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#Bookreview BAD GIRLS FROM HISTORY: WICKED OR MISUNDERSTOOD? by Dee Gordon (@penswordbooks) Brief biographies of fascinating women, ideal to dip in and be inspired to learn more. #Women’shistory

Hi all:

Now I’m getting behind not only with my reading but also with the posting of reviews (by the time you read this I might be publishing more reviews per week, to keep up), but that isn’t a bad thing, is it?

Bad Girls from History. Wicked or Misunderstood? By Dee Gordon
Bad Girls from History. Wicked or Misunderstood? By Dee Gordon

Bad Girls from History: Wicked or Misunderstood? By Dee Gordon

You won’t be familiar with every one of the huge array of women featured in these pages, but all, familiar or not, leave unanswered questions behind them. The range is extensive, as was the research, with its insight into the lives and minds of women in different centuries, different countries, with diverse cultures and backgrounds, from the poverty-stricken to royalty. Mistresses, murderers, smugglers, pirates, prostitutes, and fanatics with hearts and souls that feature every shade of black (and grey!). From Cleopatra to Ruth Ellis, from Boudicca to Bonnie Parker, from Lady Caroline Lamb to Moll Cutpurse, from Jezebel to Ava Gardner.

Less familiar names include Mary Jeffries, the Victorian brothel-keeper, Belle Starr, the American gambler, and horse thief, La Voisin, the seventeenth-century Queen of all Witches in France but these are random names, to illustrate the variety of the content in store for all those interested in women who defy law and order, for whatever reason.

The risqué, the adventurous and the outrageous, the downright nasty and the downright desperate all human (female!) life is here. From the lower strata of society to the aristocracy, class is not a common denominator. Wicked? Misunderstood? Nave? Foolish? Predatory? Manipulative? Or just out of their time? Read and decide.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bad-Girls-History-Wicked-Misunderstood-ebook/dp/B0772QGVDY/

https://www.amazon.com/Bad-Girls-History-Wicked-Misunderstood-ebook/dp/B0772QGVDY/

Author Dee Gordon
Author Dee Gordon

About the author:

Dee Gordon is passionate about her East End roots and about Southend on Sea, her home for thirty years. Both these passions are highlighted in her books about these areas, and she has been writing full time since selling her London-based recruitment business in 2000. The writing fits round her caring role (she has an adult autistic son who is deaf and has other disabilities) and the many talks she gives in the local community to raise money for local charities. For more info about Dee and her books visit www.deegordon-writer.com.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dee-Gordon/e/B0034OVLOS/

My review:

Thanks to Alex and the whole team at Pen & Sword for providing me a paperback copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Although totally unplanned, I find myself writing this review on the International Women’s Day 2018. One can’t help but wonder about the title of the book, not so much the wicked or misunderstood part (some definitely seem to fall into one of the two categories, while many share characteristics of both, although that depends on the point of view), but the Bad Girls. In my opinion, it makes perfect sense for the argument of the book, as the expression bad woman has a certain meaning and connotations attached to it (very moralistic and misogynistic), while perhaps bad girl allows for a more playful and varied reading. And it has nothing to do with age (the catalogue of historical figures examined by the author includes a large number of women who died quite young, but there are others who lived to ripe old ages as well). It is, ultimately, a matter of self-definition. But I digress.

This book shares a collection of brief biographies (the vast majority are under a couple of pages long), of women, organised in a number of chapters that group women in several categories (although some overlap and the author has to make a choice as to which group a particular figure belongs to). These chapters are: 1) Courtesans and Mistresses; 2) Madams, Prostitutes, and Adulterers; 3) Serial Killers; 4) ‘One-Off’ Killers; 5) Gangsters, Thieves and Con-Artists; 6) The Rebel Collection – Pirates, Witches, Megalomaniacs, Exhibitionists. The book also contains a brief bibliography (I guess otherwise a second volume would have been necessary just to include all the sources), and there are pictures of the women (portraits, photographs, illustrations), and also documents, newspaper cuttings, letters…

Although I was familiar with quite a few of the women featured (in the case of Mata Hari, for example, I had read a book about her not long ago, although in many others I still discovered things I didn’t know) there were also quite a number that I had heard the names of but didn’t know much about, and others that were completely new to me. I have no doubt that most people reading this book will think about other women they would have added to the collection, but I would say all of the women included deserve to be there. This is not a judgment of character though, as that is not what this book is about. The author’s style is engaging and, despite the briefness of the vignettes, she manages to make these women compelling (and horrifying in some cases), and she is at pains to try and paint as balanced a picture as possible, rather than just present them according to the prevalent morality of their time. Reality and legend are sometimes difficult to tell apart, but the author, tries (and at times acknowledges defeat and provides the most interesting versions of a woman’s story available).

Among the many women in the book, I was particularly intrigued by Jane Digby (1807-1881), a lover of travel and an adventurer who also had a talent for choosing interesting men, Enriqueta Martí (1868-1913), who lived in Barcelona and who, according to recent research might not have been guilty of the horrific crimes she was accused of (I won’t talk about it in detail, but let’s say that, if it was true, she was not called The Vampire of Barcelona for nothing), Princess Caraboo (aka Mary Baker: 1791-1864), who knew how to come up with a good story, or Georgia Tann (1891-1950), that I felt intrigued by when I read that Joan Crawford (who has featured in one of my recent reads) had been one of her clients. But there are many others, and of course, this is a book that will inspire readers to do further research and look into the lives of some of these women (or even write about them).

The women in each chapter are organised in alphabetical order, and that means we jump from historical period to historical period, backward and forward, but there is enough information to allow us to get a sense of how society saw these women and how class, patronage, social status, money… influenced the way they were treated. There are personal comments by the author, but she is non-judgemental and it is impossible to read this book, especially some of the chapters, without thinking about the lot of women, about how times have changed (but not as much as we would like to think, as evidenced by recent developments and campaigns), and about how behaviours that from a modern perspective might show strength of character, intelligence, and independence, at the time could condemn a woman in the eyes of society, ruining her reputation and/or destroying her life.

A book to dip in to learn about social history and the role of women, and also one that will inspire readers to read more about some of these women (and others) that, for better or worse, have left a mark. A great starting point for further research into the topic, and a book that will make us reflect about the role of women then and now.

Thanks to Pen & Sword and to the author, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW!

[amazon_link asins=’0393313484,0525432795,0316001945,1857024699,B01BCDT85Q,1683690257,B009W748I2,B019OI2HJ0′ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’wwwauthortran-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’3aa6dd07-22e1-11e8-90a8-5710519bb517′]

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Book review Book reviews

#TuesdayBookBlog TEARAGH’T by Craig Newnes (@TheRealPressPub). #Historicalfiction with a difference. One story, two narrators, two styles, and many questions. #RBRT

Hi all:

I bring you a very special book today. Published by The Real Press. You can check them up here.

Tearagh't by Craig Newnes
Tearagh’t by Craig Newnes

Tearagh’t by Craig Newnes

After the remains of the Armada hobbled back to Spain, an extraordinary document – part diary, part love letter – is discovered on a remote island off the coast of Ireland. When it is translated, it reveals – not treachery nor evidence of Spanish military ambition – but something about the human condition. Because love, loss, laughter and the madness of war are all in Tearagh’t.

This is an evocative and passionate novel, like no other in its ability to take you into another age. The author has developed a whole new language, which brings the experience of being on a ship in the Armada alive, as it battles its way down the English Channel, interspersed by some strange, incognito runs ashore. The diary is complicated by the Jewish origins of the narrator and his conversation in his head with his lover back home in sixteenth-century Spain. But the lover, as it turns out, is also thinking about him – and she sounds remarkably modern…

Will Isidore and his great love ever be reunited? Can that kind of passion ever be kept apart? Yet there is Isidore in his remote island prison – how is anything else possible? Then fate takes a peculiar hand…

“Falling in love isn’t in your control. It’s a wonderfully accurate phrase, isn’t it? You fall, with amazing luck, you both fall into it. It’s like a bottomless, heavenly well. You both tumble, then plunge. Down and down. Holding hands … but luck never holds you. One day, one of you hits the side of the well. The other keeps falling, always hurting – knowing your souls are no longer bound, no longer one in this life. That somewhere, far above you, lies the broken body that can only be touched now in dreams.”

“Sexy, gripping, brilliant…” Abigail Bray

https://www.amazon.com/Tearaght-Craig-Newnes-ebook/dp/B076GSQWG3/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tearaght-Craig-Newnes-ebook/dp/B076GSQWG3/

Author and critical psychologist Craig Newnes
Author and critical psychologist Craig Newnes

About the author:

Craig Newnes is an author, editor, musician, dad and gardener. He has six children and spends his time between the UK and France. Until retiring after a near-fatal road accident he was a Consulting Critical Psychologist and Director of Psychological Therapies for Shropshire’s Mental Health (NHS) Trust. He has published numerous book chapters and academic articles and is editor of The Journal of Critical Psychology, Counselling and Psychotherapy. His books include Clinical Psychology: A critical examination from PCCS Books and the edited volumes: Making and Breaking Children’s Lives; Spirituality and Psychotherapy; This is Madness: A critical look at psychiatry and the future of mental health services; This is Madness Too: A further critical look at mental health services. His latest books are Children in Society: Politics, policies and interventions. (PCCS Books: 2015), Inscription, Diagnosis and Deception in the Mental Health Industry: How Psy governs us all. (Palgrave Macmillan: 2016) and an edited collection, Teaching Critical Psychology: International perspectives (Routledge: 2017). A book on the Malaysian Emergency, the novel Paris and a Critical A-Z of ECT are due in 2018.

Tracks from his band Sandghosts are available from Amazon.

Like all of us, he lives in a constant whirl of today and yesterday and sometimes he stops for a moment to write it down.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Craig-Newnes/e/B00J6XHFAK/

The author explains this novel’s writing process in this article (although I did not read it until after writing the review, so you might want to save it:

“On Writing Tearagh’t” A Guest Post By Craig Newnes

My review:

This is a puzzling book. On the one hand, there is the story it tells, that is fascinating but not complex to explain and summarise. The book is divided into three parts, and tells the story of two lovers, living in XVI century Spain, both conversos (Jews who converted to Catholicism, although, at least in their case and that of their families, they remain Jews, only they practice their religion in secret, to avoid the Inquisition and the risk of being expelled from the country). The man, Isidore, enlisted in the Spanish Armada, to see the world, although he was never convinced of the logic of that war. The first part consists of a partial diary of his adventures, both at sea and later in Tearaght (an Irish island, the westernmost of the Blasket Islands), that was recovered by a sailor and translated into English, a peculiar English (that I understand the author acknowledges is his own creation and a reimagining of how the Old English mixed with the original Spanish might have sounded like). The second part is the story of his lover, Beatriz, pregnant when he leaves, and her life back in Spain, constantly wondering where he might be and waiting for his news. In contrast, her story is told in modern English, and is very modern indeed, with plenty of detail of what her life is like, her lifestyle (including going out with female friends, drinking, talking about sex a lot, and thinking about it, later having a baby boy, and being pressurised into a possibly advantageous marriage), and a third part, much shorter, again written by the woman, who must make a decision when she discovers her lover’s diary. Will she go after him and try to find him? Or will she marry a rich man to make sure their son is safe and has the best possible start in life? This brief part is written in a similar style to the first.

Isidore’s story is heart-wrenching. It is a story of adventures, male friendship (international, as there are men from everywhere aboard the ships, and they even meet friendly English men later, and also men from all walks of life such as sailors, soldiers, writers (Lope de Vega makes an appearance, Cervantes is mentioned more than once, and later on Kid and, of course, Shakespeare). Rather than a factual and aggrandising story (HIStory), there is much discussion about emotions, confidences, feelings, and much self-doubt. Although there are funny moments interspersed in the narrative (mostly because it does not follow a chronological order), there are, mostly, terrible times. Death, disaster, and sadness abound, and it seems that all that keeps him alive is his hope to see his beloved again. There are incredibly sad and touching moments in this part of the book, and although, as I said, the language is mock-Ole-English, once we get used to it (saying it out loud in your head helps), it is easy to follow, even taking into account that it is not in the right order and we jump backwards and forward in time. And, although he does refer to his lover often, the style and the discourse seems to be in keeping with what readers would expect of a well-researched historical novel set at that time. However, the style is more intimate and personal, and more emotional, than what we would expect in a male narrative of the period.

I think most readers will wonder why the woman’s story is written in such a different way, as the change feels like a jolt, and at first I wondered if it was set in a different historical period, but as we read on it is evident it is the account of Isidore’s lover, Beatriz.  A common thread of both stories is the need of the protagonists to write. While for the man, although he questions his merits, it is more acceptable (and they even call him a writer), the woman describes how, sometimes, her need to write makes her stop what she is doing, her chores, to write, even if it is only about her chores. She does not have great adventures to write about, indeed. Does that mean she should not write? Both stories also talk about camaraderie, in the case of the men between those defending a mission and a vision, even if they don’t believe in it. The women talk about women’s things. Men, childbirth, marriage, romance, sex… A women’s sphere, especially at the time, was more personal and intimate (although, of course, Elizabeth I was the Queen of England, so there were some, very few, women in high places). The modern style Beatriz’s story is written in and the fact that it contains topics we find difficult to imagine writing about at the time, especially when the writer is a woman, seem designed to challenge our prejudices. Are old-style writing (more in keeping with what we imagine a historically accurate discourse would be like, even when we know it is, at least in part, invented) and a male protagonist immediately given more authority than a narrative of the period written in a modern style by a female protagonist? (The subjects discussed and the openness of the talk about sex between the women gave me pause. I am aware that personal letters, and in this case, a diary written for her lover, can be much more open and direct than we would expect of the period, although I wondered more about some of the other topics, like the fact that single mothers seem fully accepted and she is not short on offers of marriage, even after having had a child out of wedlock). She describes her process of analysis, the way she decides to study her thoughts and feelings, and indeed her lovers, and also mentions that other women do the same, therefore challenging gender expectations (women are supposed to be romantic and not be open or matter-of-fact about love or sex). We also have the writer becoming the reader later on when she gets hold of her lover’s diary. The third part, although penned by Beatriz, is written in the same language as the first. Is this a way of connecting with him, of communicating her official decision, of gaining authority? Knowing the field of study and work of the author (Critical Psychology) one can’t help but wonder. (And, perhaps overanalysing things, as I am Spanish I could not help but think that some of the expressions she uses and discusses in detail, like “falling in love”, that she feels is very apt, would not work in Spanish. Could that mean she is writing it in English, or rewriting it later? Does she indeed go looking for him, even after the ending? Or is it another way the author uses to remind us it is a story and to make us pay attention to the process of reading?)

A book that contains a fascinating story (with a fascinating historical background and some fabulous characters, both real and imagined) written in an even more fascinating narrating style(s). Although the first part, once one gets used to the language, will grip most readers, quite a few might struggle to see how the two parts fit together (even if the characters do). A novel for those who want to try new reading experiences and check non-conventional types of writing. A word of warning, there is plenty of explicit violence, swear words, and discussions of sexual matters. An author and publisher well-worth keeping an eye on.

Thanks to the publisher and to Rosie’s Book Review Team for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I gladly chose to review. (Authors, if you are interested in getting your books reviewed, check here).

Rather than try and offer you a sample of the writing, you can check it here:

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

[amazon_link asins=’1138288349,1906254591,189805925X,1250047129,B00QCG47ZA,0299142345,0801890357,0982065779′ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’wwwauthortran-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’2d1bfe1f-010a-11e8-9ae4-a3dfb3d06419′]

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview The Kingdom of Women: Life, Love and Death in China’s Hidden Mountains by Choo Wai Hong An extraordinary adventure that can help us see the world in a different way.

Hi all:

Today another non-fiction book, and one very special. I was going to say that it might be more interesting for women but I don’t think that’s true…

The Kingdom of Women: Live, Love and Death in China's Hidden Mountains by Choo Wai Hong
The Kingdom of Women: Live, Love and Death in China’s Hidden Mountains by Choo Wai Hong

The Kingdom of Women: Life, Love and Death in China’s Hidden Mountains by Choo Wai Hong

In a mist-shrouded valley on China’s invisible border with Tibet is a place known as the “Kingdom of Women”, where a small tribe called the Mosuo lives in a cluster of villages that have changed little in centuries. This is one of the last matrilineal societies on earth, where power lies in the hands of women. All decisions and rights related to money, property, land and the children born to them rest with the Mosuo women, who live completely independently of husbands, fathers and brothers, with the grandmother as the head of each family. A unique practice is also enshrined in Mosuo tradition-that of “walking marriage”, where women choose their own lovers from men within the tribe but are beholden to none. Choo Waihong, a corporate lawyer who yearned for escape and ended up living with the Mosuo for seven years-the only non-Mosuo to have ever done so. She tells the remarkable story of her time in the remote mountains of China and gives a vibrant, compelling glimpse into a way of life that teeters on the knife-edge of extinction.

Editorial Reviews

Review

A crisp account by a high powered Singaporean lawyer of how she renounced her former life of fifteen hour working days in a male dominated corporate world to find her feminist soul in the last matriarchal ethnic group remaining in China. Full of insights and touching descriptions, this is one of the most accessible and concrete descriptions of the Mosuo, a group more analysed than understood, putting the humanity of this tribe at the forefront of their identity. (Kerry Brown, author of CEO China and The New Emperors 2017-01-06)

“A fascinating portrait of one of the world’s last matriarchal societies, a land without fathers or husbands, without marriage or divorce, written by an international corporate lawyer who ditched her hectic life to embrace this Shangri-la inside deepest China.”

(Jan Wong, author of Beijing Confidential 2017-02-02)

“A most engaging account of life among the matrilineal and matriarchal Mosuo tribe in China’s Yunnan province, but also a lament to a way of life now threatened by modernity and tourism. Full of detail and telling insights into gender roles, it will appeal to armchair travellers as well as to anthropologists and sociologists.”

(Jonathan Fryer, SOAS 2017-02-02)

A refreshing and authentic portrait of a hidden society in patriarchal China. A must read for anyone studying women and alternative societies.

(Hsiao-Hung Pai, author of Scattered Sand and Chinese Whispers 2017-02-02)

Author Choo Wai Hong

About the Author

Originally from Singapore, Choo Wai Hong was a corporate lawyer with top law firms in Singapore and California before she took early retirement in 2006 and began writing travel pieces for publications such as China Daily. She lived for six years with the Mosuo tribe and now spends half the year with them in Yunnan, China. The other half of the year, Wai Hong lives in Singapore.

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Kingdom-Women-Chinas-Hidden-Mountains/dp/1784537241/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Kingdom-Women-Chinas-Hidden-Mountains/dp/1784537241/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and I.B. Tauris for providing me with a copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

This book and its author, Choo Wai Hong, introduce us to a fascinating tribe, the Mosuo, from the province of Yunnan in China, in the region of the lakes, where a matrilineal society has survived in an almost untouched fashion for centuries. The author, a corporate lawyer working in a big law firm in Singapore, left her job and went searching for a different life. She toured China, first visiting the village where her father was born, and during her travels read an article about the Mosuo that aroused her curiosity and she decided to investigate personally.

The book narrates her adventures with the Mosuo, how she ended up becoming the godmother (personally, I think she became a fairy godmother, as she invested her own funds to help keep the Festival of the Mountain Goddess alive, and also sponsored a number of students, helping them carry on with their educations) of an entire village, and built a home there, where she spends 6 months a year.

The book is divided into twelve chapters (from ‘Arriving in the Kingdom of Women’ to ‘On the Knife-Edge of Extinction’) and it does not follow the author’s adventure chronologically (it is neither a memoir, nor an anthropological treatise) but rather discusses large topics, using first-hand observations of the author, her conversations with the inhabitants, and the insights the writer can offer when she compares this society to the one she had grown up and lived all her life in. She acknowledges she had always subscribed to feminist ideas, but nothing had prepared her for what she saw there, and the experience helped her redefine her feminism. She has difficulty fully understanding the social mores and the organisation and inner workings of Mosuo societies (the nuclear family is unknown there, the family relations are complex and difficult to understand for an outsider and they are becoming even more complicated when the population try to adapt them to a standard patriarchal model), she cannot get used to the concept of communal property (she likes the theory of people sharing farm work and living as a community, but not so much when her SUV is used by everybody for things not covered by her insurance when she is not there), she needs indoor toilet facilities (I couldn’t empathise more), and she is dismayed at the way modernity and tourism are encroaching on the traditional lifestyle. Of course, it is not the same to be able to come and go and feel empowered in a society so different to ours whilst still being able to access and/or return to our usual lifestyle than to be born into such circumstances without any other option.

The Kingdom of Women is a fascinating read. It gives us an idea about how other women-centric societies might have functioned and it introduces concepts completely alien but quite attractive and intriguing. I might hasten to say that although, as a woman, I could not help but smile at the thought of many of the practices and the different order of things, I am sure quite a few men would be more than happy with the lifestyle of the men of the tribe (no family ties as such, dedicated to cultivating their physical strength and good looks, invested on manly pursuits, like hunting, fishing … and not having to worry about endless courting or complex dating rules).

Choo Wai Hong is devoted to the tribe and their traditional way of life, and she has adopted it as much as they have adopted her (the relationships is mutually beneficial, as it becomes amply clear when we read the book). She explores and observes, but always trying to be respectful of tradition and social conventions, never being too curious or interfering unless she is invited in. Her love for the place and the people is clear, and she has little negative to say (she does mention STDs with its possible sequela of congenital defects and the issue of prostitution, which is not openly acknowledged or discussed), although when she talks about her attempts at keeping the Mountain Goddess Festival alive, it is clear hers is not the scientific model of observing without personally interfering (we are all familiar with the theory behind the observer effect but this is not what this book or the author’s experience is about ). The last chapter makes clear that things are quickly changing: most of the younger generation, who have had access to education, do not seem inclined to carry on upholding the same lifestyle. They are leaving the area to study and plan on getting married and starting a nuclear family rather than moving back to their grandmother’s house and having a walk-in marriage. Young men, that as she acknowledges do not have access to varied male role models, leave their studies to become waiters and dream of opening restaurants. Many of the older generation of Mosuo men and women are still illiterate but, they have mobile phones and take advantage of the touristic interest in the area, selling their lands and leaving the rural tradition behind. As the author notes, she was lucky to have access to the Mosuo people at a time of quick social change, but before the old way of life had disappeared completely. Others might not be so lucky.

This is a great book for people interested in alternative societal models and ethnological studies, written in a compelling way, a first person narration that brings to life the characters, the place and the narrator. It might not satisfy the requirements of somebody looking for a scientific study but it injects immediacy and vibrancy into the subject.

As a side note, I had access to an e-version of the book and therefore cannot comment on the pictures that I understand are included in the hardback copy. I would recommend obtaining that version if possible as I’m sure the pictures and the glossary would greatly enhance the reading experience.

Here I leave you links to a couple of articles about the book:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/apr/01/the-kingdom-of-women-the-tibetan-tribe-where-a-man-is-never-the-boss

http://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/arts/kingdom-where-women-call-the-shots

Thanks so much to NetGalley and I.B. Tauris for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, CLICK and write reviews of the books you read!

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE by Katherine Arden (@arden_katherine) A magical fairy-tale with a touch of the classics

Hi all:

I thought we could finish the week with a bit of magic. I’ve noticed that some readers find the book depressing, but I love fairy tales and the best are a bit dark….

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and The Nightingale by Katherine Arden

‘Frost-demons have no interest in mortal girls wed to mortal men. In the stories, they only come for the wild maiden.’

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church.

But for the young, wild Vasya these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods…

Atmospheric and enchanting, with an engrossing adventure at its core, The Bear and the Nightingale is perfect for readers of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and Neil Gaiman.

Editorial Reviews

Advance praise for The Bear and the Nightingale

“Stunning . . . will enchant readers from the first page. . . . with an irresistible heroine who wants only to be free of the bonds placed on her gender and claim her own fate.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Utterly bewitching . . . a lush narrative . . . an immersive, earthy story of folk magic, faith, and hubris, peopled with vivid, dynamic characters, particularly clever, brave Vasya, who outsmarts men and demons alike to save her family.”Booklist (starred review)

“Arden’s supple, sumptuous first novel transports the reader to a version of medieval Russia where history and myth coexist.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Radiant . . . a darkly magical fairy tale for adults, [but] not just for those who love magic.”—Library Journal

“An extraordinary retelling of a very old tale . . . A Russian setting adds unfamiliar spice to the story of a young woman who does not rebel against the limits of her role in her culture so much as transcend them. The Bear and the Nightingale is a wonderfully layered novel of family and the harsh wonders of deep winter magic.”—Robin Hobb

“A beautiful deep-winter story, full of magic and monsters and the sharp edges of growing up.”—Naomi Novik

“Haunting and lyrical, The Bear and the Nightingale tugs at the heart and quickens the pulse. I can’t wait for Katherine Arden’s next book.”—Terry Brooks

The Bear and the Nightingale is a marvelous trip into an ancient Russia where magic is a part of everyday life.”—Todd McCaffrey

“Enthralling and enchanting—I couldn’t put it down. This is a wondrous book!”—Tamora Pierce

https://www.amazon.com/Bear-Nightingale-Katherine-Arden-ebook/dp/B01ESFW7F8/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bear-Nightingale-Katherine-Arden-ebook/dp/B01ESFW7F8/

About the author:

Author Katherine Arden and her book

Born in Austin, Texas, Katherine Arden spent a year of high school in Rennes, France. Following her acceptance to Middlebury College in Vermont, she deferred enrollment for a year in order to live and study in Moscow. At Middlebury, she specialized in French and Russian literature. After receiving her BA, she moved to Maui, Hawaii, working every kind of odd job imaginable, from grant writing and making crêpes to guiding horse trips. Currently she lives in Vermont, but really, you never know.

Here a link to the author on the publisher’s page:

http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/2100493/katherine-arden

And an interview:

http://uk.monsoon.co.uk/view/blog/author-qa-katherine-arden-929

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Random House UK/Ebury Publishing for providing me with an ARC copy of this book that I voluntarily choose to review.

I’m a big fan of fairy tales and I’m always happy to discover new tales and stories that fit in that category, or that retell some old classics. And I love the stories based on old folktales that capture the beauty of old language, customs and the historical times and places long gone. The Bear and the Nightingale reminded me how much I like these stories and how the best of them are irresistible, at least for me.

Set in Russia (before it was Russia, as the author explains in her notes), the novel creates a great cast of characters, those “real” (princes and princesses, labourers, farmers, villagers, a landed family with food connections), others with a touch of the paranormal, like the protective spirits (of the house, the door, the stables, the forest, the lakes) that might turn nasty if not fed or treated kindly by human beings, the horrific ones (Death, The Bear, vampires), and animals, like the magical nightingale/horse of the title.

The character at the centre of the story, Vasilisa (Vasya), is the youngest child of her mother, Marina, who wanted to have a girl who would be like her. Marina had the ability to see things others couldn’t (the spirits of the forest, of the house, and she could also talk to animals) and she wants to pass her ability on. She dies when her daughter is born, and young Vasya grows among a family who loves her but doesn’t fully understand her. She can talk to horses, they teach her how to ride, and she can talk to the spirits others believe in but can’t see. She loves the old fairy tales and later realises they’re not only fantasy and old-wives tales. As is still the case, people fear what they can’t understand, and a newcomer, a priest, tries to change things by getting rid of old beliefs and putting the fear of God into people’s hearts. This can only lead to disaster.

The descriptions of the landscapes, the houses, the creatures, the atmosphere and the weather are beautifully achieved, in a style reminiscent of classical fairy-tales. The characters are also fascinating and we get a good understanding of their psychological make-up and of what moves them. Particularly interesting are the priest and Vasya’s stepmother, who try as they might, can’t reconcile their wishes with what is expected of them, but Dunya, the housemaid and ersatz mother to Vasya is a touching character, the family relations are heart-warming and even the animals have their own personalities. The author explains that she has tried to adapt the Russian names to make them easier for English-speaking audiences, and in my opinions she succeeds in both, maintaining the particular characteristics of Russian names, whilst not making it confusing or disorienting. The poetry of the language is another great success and I found the book impossible to put down.

There are many moments of sadness, scary moments, and also moments of the story that will make us think (Vasya is different and misunderstood, accused of being a witch despite her efforts to save her village and her people, the weight of custom and the role of men and women in traditional societies are also subject to discussion, family ties and religious thoughts…), but it is a magical story that will make us remember the child we once were. A word of warning, this is not a story for young children, and although some of the imagery is familiar as is the case with many of the classics, there are cruel and terrifying moments as well.

As an example of the writing, I wanted to share some of the passages I highlighted:

At last, they saw the city itself (Moscow), lusty and squalid, like a fair woman with feet caked in filth.

“In Moscow, priests are in love with their standing and think overmuch of the gold in their churches. They eat fat meat and preach poverty to the miserable.” (This is Sasha, one of Vasya’s brothers, who later becomes a monk).

Here, Vasya complaining of her lot in life:

“I am foolish. I was born for a cage, after all: convent of house, what else is there?”

“All of my life,” she said, “I have been told ‘go’ and ‘come’. I am told how I will live, and I am told how I must die. I must be a man’s servant and a mare for his pleasure, or I must hide myself behind walls and surrender my flesh to a cold, silent god. I would walk into the jaws of hell itself, if it were a path of my own choosing. I would rather die tomorrow in the forest than live a hundred years of the life appointed me….”

Just in case I didn’t make myself clear, I love this book, and although I know it’s not the type of book that everybody will like, I’d recommend that you check a sample or the read inside feature and see what you think. You might be rewarded with a magical reading.

Thanks to NetGalley, to the publishers and to the author for this wonderful book, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment and CLICK! And have a great weekend!

Categories
Blog Tour Book launch book promo Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview and #Blogtour THE OTHER EINSTEIN by Marie Benedict @sourcebooks Re-evaluations and fictionalised history.

Hi all:

As you know I read a lot and I share reviews. On this occasion, when I saw this book on offer on NetGalley I thought it looked very intriguing, and when a member of the publicity team for the novel got in touch and asked if I’d like to take part in the tour I agreed. At that point I hadn’t read the novel yet, and I worried it might take me some time to get to it, so I booked it for later in November. That has meant that the author was busy with her own live tour and could not provide an original feature for it, but I include the press release, my own review for you and also, if you’re quick, a promotion that will allow you to get it at a special price.

The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict
The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

October 18, 2016; Hardcover, ISBN 9781492637257 

Book Info:

Title: The Other Einstein

Author: Marie Benedict

Release Date: October 18, 2016

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Praise for The Other Einstein

October 2016 Indie Next and LibraryReads Pick!

PopSugar’s “25 Books You’re Going to Curl Up with this Fall”

“The Other Einstein takes you into Mileva’s heart, mind, and study as she tries to forge a place for herself in a scientific world dominated by men.”– Bustle

“…an ENGAGING and THOUGHT PROVOKING fictional telling of the poignant story of an overshadowed woman scientist.”– Booklist

“…INTIMATE and IMMERSIVE historical novel….

Prepare to be moved by this provocative history of a woman whose experiences will resonate with today’s readers.”– Library Journal, Editors’ Fall Picks

“Many will enjoy Benedict’s feminist views and be fascinated by the life of an almost unknown woman.”– RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars

“Benedict’s debut novel carefully traces Mileva’s life—from studious schoolgirl to bereaved mother—with attention paid to the conflicts between personal goals and social conventions. An intriguing… reimagining of one of the strongest intellectual partnerships of the 19th century.” Kirkus

“In her compelling novel… Benedict makes a strong case that the brilliant woman behind [Albert Einstein] was integral to his success, and creates a rich historical portrait in the process.” Publishers Weekly

Summary:

A vivid and mesmerizing novel about the extraordinary woman who married and worked with one of the greatest scientists in history. 

What secrets may have lurked in the shadows of Albert Einstein’s fame? His first wife, Mileva “Mitza” Maric_, was more than the devoted mother of their three children—she was also a brilliant physicist in her own right, and her contributions to the special theory of relativity have been hotly debated for more than a century.

But as Albert’s fame grows, so too does Mileva’s worry that her light will be lost in her husband’s shadow forever. A literary historical in the tradition of The Paris Wife and Mrs. PoeThe Other Einstein reveals a complicated partnership that is as fascinating as it is troubling.

Goodreads Link:  http://ow.ly/y83l305MKdq

Buy Links:

Amazon: http://ow.ly/MvWy305MKr5

Barnes & Noble: http://ow.ly/Ya8l305MKC6

IndieBound: http://ow.ly/57fK305MKSh

 

Author Marie Benedict
Author Marie Benedict

About the Author:

Marie Benedict is a lawyer with more than ten years’ experience as a litigator at two of the country’s premier law firms and for Fortune 500 companies. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Boston College with a focus in history and art history and a cum laude graduate of the Boston University School of Law. She lives in Pittsburgh with her family.

Social Media Links:

Author Website: http://www.authormariebenedict.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authormariebenedict/#

Here, my review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Sourcebooks Landmark for offering me an ARC copy of the book. I voluntarily decided to review it.

We’ve all heard the saying: ‘Behind every great man there’s a great woman’ in its many different versions. It’s true that for centuries men (or many men of the wealthy classes with access to education) could dedicate themselves to artistic, scientific or business pursuits because the everyday things were taken care of by their wives or other women in their lives (mothers, relatives, partners…) As Virginia Wolf wrote in ‘A Room of One’s Own’ women had a harder time of it, as they were expected to take care of the house, family, and ensure that their husbands came back to a place where they would be looked after and tended too. Unless women were independently wealthy and could count on the support (financial, emotional and practical) of the men in their lives, it was very hard, if not impossible, to pursue a career in the arts or the sciences.

Mary Benedict’s book explores the life of Mitza Maric, who would later become Einstein’s first wife, from the time of her arrival in Zurich (as one of only a few female students at the university) to the time when she separates from her husband. Maric is an intriguing figure (and I must admit I hadn’t read anything about her before) and an inspiring one, as she had to go against the odds (being a woman at a time were very few women could study at university, suffering from hip dysplasia, that left her with a limp and difficulty in undertaking certain physical tasks) and managed to study and be respected for her knowledge of Physics and Maths.

The book is written in the first person, and we get a close look at Maric´s thoughts, emotions and doubts. The early part of the book is a very good read, with descriptions of the social mores of the era, Mitza’s family, the development of her friendship with the other female students at the lodgings, the intellectual atmosphere and café society of that historical period, and of course, Mr Einstein, whom he meets at University. Mitza believed (like her parents) that due to her physical disability she would never marry, and lived resigned to the idea, having decided to dedicate her life to her research, studies and the academic life she craved. And then… Einstein arrives.

The Einstein depicted by the book is a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde character. He’s friendly, humorous and charming, and also, of course, a brilliant scientist, but can be selfish, egotistical and cares nothing for anybody who is not himself. We see more of the first Einstein at the beginning of the relationship, through their interaction, walks, scientific discussions… Einstein opens the world for Mitza, and if she had been enjoying the company of the other girls, she later neglects them for the world of scientific discussion among men, where she gains entry thanks to Einstein.

When, after much hesitation, Mitza decides to visit Einstein and spend a few days with him in Lake Como, the two of them alone, the book becomes more melodramatic and things start going very wrong. Mitza gets pregnant, Einstein keeps making excuses not to get married yet, and resentment sets in. If I mentioned that Einstein is a Jekyll and Hyde character, Mitza, who was always shy but determined and stubborn, also changes; she becomes sad, hesitant, and she seems unable to follow her own path. In the book, there is much internal discussion and debate, as on the one hand she does not like Einstein’s behaviour, but on the other, she tries to see things from her mother’s point of view and do what’s right for the child.

As some reviewers have noted (and the writer acknowledges in her notes at the back of the book), it’s a fact that they had a daughter out of wedlock, but it’s not clear what happened to her, and that makes the later part of the book, at least for me, stand on shakier grounds. That is always a difficulty with historical fiction, whereby to flesh out the story authors must make decisions, interpreting events and sometimes filling in gaps. In some cases, this is more successful than others, and it might also depend on the reader and their ability to suspend disbelief.

The author comes up with an explanation for the possible origin of the theory of relativity, closely linked to Mitza’s faith (and I know there have been debates as to how much Einstein’s wife contributed to it, and she definitely did contribute, although most likely not as much as is suggested in the book) that hinges around a dramatic event affecting their daughter, the problem being (from a historical point of view) that there’s no evidence it ever took place. That event, as depicted in the text, has a major impact in later parts of the novel and seems to underline all of the later difficulties the couple has, although Einstein’s behaviour, his reluctance to include his wife’s name in any of the articles or patents, the time he spends away, and his infidelities don’t help.

I found it difficult to reconcile the woman of the beginning of the book with the beaten down character of the later part of the book, although there are some brief flashes of her former self, like when she converses with Marie Curie. Although there is much self-justification for her continuing to live with Einstein given the circumstances (she is doing it for the children, she still hopes he will seek her ideas and collaboration and they’ll end up working together), one wonders how the strong and determined woman of the beginning can end up tolerating such a frustrating life (especially once Albert becomes well known and their financial difficulties end). There is also no evidence that she sought to rekindle her career once she was no longer with Einstein, and one can’t help but wonder if perhaps their relationship, at least early on, was also a source of inspiration for her too.

I enjoyed getting to know a bit more about Mitza Maric, and in particular about the era and the difficulties women had to face then, although I would have preferred to be more aware of where the facts ended and author creativity started whilst reading the book, as I was never sure if some of the inconsistencies within the characters were due to their own experiences and circumstances, or to the reimagining of some parts of the story, that perhaps ends up transforming it into a more typical narrative of the woman whose ambitions and future die due to marriage, children and a less than enlightened husband. (It reminded me at times of Revolution Road, although in this instance both of the characters are talented, whilst there…) The author provides sources for further reading and research at the end that will prove invaluable to those interested in digging further.

In sum this book highlights the figure of a woman worth knowing better; it can work as the starting point for further research and fascinating discussions, and it is eminently readable. People looking for specific scientific information or accurate personal facts might need to consult other books as this is definitely a fictionalisation.

Here, the book is on special promotion until the 26th in Goodreads, so you’re in time if you’re quick!

the-othereinsteingoodreadspromo

Here is the link.

Thanks so much to NetGalley, Sourcebooks Landmark and to the author for her novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and if you’ve enjoyed it, like, share, comment and CLICK!

Categories
Writing

#Bookideas. Non-fiction. Living alone. What is your expertise? #TuesdayBookBlog

Another winning image from Unsplash.com
Another winning image from Unsplash.com

Hi all:

Although I’m busy at the moment with translations (mine and other authors’ as well. By the way, don’t forget my promotion), my brain has been focusing on writing too. I think I already mentioned that I’d finished the draft of the next story in the thriller series ‘Escaping Psychiatry’ (and if I don’t change my mind it’s going to be called ‘The Case of the Swapped Bodies’) and now I’m correcting it and translating it. I have ideas for several stories on the series, fairly detailed for the next one. I also have a romance that every so often pops up asking to be written but it hasn’t managed to get me writing yet. My mother keeps trying to convince me to write sequels of some of my stories (and I have some half-baked ideas for possible ones). We’ll see if she manages.

For some time now, I’ve been wondering about non-fiction. I’ve read quite a number of posts on writing about what you know that might be of interest to others, and more recently, one of the Webinars I attended asked about the unique area of expertise that one has that others need to know about or would find interesting and useful. And that got me thinking. I had an interesting conversation with Teagan Geneviene where we talked about expertise, careers, jobs, and noted that some of the skills one acquires might not be stuff easy to teach (I can’t teach anybody to become a doctor or a psychiatrist by writing a book, there are great books on literature and criminology and I don’t have a particular expertise born out of years of teaching or working on either subject, and with regards to writing or publishing books, other than suggest you don’t do things the way I have, I don’t have great wisdom to share).

I had a thought. I live alone and have done so for many years (sometimes I’ve shared accommodation in hospitals or colleges but that’s not the same as living with somebody) and have had people (women mostly) tell me they wouldn’t dare to live alone, or they wouldn’t do many other things by themselves, like go travelling, go to the cinema or to the theatre alone, go to a restaurant… Although I don’t think I have much of an expertise on the subject, at least I have some experience and came up with quite a few topics I could write about related to it. I checked, looking for books about it, and found some readers complaining that most of these books (not that many) seemed to focus on women who had to live alone after their relationship ended and much of their books was about how they tried to find a partner, rather than showing living alone as a voluntary choice and a happy one.

I’ve written a few notes and have some ideas on what I could write about, but wondered if you had any thoughts. Not only about that topic, but also: what’s the non-fiction book you’d like to read? Or what topic you could (or are planning to) write about?

If you’re avid readers of non-fiction: what characteristics do the books you’ve enjoyed most share? Where do you discover these books?

And if you’ve written some non-fiction books, did you find it a totally different experience? Any thoughts or tips (both on writing it and on what you did next)?

Oh, and another question: Would you be interested in reading some posts where I explore some of the topics I’m thinking about covering in the book?

Thanks so much for reading , and please, like, share and comment. And all suggestions will be very welcome.

Another great image from Unsplash.com
Another great image from Unsplash.com
Categories
Book reviews

#Bookreviews ‘Unexpected Gifts’ by S.R. Mallery (@SarahMallery1) and ‘Women on the Brink’ by G. Elizabeth Kretchmer (@gekretchmer). Women’s stories and histories. #TuesdayBookBlog

Hi all:

With Christmas just a few days away, I’m trying to share as many of the reviews I have pending before the end of the year as I can, to make sure you have enough to read over the holidays. Also, I have to warn you I’m planning on having some reshuffling, maintenance and hopefully improvements (and a bit of a move) in the blog over the next few days. I hope I won’t disappear completely, but one never knows… If I do it’s most likely a technical problem rather than anything else… (she said, holding on tight).

After all that, time to share reviews. Today I’m revisiting two writers whose work I really enjoyed the first time around, so I repeated. Here they are.

First, S. R. Mallery with Unexpected Gifts:

Unexpected Gifts by S.R. Mallery
Unexpected Gifts by S.R. Mallery

First, the description:

A TRUE AMERICAN FAMILY SAGA: Can we learn from our ancestors? Do our relatives’ behaviors help shape our own?
In “Unexpected Gifts” that is precisely what happens to Sonia, a confused college student, heading for addictions and forever choosing the wrong man. Searching for answers, she begins to read her family’s diaries and journals from America’s past: the Vietnam War, Woodstock, and Timothy Leary era; Tupperware parties, McCarthyism, and Black Power; the Great Depression, dance marathons, and Eleanor Roosevelt; the immigrant experience and the Suffragists. Back and forth the book journeys, linking yesteryear with modern life until finally, by understanding her ancestors’ hardships and faults, she gains enough clarity to make some right choices.

Here, my review:

Unexpected Gifts by Sarah Mallery. The power of stories and the value of remembering the past.

Having read Mallery’s book of stories Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads I was looking forward to reading her novel. And although not unexpected, it definitely was a gift. The story of Sonia, a young woman studying psychology, in a complicated relationship with the lead singer of a band, and plagued by rituals and other symptoms of OCD, her story frames the novel and provides a conduit for telling many other stories. Through her we get to know her parents, and when her mother suggests she might find direction and some useful ideas by checking the attic and the family boxes that have accumulated there, each box goes on to reveal something about her family members and helps her discover more about herself.

The book is beautifully written, with vivid descriptions of places and people, that in a few sentences transport the reader to the recent (and less recent) past) and to locations and situations that spread from the new to the old world and from America to Bulgaria, via Vietnam. The structure of the novel is clever and works well in progressively unveiling Sonia’s heritage. Every time she reaches a conclusion about one of her ancestors, the next bit of information or evidence contained in the box corresponding to that person makes her reconsider and reach a better understanding (if not always a kinder opinion) about their lives. The box within a box or the Russian wooden dolls that must be opened up or peeled back to discover what hides inside (that are also mentioned in the novel) work well as a metaphor or visual representation for the structure of the novel.

The stories will affect or touch people differently, but they are all interesting and revisit crucial historical events and periods, adding a personal perspective. We have Vietnam War veterans, the hippy movement, European emigrants arriving in Ellis Island, American Suffragettes, Racial Conflict and Race Riots, the McCarthy era Communist witch hunt, Dance Marathons and the Depression Era, and romances that seem to be fated to end up badly. By exploring the past, Sonia seeks a way of understanding her behaviour and of breaking up patterns that result in sadness and unhappiness. I don’t want to reveal too much, but can add I enjoyed the ending that brought closure and a nice conclusion to the novel.

I recommend Unexpected Gifts to anybody who enjoys a good novel, with a solid historical background and strong characters, especially to people who prefer variety and many different stories. As the book is structured I think it will also appeal to readers of short stories and of anthologies of different styles of writing, as it provides multiple voices and many narrations in one single volume. Another great achievement for the author.

Links:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00YWGATTU/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00YWGATTU/

Here the link to her author page (and don’t forget to follow her):

http://www.amazon.com/S.-R.-Mallery/e/B00CIUW3W8/

And G. Elizabeth Kretchmer’s Women on the Brink.

Women on the Brink by G. Elizabeth Kretchmer
Women on the Brink by G. Elizabeth Kretchmer

The description:

Women on the Brink is a stunning collection of loosely linked stories in which women aged thirteen to ninety must face the unwelcome realities of their lives. Sometimes gritty, sometimes humorous, and always compassionate, G. Elizabeth Kretchmer’s prose takes the reader on a compelling ride alongside these ordinary women as they wrestle with family relationships, self-esteem, socioeconomic status, maternal obligations, and need for independence.

In “Skydancer,” a young mother resents her newborn baby. In “Float Away,” an at-risk teen is desperate to find a new home. A minister’s wife struggles with secrets in “Liar’s Game.” A despondent housewife longs for purpose in “Alligator Poetry.” The protagonist in “Tasting Freedom” wrestles with decisions about her aging mother’s care. And in “From Here to Cafayate,” a woman refuses to give up on the perpetually flawed relationship she has shared with her sister for nearly ninety years.

Each story is enhanced by one of fourteen original poems contributed by talented poets specifically for this collection and its themes. Although the stories stand alone, they are further strengthened by the relationships among the various characters throughout the collection. Readers of Ms. Kretchmer’s first novel, The Damnable Legacy, will also delight to find that some of the characters from that novel have reappeared here.

The women in this collection may or may not be the type you’d invite over for lunch. Some of them are tough. Some aren’t all that likeable. Some might not see the world the way you do. But they’re compelling in their own right as they reflect women in today’s world—women who have come along a difficult path—and as they courageously take control of their lives.

My review:

Women on the Brink by G. Elizabeth Kretchmer. The World if Full of Possibilities if you Dare.

I was offered a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I read and reviewed Kretchmer’s novel ‘The Damnable Legacy of a Minister’s Wife’ this summer and was fascinated not only by the story (the Alaskan setting also helped) but also by the complex characterisation and the psychological insights. When I was offered a copy of ‘Women on the Brink’ I didn’t hesitate.

The book combines short stories by Kretchmer with poems that are interpretations of themes, feelings or sensations related to the stories that follow. The title perfectly reflects the nature of those stories. The women in them are at different stages of their lives, from teenagers trying to find themselves, to elderly women escaping a retirement home, but they all find themselves at a point when they question their lives as they are and what they are going to do next.

I enjoyed the different settings and characters, the writing style, easy to read and varied, adapting well to the different stories —some more introspective, some more comedic— and also the open-endedness of them. In ‘Bridge Out’ the main character, who after retirement decides to become a trucker, mentions ‘Thelma and Louise’ and like that movie, the stories show women going their own way, and these are many different ways. Perhaps piloting their own plane, going away to help in a disaster zone, confronting their past… And we never see them crash. Because one of the messages of this collection is that the world is full of possibilities if you only dare.

For those who have read the author’s previous novel there are some familiar characters, and there are also characters mentioned in several stories and who appear in more than one, hinting at the interconnectedness between all of our lives.

Although I wouldn’t say my circumstances are exactly those of any of the women in the stories, I identified with the feelings and the emotions described, I cheered (worriedly) for the ‘Girls Against Perfection’, and I thoroughly enjoyed the transformation of Margee in ‘Coco Palms’, from obedient wife to avenging warrior.

I would quite happily have read more about any of the characters in the stories, and confess I could see quite a few of them turned into much longer works (I loved the light touch in ‘Accelerant’ and Maureen, the perhaps not-as-confused-as-she-seems grandmother, is a fabulous character). Despite their length, the author creates fully-fledged characters and situations in each one of the stories, condensing descriptions and sharpening her prose, with not a word spare.

The poems complement beautifully the book and provide an effective and lyrical link between them.

I recommend it to all readers, those who enjoy short fiction and poetry, and also those who don’t read short stories, because we should challenge ourselves and they might be pleasantly surprised.

Links:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/1513702351/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1513702351/

The link to the Author’s page (and don’t forget to follow!)

http://www.amazon.com/G.-Elizabeth-Kretchmer/e/B00L2T253I/

Thanks to S.R. Mallery and to G. Elizabeth Kretchmer for their novels, thanks to all of you for reading, and you know what to do, like, share, comment and CLICK!

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