modernist writers in the early years of the XX century. Winona’s thoughts jump from one subject to the next, and although the story is told in chronological order, memories of her time with the Lakotas and flashbacks from her trauma keep interfering in the narrative. This is not a particularly fast novel or a page-turner in the traditional sense, as it meanders along, with exciting and horrifying scenes intermixed with scenes of domesticity and everyday life. I confess to having to go back and forth at times to make sure I hadn’t missed anything, but it was worth it.

I highlighted many parts of the novel, but I’ll share a few samples (note that this is an ARC copy, so there might be some changes in the published version):

I wonder what does it mean when another people judge you to be worth so little you were only to be killed? How our pride in everything was crushed so small it disappeared until it was just specks of things floating away on the wind.

You can’t be a geyser of tears all your life.

‘She got to have some recompense in law,’ said Lige Magan. ‘An Indian ain’t a citizen and the law don’t apply in the same way,’ said the lawyer Briscoe.

Only a woman knows how to live I believe because a man is too hasty, too half-cocked, mostly. That half-cocked gun hurts at random. But in my men I found fierce womanliness living. What a fortune. What a great heap of proper riches.

I’ve seen some reviews who felt the ending was disappointing or unbelievable. I’d have to agree that there is something of the Deus ex machina about the ending, but overall I liked where the story ended and would like to know what happens next to Winona, to Peg (one of my favourite new characters), and to the rest of the characters.

Would I recommend the novel? It is a fascinating book, and one lovers of Barry will enjoy. I advise anybody interested in this historical period and eager to read this author’s work to start with the previous novel, as I found the style of this one more challenging and more difficult to follow, and having an understanding of the background of the characters helps put it into perspective. As I usually do, I’d recommend readers to check a sample of the novel before deciding to purchase it, but give it a good chance, as it does take some time to get used to the style, and the story is well-worth reading and persevering with. I will definitely be looking forward to the next novel.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publishers and the author for this novel, thanks to all of you for reading, remember to keep reading, smiling, keep safe, and if you know anybody who might enjoy it, pass it on!

Oh, and if you’re bored, remember a couple of my books are available for free, so don’t hesitate to give them a go and pass them on. 

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog WHEN THE STARS SANG by Caren J. Werlinger A delightful read, full of great characters, inspiring, and heart-warming. Also recommended to dog lovers! #LGTB #Bookreview

Hi all:

Today I bring you a book that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, although it is not in a genre I read very often. A great read.

When the Stars Sang by Caren R. Werlinger
When the Stars Sang by Caren R. Werlinger

When the Stars Sang by Caren J. Werlinger

Nearly twenty-five years ago, Kathleen Halloran’s brother drowned during the last summer they ever spent with their grandmother on a remote island off Maine’s coast. Like a siren’s call she can’t resist, Kathleen is pulled back to Little Sister Island. She leaves her job and her girlfriend packs up her few belongings and moves into her grandmother’s cottage.

Molly Cooper loves life on Little Sister, where the islanders take care of their own. Kathleen Halloran doesn’t belong here, and her arrival stirs up unwelcome memories for the islanders—including Molly’s brother. Molly is certain Kathleen will pack up at the first big blow. When she doesn’t, Molly begins to see maybe there’s more to Kathleen than she thought.

Sometimes, before you can move forward, you have to look back.

https://www.amazon.com/When-Stars-Sang-Caren-Werlinger-ebook/dp/B07B7CT41D/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/When-Stars-Sang-Caren-Werlinger-ebook/dp/B07B7CT41D/

Author Caren J. Werlinger
Author Caren J. Werlinger

About the author:

Caren was raised in Ohio, the oldest of four children. Much of her childhood was spent reading every book she could get her hands on, and crafting her own stories. She was influenced by a diverse array of authors, including Rumer Godden, J.R.R. Tolkien, Ursula Le Guin, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Willa Cather, and the Brontë sisters. She has lived in Virginia for over twenty years where she practices physical therapy, teaches anatomy and lives with her partner and their canine fur-children. She began writing creatively again several years ago. Her first novel, Looking Through Windows, won a Debut Author award from the Golden Crown Literary Society in 2009. Since then, she has published several more novels, winning three Goldies and multiple Rainbow Awards. She recently completed her first fantasy trilogy, The Dragonmage Saga.
Check out her blog: http://cjwerlinger.wordpress.com

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 occasionally read romance novels although I am not their number one fan, but there was something about this book that called my attention from the very beginning. I am always attracted towards stories that are set in special locations (real or imagined) and the description of the island definitely fitted the bill for me. And, in this case, first impressions were right.  I loved the story and the place, and I wish it existed and I could be a part of the community in Little Sister.

The story is narrated in the third person from the point of view of two female characters, Kathleen, who returns to Little Island as an adult (after a traumatic breakup with her on-and-off girlfriend of 14 years), and goes to live to the house of her recently deceased grandmother (although she had not been back there since she was a child due to a very traumatic event), and Molly, the island’s sheriff, and also a handywoman, who loves restoring and repairing boats, but can set her hand at anything that needs repairing (even a broken heart). Although they are suspicious of each other at first, it is clear that they are meant for each other, but, as we all know, the path of true love never does run smooth, and there are a number of obstacles on their way, some of their own making, but others to do with childhood trauma, dysfunctional family relationships, and a past that refuses to be buried. If you are a big fan of romances, LGBT or otherwise, you do not need to worry. Although I won’t discuss the ending to avoid spoilers; I think you’ll be happy with it.

The author creates realistic characters we care for, and not only the protagonists. While Kathleen and Molly can be stubborn and blind at times (and even annoying, but ultimately likeable), there is a full catalogue of fabulous secondary characters, including Molly’s family (her wonderful parents, and her brothers, including Aidan, who is an integral part of the incident that made everything change for Kathleen), sisters Olivia and Louisa (who always carry the ashes of their father with them), Rebecca, the librarian and depository of the island’s traditions, and many more. Oh, and let’s not forget Blossom, a stray dog adopted by Kathleen (well, the adoption is mutual), that is both a totally realistic dog and a fantastic and heart-warming character.

There is lovely food, a variety of ceremonies and traditions, a strong sense of community [including matrilineal heritage that reminded me of the book The Kingdom of Women by Choo Wai Hong (you can read my review here)], secrets, deception, ecology and renewable energy, and plenty of love, not only between the two women, but between all the members of the community. The sense of belonging and the healing and growth of the characters is intrinsically linked to the way of life in this island that mixes Irish folklore and beliefs with Native-American (First Ones) ones. Werlinger creates a beautiful setting, both in its landscape and spirituality. Readers feel a part of this wonderful community, and I, for one, was sorry to come to the end of the book and would love to live in such a place.

The writing ebbs and flows, allowing readers to enjoy the descriptions of the island, its inhabitants, their actions and also their mental processes, although I did not find it slow and I was hooked to the story and the feeling of becoming one with the inhabitants of the place. As a writer, I easily empathised with Kathleen, who is an editor and also creates book covers, and I enjoyed the fact that female and male characters are diverse, are not restricted to standard gender roles, and the attitude of the islanders towards same-sex love is open and unquestioning. There are certain necessary characteristics that make a relationship truly compatible, but gender is not one of them.

As readers, we share the thoughts and experiences of the main characters although the third person narration also gives us enough distance to be able to make our own minds up. There are some surprises, some quasi-magical elements, some light and fun moments, but there are also nasty characters (although these are always outsiders), and intuition and family connections are very important. As for the love story, there are some sexual elements, but not a full-blown graphic description of events, and I found it rather delicate and in good taste (and I am not a fan of erotica).

I wanted to share a few things I highlighted:

Normally, those messages would have torn at Kathleen’s heart. But she wasn’t sure she had a hart any longer. She tapped her chest, half expecting it to sound hollow, like the Tin Man.

“It should be a mix. None of us is just one thing, complete in and of ourselves. We are the island, and the island is us.”

“That is not how it works. Love that has to be deserved or earned was never love to begin with.”

A joyful read, which I recommend to readers who enjoy books set in special locations, who appreciate a strong sense of community and belonging, and love solid characters. There are ups and downs, happy and sad events, although it is not a book for lovers of adventures and frantically paced novels. This is a contemplative and inspiring book, heart-warming and positive. If you need a pick-me-up, this is your book.

Thanks very much to Rosie for her fabulous group and for the opportunities to review and discover great books, thanks to the author (she has written many other books that I’ll have to check), and thanks to all of you for reading. Remember to like, share, comment, click, REVIEW and SMILE!

[amazon_link asins=’0996036865,0998217905,B00JW2M60O,B00BJ9FMV8,B01APWFEC6,0996036881,B00HMQ7MHY,B00EVSTP08′ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’wwwauthortran-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’9528a693-2de5-11e8-83f0-018384406b52′]

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Book reviews Rosie's Book Team Review

#Bookreview #RBRT Flesh by Dylan J. Morgan (@dylanjmorgan) Horror, twists and turns and a small-town legend that’s anything but… #Tuesdaybookblog

Hi all:

I already told you last week I was reading a lot these days, and today I bring you another review, this one of a book I read as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team. It’s a great privilege to form part of such wonderful team of people. And today, I bring you a scary one…

Flesh by Dylan J. Morgan
Flesh by Dylan J. Morgan

First, the description:

It feeds. It grows. The small town of Vacant harbors a secret so terrifying that the local lawmen will do anything to keep it hidden—including murder. Something sinister stalks the surrounding woods, a horrifying creature thought to be only a mystical legend. It hunts at night, killing with ravenous voracity. Deputies Carson Manning and Kyle Brady are the harvesters: they find the victims, tie them to the baiting post. Sheriff Andrew Keller and Deputy Matthew Nielsen are the cleaners: they dispose of the corpses. But when Vacant’s townsfolk take matters into their own hands, nothing can contain the slaughter. The deadly entity isn’t the only menace Sheriff Keller has to face. He has his own dark secret, a past he tries to hide behind frequent alcohol binges. Now that past has come back to haunt him and will throw him headlong into a traumatic situation that could mean life or death for him and those he holds dear.

And now, my review:

Flesh by Dylan J. Morgan  Horror, twists and turns and a small-town legend that’s anything but…

I am reviewing Flesh as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team and I’ve received a complimentary copy of the novel in exchange for an unbiased review.

I love horror. Books, movies, series… I’d read very good reviews of Dylan J. Morgan’s books and when I saw one of his books come up for review at Rosie’s team I decided to take the chance and read it.

You probably have read (and/or watched, if you’re interested in the genre) similar stories. Small town, something in the woods is killing people. The something might vary from book to book. Here the small town is not the wholesome small-town of cosy diners and picket fences, but rather the strange world of Blue Velvet (well, perhaps weird in a different way, a corrupt place full of drug-addicts, alcoholics, mad preachers, power-crazy mayors, and people prepared to do anything to keep themselves safe, even if it means others have to suffer). And the story is written in such a way that we don’t really know what we think we know, or rather, we don’t realise what we know until very close to the end. At least for me, the novel was full of surprises.

The novel is told in the third person, from quite a few of the characters’ points of view, the main characters. None of them, with the exception of Miranda, but she hardly appears in the first part of the book, are easy to connect with or sympathetic. The book opens with one of the character’s (although we are not told many things about her) extreme violence and a description of butchery that, being a doctor, I must confess had me wondering if some of the things were anatomically possible… As we see things from the character’s mind’s eye, the reading can be quite uncomfortable. On the other hand, at least for me, it didn’t work at the level of some scenes of extreme violence in Tarantino’s movies, for instance, when you might find yourself joining in and siding with the perpetrator. But perhaps that’s a matter of personal taste. The rest of the main characters are deeply flawed, addicted to alcohol, drugs, and egotistical. Matthew, newly joined deputy sheriff seems too good to be true, other than for his sexual relationship with a woman that also seems to break the rules (sex during work at the police station for instance), but until more than fifty per cent of the book has gone we don’t have much of a hero to root for. And then, things change. And how. (Also some new characters appear that add to the interest, but the biggest surprise is how the ones we knew already change.  Or we realise we didn’t know them quite as well as we thought.)

I’m not overtly fond of descriptions and the book is full of them, be how the characters are feeling (hangover, highs of drugs, sex, hot and sweaty…), clothes, food, drinks… Although well-written, I felt due to this the first half of the novel moves at a slow-steady pace, whilst the last half speeds up.

As you’ve probably noticed from what I’ve said, I thoroughly enjoyed the second half of the book, where you feel much more invested and engaged with the characters and things get much more personal, not only for us but for some of the protagonists. It is a good way of rising expectations and interest, although there is always the risk that some readers might not follow the writer, but in this case it’s well-worth the patience. I won’t go into a lot of detail not to spoil the reading experience, but as I mentioned, it took me quite a while to work out the connections and the ins and outs of the plot. It’s very cleverly done.

Overall, would I recommend this book? Yes, if you love horror, and you like descriptive writing, both of horrific scenes and in general (there’s also a fairly explicit sex scene, be warned), and want to be taken by surprise (even shocked). And, a word of warning, whatever you think of the beginning, keep reading, because the second half of the book is fantastic.

Link:

http://amzn.to/1N67DLB

If you want to check directly the preview, here it is:

Thanks so much to Rosie and to the author for this opportunity, thanks to you all for reading, and don’t forget to like, share, comment, CLICK, and of course, to REVIEW!

Categories
Book reviews

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

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

Alchemy by Ailsa Abraham
Alchemy by Ailsa Abraham

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

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

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

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

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

Links:

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

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

Paper:

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

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

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

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

And her blog:

http://ailsaabraham.com/

And:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links:

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

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

Paper:

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

 

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

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

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

http://jenanita01.com/

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

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

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