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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog NO SHADOW WITHOUT LIGHT by Luke Gracias (@devils_prayer) Adventure, history, fabulous international locations, and a strong environmental message #adventures

Hi all:

I bring you the second part of a novel I read quite a few years back, but one I still remembered and wanted to know how it would all end up.

No Shadow Without Light by Luke Gracias

No Shadow Without Light by Luke Gracias

On 06/06/06, the world’s population crossed 6.66 billion. Any further increase could only occur at the cost of other species and future generations.

This triggered the Devil’s Game. A Treasure Hunt for the twelve missing pages of the Devil’s Bible, which hold the Devil’s Prayer. A game designed for Jess Russo, the daughter of the Devil, to unleash Armageddon. Each page Jess finds encourages people to be selfish. To hoard for themselves and theirs, wiping out every chance future generations and all other species have of survival. Only her elder sister Siobhan can stop her, by finding the pages of the Devil’s Prayer hidden across the globe before Jess does.

When the bells of Amalfi Cathedral toll twelve repeatedly one night, Inspector Luca Reginalli races to find four ancient frescoes and a note in a jade sarcophagus. The cryptic note offering the Twelfth Page of the Devil’s Prayer in exchange for Siobhan goes viral. The treasure hunter Siobhan becomes the hunted.

From the Templars of Tomar to the Doomsday Chest in London, from the Tomb of Amir Timur to the Shadowless Pagoda of Wuhan, Siobhan and Reginalli follow the trail of carnage left by each page of the Devil’s Prayer.

Can they save the world from its own destruction?

 https://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Without-Light-Luke-Gracias-ebook/dp/B09HSHPGZ3/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/No-Shadow-Without-Light-sequel/dp/B09K1WVCXT/

https://www.amazon.es/No-Shadow-Without-Light-English-ebook/dp/B09HSHPGZ3/

Author Luke Gracias
Author Luke Gracias

About the author:

Luke Gracias is an Environmental Specialist who has been working part- time in the film industry since 2006. The Codex Gigas or the Devil’s Bible is the largest medieval manuscript in the world. It currently resides in the National Library of Sweden. The Codex Gigas has twelve missing pages which are rumoured to contain an apocalyptic test known as the Devil’s Prayer. An avid photographer, Luke travelled through Europe and his home country Australia documenting the 13th Century conspiracy between the Mongols who came to Europe in search of the Devil’s Prayer and the Papal Inquisition.

https://www.amazon.com/Luke-Gracias/e/B08QNCLF7P/

My review:

I read and reviewed the first part of this story, The Devil’s Prayer, five years ago, and I thank NetGalley (Authors Upfront) and the author for providing me an ARC copy of this book, which I freely chose to review.

I remembered having enjoyed the original novel and some details of it, but after such a long gap, I have to admit that I wasn’t sure how well I’d manage to follow the story. Thankfully, the beginning of the book provides readers with a brief reminder of the main plot points, not in a preface, but incorporated into the story. The first novel was written in a particularly interesting way, as the protagonist, who is also one of the main characters in this story, Siobhan, found her mother’s diary, and she (and the readers) learned the background to the events thanks to that account.

This novel is more traditional in its format, although the Devil’s Prayer and its twelve pages also play a big part in the events, and we get to read it (or at least some of it) as the story progresses. The novel is divided into four books, and the story is mostly told in chronological order (the beginning of the novel is split up between two settings, one in Australia and one in Italy, and there are some comings and goings between the two places and the dates), with some jumps forward in time. We follow the characters from 2014 to 2020, and, as the description suggests, we travel with them all over the world: Australia, Italy, China, Portugal, London, the Czech Republic, Uzbekistan… Like the previous novel, this is a mix of genres: there are plenty of adventures; historical background and events are also explored; there is much in common with spy novels (but with a religious/paranormal theme rather than a political one) and with the format of a treasure hunt, where each new clue guides the path of the main characters. There are also elements of horror, a good versus evil fight going on, and a strong environmental message, pointing at humanity’s responsibility for the future of all life on Earth.

Limited resources, selfishness versus selflessness, the importance and nature of religion and religious belief, family relationships, social media, greed, corruption, betrayal… are among the themes that appear in its pages, although that is not an exhaustive list. And we meet all kinds of secondary characters and historical figures: from policemen to bishops and monks, from Knight Templars to librarians, and various popes, Genghis Kahn, and even the Devil put in an appearance.

The story is told in the third person: for most of it we follow Siobhan and share her experiences, as we did in the first book, although sometimes we peer over the shoulder of the baddies and what they are doing, and at times there is a narrator that provides a lot of factual information on the events and the historical background of the places we are visiting. Because of that, there is a lot of telling in the story, although I found most of it quite fascinating, and by the end of the novel, I wanted to visit the places featured there (or most of them, at least. Oh, and there are pictures, as well, so you can see what the settings of some of the adventures are like).

I missed a bit more build-up of the main characters. Siobhan goes through some terrible ordeals, losing loved ones, being betrayed, being incarcerated (I won’t go into much detail to avoid spoilers), but there are only hints of what and how she feels, and the same applies to Reginalli, an Italian inspector who has interesting hidden depths as well. In general, there is more attention paid to the plot and the background than to the psychology of the characters or the complexity of their emotions. I must admit that I don’t usually read books like this, and perhaps this is part-and-parcel of the genre, where readers are looking for action and story, and put themselves in the protagonists’ shoes, rather than want to have their emotions spelled out.

Despite some minor inconsistencies and some to-be-expected required suspension of disbelief, the story is engaging, and no matter how many questions you might ask yourself about the fine details of the plot (in this day and age, with the worldwide access to technology, one always has to wonder), you have to keep reading to see how it all will turn up, especially if you have already read the first novel. As one of the reviewers said, I also feel that this book would make a great movie (and I am aware that the author has written screenplays before and worked in the film industry), although it would be a challenge to fit it all into a single film, and perhaps a TV series would work better. I would be eager to watch it, for sure.

The writing is engaging and particularly effective when it comes to descriptions of places and customs, and to passionately defending what are, quite evidently, convictions strongly held by the author, who has spent his life working as an environmental specialist and knows what he is talking about. The pages of the Devil’s Prayer we get to read are fascinating, scary, and will make all who read them pause and think.

The ending is left fairly open but hopeful as well (although perhaps some readers would like to see a bit more development of one of the aspects of it), as is the author’s note (which is well-worth reading and reflecting upon), and I felt it was appropriate and in keeping with the rest of the story.

As for warnings, like in the other novel, there are plenty of violence, cruelty, and deaths, and although much happens behind the scenes, I know it will bother some readers. Some people might also not share the point of view of the author about environmental issues or religion. I found the tone of the writing to be respectful and neutral, but I know that is always a matter of opinion.

I recommend this book to people who enjoy mixed-genre novels, particularly those who take place in a variety of settings, readers of adventure or spy books, those who have enjoyed books like The Da Vinci Code, and people who are concerned about environmental issues and like to read about those but are looking for some fiction and adventure as well. And, if you want to travel all over the world without leaving your home, and learn some fascinating historical facts at the same time, I definitely recommend you to check both books.

Thanks to NetGalley and to the author for the story, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to be happy, to keep smiling, and to share if you think anybody you know might be interested. Please, be safe out there. 

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE BURNING GIRLS by C. J. Tudor (@cjtudor) (@PenguinUKBooks) A priest turned detective, a small town with a dark past, and plenty of secrets

Hi all:

I bring you the third book by an author I’ve been following from the first novel she published, and I’m not surprised she’s become very popular (and there is talk of TV adaptations as well).

The Burning Girls by C. J. Tudor

The Burning Girls by C. J. Tudor  

The darkly compelling new novel from the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Chalk ManThe Taking of Annie Thorne and The Other People, soon to be a major TV series

‘Hypnotic and horrifying . . . Without doubt her best yet,’

The Burning Girls left me sleeping with the lights on’ CHRIS WHITAKER, bestselling author of Waterstones Thriller of the Month We Begin at the End

‘A gothic, spine-tingling roller-coaster of a story . . . CJ Tudor is a master of horror’ C.J. COOKE, author of The Nesting
______

500 years ago: eight martyrs were burnt to death
30 years ago: two teenagers vanished without trace
Two months ago: the vicar committed suicide

Welcome to Chapel Croft.

For Rev Jack Brooks and teenage daughter Flo it’s supposed to be a fresh start. New job, new home. But, as Jack knows, the past isn’t easily forgotten.

And in a close-knit community where the residents seem as proud as they are haunted by Chapel Croft’s history, Jack must tread carefully. Ancient superstitions as well as a mistrust of outsiders will be hard to overcome.

Yet right away Jack has more frightening concerns.

Why is Flo plagued by visions of burning girls?
Who’s sending them sinister, threatening messages?
And why did no one mention that the last vicar killed himself?

Chapel Croft’s secrets lie deep and dark as the tomb. Jack wouldn’t touch them if not for Flo – anything to protect Flo.

But the past is catching up with Chapel Croft – and with Jack. For old ghosts with scores to settle will never rest . . .

______

‘Tudor operates on the border between credulity and disbelief, creating an atmosphere of menace’ Sunday Times

‘A mesmerising and atmospheric page-turner, with plenty of shocks and a surprise twist for a finale. Her best novel yet’ Sunday Express

‘The best book yet from C. J. Tudor’ Best

Praise for C. J. Tudor:

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

‘Britain’s female Stephen King’ Daily Mail

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

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

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

‘A dark star is born’ A. J. Finn 

https://www.amazon.com/Burning-Girls-C-J-Tudor-ebook/dp/B0882PLRBF/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Burning-Girls-C-J-Tudor-ebook/dp/B0882PLRBF/

https://www.amazon.es/Burning-Girls-C-J-Tudor-ebook/dp/B0882PLRBF/

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

About the author:

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

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

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

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

My review:

I thank NetGalley and Penguin Michael Joseph UK for providing me an ARC copy of this book, which I freely chose to review.

I discovered C. J. Tudor with her first novel, The Chalk Man, a pretty impressive debut, and have read the two novels she has published since, The Taking of Annie Thorne and The Other People. As you can guess from that, I enjoy her writing and her penchant for creating stories that are never boring, with characters that keep us guessing until the end (or near enough). It is true, as well, that the topics she covers and her plots are not unique —if such a thing even exists—, especially for people who read plenty of thrillers, horror novels, mysteries, and watch films and TV series in those genres. But she knows how to pick up some elements that might feel familiar at first (after all, that is one of the reasons why many readers enjoy reading certain genres, because they know what to expect) and create something that manages to meet the expectations while keeping readers on their toes. And sometimes, scaring them a fair bit in the process.

That is true as well for this novel, which for me had a few things that made it particularly attractive. One would be the setting. The novel is set in the UK, in Sussex, an area where I lived for a few years and that I know fairly well. Although the village where the novel is set doesn’t exist, and neither does the actual tradition that gives it its name (and I won’t elaborate on that to avoid spoiling the story, although there is a fake Wikipedia entry at the very beginning that explains it all), I’ve read in an interview that the author felt inspired by the area and by the town of Lewes and its history, and I am not surprised that is the case. It is a very atmospheric place. I’ve read comments calling it “Gothic”, and it isn’t a bad name, but there is something more ancient and primordial at play as well (The Wicker Man comes to mind).

Another thing I found interesting is how self-referential the novel feels. The author has been compared to Stephen King (and she acknowledges how much she loves his books) on many occasions, as you can see reflected by the editorial comments, and his novels appear repeatedly in the book, as do references to popular movies and TV (The Lost Boys, The Usual Suspects, Heathers…) that might (or might not) be connected to the story and the plot. By openly acknowledging those in her pages, the author seems to be giving us clues and adding layers of meaning, although perhaps it is a fairly tongue-in chick ploy, and it is all part of the misdirection, twists and turns, and red herrings that are spread around the novel. Because another thing (and author) I kept thinking about when reading this novel was Agatha Christie and her works, in particular her Miss Marple novels, with their small villages with dark goings-on, where everybody is hiding something and outsiders have a hard time trying to find somebody trustworthy and to discover the truth. And there is also an elderly lady, Joan, who would fit perfectly into one of Christie’s novels, (and she is one of my favourite characters as well).

As I said, I won’t be discussing the plot in detail, to avoid spoilers, but I’ll mention some of the things readers can find in this novel: exorcisms gone wrong, crypts hiding dark secrets, ghoulish ghosts, disappeared girls, religious martyrs, child abuse and death, bullying and manipulation, abandoned creepy houses, unrequited love and jealousy, hidden motives and fake identities… This is not a mild or cozy novel, and there are some pretty gruesome and violent episodes, so I wouldn’t recommend it to readers looking for a light-hearted read.

That doesn’t mean the novel is all doom and gloom, as there are several characters with quite a sense of humour, and the protagonist, Jack, and Jack’s daughter, Flo, are both pretty witty and often funny. The protagonist narrates a lot of the story in the first person: Jack’s self-comments and observations appear sharp, clever, and they made me chuckle many times. Some also made me nod in agreement, and although I won’t say I agree with everything Jack does in the novel, I definitely understand the protagonist’s reasons. Apart from Jack’s first-person narration, there are fragments narrated in the third person, some from Flo’s point of view, and others from the perspective of a different character who we soon realise is trying to find Jack. Who he is and why he is after them… well, you’ll need to read the book to learn that. There are also brief fragments in italics that help create a fuller picture in our minds of what might have happened, even if we don’t know exactly whose memories we are accessing when we read them (but we are likely to have our suspicions). Does that mean the story is confusing? I didn’t find it so, and although this might depend on how familiar readers are with the genre, the different personalities of the characters come through in the writing, so I don’t think most people will have many problems telling whose points of view they are reading. Nonetheless, I recommend readers to be attentive and keep a close eye on everything, because, as is the case with more traditional mysteries, all the details are important, and the clues are there for a reason. If you blink, you might miss a piece of the puzzle that becomes important later on.

As is to be expected from these kinds of books, there is a false ending and a big twist. The author drops hints and clues along the way, and I am sure most people will suspect at least some of the information that is revealed, although perhaps not everything. Because, let me tell you that if you love unreliable narrators, you shouldn’t miss this one. Some reviewers felt disappointed by the ending, because… Well, I can’t tell you, of course. But, as I’ve said, there are hints dropped, and there is a bit of a soliloquy (not a soliloquy, but I could imagine it would become one if this were a play) where we get an explanation/justification of some important plot points. I’m not sure it was necessary, to be honest, but I can see why the author did that. Oh, and I did enjoy the ending, by the way.

Other reviewers also took issue with some depictions of characters and events that they feel reinforce negative stereotypes and prejudicial media representations of certain groups. Although this could be argued in one or two instances, and it is always a matter of interpretation, much of that view might result from a partial or perhaps too literal reading of the book with might have missed some of the nuances of the story.

This is a novel that, beyond the gripping plot and the mysteries it contains, deals in identity, in how we can reinvent ourselves and get a second chance, and also in what important role prejudices and labels can play in the way we are seen and perceived by others. While some people struggle to fight against assigned roles and expectations, others can use them to hide behind them and protect their true selves, or even manipulate them to their advantage. It also revisits the debate about evil. Do we believe some people are born evil or are we all born innocent and other people and our circumstances can turn us into monsters? Can there be some valid justifications, no matter how subjective they might be, for actions that would be considered evil by most people? Or there is no grey area when it comes to good and evil, and a person’s point of view doesn’t come into it? We might or might not agree with how things work out in the story, but I am sure we will all have formed an opinion by the end of the novel, perhaps even one that surprises us.

I recommend this book to fans of mysteries with some supernatural and horror elements, also to readers looking for a page-turner with plenty of atmosphere and a gripping storyline. I am sure most followers of C. J. Tudor won’t be disappointed, and, personally, I am looking forward to her next novel already.

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Book review Book reviews

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

Hi all:

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

Dead of Winter Journey 2. Penllyn by Teagan Geneviene

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

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

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

Now Emlyn’s father has begun to behave strangely.

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

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

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

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

Author Teagan Geneviene

About the author:

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

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

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

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

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

Hi all:

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

Blackthorn by Terry Tyler

Blackthorn by Terry Tyler

The UK, year 2139.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author Terry Tyler
Author Terry Tyler

About the author:

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview A Matter of Interpretation by Elizabeth Mac Donald (@bizzieauthor) #Matterofinterpretation A fictionalised biography of a fascinating historical character searching for knowledge against all odds

Hi all:

Today I bring you a book that I found very compelling, although I don’t think it will be a crowd-pleaser.

A Matter of Interpretation by Elizabeth MacDonald
A Matter of Interpretation by Elizabeth MacDonald

A Matter of Interpretation by Elizabeth Mac Donald

The Kingdom of Sicily, early thirteenth century. The Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II has, through invasion and marriage, expanded his empire, but always subject to the will of the pope and the rulings of the Church. Into this world of political and military intrigue steps Michael Scot, a young monk and barbarian from Scotland who tutored Frederick as a boy. Headstrong and determined, Michael Scot persuades the Emperor that translating the lost works of Aristotle would bring him a secret knowledge of science, medicine and astronomy that would advance his cause. Despite the pope declaring such translations heretical, the Emperor agrees that the Scot should proceed, sending him first to the famous translation schools of Toledo and from there to the Moorish library of Cordoba.

https://www.amazon.com/Matter-Interpretation-Elizabeth-Mac-Donald-ebook/dp/B07X5WW9GB/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Matter-Interpretation-Elizabeth-Mac-Donald-ebook/dp/B07X5WW9GB/

https://www.amazon.es/Matter-Interpretation-Elizabeth-Mac-Donald-ebook/dp/B07X5WW9GB/

Author Elizabeth MacDonald
Author Elizabeth MacDonald

About the author:

Born in Dublin, lives in Pisa. Writer, translator. Forthcoming novel ‘A Matter of Interpretation’ (Fairlight Books 2019). Teaches at the University of Pisa

https://www.femalefirst.co.uk/books/elizabeth-macdonald-a-matter-of-interpretation-1208923.html

My review:

I thank NetGalley and Fairlight Books for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

This is a case of a historical figure whose life is so gripping and fascinating that we would find it difficult to believe in if he was a fictional character. Although I must confess to not having previous knowledge of Michael Scot, the setting of the story in the XIII century, the variety of locations, and the endeavours of Scot attracted me to the book, and I’m happy that was the case.

Although the story is seemingly simple (a monk, particularly gifted for academia, pursues his objective of getting to the source of knowledge wherever it might be and in whichever language, in XIII century Europe, travelling, translating, accumulating knowledge, and having to fight against conspiracy and orthodoxy), there are many different strands woven into it, and reflecting the complex push-and-pull of the politics of an era in which religion and faith wars played a huge part in the struggle for power and combining that with Scot’s quest for knowledge is a mighty task. In my opinion, MacDonald does a great job, but I am not sure everybody will appreciate the way the story is told, and it is not one for people looking for a plot that moves along quickly and is full of adventures. There are journeys and adventures, but some of the most interesting parts of the book come from philosophical discussions and disquisitions as to the nature of truth and knowledge.

The book is written in the third person, from an omniscient narrator’s point of view, and even though we read the story from what appears to be Scot’s perspective most of the time, this is not always the case, and even when we are following his adventures and are privy to his thoughts, we might learn about the way he appears to others and get comments and observations from others around him as well. There is also some first-person narrative, a “Confession” Scot is writing, interspersed with the rest of the novel, which, for me, was the part that made Scot appear more sympathetic and human (at points he is so obsessed with his studies and his project, that he seems unaware of the human beings around him, and he made me think of Captain Ahab from Moby Dick, although he seems to also have his “humanities”). The story starts close to what we later find out (and most readers might already suspect) will be the end, with an event that hints at a mystery, and then most of the rest of the story is told in something akin to a flashback, offering readers a chronological account of Scot’s lifestory.  Although this did not bother me, I suspect readers approaching the story with the expectation of a standard mystery (and no, this is not The Name of the Rose either) might be disappointed. Yes, there is a mystery, or several, but the book is not about that. It is about Scot and his time, and how his figure was more important and his pursuit worthier than he and his contemporaries realised. I’d recommend possible readers to check a sample of the novel to see if they feel the writing style would suit them.

Scot’s life has all the elements that would mark him as a heroic figure (and as I said, one that we’d struggle to believe possible if he were fictional). He has a traumatic childhood, with the loss of his mother (who was a healer and suffered because of it); he proves himself a great scholar despite his humble beginnings, and although he faces opposition from the start, he also gets some help and assistance, manages to become Frederick’s (later to become Holy Emperor Frederick the II) tutor, and with his patronage, he sets off to find and translate Aristotle’s old texts. His journey towards knowledge makes him face dangers, come into contact with other countries and cultures (in Toledo and Cordoba he studies closely Arabic texts and his main collaborators are Jewish scholars), and be faced with the strict opposition of the Church, which at the time saw much knowledge (other than approved Theology) as a likely source of heresy and inherently dangerous.

As I read the book, I felt as if I was immersed in the different countries, smelling the spices, contemplating the landscapes, touching paper for the first time (an amazing discovery for Scot), and was captivated by Scot’s goal. As a person who regularly does translations, I appreciate how hard his self-imposed task was and enjoyed learning a bit more about the process and the difficulties he faced. If I missed something, though, was hearing a bit more about the texts themselves. Perhaps that is only me, and many people would think there is enough detail, but I felt many of the discussions about Aristotle and about the work of some of his other interpreters and commenters was very vague and general —either assuming that all readers would already know, or that they would not be interested— especially when compared to more detailed accounts of Scot’s use of astrology and his dreams/visions. At some point in the novel Scot makes peace with his interest in Medicine (something he had tried to avoid due to his mother’s fate), but although he manages to avoid the worst of the church’s ban on Aristotle’s works and on translations by studying Arabic texts on Medicine, I missed a more detailed account of his work on that subject. (I studied Medicine, so perhaps this accounts for my interest more than any gaps in the novel itself).

There are many characters, as is to be expected in a novel covering so much ground and where many of events are of great historical importance. We have several popes, bishops, abbots, we have the crusades, we have kings, scholars, politicians… It is not always easy to keep straight who is who (especially if you don’t know much about the era), and I wonder if the final version will contain some charts or even a timeline to clarify matters for readers who are not experts on the topic. The political intrigue, corruption, battles, and jostling for power and influence make it as gripping a read as modern political thrillers can be.

I have mentioned the distance imposed by the point of view of the narration. I must also confess to feeling more intellectually interested in Scot than connected with him at an emotional level. Only towards the end of the story he seems to come to reflect and appreciate the importance of engaging with people and the help others have given him through the years, but there is little in the way of connection to other human beings, and that perhaps is where he fails (for me) in the role of hero. His weaknesses seem to come only from his illness and, perhaps, from his single dedication to knowledge, that results in others less qualified getting into important positions likely to influence events more than he can. (There are warnings about the risks he faces from early on, but he dismisses them and only comes to realise they were right later in his life). Women also play very little part in the story (apart from mentions of his mother —the most significant— and the wives of some of the characters, only in passing), and other than a comment about their role according to a philosopher, towards the end, this is not a book about them, and we learn close to nothing about their lives.

We know what the end will be from the beginning, but most people will enjoy seeing Scot get some redress (even if it is a case of too little, too late). The author’s note at the end of the book explains her interest and reasons for writing the book, and also her sources, which I am sure, will be useful to many readers who will want to explore the topic in more detail.

Overall, this is a book I’ve enjoyed, and I recommend it to people interested in XIII century European history, especially in the struggles for power and knowledge, the interaction between the different religions, and the influence of the various centres of learning. It is sobering to realise that attitudes have changed so little in some scores, and how even the seemingly most enlightened civilisations are (and have been) afraid of intellectual enquiry, knowledge, and research, as if, indeed, they believed it to be a poisoned apple. Attempts at keeping the population under control by limiting their access to knowledge (or by manipulating the information they are given access to) are not new and, unfortunately, never seem to go out of fashion. Not a light read, but one sure to make readers want to learn more about the period and the man.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author, for this thought-provoking book, 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 THIRTEENTH GUARDIAN by KM Lewis (@kmlewisbooks) Dystopia, mythology, apocalypse, and conspiracy theories

Hi all:

This is the beginning of a series full of possibilities, although I’m not sure it’s for me.

The Thirteenth Guardian by KM Lewis
The Thirteenth Guardian by KM Lewis

The Thirteenth Guardian by KM Lewis

Da Vinci’s secret pales. Michelangelo concealed an explosive truth in his famous Creation of Man fresco in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican. Everything we have been taught about Eve is wrong—she didn’t cause the fall of man. Eve carried a far more devastating secret for millennia—one that will change the world forever.

As the modern-day world suffers the cataclysmic effects of the “Plagues of Egypt”, Avery Fitzgerald, a statuesque Astrophysics major at Stanford, discovers that she is mysteriously bound to five strangers by an extremely rare condition that foremost medical experts cannot explain. Thrust into extraordinary circumstances, they race against time to stay alive as they are pursued by an age-old adversary and the world around them collapses into annihilation.

Under sacred oath, The Guardians—a far more archaic and enigmatic secret society than the Freemasons, Templars, and the Priory—protect Avery as she embarks on a daring quest that only legends of old have been on before. Avery must come to terms with the shocking realization that the blood of an ancient queen flows through her veins and that the fate of the world now rests on her shoulders.

The Thirteenth Guardian is Book 1 of a Trilogy.

https://www.amazon.com/Thirteenth-Guardian-KM-Lewis-ebook/dp/B07PNDJ7TW/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thirteenth-Guardian-KM-Lewis-ebook/dp/B07PNDJ7TW/

About the author:

K.M. Lewis has lived in multiple countries around the world and speaks several languages. Lewis holds a graduate degree from one of the Universities featured in his book. When he is not writing, Lewis doubles as a management consultant, with clients in just about every continent. He does much of his writing while on long flights and at far-flung airports around the globe. He currently resides on the East Coast of the United States with his family.

You can also find KM Lewis on Twitter and Instagram – @kmlewisbooks

Some background on why I wrote The Thirteenth Guardian Trilogy: I have always been intrigued by religious mythology. I believe that if the apocalyptic events in the Bible happened (or will happen), there has to be some physical catalyst that causes the events. What is absolutely fascinating to me is that many of the apocalyptic events described in the Bible appear in several other religious texts and also in the earth’s historical record. The Thirteenth Guardian Trilogy explores ideas that I have researched over the last 10+ years and paints a fictional account of what I believe is a far more interesting picture of our own history. When I now look at the world from the perspective of the book, many of the unexplained mysteries of the world make complete sense. I hope you enjoy the Trilogy.

https://www.amazon.com/KM–Lewis/e/B07PNHHH6W

My review:

I obtained an early ARC copy of this novel through NetGalley, and I freely agreed to review it. This has in no way influenced my opinion.

I had a look at the early reviews of this book, whose description intrigued me, and this is one of those cases where I mostly agree with both, the positive and the negative things that I’ve read about it.

This is a book about the Apocalypse with capital letters, and rather than just narrate the adventures of a group of survivors after the event, we get a fairly detailed description of what happens, and how a group of people, six young people in this case, are selected and brought together with a mission. We don’t get to know the exact mission until the very end of the book, although we are introduced to the characters and their lives (some in more detail than others) from the very beginning. There is no evident connection between them when we meet them, but things are not as they seem.

Although I didn’t recall that detail when I started reading, I soon realised that this book had much in common with YA books. The collection of characters, as many reviewers have observed, are all extraordinary in many ways. They all seem to be fairly well-off, beautiful, intelligent, and, as has been noted, not very diverse. Also, despite being quite young, they have achieved incredible things already. We have a character who is left in charge of restoring a unique artefact by himself, even if he’s only newly arrived in the Vatican and has no previous experience; we have twin sisters who at sixteen are old hands at working with charities all over the world and setting up new projects; we have a young political aide who ends up locked up in a bunker with the president of the USA… Although those characteristics stretch the imagination, they are not uncommon in the YA genre. It is true, though, that it does not make for characters that are easy to identify with or immediately sympathetic. They are, perhaps, too good to be true.

I found the style of writing somewhat distant. There is a fair amount of telling rather than showing, not uncommon when trying to offer information about events at a large scale (the events that occur in the whole of the planet are described rather dispassionately, no matter how many millions of people are destroyed), and although some of the scientific background sounds plausible (I’m no expert, though, so don’t take my word for it), there is a twist at the end that makes it all go into the realm of fantasy rather than science fiction, and I’ve noticed I am not the only one puzzled by that turn of events. Some readers have complained also about the changes in point of view, especially when some characters appear briefly never to be seen again and are also given their moment under the limelight, and I think some readers will find this disconcerting.

I enjoyed the background information and some of the theories proposing new readings of documents, cultural artefacts, works of art, the Bible, etc., which came towards the end of the novel. I also particularly enjoyed the fact that the Guardians are all women and the explanation for the matrilineal handing of the tradition and the role was quite enjoyable. The fact that the six people were chosen because of characteristics that had made them outsiders most of their lives (headaches, stammering, difficult births…) and how those seeming weaknesses turned into strengths was something that I thought worked well and provided a positive message at the heart of the story.

For me, this novel reads like a long introduction, and although there is plenty of action and events that take place during it (in fact, life in the world as we know it comes to an end and a new order of things is established. It does not get much bigger than that), it feels like the prelude to the true story that is to come later, and the bit of explanation we are offered about how these characters relate to the overall story comes at the very end. The book ends where many others would have started and, personally, I wonder if this would have worked better as a prequel to the actual series. Of course, I don’t know what is to follow, so this is all just wild speculation on my part.

A set up that touches on many different topics readers might be interested in (conspiracy theories, a group of survivors after the apocalypse, religion, old documents, mythology, ancient civilizations, science-fiction, fantasy, dystopia…), with many possibilities for further development, that could benefit from developing the characters and their personalities further.

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

Categories
Blog Tour Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview and Blog tour THE INCENDIARIES by R. O. Kwon (@rokwon) For lovers of poetic prose, complex narration and unique voices #TheIncendiaries #NetGalley

Banner The Incendiaries Blog Tour 7th September

Hi all:

I was very happy to be invited to participate in the blog tour of this book because it gave me the opportunity to read the first book by an author who is being acclaimed by public and critics alike.

Book review and book blog The Incendiaries by R. O. Kwon
The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon

The Incendiaries: A Novel by R. O. Kwon

“Religion, politics, and love collide in this slim but powerful novel reminiscent of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, with menace and mystery lurking in every corner.” —People Magazine

“The most buzzed-about debut of the summer, as it should be…unusual and enticing … The Incendiaries arrives at precisely the right moment.” —The Washington Post

“Radiant…A dark, absorbing story of how first love can be as intoxicating and dangerous as religious fundamentalism.” —New York Times Book Review

A powerful, darkly glittering novel of violence, love, faith, and loss, as a young woman at an elite American university, is drawn into a cult’s acts of terrorism.

Phoebe Lin and Will Kendall meet in their first month at prestigious Edwards University. Phoebe is a glamorous girl who doesn’t tell anyone she blames herself for her mother’s recent death. Will is a misfit scholarship boy who transfers to Edwards from Bible college, waiting tables to get by. What he knows for sure is that he loves Phoebe.

Grieving and guilt-ridden, Phoebe is drawn into a secretive cult founded by a charismatic former student with an enigmatic past. When the group commits a violent act in the name of faith, Will finds himself struggling to confront a new version of the fanaticism he’s worked so hard to escape. Haunting and intense, The Incendiaries is a fractured love story that explores what can befall those who lose what they love most.

https://www.amazon.com/Incendiaries-Novel-R-Kwon-ebook/dp/B077CSDFGP/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Incendiaries-Novel-R-Kwon-ebook/dp/B077CSDFGP/

Editorial Reviews

“Kwon is a writer of many talents, and The Incendiaries is a debut of dark, startling beauty.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Disarmingly propulsive.” —Vogue

“A singular version of the campus novel … a story about spiritual uncertainty and about the fierce and undisciplined desire of [Kwon’s] young characters to find something luminous to light their way through their lives.” —NPR’s “Fresh Air”

“If you only read one book this summer, make it this complex and searing debut novel.” —Southern Living

“[With] a fairy-tale quality reminiscent of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History … [The Incendiaries is] the rare depiction of belief that doesn’t kill the thing it aspires to by trying too hard. It makes a space, and then steps away to let the mystery in.” —The New Yorker

“A juicy look at campus mores…Kwon delivers a poignant and powerful look into the millennial mindset.” —NPR Books

“One of those slim novels that contain multitudes, R.O. Kwon’s debut novel shows how unreliable we are as narrators when we’re trying to invent — and reinvent — ourselves.” —Vulture

“If you haven’t had a chance to pick up one of the buzziest novels of summer, take Emma Roberts’ — and my — word for it: you can’t miss The Incendiaries.” —Bustle

“In R.O. Kwon’s terrific new novel The Incendiaries, a cultist looks for meaning in tragedy. Kwon’s debut is a shiningly ambitious look at how human beings try to fill the holes in their lives.” —Vox

“Kwon’s lush imaginative project … [is to expose] the reactionary impulses that run through American life…[creating] an impression of the mysterious social forces and private agonies that might drive a person to extremes.” —The New Republic

“The main attraction and reward of this book is Kwon’s prose. Spiky, restless and nervously perceptive, it exhales spiritual unease.” —Wall Street Journal

“Kwon’s multi-faceted narrative portrays America’s dark, radical strain, exploring the lure of fundamentalism, our ability to be manipulated, and what can happen when we’re willing to do anything for a cause.” —Atlantic.com

“Deeply engrossing.”—PBS Books

“Remarkable…Every page blooms with sensuous language…These are characters in quiet crisis, burning, above all, to know themselves, and Kwon leads them, confidently, to an enthralling end.”—Paris Review

“A God-haunted, willful, strange book written with a kind of savage elegance. I’ve said it before, but now I’ll shout it from the rooftops: R. O. Kwon is the real deal.”
Lauren Groff, author of Fates and Furies and Florida

“Every explosive requires a fuse. That’s R. O. Kwon’s novel, a straight, slow-burning fuse. To read her novel is to follow an inexorable flame coming closer and closer to the object it will detonate—the characters, the crime, the story, and, ultimately, the reader.”
Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Sympathizer and The Refugees

The Incendiaries probes the seductive and dangerous places to which we drift when loss unmoors us. In dazzlingly acrobatic prose, R. O. Kwon explores the lines between faith and fanaticism, passion and violence, the rational and the unknowable.”
Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere and Everything I Never Told You

“Absolutely electric, something new in the firmament. Everyone should read this book.”
Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You

“A swift, sensual novel about the unraveling of a collegiate relationship and its aftermath. Kwon writes gracefully about the spiritual insecurities of millennials.”
Karan Mahajan, author of The Association of Small Bombs

“A classic love triangle between two tormented college students and God. The Incendiaries brings us, page by page, from quiet reckonings with shame and intimacy to a violent, grand tragedy. In a conflagration of lyrical prose, R. O. Kwon skillfully evokes the inherent extremism of young love.”
Tony Tulathimutte, author of Private Citizens

“An impressive, assured debut about the hope for personal and political revolution and all the unexpected ways it flickers out. Kwon has vital things to say about the fraught times we live in.”
Jenny Offill, author of Dept. of Speculation

“A profound, intricate exploration of how grief and lost faith and the vulnerable storm of youth can drive people to irrevocable extremes, told with a taut intensity that kept me up all night. R.O. Kwon is a thrilling writer, and her splendid debut is unsettled, irresistible company.”
Laura van den Berg, author of The Isle of Youth and Find Me

Author R. O. Kwon
Author R. O. Kwon

About the author:

O. Kwon is the author of the novel The Incendiaries (July 2018) and is a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow. Her writing is published in The Guardian, Vice, BuzzFeed, Time, Noon, Electric Literature, Playboy, and elsewhere. She has received awards from Yaddo, MacDowell, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Omi International, the Steinbeck Center, and the Norman Mailer Writers’ Colony. Born in South Korea, she has lived most of her life in the United States. She can be found at http://ro-kwon.com.

https://www.amazon.com/R.-O.-Kwon/e/B07B2HG6D1/

 

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Grace Vincent, on behalf of Virago, Little Brown Book Group UK, for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review. Thanks also for the opportunity to take part in the blog tour for the launch of the novel, the first book published by R.O. Kwon, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

This novel describes the attempts by one of its protagonists, Will Kendall, of making sense and understanding the events that have led to his girlfriend’s, Phoebe Lin, participation in a horrific event. As often happens in novels with a narrator (or several), no matter what the story is about, the book often ends up becoming a search for understanding and meaning, not only of the events that form the plot but also of the actual narrator. Why is s/he telling that particular story? And why is s/he telling that story in that particular way? This novel is no different, although the manner the story is told can, at times, work as a smokescreen, and we don’t know exactly who is telling what, and how accurate he or she might be.

On the surface, the novel is divided into chapters, each one headed by one of three characters, John Leal (this one written in the third person and always quite brief), Phoebe (written in the first person), and Will, also written in the first person. At first, it’s possible to imagine that Phoebe’s chapters have been written by her, but later, we notice intrusions of another narrator, a narrator trying to imagine what she might have said, or to transcribe what she had said, or what she was possibly thinking or feeling at certain times. As we read this book, that is quite short notwithstanding the seriousness of the subjects it deals in, we come to realise that the whole novel is narrated by Will, who, after the fact, is trying to make sense of what happened, by collecting information and remembering things, and also by imagining what might have gone on when he was not present. He acknowledges he might be a pretty unreliable narrator, and that is true, for a variety of reasons, some of which he might be more aware than others.

The novel is about faith, about finding it, losing it, and using it as a way to atone and to find meaning, but also as a way to manipulate others. It is about love, that can be another aspect of faith, and they seem to go hand in hand in Will’s case. He discovered his Christian faith in high school, in part as a refuge from his terrible family life, and lost it when it did not live up to his expectations (God did not give him a sign when he asked for one). He moved out of Bible School and into Edwards, and there he met Phoebe, a girl fighting her own demons, a very private person who did not share her thoughts or guilt with anybody. Will falls in love with her and transfers his faith and obsession onto her. But she is also unknowable, at least to the degree he wishes her to be open and understandable for him, and she becomes involved in something that gives meaning to her life, but he cannot truly become a part of. He abandoned his faith, but he seems less likely and able to do so with his belief in her.

The novel is also about identity. The three main characters, and many others that appear in the book do not seem to fully fit in anywhere, and try different behaviours and identities for size. Will invents a wealthy family who’ve lost it all, to fit into the new college better; Phoebe hides details of her past and her wealth, and is Korean but knows hardly anything about it and John Leal… Well, it’s difficult to know, as we only get Will’s point of view of him, but he might, or might not, have totally invented a truly traumatic past to convince the members of what becomes his cult, to follow him.

The language used varies, depending on what we are reading. The dialogue reflects the different characters and voices, whilst the narrator uses sometimes very beautiful and poetic language that would fit in with the character (somebody who had been proselytizing, who was used to reading the Bible, and who tried to be the best scholar not to be found out). Also, he tends to use that language when remembering what his girlfriend had told him or imagining what John Leal might have said as if he remembered her as more beautiful, more eloquent, and more transcendent than anybody else. This is a book of characters (or of a character and his imaginings and the personas he creates for others he has known) and not a page-turner driven by plot. The story is fascinating and horrifying but we know from early on (if not the details, we have an inkling of the kind of thing that will happen) where we are going, and it’s not so much the where, but the how, that is important. The book describes well —through the different characters— student life, the nature of friendships in college, and some other serious subjects are hinted at but not explored in detail (a girl makes an accusation of rape, and she is not the only victim of such crime, there is prejudice, mental illness, drug use, abortion…).

I read some reviews that felt the description or the blurb were misleading, as it leads them to expect a thriller, and the book is anything but. I am not sure if there must have been an earlier version of the blurb, but just in case, no, this book is not a thriller. It’s a very subjective book where we come to realise we have spent most of the time inside of the head of one single character. Nonetheless, it offers fascinating insights into faith, the nature of obsession, and what can drive people to follow a cult and to become strangers to themselves and to those they love.

The ending is left open (if we accept the narrator’s point of view, although there is an option of closure if we don’t) and I was impressed by one of the longest acknowledgements I’ve ever read. It hints not only of a grateful writer attentive to detail but also of a book which has undergone a long process and many transformations before getting into our hands.

A couple of examples of the poetic language in the book:

Punch-stained red cups split underfoot, opening into plastic petals. Palms open, she levitated both hands.

The nephilim at hand, radiant galaxies pirouetting at God’s command. Faith lifted mountains. Miracles. Healings.

Not a light or easy read, but a book for those eager to find a new voice and to explore issues of faith, love, identity. Oh, and for those who love an unreliable narrator. A first book of what promises to be a long and fascinating literary career.

Thanks so much to NetGalley, to Grace Vincent and the publisher, and to the author, for this opportunity, thanks to all of you for writing, and if you’ve found it interesting, feel free to share, comment, click, review, and keep smiling!

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#TuesdayBookBlog #Bookreview SON OF A PREACHER MAN by Karen M. Cox (@KarenMCox1932) A #coming of age story full of atmosphere and a nostalgic look at a more innocent era#giveaway and guest post.

Hi all:

I’m repeating author today and I bring you a book that’s definitely not of this time although the book was just published. I became aware of this book thanks to Rosie Amber and her fantastic Book Team Review (you must check her out if you haven’t yet, here). Karen M. Cox has kindly offered readers the opportunity to enter a giveaway (and note, this is an international giveaway, readers, so not excuse not to have a go) and after reading her book I was pretty intrigued by how she felt about writing from a male perspective, and she has sent me a guest post that will be of interest to readers and writers alike. But first, let me tell you about the book:

Cover reveal Son of a Preacher Man by Karen M. Cox
Son of a Preacher Man by Karen M. Cox

Son Of A Preacher Man by Karen M Cox

“I forget that you’re a fella sometimes.”

“Gee, thanks.”

I never forgot that she was a girl. Not for one second…

  1. The long, hot Southern summer gently bakes the small town of Orchard Hill. Billy Ray Davenport, aspiring physician and only son of an indomitable traveling minister, is a young man with a plan. Handsome, principled, and keenly observant, he arrives in town to lodge with a local family. He never bargained for Lizzie Quinlan—a complex, kindred spirit who is beautiful, compassionate, and scorned by the townsfolk. Could a girl with a reputation be different than she seems? With her quirky wisdom and a spine of steel hidden beneath an effortless sensuality, Lizzie is about to change Billy Ray’s life—and his heart—forever.

A realistic look at first love, told by an idealist, Son of a Preacher Man is a heartwarming coming of age tale set in a simpler time.

Links:

Son of a Preacher Man is available in Kindle, Apple, Barnes&Noble, Kobo versions, and from other ebook distributors. Print version will be out soon.

Universal Link: https://books2read.com/links/ubl/bwYdqe

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07DNHH1N1

Son of a Preacher Man Book Launch Giveaway

Enter for a chance to win an ebook copy of one of my backlist titles (1932, Find Wonder in All Things, Undeceived, I Could Write a Book, or The Journey Home(novella) AND a $10 Amazon Gift Card. Three winners will be randomly selected on 7/25/18. This giveaway is international.

Giveaway Link: https://kingsumo.com/g/f6jjaf/son-of-a-preacher-man-launch-giveaway

Author Karen M. Cox
Author Karen M. Cox

About the author:

Karen M Cox is an award-winning author of four full-length novels accented with romance and history: “1932”, “Find Wonder in All Things”, “Undeceived”, and “I Could Write a Book”, and an e-book companion novella to “1932” called “The Journey Home”. She has also contributed stories to three anthologies: “Northanger Revisited 2015”, in “Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer”; “I, Darcy”, in “The Darcy Monologues”, and “An Honest Man” in “Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes and Gentlemen Rogues”. She has two upcoming releases: “Son of a Preacher Man” in July, 2018, and a contribution to the anthology “Rational Creatures” (Fall, 2018).
Karen was born in Everett WA, which was the result of coming into the world as the daughter of a United States Air Force Officer. She had a nomadic childhood, with stints in North Dakota, Tennessee and New York State before finally settling in her family’s home state of Kentucky at the age of eleven. She lives in a quiet little town with her husband, where she works as a pediatric speech pathologist, encourages her children, and spoils her granddaughter.
Channeling Jane Austen’s Emma, Karen has let a plethora of interests lead her to begin many hobbies and projects she doesn’t quite finish, but she aspires to be a great reader and an excellent walker – like Elizabeth Bennet.
Connect with Karen:

www.karenmcox.com

www.karenmcoxauthor.wordpress.com

https://www.instagram.com/karenmcox1932/

https://twitter.com/KarenMCox1932

https://www.facebook.com/karenmcox1932

https://karenmcox.tumblr.com/

https://www.pinterest.com/karenmc1932/

My review:

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

Recently, I read and reviewed one of Karen M. Cox’s novels I Could Write a Book (you can read the review here) and as she was one of the authors who’d also taken part in one of my favourite recent anthologies (Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues, check that review here), when I heard she was going to publish a new book and read the description, I had to check it out.

In contrast with the other two books, this book is not a Regency novel (it takes place in the South of the USA in the late 1950s –early 1960s), and it is not related to Jane Austen (although, like her novels, is excellent at reflecting the social mores of the place and the era). It is the story, narrated in the first person, of Billy Ray Davenport, a young man with a tragedy in his past (he lost his mother to a terrible accident), whose father is a travelling preacher. He used to spend his summers travelling with him (he went to school and stayed at his aunt’s the rest of the year), but when we meet him, just before he goes to medical school, he is due to spend a few weeks with a doctor, friend of the family. He hopes to gain medical knowledge and get a taste of what his future will be like. This summer will prove momentous for Billy Ray, who will learn much more about the world, small-town society, girls, and himself than he had known until then. What he experiences there will make him question some of his strong-held beliefs and what he is truly made of.

This novel captures beautifully the everyday life in a small-town, where rumours and whispers can destroy somebody’s reputation (especially a young girl’s), where everybody knows everybody else and there is nothing private and nowhere to hide.  Marlene, the daughter of the doctor Billy Ray is working with, takes a shine to him and proves to be very spiteful, badmouthing and spreading rumours about another girl, Lizzie. Lizzie is like a modern scarlet woman, and her behaviour repels and attracts Billy Ray in equal measure, putting his beliefs about proper behaviour and relationships between men and women to the test.

Lizzie is a great character. Although she does not always behave consistently, and at times she manages to make things more difficult for herself, we get to understand her and root for her. She has had to make herself strong and mistrusts everybody for very good reasons. She is different to the rest of the characters in the novel and in Orchard Hill, and it is not surprising that Billy Ray sets his eyes on her. She is a modern woman who knows her own mind and is prepared to do whatever it takes to make her dreams come true.

Billy Ray feels very old-fashioned, perhaps even more because he falls for Lizzie, and the contrast between the opinions and behaviours of the two could not be more extreme, at least at first sight. Billy Ray is the preacher’s son of the title, and although we might be familiar with stories about the children of preachers rebelling against their strict religious upbringing (Footloose, for instance), he is a chip off the old block. I wondered if Billy Ray is not, in fact, even more morally upright and a stricter follower of the spirit of the Bible than his father is. He is a thoroughly good man (he struggles at times and is not perfect, but he is one of the genuinely good guys), and although he is young and naïve at the beginning of the story, he has the heart in the right place and tries very hard to live up to Christian moral standards. He is a thinking man and the roller-coaster of his emotions and his doubts and hesitations reflect well his age. The roles between the two main characters challenge the standard stereotypes, and we have the good and innocent young man and the experienced woman who tempts him trying to send him down the wrong path, rather than the rogue going trying to steal the virtue of an innocent young woman. Of course, things are not that simple, and the relationship between the two main characters has many nuances, ups and downs, and despite what they might think, they need each other to become better versions of themselves.

The rest of the characters are given less space (this is a coming of age story, after all, and adults are not the centre of the book, although the relationship between Billy Ray and his father is beautifully rendered) but even the characters we don’t get to know that well (the rest of Lizzie’s family, the doctor, the midwife) are convincing and engaging. There are parallels between Billy Ray and Lizzie and some of the older characters as if they embodied what would have happened to them if they hadn’t found each other. It is evident that Billy Ray is focused on telling the story of his relationship with Lizzie and the book reflects the single-mindedness of his protagonist, as the affairs of society and the world at large only rarely get mentioned.

The rhythm of the novel is paused and contemplative and it feels like the summer months felt when we were young: eternal and full of possibilities. The turn of phrase and the voices of the different characters are distinct and help recreate the Southern atmosphere, adding a vivid local feel, and some humorous touches. After the summer we follow the character’s first few years at university and we see him become a man. I don’t want to go into detail, but I can tell you I really enjoyed the ending of the book, which is in keeping with the rest of the novel.

Although religion and the character’s beliefs are very important to the story’s plot (I am not an expert, so I cannot comment if this novel would fit into the category of Christian books, or if it would be considered too daring, although there is no explicit sex and I cannot recall any serious swearing), and the main character might appear old-fashioned and not a typical young man, for me, that is one of its assets. It does not feel like a modernised recreation of the past, but as if it truly had been written by somebody who was recording the important aspects of his long-gone youth.  I recommend it to readers keen on books full of atmosphere and centred on characters and relationships that differ from the norm. It is also a great book for people looking to recreate the feeling of the late 1950s and early 60s in a Southern small town.

And now, a few words from the author herself, about her experience writing from a male character’s point of view:

Hi, Olga!

Thanks so much for the invitation to guest blog with you and your readers! When you contacted me after reading Son of a Preacher Man, you mentioned being curious about the challenges of a woman author writing from a man’s point of view (Son of a Preacher Man is written in the first-person point of view of the hero, Billy Ray Davenport.)

It was a struggle at times. The first two-thirds of the story were a breeze; I was typing along, not worried about too much, and then as I was trying to resolve the conflict in the story, just tell the entire world what Lizzie was REALLY thinking, I realized. I can’t DO that! I know her whole story, but Billy Ray doesn’t, and I’m inside his head. I can only write what he knows, even though I know what she knows.

You know?

I worked through that conundrum, and in some ways, I think that made the story stronger, because readers are left to extrapolate some pieces of Lizzie’s story for themselves, and that helps them maps themselves onto her experiences and perhaps identify and empathize more with her.

A second challenge came up during the editing process. I became concerned that some of Billy Ray’s thoughts and words, well—sometimes Billy Ray didn’t really sound too much like a guy. For example, he probably wouldn’t label the color of a woman’s dress with something like “azure blue” or “mauve” (although he might notice how the dress fit her.) Or he wouldn’t say things in quite those words—girly words—’cause I’m a girl, and I often write like a girl (which I mean in the very best of ways.)

Some of this issue I solved by making Billy Ray an unusual young man: unusually empathetic, unusually observant, unusually sheltered. By making more stereotypical feminine traits part of his personality and giving him a profession focused on nurturing others’ well-being (he’s an aspiring physician), I created a character who could tread that line a little more credibly. At least, I hoped so. I also self-edited his lines with a more and more critical eye as I went through the manuscript.

In general, here are 5 tips that helped me get through writing in male POV:

  1. Be an observer of men. I think I do this a lot already. I mean, I like men J and the “otherness” of them interests me. There are wonderful men in my life too: my husband, my son, my dad, my male friends. And I’ve met men that weren’t quite so wonderful over the years as well. They all helped me write Billy Ray.
  2. Don’t be concerned about writing something you don’t understand or agree with. Men don’t see things like I do all the time. Sometimes they say things I think are insensitive, or rude, or misogynistic, or just plain wrong. And sometimes words and actions like that are part of the story, and if I’m in that man’s head, speaking for him, I have to accept I’m not going to personally cheer for everything he says and does.
  3. Remember the humanity in mankind. In the end, men and women are human beings, and there are a lot of experiences we share, even if we don’t always share them with each other.
  4. Let a man read it. My male beta reader told me a few times, “Yeah, a man wouldn’t say that.” Point taken.
  5. Make something about your male character like yourself – so you can empathize with him. Billy Ray wants to help people. I do too. He wants to be a doctor; I’m a speech therapist. He’s easily embarrassed by discussing personal matters; I am too. Because we share those traits, I can better interpret situations from his point of view.

So, while writing from a male point of view is a challenge, I don’t think it’s an impossible task. I considered writing Son of a Preacher Man from dual points of view—the story is definitely as much about Lizzie as it is Billy Ray. But after all was said and done, I decided he was really the troubadour. He had to be the one to tell the tale.

Thanks to Rosie and her team, thanks to the author, thanks to you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click, REVIEW and keep smiling!

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE COVEN MURDERS (The Inspector Sheehan Mysteries Book 3) by Brian O’Hare ( Great characters, a Northern Irish setting, and the devil is in the detail. #RBRT

Hi all:

Today I bring you a review for a book by an author I discovered a while back and I hope to keep reading in the future, Brian O’Hare.

Review of The Coven Murders by Brian O'Hare
The Coven Murders by Brian O’Hare

The Coven Murders (The Inspector Sheehan Mysteries Book 3) by Brian O’Hare

The Coven Murders opens with a horrifying account of a ritual Black Mass with a human sacrifice in an abandoned church. Twenty-one years later, near an old ruined church in an area of outstanding natural beauty, Chief Inspector Sheehan and his team discover the skeleton of a young woman. But what seems initially to be a straightforward case, brings the team into conflict with a powerful Satanist who has plans to offer up to Satan another human sacrifice on the evening of the great Illuminati feast of Lughnasa. Several murders occur, baffling the Inspector until he makes a connection between the modern murders and the twenty-one-year-old skeleton. The team’s pursuit of the murderer, and their determination to protect a young woman who is targeted by the coven, lead to a horrific climax in a hellish underground crypt where Sheehan and his team, supported by an exorcist and a bishop, attempt to do battle with the coven and a powerful demon of Baphomet, jeopardising not only their lives but risking the wrath of Satan upon their immortal souls.
An Inspector Sheehan Mystery
by Brian O’Hare

https://www.amazon.com/Coven-Murders-Inspector-Sheehan-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B079SHVTKH/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Coven-Murders-Inspector-Sheehan-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B079SHVTKH/

Author Brian O’Hare

About the author:

Brian O’Hare, MA, Ph.D., is a retired assistant director of a large regional college of further and higher education. Married, three children, ten grandchildren, one great-grandchild. He plays golf three times a week off a ten handicap and does a lot of voluntary work. Any writing he has previously done was academic…very much restricted to a very specific readership. Several articles in educational journals were followed by a number of book-length reports for the Dept. of Education and the University of Ulster.

He has also written an interesting biography of a man who daily performs amazing miracles of healing…The Miracle Ship. That is currently available in Amazon’s Kindle bookstore. Hopefully, those who read it will spread the word and write reviews to help John’s message to reach the hearts of many, many people.

Brian had a liver disease since childhood which resulted in him taking early retirement a number of years ago. In 2002 he had a liver transplant but is strong and healthy now. He continued to do academic writing well into his retirement and followed that with a memoir about his liver transplant, dealing with the physical, emotional and spiritual experiences that came from that period in his life (A Spiritual Odyssey, published by Columba Press, Dublin).
Recently he experienced a desire to write fiction. Hence Fallen Men. It is a story about three priests…but it is religious in much the same way Thornbirds was religious. He has also finished a second book. It’s quite different from Fallen Men… a detective mystery inspired by an old 14th century painting of the Last Judgement. It’s called “The Doom Murders”, and it is available on Kindle and in print. Brian’s publisher’s liked The Doom Murders so much that they commissioned a series. The second book in the series, “The 11.05 Killings”, has now been written. Obviously, it features the same detectives as in The Doom Murders. The book is now going through the editing and formatting process by Crimson Cloak Publishing, a cover is being designed, and the book will be ready for publication early in 2016. The third book in the series, The Coven Murders, is currently being written.

To launch the print version of The Doom Murders, CCP asked Brian to write a couple of short stories, featuring Inspector Sheehan. These were originally intended to be Facebook games (i.e. a kind of ‘see the clues, guess the killer’ thing) but the publisher liked them so much that she has started a new line called Crimson Shorts. Brian’s two shorts ( a third will shortly have to be written to launch The 11.05 Killings) Murder at Loftus House and Murder at the Roadside Cafe are now available on Amazon in Kindle and print versions.

Also now available on Kindle (as well as print) is the story of Brian’s liver transplant and the growth in spirit he experienced as he waited for almost a year, not knowing if he was going to live or die. See: “A Spiritual Odyssey [Diary of an Ordinary Catholic]”

My review:

Thanks to the author for providing me an ARC copy of the novel that I review as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you want your books reviewed check here) that I freely chose to review.

I read and reviewed a previous novel in this series (The 11:05 Murders. The Inspector Sheehan Mysteries Book 2. You can check the review here) some time back and really enjoyed the cast of characters (it was refreshing to see a team of the police working together and not full of corrupt individuals for whom solving a mystery is the last thing in their agendas) and the well-built plot, full of twists and turns.

The author pre-warned me that this was quite a different type of beast and the plot was less standard. If you’ve read the above description you’ll have realised already that is the case. I love horror, but perhaps because I’ve read and watched a lot in the horror genre, it takes a fair bit to scare me. From the genre point of view, although this novel has pretty eerie moments, I did not feel truly scared. It might depend on the readers’ personal beliefs and in how worried they are about Satan and evil powers.

This novel is again written in the third person. Although it is mostly told from Inspector Sheehan’s point of view, some other members of his team get some space as well, and this allows readers to catch up on some their personal developments, and also to get a detailed account of some aspects of the investigation that Sheehan is not directly involved in. I grew very fond of some of the characters in the previous book and I was pleased to see what they’d been up to. Readers who worry about head-hopping don’t need to be concerned in this case, as each individual chapter is solely told from one point of view, and it is clear whose head we are in.

The plot is once more well-constructed and involved, although I did not find it too difficult to spot (or suspect) who the guilty party was, but, in my opinion this novel was a bit different and the emphasis was not on guessing who’d done it. The prologue sets up the story for readers and give us clues that Sheehan’s team are not privy to, and therefore we are at a somewhat unfair advantage. If I had to put it another way, I’d say that ‘the devil is in the detail’ (pun intended). For me, the novel became a process to see how the investigation team would put all the clues together, and also how the different strands and the new and old crimes fitted in. How would an eminently practical team accept what the clues seemed to point at and how would they confront such otherworldly forces?

Once again I think one of the strong points is the team and the interaction between its members (we even get a new member, sort of, and some extra help) and especially the fact that this time the strength of the bond between its members is put to the test in a very extreme way.

I enjoyed the setting of the story in Northern Ireland, the reflections of the text on politic and religious matters there, and I enjoyed meeting two characters who become pivotal to the case and join forces with the depleted team (I understand one of these characters had appeared in book 1 of the series but I have yet to read it).They are stupendous and I hope we’ll meet them again in other books.

The writing is dynamic and flows well, and the intrigue will keep readers turning the pages, although it does not move at neck-breaking pace. There is sufficient detail to allow the readers to easily imagine where things are taking place without slowing the action, and despite the tense moments, there are also plenty of light and humorous interactions that allow us a bit of a break from the tension.

I know that some people do not enjoy books with satanic themes. If that’s the case, you’d better avoid it, although I don’t think one needs to have strong religious beliefs to enjoy the book (I am sure most paranormal readers enjoy the flights of fancy the genre allows without necessarily thinking all the premises are true if any). No matter what one’s position is, the plot requires some suspension of disbelief, and personally, I am not a big fan of blaming the devil for all the ills of the world, but I enjoyed the book and I’m keen on seeing where the next case will take Sheehan and his team.

I recommend it to those who enjoy mysteries, police procedural novels, who are especially interested in a Northern Irish setting, and who are willing to stretch their imagination beyond the usual suspects.

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

 

 

 

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

#TuesdayBookBlog FREAKY FRANKY: Santa Muerte followers discover the horrifying consequences of worshipping with evil intentions by William Blackwell (@wblackwell333) #horror #RBRT

Hi all:

Today I bring you a book I have reviewed as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team. I was intrigued by the title (not sure it fitted into the genre, and wondered about the long subtitle that seems more a description than a title, but I checked the beginning of the story and I had to keep going) and it seemed very relevant to the book I just reviewed yesterday. And here it is:

Freaky Franky by William Blackwell
Freaky Franky by William Blackwell

Freaky Franky: Santa Muerte followers discover the horrifying consequences of worshipping with evil intentions by William Blackwell

When an enigmatic town doctor saves the life of Anisa Worthington’s dying son, she abandons Christianity in favor of devotion to the cult of Santa Muerte or Saint Death. Some believe the mysterious skeleton saint will protect their loved ones, help in matters of the heart, and provide abundant happiness, health, wealth, and justice. But others, including the Catholic Church, call the cult blasphemous, evil, and satanic.

Anisa introduces Santa Muerte to her friend Helen Randon, and soon one of Helen’s enemies is brutally murdered. Residents of Montague, a peaceful little town in Prince Edward Island, begin plotting to rid the Bible belt of apostates.

Anisa suspects Helen is perverting the good tenets of Saint Death. Before she can act, a terrible nightmare propels her to the Dominican Republic in search of Franklin, her long-lost and unstable brother, who mysteriously disappeared without a trace twenty years ago.

To her horror, Anisa learns Franklin is worshiping Saint Death with evil intentions. As a fanatical and hell-bent lynch mob tightens the noose, mysterious murders begin occurring all around Anisa. Unsure who’s an enemy and who’s an ally, she’s thrust into a violent battle to save her life, as well as the lives of her friends and brother.

https://www.amazon.com/Freaky-Franky-consequences-worshipping-intentions-ebook/dp/B077X41V9J/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Freaky-Franky-consequences-worshipping-intentions-ebook/dp/B077X41V9J/

I’m sure this is not William Blackwell, or at least I hope it isn’t but…

About the author:

William Blackwell studied journalism at Calgary’s Mount Royal University and English literature at Vancouver’s University of British Columbia. He worked as a print journalist for many years before becoming an author. Currently living on an acreage in Prince Edward Island, Blackwell loves to travel and write fiction.

He’s written many titles including: Brainstorm, Nightmare’s Edge, The Rage Trilogy, Assaulted Souls trilogy, Orgon Conclusion, Rule 14, Resurrection Point, The Strap, A Head for an Eye, Blood Curse, Black Dawn, The End Is Nigh and Freaky Franky.

To learn more about Blackwell’s work and read the musings of a meandering mind, please visit his website: http://www.wblackwell.com Twitter: @wblackwell333

Thanks for stopping by.

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel.

I have been reading a book called Paperbacks from Hell (check my review here) and when I saw this book, it reminded me so much of many of the covers and topics I had been reading about that I could not resist, although I was not sure about the title (was it horror, humour, or something else entirely?).

The novel begins with quite a bang. A strong scene where we are introduced to la Santa Muerte (Saint Death) a religion/cult (depending on whose point of view you take) that has flourished in Mexico and is spreading to many other places. Although we all have heard about the Mexican Día de los Muertos, this might cover new ground for many of us, but the author is well informed and provides good background into the history and the various opinions on Saint Death, that is an interesting topic in its own right.

But don’t get me wrong. This book is not all tell and not show. We have a number of characters who are linked (unknowingly at first) by their devotion to Saint Death. What in the beginning seem to be separate episodes, which show us the best and the worst consequences of praying to Saint Death, later come together in an accomplished narrative arc. Whilst praying for health and good things can result in miracles, praying for revenge and death carries serious and deadly consequences.

The story, written in the third person, alternates the points of views most of the characters, from the main characters to some of the bit actors, good and bad (although that is pretty relative in this novel) and it moves at good pace. It is dynamic and full of action, and this is a novel where the plot dominates. The characters are not drawn in a lot of detail and I did not find them as cohesive and compelling as the story, in part, perhaps, because they are, at times, under the control of Saint Death (but this is not a standard story of satanic possession). Although none of the characters are morally irreproachable,  Anisa and Dr. Ricardo are more sympathetic and easier to root for. Yes, Anisa might resent her missed opportunities and the fact that she is stuck in Prince Edward Island looking after her son, but she goes out of her way to help her friend Helen and her brother Franklin and warns them not to pray for revenge. Dr. Ricardo threads a fine line between helping others and protecting himself, but he does the best he can. Franklin, the Freaky Franky of the title, is a much more negative character and pretty creepy, especially early in the novel. Although we learn about his past and the tragedies in his life, he is Anisa’s brother, and she’s also gone through the same losses, without behaving like he does. He uses Saint Death’s power mostly for evil, although he seems to change his mind and attitude after Anisa’s intervention (I was not totally convinced by this turn of events). I found Natalie, the American tourist visiting the Dominican Republic with her fiancé, Terry, difficult to fathom as well. Perhaps some of it could be explained by the love/lust spell she is under, but she clearly suspects what Franklin has done to her, and her changed feelings towards a man she has known for five minutes makes no sense, at least to me (sorry, I am trying to avoid spoilers). Much of the action and events require a great deal of suspension of disbelief, but not more than is usual in the genre.

The novel keeps wrong-footing the readers. At first, we might think that everything that is going on can be explained by self-suggestion and that all the evil (and the good) is in the mind of the believer. These are desperate characters holding on to anything that offers them a glint of hope. And later, when bad things start to happen, it seems logical to believe that the characters we are following have acted upon their negative thoughts and impulses (and even they have doubts as to what they might have done). But nothing is quite as straightforward as it seems.

Although there is plenty of explicit violence and some sexual references (those not as explicit), I did not find it frightening or horrific as such. However, it is a disquieting, dark, and eerie book, because of the way it invites readers to look into the limits of morality and right and wrong. Is revenge ever justified? Is it a matter of degrees? Who decides? It seems la Santa Muerte has very specific thoughts about this, so be very careful what you wish (or pray) for.

An eye-opener with regards to the Saint Death cult and a book that will be enjoyed by readers who don’t mind supernatural novels with plenty of violence, and prefer their plots dynamic and action-driven.

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

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