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#TuesdayBookBlog MICHEL: FALLEN ANGEL OF PARIS by Hans M Hirschi (@Hans_Hirschi) A coming of age story, a love story, and a story of another pandemic that changed everything #LGTBI

Hi all:

Today I review a novel by an author who never fails to impress me (and to make me cry as well), one linked to the first of his novels I ever read.

Michel: Fallen Angel of Paris by Hans M Hirschi

Michel: Fallen Angel of Paris by Hans M Hirschi

Preparing to evacuate from an approaching hurricane, Haakon Chitragar stumbles upon the diary of his first love, Michel, who died from AIDS in his arms in November of 1986. Diary in hands, Haakon embarks on a journey back in time, to learn about Michel’s life, his difficult and painful path to accepting his true self, despite pressure from family, church, and society.

Michel – Fallen Angel of Paris is the story of one young man, one of countless victims of a pandemic still claiming lives every day, almost forty years after his death on a park bench in Paris. It’s also a story about the most unlikely of friendships, connections across time and space, acceptance, redemption, and learning to love and to be loved for who you are.

Michel – Fallen Angel of Paris is based on a character from The Fallen Angels of Karnataka. While both stories are intertwined, Michel can be read as a stand-alone novel.


Michel – Fallen Angel of Paris is a masterpiece. Brilliantly written, it tells a riveting, heartfelt story that shows that, in spite of all the crises (present and pre-existing) there is still reason for hope. Michel is an awe-inspiring and memorable read, impossible to put down.”

– Alina Oswald, Arts Editor, A&U Magazine

https://www.amazon.com/Michel-Fallen-Angel-Hans-Hirschi-ebook/dp/B09VCJ1GLY/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Michel-Fallen-Angel-of-Paris/dp/B09VCJ1GLY/

https://www.amazon.es/Michel-Fallen-Angel-Paris-English-ebook/dp/B09VCJ1GLY/

Author Hans M Hirschi

About the author:

Hans M Hirschi has been writing stories ever since he was a child. Adulthood and the demands of corporate life put an end to his fictional writing for over twenty years. A global executive in training and channel development, Hans has traveled the world extensively and published a couple of non-fictional titles on learning and management.

The birth of his son and the subsequent parental leave provided him with the opportunity to once again unleash his creative writing, writing feel-good stories you’ll remember.

Having little influence over his brain’s creative workings, he simply indulges it and goes with the flow. However, the deep passion for a better world, for love and tolerance are a read thread throughout both his creative and non-fictional work.

Hans lives with his husband, son, and pets on a small island off the west coast of Sweden. English isn’t his first or even second language. It’s his seventh!

Contact Hans through his website at http://www.hirschi.se.

https://www.amazon.com/Hans-M-Hirschi/e/B00E0DP0EE/

My review:

I was provided with an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

I have been following Hans M Hirschi’s career for a few years now, and he is one of a group of authors whose books I immediately add to my list (and as close to the top as I can), as soon as I know they’ve published something new. I don’t hesitate. I know I’m going to get a book that will touch my heart, make me think, and will often deal with uncomfortable and/or controversial subjects (his adult books are never “light and easy” reads, but they are well worth the emotional challenge), whose characters I’ll get to know and love (or hate, sometimes), and a story that I will not forget. And, although the author explains that he had a pretty tough time of writing this book, and the whole process took him longer than usual, the results are up to his usual standards, if not better.

This book held another hook for me, as the main character had appeared in one of the author’s previous novels, The Fallen Angels of Karnataka, the first I had read by him, and one where I had been left hoping to know more about the background and the previous story of some of the characters. I agree with the author, though, that this book could be read and enjoyed without having read the previous novel, as the story told here is complete and fairly independent, and there is sufficient information provided to understand the few references to that book. And those who have read it, even if it was a long time ago, will enjoy catching up with some of the characters and getting a fuller understanding of the build-up to the events of that book.

This is a coming-of-age story. Perhaps because the future looks uncertain and dangerous and he is facing a crisis; when Haakon comes across his first love’s diary, he decides to read it. He had only read the bits related to their relationship, but they hadn’t known each other long, and there was much he didn’t know. We hear about Michel, a young boy of 12 when he gets his diary, living in Rennes. We learn about his family, his very religious (Roman Catholic) mother, and his father, very concerned about appearances. They used to live in St. Malo but when his father couldn’t carry on being a fisherman, they had to move somewhere with more opportunities. The family is never well off, and they struggle to make ends meet, although they don’t have any serious problems. As an only child, his mother in particular is always concerned about him and insists that he help at mass and that he meet the Monseigneur, for spiritual guidance. If you suspect the worst… Well, you’d be right. Michel doesn’t realise until many years later what had really happened, but he discovers he is gay, at a time when that was not easily accepted, thanks to some unlikely friends. He is lucky and finds support in an ersatz family (his real parents are not so understanding), although he is also a victim of hate crimes, and abuse, and has to live through pretty traumatic experiences. When things seem to be looking up, an illness that changed everything and took the lives of so many, strikes him down, allowing him only the briefest of glimpses at happiness. Haakon realises that there are many unanswered questions and important people in Michel’s life who deserve closure as much as he does. And he decides to put things to rights.

The novel explores issues like sexual identity, growing up in a small town and being “different”, religious faith and religious intolerance, traditional families and intergenerational conflict, LGTBI culture in the 1970s and 80s, AIDS, guilt, grief, acceptance, second chances, happiness, charity, sex abuse, intolerance and hate crimes, and friendship and love…

We get some of the story directly from Michel’s pen, but most of it is mediated through Haakon, and that adds a layer of interpretation and also his emotional reaction to what he reads. He learns many things he didn’t know about Michel, and there is also his own life and the present time to be taken care of. Michel’s story covers from 1976 (well, from 1964 when he was born) until 1986; there are also some small sections of present-day narration at the beginning and in the middle of the book, and once Haakon has finished reading the diary, the final section follows him and his husband in their trip to France, in the present.

I’ve particularly liked the way the story is told, as it allows us to see what it must have been like for Michel at the time, and also provides us with the perspective of somebody who is familiar with some of the issues and with bits of the story, but not all. There are heart-wrenching moments, moments that will horrify and upset many readers (be warned), but Haakon is exactly as Michel describes him: non-judgmental, kind, and understanding. Michel is harsher on himself and his behaviour than Haakon could ever be, and despite the hard and painful moments, the love story between the two is very moving. This novel also reflects a recent historical period, one that perhaps the younger readers will not be familiar with, but many of us remember what happened when the AIDS epidemic first appeared, and the panic, paranoia, and terrible consequences it had. There was a before and an after AIDS, and it is important to remember that it hasn’t gone away.

The author’s writing reflects perfectly the events, with the right amount of description to make the places, the people, and the era come alive before our eyes, and despite how difficult some parts of the story are, there are also extremely beautiful passages and scenes that will make a strong impression in all readers.

There is nothing I didn’t like about the story. The ending is not surprising, but that is not what the book is about. Hirschi has been called “the queen of unconventional happy endings” and he lives up to that title here as well. Yes, the story’s ending is not “happy, happy” but it is a good ending, everything considered. And it is a hopeful ending as well.

As usual, I recommend readers to check a sample of the book to make sure that the writing style will suit their taste, and, I have already warned of the type of content people can find here. As you will imagine, there is also sex in the novel. Although this is neither erotica nor pornography, and there are very few explicit scenes, readers take that into account when choosing to read this story.

If you enjoy good writing, are interested in the historical period, are partial to first-love stories, and are unlikely to be disturbed by an open and honest look at the coming of age story of a young gay man growing up in a small French town in the 1980s, you should read this book. If you’ve never read one of Hans M Hirschi’s novels, you’ll discover a new author to add to your favourites, and if you’ve read The Fallen Angels of Karnataka, you are in for a special treat.

Thanks to the author for his novel, thanks to all of you for reading, liking, sharing, commenting, and don’t forget to keep safe and keep smiling. 

 

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview OUTSIDE by Ragnar Jónasson (@ragnarjo) (@MichaelJBooks) #Nordicthriller A solid mystery with few (and not very likeable) protagonists, and where the Icelandic highlands play a big part

Hi all:

I bring you the review of a novel by an Icelandic author I have read before, and who has become quite popular in recent times.

Outside by Ragnar Jónasson

Outside by Ragnar Jónasson

With three million copies of his books sold worldwide, “world-class crime writer”(The Sunday Times, UK) Ragnar Jónasson brings us a chilling new standalone thriller with Outside.

Four friends. One night. Not everyone will come out alive . . .

When a deadly snowstorm strikes the Icelandic highlands, four friends seek shelter in a small, abandoned hunting lodge.

It is in the middle of nowhere and there’s no way of communicating with the outside world.

They are isolated, but they are not alone . . .

As the night darkens, and fears intensify, an old tragedy gradually surfaces – one that forever changed the course of their friendship.

Those dark memories could hold the key to the mystery the friends now find themselves in.

And whether they will survive until morning . . .

https://www.amazon.com/Outside-Ragnar-Jonasson-ebook/dp/B09CNFG8KW/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B095WF13P2/

https://www.amazon.es/dp/024149365X/

Author Ragnar Jónasson

About the author:

Ragnar Jónasson is the award winning author of the international bestselling Dark Iceland series, the Hulda Trilogy and standalone crime fiction.

CBS Studios is to adapt The Darkness as an eight-part TV series.

The Times selected The Darkness as one of the 100 Best Crime Novels and Thrillers since 1945. Snowblind was selected as one of Top 100 Crime Fiction of all time by Blackwell’s. 

Ragnar has been a no. 1 bestseller in Germany (Spiegel Bestseller), a no. 1 crime fiction bestseller in France and a no. 1 Kindle bestseller in the UK and Australia. In 2020 he became the first Icelandic author ever to have three books in the top ten of the German Spiegel bestseller.

Ragnar has also enjoyed awards across the international crime scene. He won the Mörda Dead Good Reader Award for Nightblind, and The Mist won the Amazon Publishing & Capital Crime Mystery of the Year award in 2020. Snowblind was selected by The Independent as one of the best crime novels of 2015. His books have also won praise from publications such as The Times of London, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Times Literary Supplement.

 He has also been shortlisted for Novel of the Year in Sweden, The Barry Award in the US and the Petrona Award. The film rights for The Darkness have also been snapped up by Hollywood production company Stampede, led by former President of Warner Bros, Greg Silverman. They have struck a deal with CBS Studios to adapt the novel into an eight-part series.

Ragnar is the co-founder of the Reykjavik international crime writing festival Iceland Noir. From the age of 17, Ragnar translated 14 Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic. Ragnar has appeared on festival panels worldwide, and lives in Reykjavik. Ragnar has a law degree and works as an investment banker in Reykjavik, in addition to teaching law at Reykjavik University. 

http://ragnar-jonasson.squarespace.com

My review:

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

I read one of Ragnar Jónasson’s novels some time ago (The Darkness, the first in his Hidden Iceland series), and I really enjoyed the novel, although I hadn’t managed to catch up with any of his other books yet (although I am sure I have some others on my list).

When I came across this one, I decided it was time to try another one of his novels, although people seemed a bit more divided on their opinions about it. And it is not difficult to see why that should be the case. I also thought that a book set in Iceland in the middle of a snowstorm would be the perfect read to combat the current heatwave. One thing is for sure, the story and its protagonists are quite chilling.

As it clearly states in the description, this is a stand-alone novel and not a part of a series, so readers don’t need to be worried if they haven’t read anything by the author. Nordic thrillers have become almost a genre in their own right, and this novel fits into the category perfectly.

It also fits into a group of books that are reminiscent of the locked room or isolated location mysteries, but with some twists. Now, instead of an impossible mystery (or in addition to it), we have a house or some other location (a mountain refuge in this case) where a group of people ends up trapped, for one reason or another, and although things appear pretty harmless and even nice at first, the situation starts deteriorating soon enough, the relationship between the characters (when there is one) starts to unravel, and secrets and lies surface with dire consequences. Lucy Foley’s The Hunting Party is a popular example that I was reminded of when I read this novel, although not the only one.

We have four friends who’ve gone on a hunting trip in the Icelandic highlands, three men and one woman, and they are as different as you can imagine: one is an actor living in the UK, with a girlfriend 15 years his junior, his best friend is a lawyer and a recovering alcoholic who has been dry for a couple of years now, the woman is still grieving the loss of the love of her life in pretty tragic circumstances, and the man who organised the trip, who know owns a tour company, has a bit of a dark past, and got into a fair amount of trouble in Denmark.

As seems to be the norm, the characters are not particularly likeable, and because the story is told (in the third person) alternatively from the point of view of the four friends, we get to know how their minds work and some (not all) of their secrets. The author is good at plotting and at creating psychologically realistic characters, and he knows what to show and what to hide in order to keep the intrigue going, as there are things that are very important to the plot, and we don’t get to know until very close to the end. But well… It’s the nature of the beast.

Of course, there are hidden reasons behind the trip and the bizarre things that start happening, although not everything is part of the plan. There are some red herrings as well, that might rise the readers’ suspicions and they work well, especially considering there are very few characters and it is difficult to keep the tension going, but the author manages to do that pretty well.

What I most liked about the story is the setting and the way the author uses Iceland and the specific location and the weather conditions to add to the tense atmosphere. I also appreciated the way the story is told and the skill the author has in revealing and hiding some pieces of information to make the story work. It is a bit like a jigsaw puzzle. It is easy to put some pieces together, but the whole picture reveals new and unexpected things. The chapters are short and the story progresses at a good pace, even when there is not much actual movement. I also enjoyed the way we get to know how the characters think, and we can almost see their brains ticking while trying to save themselves and make the right decision, whatever the price. The situations are so extreme that it is impossible not to wonder what we would in those circumstances, but, on the other hand, the characters have such particular baggage that it is unlikely we would feel exactly the same as they and be compelled to do some of the things they do.

The characters have very few redeeming features, if any, although I won’t go into any detail to avoid possible spoilers. Readers who need to connect with the characters or have, at least, someone to root for, will find it a bit difficult here, but the plot and the reasons behind what happens are likely to keep most people sufficiently intrigued to keep going. I have said before that I don’t mind unlikeable characters as protagonists, and although I wouldn’t like to call any of the people in this book my friends, I was quite keen on reading about them and trying to guess what would happen next.

The ending worked for me. There is a note of disquiet that I feel suits the genre pretty well, but people who like neatly tied and wrapped stories where the world is put to rights, will not share my opinion.

I’d recommend this novel to people who enjoy Nordic thrillers, especially those with few protagonists and who prefer stand-alone stories. I enjoyed The Darkness much more, as it is a more complex book, not so driven by the plot, but I am sure this won’t be the last of Jónasson’s novels I’ll read.

Thanks to the publisher and to NetGalley for this book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, keep smiling and keep cool! Take care!

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog LAKE OF ECHOES: A NOVEL OF 1960s FRANCE by Liza Perrat (@LizaPerrat) Recent history and a gripping and compelling story in a fabulous setting

Hi all:

I bring you a novel by one of my favourite authors, another one I discovered thanks to Rosie’s Book Review Team. And this is another great book.

Lake of Echoes by Liza Perrat

Lake of Echoes: A Novel of 1960s France by Liza Perrat

A vanished daughter. A failing marriage. A mother’s life in ruins.
1969. As France seethes in the wake of social unrest, eight-year-old Juliette is caught up in the turmoil of her parents’ fragmenting marriage.
Unable to bear another argument, she flees her home.
Neighbours joining the search for Juliette are stunned that such a harrowing thing could happen in their tranquil lakeside village.
But this is nothing compared to her mother, Lea’s torment, imagining what has befallen her daughter.
Léa, though, must remain strong to run her auberge and as the seasons pass with no news from the gendarmes, she is forced to accept she may never know her daughter’s fate.
Despite the villagers’ scepticism, Léa’s only hope remains with a clairvoyant who believes Juliette is alive.
But will mother and daughter ever be reunited?
Steeped in centuries-old tradition, against an enchanting French countryside backdrop, Lake of Echoes will delight your senses and captivate your heart.
Emotionally gripping historical women’s fiction for Kelly Rimmer and Kristin Hannah fans.
A testament to female resilience, depth and strength, this is a universal story set in a changing world.” JJ Marsh, author of The Beatrice Stubbs Series.

 mybook.to/LakeofEchoesEbook

Author Liza Perrat

About the author:

Liza grew up in Wollongong, Australia, where she worked as a general nurse and midwife for fifteen years.

When she met her French husband on a Bangkok bus, she moved to France, where she has been living with her husband and three children for twenty years. She works part-time as a French-English medical translator, and as a novelist.

Several of her short stories have won awards, notably the Writers Bureau annual competition of 2004 and her stories have been published widely in anthologies and small press magazines. Her articles on French culture and tradition have been published in international magazines such as France Magazine and France Today.

Spirit of Lost Angels is the first in the historical “The Bone Angel” series set against a backdrop of rural France during the French Revolution. The second in the series, Wolfsangel, set during the WWII German Occupation of France, was published in October, 2013. The third in the series, Blood Rose Angel, set during the 14th century Black Plague years was published in November, 2015.

The Silent Kookaburra, a domestic noir, psychological suspense novel set in 1970s Australia, was published in November, 2016. The second in this Australian family drama series, The Swooping Magpie, was published in October, 2018. The third in this series, The Lost Blackbird, was published in August, 2020.

Friends & Other Strangers is a collection of award-winning short stories from Downunder.

Liza is available for virtual book club visits (via Skype) upon request.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Liza-Perrat/e/B008385OF2/

My review:

I had access to a very early ARC of this novel by Liza Perrat, the first in a new series, which I freely chose to review.

I came across Perrat’s novels through Rosie’s Book Review Team and have been an admirer and follower since. She writes historical fiction set in a variety of eras (from the Middle Ages to WWII, mostly in France) and also fiction set in the second half of the XX century, often in her native Australia. She combines complex and compelling characters (female characters usually take centre stage), with plots that grab the readers’ attention and don’t let go. That combined with a very vivid style of writing, the epitome of showing rather than telling (one can really see, smell, hear, and even taste what is happening to the characters and share in their experiences) mean that reading her novels is a truly immersive experience.

And this one is not an exception, but rather an excellent example of the best qualities of her writing.

Imagine a woman who’s already lost a child, having to live through the kidnapping of her now only daughter. Léa, who had poured her energies into her new project (an auberge by a beautiful lake) in an attempt at regaining some peace and thirst for life, is devastated, and her relationship with her husband, already strained, ends up breaking. To make matters worse, three other girls are also kidnapped and efforts to find them fail. Life becomes increasingly difficult, and the only hope Léa has comes from her two neighbours and friends, Clotilde and Bev, as Clotilde reads the cards and insists that the girls are all alive and well. Of course, nobody else believes them, time passes, and some sort of life develops, but Léa and her family keep waiting. And… Of course, I’m not going to tell you what happens, but the story deals with grief, loss, family relationships, also life in a small (French) village, prejudices and rumours, and how life has changed since the late 1960s (so close and yet so far).

I have mentioned Léa, who tells her story in the first person, with some fragments (in italics) when she remembers the past in a vivid and immersive manner that makes us identify with her, and suffer her same pain. Louise, Léa’s mother-in-law, is a strong character, one who is always proper and maintains the façade, no matter how difficult things get or what she might be feeling inside. We don’t see the story from her perspective, but we share in some of the other characters’ stories, although those are told in the third person. This is the case for Juliette, who is a delightful girl, intelligent, but she behaves like a normal eight-year-old and does not fully understand what is happening. Her interaction with the other girls and with the kidnapper and the people helping him (some more willingly than others) is tough to read but it feels believable within the parameters of the story.

We also get to share in the thoughts of the kidnapper (although we only know him by the identity he adopts and not his real one), his sister, Alice (a favourite of mine, despite her circumstances), and his wife, and there are other characters featured as well, all in the third person, with the occasional flashback. This maintains the mystery while allowing readers more insight into aspects of the story the authorities and the mother know nothing about.

It is difficult to talk about the baddy without revealing too much, but let me tell you he is a great creation, and being in his head at times is a scary and horrifying experience.

The setting is truly wonderful. Despite the horrific aspects of the story, it is impossible not to love the lake, the villages around it, the wonderful traditions, the festivals, the cooking… I am looking forward to reading more stories set in the area, and I know the author is already working on the second one.

The writing, as I’ve mentioned, is beautiful and also heart-wrenching at times. We experience the emotions of the characters, and also the wonders of nature, the change of seasons, and even the pets and animals have their own personalities and help readers feel at home there. Readers need not worry about the different points of view causing confusion, as there are no sudden changes in narrative voice, each chapter is told from a single perspective, clearly indicated, and the story is told, in chronological order, apart from a few chapters, with the dates also featuring at the head of each new chapter.

The whole of the story has something of the fairy tale, with Gothic-like houses, dangerous rivers, sometimes magical and sometimes scary woods, strange people living in the forest, and some characters that will remind us of some beloved characters. But the narrative works on many levels, and I was totally invested in the mystery as well. There are plenty of clues, red herrings, and hints dropped throughout the story, and many possible suspects. There is also a gendarme, Major Rocamadour, who grows on us as the story progresses, and we discover he is not all business. He does have a pretty tough nut to crack, though, but, without revealing too much, I can say that I enjoyed the ending, and the story ends up on a hopeful note.

I recommend this wonderfully written story to anybody who loves imagination, great characters, a strong plot, and who love a setting full of charm but also some underlying darkness and menace. Anybody who has read and enjoyed Liza Perrat’s previous novels is in for a treat, and those who haven’t met her yet… Well, what are you waiting for?

Thanks to the author for keeping me up-to-date with her work, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and always keep smiling!

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE DEVIL’S WHISPERS: A GOTHIC HORROR NOVEL by Lucas Hault (@TCKPublishing) A Dracula variation for lovers of old-fashioned horror and Gothic stories

Hi all:

Well, I love horror, but this one is for lovers of old-fashioned horror.

The Devil’s Whispers by Lucas Hault

The Devil’s Whispers by Lucas Hault

In a silent, sleepy castle, evil has awakened…

Famed British lawyer Gerard Woodward is summoned to an ancient Welsh castle to assist a dying lord in his final affairs. But as his host slips closer to death, Gerard begins to feel less like a guest and more like a prisoner. When he finds himself locked inside his room, he realizes he must escape.

After finding his way out of his room, Gerard begins to wonder if he was safer locked inside. The labyrinthine halls echo secrets. A terrible wail and the rattling of chains sets his nerves on end. Something sinister is happening within the walls of Mathers Castle, and when he descends into the dungeons, he discovers a horrible secret…

In nearby London, children vanish into the night, animals are horribly mutilated, and a savage creature stalks the shadows. When Gerard’s wife, Raelyn, becomes the creature’s next target, his need to escape reaches a fever pitch. He must get out alive so he can dispel the evil that threatens to destroy his beloved Raelyn… and the rest of us.

Fans of epistolary Gothic horror classics like DraculaFrankenstein, and The Picture of Dorian Gray will devour The Devil’s Whispers.

https://www.amazon.com/Devils-Whispers-Gothic-Horror-Novel-ebook/dp/B09Q6HFT83/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09Q6HFT83

https://www.amazon.es/Devils-Whispers-Gothic-Horror-English-ebook/dp/B09Q6HFT83/

Author Lucas Hault

About the author:

Faisal Johar, who writes under his pen name Lucas Hault is an Indian Novelist residing in Ranchi. He received his formal education from St. Anthony’s School, completed his intermediate from St. Xavier’s College and graduated from Jamia Millia Islamia in the year 2017. His first novel named The Shadow of Death — The Conquering Darkness was self-published in the year 2018 under Prowess Publishing. Faisal is also a screenwriter and has written a couple of short horror films for YouTube. He considers J.K. Rowling as his role model and aspires to walk in her path of punctuality. Another of his book titled, The Malign : A Collection of 12 Short Stories was published in June 2021. To get to know more about him, you can connect with him on FB and Instagram.

https://www.amazon.com/Lucas-Hault/e/B09QBTBKVD/

 My review:

I thank TCK Publishing for providing me with an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

The description recommends this book to fans of epistolary Gothic classics like Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Being a big fan of Oscar Wilde, I won’t compare the novels, but I have read many reviews querying if The Devil’s Whispers can be considered an homage to Dracula, as it follows the original story very closely, basically changing the names, locations, and some of the details of the monster, but not much else. What came to my mind, when trying to find a way of defining it, is something akin to what music composers call “variations”. It’s been decades since I read Dracula, so I can’t (or indeed want) to write a blow-by-blow comparison of the two, but it is true that they are very similar. Some of the differences I can easily mention are the settings (no Transylvania here, although people who love Cardiff might take issue with the way it is portrayed in this novel), the professions of some of the characters (Raelyn is a doctor, but as many people have mentioned, a female doctor in the early part of the XX century [1903] would have had a very difficult time of it, and that is no way reflected in the novel), some of the myths and the beliefs surrounding the supernatural events are different, and, unless I am mistaken, women and children play much bigger parts than in the original.

This is not a historical novel, and anybody looking for accurate depictions of the era, the place, the language, or even the mores and habits, will be disappointed. Neither the Cardiff nor the London of the story have anything to do with reality, and the characters are not very consistent either. Things develop very quickly, and somebody passes from love to hatred in the blink of an eye (sometimes as a result of supernatural influences, that is true, but not always). Suspension of disbelief doesn’t quite cover the reading experience, as we have characters who can leave their jobs at the drop of a hat and disappear for days or weeks on end with no ill consequences, married people who profess their love for their husbands or wives but don’t hesitate before leaving them without a word of explanation or making contact again, to name but two. What the story has, though, is plenty of atmosphere, and an old-fashioned Gothic feel to it. Rather than a reinterpretation of the genre, this is something closer to what many of the stories from the era might have been like, many of which wouldn’t have survived until now or become classics. It makes me think of Little Women, the scene when Prof. Bhaer is disparaging the type of sensationalist romance stories one can find in newspapers, knowing full well that Jo writes them as well, and advises her to write stories that truly matter to her. Those titillating narrations are the kinds of stories that would have been popular at the time, and, why not? (I will not reveal what happens in Little Women, in case somebody hasn’t read it. If you haven’t, please do. I love it!)

I also kept thinking of Nathaniel Hawthorne, the author of The Scarlett Letter among many other novels (I recommend it as well), who wrote about the differences between a novel and a romance (not a romantic novel in the sense of a love story, but something quite different).

This is what he wrote on the subject in his preface to The House of the Seven Gables (1851):

When a writer calls his work a Romance, it need hardly be observed that he wishes to claim a certain latitude, both as to its fashion and material, which he would not have felt himself entitled to assume, had he professed to be writing a novel. The latter form of composition is presumed to aim at a very minute fidelity, not merely to the possible, but to the probable and ordinary course of man’s experience. The former – while, as a work of art, it must rigidly subject itself to laws, and while it sins unpardonably so far as it may swerve aside from the truth of the human heart – has fairly a right to present that truth under circumstances, to a great extent of the writers own choosing or creation. If he thinks fit, also, he may so manage his atmospherical medium as to bring out or mellow the lights, and deepen and enrich the shadows of the picture, he will be wise, no doubt, to make a very moderate use of the privilege here stated, and especially to mingle the marvellous rather as a slight, delicate and evanescent flavour, than as any portion of the actual substance of the dish offered to the public. He can hardly be said, however, to commit a literary crime, even if he disregarded this caution.’

So, a novel has to be plausible, while in a romance, flights of fancy and imagination are allowed, and those are the working tools of the author. From that point of view, this book would fall into the category of a romance, and, readers who approach it as such, are likely to be swept by the story and enjoy the experience, but if you are looking for a well-written and high-quality novel as most critics understand it, you are bound to be disappointed.

To be fair, Bram Stoker wrote to entertain his readers and doesn’t seem to have been particularly concerned about issues such as classic status or high-brow definitions of quality. He had problems in the USA because he wanted his story to remain in the public domain rather than be copyrighted, so perhaps there is something more to the comparison than meets the eye.

I know this isn’t one of my usual reviews, but I hope people will get an idea of what they might find and if it is the kind of thing they’d like to read. There are scenes of violence, bizarre events aplenty, and some gore, but more in the style of classic horror than realistic modern descriptions. And I will agree with the recommendation to read Dracula as well if you haven’t yet. Oh, and don’t forget to keep eating onions!

 Thanks to the author and the publisher for this novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to keep the wonder going, the magic, to keep smiling, and to be happy!

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog DEAD OF WINTER: JOURNEY 14, THE VEIL by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene (@teagangeneviene). All is well that ends well. A fitting ending to a totally immersive journey

Hi all:

I promised recently that I’d bring you the review of the last journey in Dead of Winter pretty soon, and here it is. What an ending!

Dead of Winter: Journey 14, The Veil by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

Dead of Winter: Journey 14, The Veil by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

From the very beginning, a prophecy from a creepy voice threaded throughout this story. “Winter is coming!” it warned. As the Journeys progressed, we became aware of additional related prophesies like one of the “lost white brother” and “the frozen sands.” Both of those are touched on in this concluding novella.

Other threads from the previous thirteen Journeys also come together in this volume, which concludes Dead of Winter.

As many readers said they don’t want these Journeys to end, in the final chapter, I added hints about potential future adventures for many of the characters. These are food for the imagination of readers, so that the story can continue in the mind.

This has been as much of a “journey” for me as it was for Emlyn. I’ve seen truths about myself along the way. Perhaps the same applies to you.

“Who can say? What is true for us? That with which we are born? Or that which is the manifestation of our heart and soul? I like who and what I am, as well as the way I see the world I see around me, when I am a dragon.”

Thank you for being an important part of the Journeys of Dead of Winter.
Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

Universal Purchase Links for Dead of Winter: Journey 14, The Veil

Journey 14, The Veil

Kindle:  relinks.me/B0B41FF3FX

Paperback:  relinks.me/B0B3RVHG1S

Author Teagan Geneviene

About the author:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

My review:

It is with some mixed feelings that I write this review. Not about this journey or Dead of Winter, of course. No need to worry. The ending is everything I could have hoped for, and even more. But, after a year and a half of following Emlyn (and the rest of the characters) in their adventures, it feels very strange to get to the end. No matter how well it all works and how fitting the ending is, knowing that I don’t have more journeys to look forward to makes me a bit sad. At a time when reality proved dire and challenging, Dead of Winter gave us something to look forward to: excitement, adventures, magic, friendship, legends, wisdom, risk, evil, courage, and faraway worlds that sometimes felt very close. So, yes, I’ll miss all that.

Thankfully, the author not only offers us a very satisfying closure (I won’t go into any details, don’t worry), but she also hints at things to come. As she explains in the description, these hints will help us all continue the adventures of our favourite characters in our imaginations, and we won’t be left so bereft.

As I don’t want to talk about the plot, or about the future that awaits the characters either, I will mention some of the things that I most enjoyed about this final journey.

Emlyn is the protagonist, as she should be, but despite her misgivings, she is not alone. It is great to see her be both, bold and timid, fearful and fearless, determined and full of self-doubt. Despite how far she has come, Emlyn is only twelve years old, and although she is not exactly the typical moody and unruly teenager, she still wants to do things her own way and act like a grown-up, while at the same time feeling that she is not good enough to do what is expected of her. But she is so generous that she forgets all her doubts when one of her friends is in danger, and… Well, I won’t share any specifics, but you probably know what I mean.

I enjoyed the fact that many of the characters we have met throughout these journeys make an appearance, and some of the questions that we’ve been thinking about and also a few matters pending are revisited and solved. We get to see more of the goddesses and their particular sense of justice and morality, and I chuckled at some of the tricks they play on each other (and smiled at some of the synergies and connections between goddesses and humans).

There are action scenes aplenty, there are wonderful settings, and marvellous events, there are surprising discoveries as well, and rather than an ending, this feels like the beginning of a much longer journey, for Emlyn, her friends, and allies.

If you have read the rest of the series, don’t delay and read this one. I understand your possible reluctance, but it will leave you with a happy smile on your face. And if you haven’t, remember to read it in the right order. If you are starting the journey now, I envy you a bit. But, it has been an unforgettable reading experience, and I’m sure the characters will remain with me. Congratulations to the author, and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future, in whichever genre she chooses.

 Here I leave you the link to the previous journeys, in case you’ve missed any.

DEAD OF WINTER — THE PREVIOUS JOURNEYS

Universal Purchase Links

Journey 13, The Harbor

Kindle:  relinks.me/B09TN3NDX1

Paperback:  relinks.me/B09TN1F58B

Journey 12, Goddesses

Kindle:  relinks.me/B09P5LJY13

Paperback:  relinks.me/B09NTTZ9J8

Journey 11, the Sumelazon Escarpment

Kindle:  relinks.me/B09M7Q19XT

Paperback:  relinks.me/B09M4QWDYK

Journey 10, Pergesca

Kindle:  relinks.me/B09J6TH8TD

Paperback:  relinks.me/B09J7GFWYV

Journey 9, Doors of Attunement

Kindle:  relinks.me/B09F8Y5DML

Paperback:  relinks.me/B09F1BB9RW

Journey 8, The Lost Library

Kindle:  relinks.me/B09C6MPTYT

Paperback:  relinks.me/B09C34XR7P

Journey 7, Revenant Pass

Kindle:  relinks.me/B098MS8P48

Paperback:  relinks.me/B098GV1G5V

Journey 6, The Fluting Fell

Kindle:  relinks.me/B096CPJNSX

Paperback: relinks.me/B096CPJNSX

Journey 5, Llyn Pistyll Falls

Kindle:  relinks.me/B09431TD6G

Paperback:  relinks.me/B0942KC471

Journey 4, The Old Road

Kindle:  relinks.me/B092G5LB7R

Paperback:  relinks.me/B092M51Y88

Journey 3, the Fever Field

Kindle: elinks.me/B08XTNZ9M8 

Paperback:  relinks.me/B08XXY3JXF

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

Journey 2, Penllyn

Kindle:  relinks.me/B08VMNSF97

Paperback:  relinks.me/B08VLMR2KD

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

Journey 1, Forlorn Peak

Kindle:  relinks.me/B08RBBVRGX

Paperback:  relinks.me/B08R7RH4F5

Kobo:  Dead of Winter: Journey 1, Forlorn Peak eBook by Teagan Geneviene – 1230004446033 | Rakuten Kobo United States

I share the link to a recent interview with the author by Pat at e-Quips, because I found it fascinating, and I am sure you will as well.

https://equipsblog.wordpress.com/2022/06/18/author-interview-with-teagan-r-geneviene/

Thanks to the author for taking us on this journey, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, click, review, and always keep smiling. Big hugs!

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog DREAM TOWN (ALOYSIUS ARCHER SERIES BOOK 3) by David Baldacci (@davidbaldacci) (@panmacmillan) A solid, well-written and complex mystery with a good dose of 1050s historical detail

Hi all:

I bring you a novel by a best-selling author you all know. I read one of his books recently, and I thought I tried another one. I think I enjoyed this one a little bit more, even though it is the third in a series, but it can be read as a standalone.

Dream Town by David Baldacci

DREAM TOWN (ALOYSIUS ARCHER SERIES BOOK 3) by David Baldacci

Private Investigator and WWII veteran, Aloysius Archer, returns to solve a new case in Hollywood in this riveting thriller from international number 1 bestselling author, David Baldacci.

All that glitters . . .
1952, Los Angeles. It is New Year’s Eve and PI Aloysius Archer is dining with his friend and rising Hollywood actress Liberty Callahan when they’re approached by Eleanor Lamb, a screenwriter who would like to hire him, as she suspects someone is trying to kill her.

Murder and mystery
A visit to Lamb’s Malibu residence leaves Archer knocked unconscious after he stumbles over a dead body in the hallway; and Lamb seems to have vanished. With the police now involved in the case, a close friend and colleague of Lamb’s employs Archer to find out what’s happened to the screenwriter.

The City of Angels – or somewhere much, much darker?
Archer’s investigation takes him from the rich, glamorous and glitzy LA to the seedy, dark side of the city, and onward to the gambling mecca of Las Vegas, just now hitting its stride as a hot spot for celebrities and a money-making machine for the mob. In a place where cops and crooks work hand in hand, Archer will cross paths with Hollywood stars, politicians and notorious criminals. He’ll almost die several times, and he’ll discover bodies and secrets from the canyons and beaches of Malibu and the luxurious mansions of Bel Air and Beverly Hills to the narcotics clubs of Chinatown.

With the help of Liberty and his PI partner Willie Dash, Archer will risk everything and leave no stone unturned in finding the missing Eleanor Lamb, and in bringing to justice killers who would love nothing better than to plant Archer six feet under.

 https://www.amazon.com/Dream-Town-Aloysius-Archer-Book-ebook/dp/B09HQX4N8R/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dream-Town-Aloysius-Archer-Book-ebook/dp/B09HQX4N8R/

https://www.amazon.es/Dream-Town-Aloysius-Archer-English-ebook/dp/B09HQX4N8R/

Author David Baldacci

About the author:

David Baldacci has been writing since childhood, when his mother gave him a lined notebook in which to write down his stories. (Much later, when David thanked her for being the spark that ignited his writing career, she revealed that she’d given him the notebook to keep him quiet, “because every mom needs a break now and then.”)

David published his first novel, ABSOLUTE POWER, in 1996. A feature film followed, with Clint Eastwood as its director and star. In total, David has published 44 novels for adults; all have been national and international bestsellers and several have been adapted for film and television. His novels have been translated into over 45 languages and sold in more than 80 countries, with 150 million copies sold worldwide. David has also published seven novels for younger readers.

David is also the cofounder, along with his wife, of the Wish You Well Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting literacy efforts across the United States.

https://www.amazon.com/David-Baldacci/e/B000AQ0STC/

My review:

I thank NetGalley and Pan Macmillan for providing me with an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

I read Baldacci’s Zero Day a while back, and I said that I was likely to try another one of his books at some point, and after seeing this novel featured and commented upon in several places, I decided to read it. A detective novel set in the early 1950s in Los Angeles promised to be interesting. And I can confirm that Dream Town delivers. In summary, this is a solidly plotted and well-written novel, with plenty of twists, turns and red herrings, providing beautifully observed historical nuggets of the place, the era, and especially of 1950s Hollywood, with a likeable and morally strong hero, and a varied cast of interesting secondary characters. Although with plenty of touches of noir, it reminded me more of the detective novels of the 1930s, and I tend to agree with a review that mentioned Philip Marlowe, down to the clever retorts and especially the moments of insight and reflection Archer, the P.I. protagonist, shares.

I won’t discuss the author in detail, as he is too well-known for that. Much of what I wrote in my previous review of one of his novels applies to this one as well. I didn’t realise when I requested this novel that it was, in fact, the third novel in a series about Archer, but I can confirm that it is not necessary to have read the previous two to enjoy this one. I am sure readers who have will be more clued to the nuances of Archer’s relationship with his partner, Willie Dash, and with his female friend, Liberty Callahan, although it is true that this book seems to represent something of a crisis point for Archer, I won’t say too much about that, to avoid spoilers. I mentioned above having checked some reviews, and it seems that there isn’t agreement on how this novel compares to the rest of the series. Some readers think this is the strongest of the three, while others enjoyed the first two more, but it seems this relates to the setting, to the ending, and, as always, it is a matter of personal choice more than any specific flaw of the novel itself.

This is a novel with many subplots and plenty of characters, and it is difficult to describe what happens beyond the blurb provided above, not only to avoid spoilers but also because of the many strands Baldacci weaves into this spiderweb of a story. The subplots cover many themes we would expect of novels set in that period, particularly in L.A.: Hollywood, the film industry, and how it worked; the Cold War; contraband, drugs, and a variety of other crimes; police corruption (it made me think of a non-fiction book set in Compton a few decades later that I reviewed recently); Las Vegas, gambling debts and the mafia; gender and power relations in the era (a single woman could not get a mortgage without the signature of a man, it seems, no matter how solid her financial situation); the nuclear era and the fear of the bomb; property speculation; the fate of WWII veterans, and many more. Not all of them are developed in detail, but they are well-integrated into the story and give the novel plenty of backbone.

The story is told in the third person from Archer’s point of view, and he is an acute and detailed observer. I had mentioned in my previous review that some readers might find the descriptions (of rooms, places, people, even gestures and facial expressions) a bit too much, but I am sure fans won’t mind, and most of those paragraphs were original and vivid, managing to create a clear (and sometimes humorous) image in one’s mind. There is plenty of action and adventures; Archer moves about a fair bit and gets a beating or two as well. This is not a protagonist-hero as superman, who never puts a foot wrong, and in fact, he is lucky to get off unscathed (or with only a few bruises) considering the situations he ends up in. Thankfully, some people have his back, and although this is a novel full of deceitful characters, betrayals, and two-timing scoundrels, there are also upstanding friends and associates of Archer, and that makes it quite different from some of the noir novels of the period, as those P.I.s tend to be less than exemplary and morally ambiguous, while Archer is… well, a bit of a Boy-Scout, and an honest man. I liked Archer’s friends as well, particularly Willie, his ersatz father, and Jake, a man who’d paid a heavy price for going after the bad guys, but I was also impressed by the number of female characters included in the novel. There are men as well, of course, and one of the baddies (perhaps the most typical one) is a man, but most of the important characters are female, and they are not only important to the development of the mystery itself, but they all have their own lives and professions, and that makes them quite remarkable for the period. They are not all good or bad either, but that is to be expected, and I enjoyed that aspect of the novel in particular.

This book takes its time to build up the story and the characters, and in that, it has more in common with classics of the genre than with some of the frantic page-turning thrillers we are more used to reading these days. I did not mind at all, as I enjoyed the writing style, the background, and the detours Archer took us on, and I think it helped with the mystery as well, as most readers will have time to come up with their own hypothesis as to what is going on, but there are so many strands to the story that most people will find one or two surprises along the way. Did I like the ending? Yes, I did. I have mentioned that this book seems to represent a crisis point, or rather, a big change for Archer and his career, and I felt that worked well, although I understand why some people might have hoped for a more conventional all-around “happy” ending.

Readers can always check a sample to see if the writing style suits their taste, but I decided to share a few random quotes, to give you a bit of a taster.

Here a character is talking to Archer about a movie project and a particular director:

No way in hell Bette Davis is letting Danny direct her. It would be like Lassie directing Brando, and that’s an insult, actually, to the dog.

One of the women I mentioned says this:

No one ever assumes the wives in this town have anything to do other than dress nicely, stay skinny, not dribble what little food we do eat down our fronts, and never, ever drink as much as our husbands, at least in public.

Archer always liked to approach a problem from the rear. He had learned in the war that frontal assaults made generals look heroic, but made their soldiers simply dead.

I recommend this novel to people who enjoy historical detective novels set in the 1950s, particularly in L.A., especially if they are fond of the classics of the genre, to fans of Baldacci, and to those who enjoy complex mysteries with strong characters and a descriptive and engaging writing style.

Thanks to NetGally, Pan Macmillan, and the author for this enjoyable novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling and encouraging others to read!

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview THE OTFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY by John Dolan (@JohnDolanAuthor) Put your sense of humour to the test if you dare! #humour

Hi all:

One of my favourite authors is back again, and this time he’s thrown us a curb-ball.

The Otford English Dictionary by John Dolan

The Otford English Dictionary by John Dolan

Not to be confused with The Oxford English Dictionary, this is a reference book for the incurably cynical. Containing hundreds of definitions of a corny or inappropriate nature, it is the ideal gift for that person who hankers after the Good Old Days before political correctness, and who thinks a damn good hiding is still the best cure for anxiety.

If you are easily offended, you should probably buy a proper dictionary; though that won’t make you feel any less depressed about the modern world. But, let’s be honest, what could?

https://www.amazon.com/Otford-English-Dictionary-John-Dolan-ebook/dp/B09VF8XDXM/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Otford-English-Dictionary-John-Dolan/dp/B09VF8XDXM

https://www.amazon.es/Otford-English-Dictionary-ebook/dp/B09VF8XDXM/

 About the author:

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

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

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

https://www.amazon.com/John-Dolan/e/B008IIERF0/

Author John Dolan

My review:

I have been a fan of John Dolan’s books for a number of years now, and although he is best known for his two pretty special detective/mystery series, set mostly in the Philippines, he’s published other books that fit less easily into a standard genre (not that his mysteries are formulaic in any way), and I’ve enjoyed it enormously as well. I’d read anything Dolan publishes without hesitation, and this unique book is further evidence of that. I didn’t know I needed this unique dictionary until I became aware of its existence, but now, it’s difficult to believe I’d manage all this time without it.

How can I comment on this book? As the description says, it is a dictionary. Not an exhaustive one, of course, as this is a rather short book, but a lot of us would be able to navigate most aspects of our everyday lives using the words in this dictionary. Although, depending on what we are doing and who we’re interacting with, we’d be better off keeping the definitions to ourselves. Because incurably cynical or not, most everybody would find something to feel offended about, or at least, feel one’s sense of humour stretched to the limit. Unless, of course, you have learned to laugh at yourself, and then, well, you’ll have a ball.

The book combines some of the best characteristics of what is considered “British humour”: we have puns and wordplay; we have a very dry sense of humour; we have self-deprecation; we have touches of the absurd and the whimsical; we have rude and politically incorrect comments (that ring so very true!); a fair bit of lateral thinking; and, of course, tons of wit.

I’m not sure what else can I say… The list of warnings would be too long to include (no topic is left untouched and nothing is safe or sacred here), and, this is not a book to read all in one go, although it is difficult to stop once you get going. On the other hand, you need to have your wits about you, because some of the definitions rely on pronouncing the words aloud, others on thinking outside of the box or making unusual connections, and you might miss much if you don’t give each definition sufficient time. So, read it in small doses, nip in and out of its pages, and go back to it again and again. I recommend rationing its laughs and pleasures to make it last because we all need a good dose of cynicism and a smart retort every so often.

It’s difficult to choose what to share to give prospective readers an idea of what to expect, but I’ll share a bit of the introduction, where the author explains his intentions and one of his definitions.

 If you are looking for a learned work to assist with your wordsmithing, this is not it. If, on the other hand, you like an unseemly chuckle to relieve an otherwise tedious day, then this might be your thing. Of the definitions you will find in these pages, some are corny, some rely on wordplay, some need to be read out loud, and many are downright inappropriate for the modern age.

 DOLANIC: adj. Term invented by the egotistical author of this tome to describe his writing: dark, peppered with gallows humour and often politically incorrect.

Now you know. If you aren’t put off by any of the comments above, congratulations. This dictionary is for you. Enjoy! And if you haven’t read any of Dolan’s previous books, what are you waiting for?

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

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE SILENT BROTHER by Simon Van der Velde (@SimonVdVwriter) A hard-hitting novel, beautifully written and observed, and a lesson in narrative

Hi all:

I bring you another book by an author whose very special book of short stories, Backstories, I featured recently. This one is a novel, and it is quite a novel.

The Silent Brother by Simon Van der Velde

The Silent Brother by Simon Van der Velde 

When his beloved little brother is stolen away, five-year-old Tommy Farrier is left alone with his alcoholic mam, his violent step-dad and his guilt. Too young to understand what has really happened, Tommy is sure of only one thing. He is to blame.

Tommy tries to be good, to live-up to his brother’s increasingly hazy memory, but trapped in a world of shame and degradation he grows up with just two options; poverty or crime. And crime pays.

Or so he thinks.

A teenage drug-dealer for the vicious Burns gang, Tommy’s life is headed for disaster, until, in the place he least expects, Tommy sees a familiar face…

And then things get a whole lot worse

Links:

Northodox Press – https://bit.ly/3qObqdl

Amazon https://amzn.to/3uK9sNC

Barnes and noble https://bit.ly/3MOA8CS

Goodreads – https://bit.ly/3ri3std

Author Simon Van Der Velde

 About The Author

Simon Van der Velde was born and educated in Newcastle upon Tyne where he trained and practiced as a lawyer. Writing, however, was always the real passion, and Simon has now left the legal profession in order to concentrate on his writing.

Since completing a creative writing M.A. (with distinction) at University of Northumbria in 2011, Simon’s work has won and been short-listed for numerous awards including; The Yeovil Literary Prize, (twice), The Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal, The Wasafiri New Writing Prize, The Luke Bitmead Bursary, The Frome Short Story Prize, The Writers’ and Artists’ Short Story Prize, The Harry Bowling Prize, The Henshaw Press Short Story Competition and The National Association of Writers’ Groups Open Competition.

Simon is the founder and chair of Gosforth Writers Group and author of the widely acclaimed, Amazon bestseller, Backstories, ‘the stand-out most original book of the year’ in 2021. His literary crime novel, The Silent Brother is published on 16th June, 2022 by Northodox Press. Simon is

currently working on both Backstories II and his follow-up crime novel, Dogwood.

Having travelled throughout Europe and South America, Simon now lives in Newcastle upon Tyne with his wife, labradoodle and two tyrannical children.

https://www.amazon.com/Simon-Van-Der-Velde/e/B08SKCFFNY/

My review:

I read and reviewed Simon Van der Velde’s book Backstories, which was a great success with many other members of Rosie’s Book Review Team as well; I expressed my interest in reading the second volume of that book (due in autumn 2022), and I ended up exchanging several messages with the author. He told me he had finished a novel and asked me if I’d be interested in reading it, although it was quite different to Backstories. When he told me what it was about, I could not resist, and I thank the author for providing me with an early ARC copy of The Silent Brother, which I freely chose to review.

The author, of course, was right. This novel is pretty different from Backstories, although it retains some of its best qualities and goes further still, building up the setting and, especially, the characters, creating fully-fledged individuals and a universe that merges realistic details with fictional but truly believable and understandable situations. One wouldn’t be surprised to read some of the episodes featured in the novel in a local (or national) newspaper, and, unfortunately, many will be quite familiar, especially to UK readers. (Not that similar stories don’t happen in other places, but one of the beauties of the novel is in the detail, and the author explains where the story comes from and how and why it was born, in his note Victims or Perpetrators? The Inspiration Behind The Silent Brother). I suspect that for many people in the West, the idea of poverty wouldn’t include their neighbours or people living just a few streets away from them, but there are many who are born into families with little to no resources and for whom “dysfunctional” is perhaps an understatement in our own countries and cities.

Tommy, the protagonist of the novel, is one of those people. Born into a family that is far from conventional (or happy), he lives a very traumatic event when he is very young, and he blames himself for what happened and feels guilty ever since. This is only the first of many traumas he manages to survive, but not unscathed, and it is easy to understand why and how he ends up becoming a criminal. There is never much of a reprieve for Tommy, though, and every time things seem to be going right for him, something happens and reality comes crashing down on him. But, one of the qualities that will endear him to most readers is that he never gives up. His decisions might get him (and others) into trouble quite often, but he is loyal to his friends (in his own way), and he is a better judge of character than he gives himself credit for.

The story is told in the first-person from Tommy’s point of view, and although he is not always the most reliable of narrators (Personally, I think he knows when to stop telling a story and when to edit out some things. He is clearly in control of the narrative), his pretty unique point of view and his inside knowledge serve the reader well, because he is insightful enough to pick up on clues and events that are important even before he knows why, and although he hides some things even from himself, he evolves and has learned to face the truth by the end of the novel.

I have talked about Tommy, and, as I have mentioned before, I think the characters are all very well written, recognisable, and memorable. There are truly bad baddies; some that fall in the grey area (most of the rest); some likeable but puzzling and ambiguous (sometimes, perhaps, because we see them through Tommy’s eyes, and his emotions and feelings toward them change); and some that we can’t help but feel sorry for. Tommy sometimes annoyed me, but he also intrigued me, grabbed my attention, and wouldn’t let go, and I loved Annie from the very first. She is a wonderful character, despite (or perhaps because of) the terrible circumstances she finds herself in, and she is full of ambiguities, as real people are.

Beyond the social commentary (which makes the book well-worth a read already), particularly aimed at the changes many cities in the North of the UK went through in the final decades of the XX century (in this case, the Northeast, especially Newcastle and Sunderland), we have many themes that are explored in the novel: single parenthood, the underclasses, alcohol and drug abuse, abusive relationships including domestic violence, the role of social services, bullying, gang crime and violence, drug dealing, family relationships, regret, guilt, trauma, self-harm, PTSD, the self-expressive and healing power of art, different kinds of friendship, the nature of storytelling and narratives, and above all, this is a story about love: fraternal love, family love, and also romantic love, against all odds.

The writing is wonderful, though harsh at times, of course. The author has a talent for descriptions, and I don’t mean only physical descriptions —which he does well enough— but he can make us see a person, a place, and feel as if we were living a moment, by focusing on the small details: a noise, a touch, a gesture… He recreates the atmosphere of the city, the pubs, the clubs, the houses, the social services office… And he immerses us inside the head of the main character, getting us to share his thoughts and his experiences. It can be a pretty uncomfortable place to be in, but, somehow, you don’t want to leave until you’ve seen the whole thing through. The story is told (mostly) chronologically, although at times there are intrusive memories and thoughts that disrupt the character’s perspective, sending him (and us) back to particular events.

Rather than sharing my favourite quotes (and there are many I highlighted), I include an excerpt at the end, chosen by the author.

As you can imagine from the list of themes, the book is tough and pulls no punches. This isn’t a look at life through rose-tinted glasses, so people who find bad language, violence, and any (or all) of the topics mentioned upsetting, should be wary of the contents. Despite all that, though, this is a very hopeful book, and I loved the slightly bittersweet ending. I won’t give too many details, because I don’t want to spoil it for readers, and some things aren’t revealed until the very end and might come as a surprise, but let’s say that I was satisfied with the fate of most of the characters, and I hope most readers will be as well.

I recommend this novel to those who already know the author (I’m sure they’ll love it as well) and to those who don’t but appreciate realistic and hard-hitting stories, beautifully written, full of heart, with social consciousness, especially those set in the contemporary UK (particularly the North of England). It does not pull any punches, so people worried about certain types of content (violence, substance use, abuse…) should be warned, but otherwise, this is a novel whose characters will stay with the reader, and one that will make us face some uncomfortable truths as well. The author has more novels coming out soon, so make sure not to miss any. I won’t.

Excerpts from The Silent Brother

‘They’re coming for you,’ Mam said

That’s how it all got started…cos of me being a coward

Bells, it says, but it doesn’t ring, it crashes

‘Do as your told and there’s five grand in it for you. Or you can piss about and get another kicking’

Back in Walker …with the police camera that never works and the half bricks lying in the road, and all those mean-eyed bastards sitting on their front steps, getting pissed, shouting the odds at anyone who looks at them.

‘All I want is a fair cut.’ ‘You want your cut? I swear, you f*ck me about and you’ll get your f*cking cut’

I’ve got a good feeling about this. I’ve got a good feeling about everything. So long as I keep the music playing and the money coming, so long as I don’t go back down Belmont Street, so long as I keep on flying and never look down.

Her arms pull me closer. Her body draws me deeper. I don’t know where I end, where she begins.

The place is normally lit in this pink-ish dusk with silk sheets hanging off the balcony rail, so it looks like the sort of boozer

Aladdin might’ve bought it after he found his genie. But Aladdin didn’t buy it. Eddie Burns did. That’s why we’re sitting here, shitting ourselves, waiting to see exactly how pissed off Eddie’s going to be.

Thanks to Rosie and the members of her team for introducing me to this author, thanks to the author for the book, and thanks to all of you for reading, for your support, for sharing with all who might be interested, and remember to keep smiling and being your wonderful selves. ♥

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog MURDER AT BUCKSKIN JOE. A NOVEL by J.v.L. Bell (@jvlbell) A cozy historical murder that is worth its weight in solid gold #RVRT #historicalfiction #cozymystery

Hi all:

I bring you a novel I truly enjoyed, which combines two fascinating genres, and it works very well, at least in my opinion. See what you think!

Muder at Buckskin Joe. A Novel by J.v.L. Bell

Murder at Buckskin Joe. A Novel by J.v.L. Bell

Territory of Colorado, 1865

Millie knows the raucous mining town of Buckskin Joe is no place for children, but when Dom’s Uncle George shows up needing help, the whole family reluctantly heads to South Park. George has been accused of murdering his mining partner, Wandering Will, and although Millie questions his innocence, she finds there are many suspects who wanted Will dead.

There’s fancy-girl Queeny, Will’s ex-wife, and dancehall-girl Kate, who wanted to be Will’s next wife—until he dumped her. Mountain man Kootenay despised Will enough to have dispatched him and the Odd Fellows have seized George and Will’s mine, claiming the gold inside for themselves.

Millie’s investigation heats up when Dom volunteers to visit the local saloon for some hands-on investigating of Queeny and Kate. Interruptions from hostile Utes, the children’s devilment, and the local schoolmistress chasing after Dom make this Millie’s most difficult investigation—especially when the killer decides she is getting too close.

Murder at Buckskin Joe weaves a cozy murder mystery with fascinating South Park mining history and lovable, unforgettable historic characters.

https://www.amazon.com/Murder-Buckskin-Joe-J-v-L-Bell-ebook/dp/B09G39199C/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09G39199C

https://www.amazon.es/Murder-at-Buckskin-Joe-English-ebook/dp/B09G39199C/

Author J.v.L. Bell

 About the author:

Author J.v.L. Bell is a Colorado native who grew up climbing 14,000 ft. mountains, exploring old ghost towns, and hiking in the deserts of Utah. Whenever possible, she and her family can be found hiking, rafting, or cross-country skiing.


https://www.amazon.com/J-v-L-Bell/e/B01KKX8WZQ/

www.JvLBell.com

 My review:

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

Cozy mysteries can be a bit hit-and-miss for me, but this one, with the added attraction of the historical gold-mining background setting and the fabulous cast of characters, worked wonderfully for me, and I loved it. Even though this is the third book in a series, it can be read and enjoyed in its own right, as it does provide readers with all the relevant details needed to follow the story, although I confess I wouldn’t mind reading the two previous ones.

The description of the book is quite apt, although it can’t reflect the full catalogue of adventures and characters included in the novel. We have the fabulous background of the gold mining town (already running out of gold at the time of the story), with plentiful but well-integrated historical detail; we have the day-to-day drudgery of living in an outpost of “civilization” (a term I use fairly loosely here); we have the animals (I love Buttercup, the fainting goat, and don’t ask me to explain, but I am also fond of the burros [donkeys in Spanish], and even the bear… No, I’m not explaining that either); we have a sheriff who is a gifted baker (the characters aren’t the only ones drooling over his confectionery); we have secret and newly found relatives all around; we have ill-fated love stories, and others that seemed impossible but work out; we have Dom and Millie’s children, Rachel (oh, she is infuriating but such a fabulously realistic character and I love her to bits), and Hosa (who wouldn’t worry about a Navajo boy who lost his family but only wants to go back and fight against the white men?)… And, of course, we have Dom and Minnie. Minnie is the main character, and although the story is told in the third person, we see everything from her point of view, and it is impossible not to like her. I particularly enjoyed the fact that she is not a modern heroin transplanted to the past. Although she has her own ideas, she also hesitates, tries her hardest to conform to the norms (down to using etiquette books and all), and feels conflicted about her desire to investigate and what she feels is her duty towards her husband and children, and she is not perfect. She is daring and determined, rushed at times, but she can also be frightened and even phobic about certain situations. She doubts her own skills as a mother and questions herself, and that made her a true character rather than a caricature for me. Dom, her husband, is again not perfect. He supports her, is patient with her, and understands her, but he is not beyond making mistakes, trusting people he shouldn’t, and even turning on her when he gets anxious or scared. Yes, they do fight, and yes, they do love each other. It feels like a real marriage, with two people trying their hardest to make everything work in their highly unconventional family.

I have already mentioned some of the things I really liked about this novel. I enjoyed the way the characters are created because even those who don’t play big parts are not simple cut-outs. They all have their personalities, their distinctive features, and they all keep us guessing. I also like the historical note the author includes at the beginning of the novel. I have read historical novels where I spent most of the time wondering how much of what I was reading was based on fact and how much was creative license. Here, the author covers that at the very beginning, before we start reading, and although in her acknowledgments she talks about her sources and her process of creation in more detail, we are in no doubt as to what we are reading.

I also enjoyed that, despite the many things going on throughout the novel, the actual investigation is never too far away from the centre of the action, and although, evidently, this is not a police procedural novel where everything is highly scientific and all the details are accounted for, if we take into account the era and where the action takes place, the murder mystery works well, and I loved the slightly bittersweet ending as well.

The writing is dynamic, flows well, and it combines inner reflection and observation on the part of Millie with plenty of action scenes, which keep us turning the pages. There are many amusing moments, some scary ones as well, and the dialogues bring the characters to life and make them jump out off the page truly realised. We also learn about gold mining and about the era, its social mores and the way daily life was organised. The knowledge and research the author has done and her talent in combining a cozy murder mystery with a historical novel portraying the life in the second half of the XIX century in the Territory of Colorado shines through. It’s a winner.

I don’t really dislike anything about the book; I can only say that I hope there will be further adventures, and we’ll get to know what happened to some of the other characters we’ve met here. I am happy there are previous novels I can catch up on as well.

In summary, this is a fantastic novel. It is funny, it is informative, it is full to the brim with unforgettable characters, it has plenty of adventures, it contains historical information about gold mining that never impedes the flow of the story, and it includes adventures and action scenes to satisfy those who prefer stories that keep moving along at a good pace. And a fairly solid, if cozy, mystery. There are threats, scary moments, and even violence, although not extreme, and I would recommend it to anybody who enjoys a good yarn. It’s solid gold.

Thanks to the author for this novel, thanks to Rosie and all the members of her team for their support, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and always keep smiling and keep safe!

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

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

Hi, all:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kindle:  relinks.me/B09TN3NDX1

Paperback:  relinks.me/B09TN1F58B

Author Teagan Geneviene

About the author:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Universal Purchase Links

Journey 12, Goddesses

Kindle:  relinks.me/B09P5LJY13

Paperback:  relinks.me/B09NTTZ9J8

Journey 11, the Sumelazon Escarpment

Kindle:  relinks.me/B09M7Q19XT

Paperback:  relinks.me/B09M4QWDYK

Journey 10, Pergesca

Kindle:  relinks.me/B09J6TH8TD

Paperback:  relinks.me/B09J7GFWYV

Journey 9, Doors of Attunement

Kindle:  relinks.me/B09F8Y5DML

Paperback:  relinks.me/B09F1BB9RW

Journey 8, The Lost Library

Kindle:  relinks.me/B09C6MPTYT

Paperback:  relinks.me/B09C34XR7P

Journey 7, Revenant Pass

Kindle:  relinks.me/B098MS8P48

Paperback:  relinks.me/B098GV1G5V

Journey 6, The Fluting Fell

Kindle:  relinks.me/B096CPJNSX

Paperback: relinks.me/B096CPJNSX

Journey 5, Llyn Pistyll Falls

Kindle:  relinks.me/B09431TD6G

Paperback:  relinks.me/B0942KC471

Journey 4, The Old Road

Kindle:  relinks.me/B092G5LB7R

Paperback:  relinks.me/B092M51Y88

Journey 3, the Fever Field

Kindle: elinks.me/B08XTNZ9M8 

Paperback:  relinks.me/B08XXY3JXF

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

Journey 2, Penllyn

Kindle:  relinks.me/B08VMNSF97

Paperback:  relinks.me/B08VLMR2KD

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

Journey 1, Forlorn Peak

Kindle:  relinks.me/B08RBBVRGX

Paperback:  relinks.me/B08R7RH4F5

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

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