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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog WHERE THERE’S DOUBT by Terry Tyler (@TerryTyler4) Twisted plots, twisted characters, and a gripping tale #conartists #psychologicaldrama

Hi, all:

I bring you a novel by one of Rosie’s Book Review Team members, who happens to be an extremely gifted author as well. This is not the first of her novels I read and review, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last either.

Where There’s Doubt by Terry Tyler

Where There’s Doubt by Terry Tyler

‘I can be anything you want me to be. Even if you don’t know you want it. Especially if you don’t know you want it.’

Café owner Kate is mentally drained after a tough two years; all she wants from her online chess partner is entertainment on lonely evenings, and maybe a little virtual flirtation.

She is unaware that Nico Lewis is a highly intelligent con artist who, with an intricately spun web of lies about their emotional connection, will soon convince her that he is The One.

Neither does Kate know that his schemes involve women who seek love on dating sites, as well as his small publishing business. A host of excited authors believe Nico is about to make their dreams come true.

Terry Tyler’s twenty-fourth publication is a sinister psychological drama that highlights the dark side of internet dating—and the danger of ignoring the doubts of your subconscious.

 https://www.amazon.com/Where-Theres-Doubt-Terry-Tyler-ebook/dp/B09WJLJRJ6/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Where-Theres-Doubt-Terry-Tyler-ebook/dp/B09WJLJRJ6/

https://www.amazon.es/Where-Theres-Doubt-English-Terry-ebook/dp/B09WJLJRJ6/

Author Terry Tyler
Author Terry Tyler

About the author:

Terry Tyler is the author of twenty-four books available from Amazon, the latest being ‘Where There’s Doubt’, about a romance scammer. Also recently published is ‘Megacity’, the final book in the dystopian Operation Galton trilogy. She is currently at work on a post apocalyptic series, which will probably take the form of three novellas. Proud to be independently published, Terry is an avid reader and book reviewer, and a member of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

Terry is a Walking Dead addict, and has a great interest in history (particularly 12th-17th century), along with books and documentaries on sociological/cultural/anthropological subject matter. She loves South Park, the sea, and going for long walks in quiet places where there are lots of trees. She lives in the north east of England with her husband.

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

 My review:

I have read several series and single novels (some linked to one of her series) by Terry Tyler, and she’s become one of a group of authors whose next release I automatically add to my TBR list. And no matter what genre she chooses to write in, I’ve never been disappointed yet.

On top of that, I am a fan of books, movies, and series, about con artists, (I even wrote about it in my PhD), so the description of this novel made it sound like the perfect read for me. And yes, it was.

As you can imagine, I cannot describe the plot of the book in too much detail, because among the beauties of heists and con games are the twists, surprises, and trying to guess what comes next, so I’ll keep my peace. The description talks about a couple of the protagonists and two aspects of the business, the romantic con and also the literary con. The romantic con is something most people will be familiar with, as it seems to have existed, in one form or another, for a very long time, but the novel illustrates how much easier things have become nowadays, with the almost universal access to the internet and social media. The literary con will sound very familiar to those of us who are authors or follow and know indie authors, and I thought the combination of both worked really well and allowed Tyler to include some very interesting comments about the current state of the publishing industry. And those who know her work will have the added bonus of recognising some plot descriptions and some locations as well. (But don’t worry, this is a totally independent book, and you don’t need to have read any of the author’s previous books to enjoy this one, although I’m happy to recommend them all).

As you can imagine from the subject, themes such as trust, confidence, honesty, sincerity, love, fraud, hope, caution, betrayal, psychology, manipulation, pretence, friendship, and greed, but also grief, creativity, ageing, fame, small-town society… And a few other things that I won’t mention to avoid giving out too many clues.

For the same reason, I cannot talk too much about the characters. One of the things I most admire about this author is her talent to create both, compelling plots that keep you turning the pages, and characters that grab your attention and whose actions and the reasons behind them will keep you intrigued, irrespective of how much you like them. There were quite a few characters in this novel that I didn’t like very much (if at all, although in some cases this changed, in both directions, as the story progressed), but that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to know what made them tick. Quite the opposite. This is, partly, because the novel offers us different accounts of the events, most narrated in the first person, where we get to share in the thoughts and the deepest feelings of the characters, both “good” and “bad” (although these notions are far from being totally black and white). Even though most of the narration follows Kate and Nico, they are not the only ones we hear about, and that means we get a good understanding of the complexity of the con, and also of the reasons why such different people get involved, both as victims and as perpetrators.

Readers don’t need to worry about getting confused, as each chapter is narrated from a clearly indicated character’s point of view, and the story is told in chronological order, with the dates also included. Because we are privy to the characters’ thoughts, we also bear witness to their memories and recollections, and that allows us to get some much-welcomed background information. But, Tyler knows very well how to create tension and when to swap and change points of views to avoid revealing too much. She doesn’t use unreliable narrators (if anybody is an unreliable narrator, that is her), although it is fair to say that some of the characters have very limited insight into how they come across or what their real talents are, but most of us have been unintentionally guilty of that at some point.

This novel runs the whole gamut of emotions, and they are beautifully reflected in the writing. We have “perfect” romance (different versions of it, as that is in the eye and the heart of the beholder), we have grief (different versions of it as well), and we have betrayal, hope, selfishness, coldness, fear, desperation… And although there are sad moments, there are also very funny ones, and plenty of surprises (I suspected some, not others). Each character has his/her own personality, and the way their thoughts are expressed fits them perfectly. You can hear and see them in your head as you read. You can imagine their tone of voice and their gestures. And thanks to the brief samples of the novels submitted, you also get a fair idea of what those might be like (and be thankful for not having to read those). The rhythm is perfect, alternating between quiet and introspective moments, and tense and action-filled ones. As I always say, you can check a sample of the book if you want to know if the style of writing would suit your taste, but I don’t dare to share anything, just in case.

There is very little I can say about the ending, evidently. But, it worked beautifully for me. I am not one for perfect, all-tied-up, endings, especially for this kind of book. There are genres that call for a happy (or a scary, or sad) resolution, but with psychological drama, I’ve always felt something should be left to the reader’s imagination, and a little uncertainty is always called for. That doesn’t mean there isn’t closure, and I love the way things work out for most of the people involved (on both sides of the con). This might be a tale of caution, but it’s not all doom and gloom.

I recommend this novel to readers who enjoy complex plots, books told from different points of view, psychological dramas where one gets to delve into the characters’ minds and their motives, to fans of con games and con artists, and to anybody who enjoys good writing, set mostly in the UK, but with some visits to fancy locations as well. Some of the emotions the characters experience can be tough for readers who’ve suffered recent losses or breakups, and although not extreme, excessively explicit, or prominent, there is violence in the novel, so those looking for a cosy mystery should try elsewhere. Otherwise, go for it. If you haven’t read any of Terry Tyler’s books, I’m sure you’ll become a convert, and if you have… what are you waiting for?

There are glad tidings in the author’s note at the end, and I am eagerly awaiting her next series (while checking some of the old ones as well).

Thanks to the author for her book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to share, like, comment, click, and always keep smiling and stay safe!

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Book launch book promo

Extract from The Last Princess by Author Shelley Wilson @ShelleyWilson72 #NewRelease #TheLastPrincess #Vikings #BHCPress

Hi all:

I don’t usually blog on Wednesdays, but as wonderfully talented author Shelley Wilson was having a book launch tomorrow, I had to bring you her book and made sure it was available for you. So, here it comes.

The Last Princess by Shelley Winter

The Last Princess by Shelley Winter 

Edith still has much to learn about the art of ruling a kingdom, but when her family is murdered, she’s faced with the challenge of staying alive. 

As a young woman in Anglo-Saxon England, Edith finds it hard to be heard above the Eldermen who are ripping the kingdom to pieces, but nothing can prepare her for the arrival of the pirates and the Vikings. Torn from her homeland and sold into slavery, she’s determined to survive at any cost. 

Finding allies in the unexpected and enemies closer to home, Edith clings to her dream of returning home one day to reclaim her throne and to exact revenge on those who harmed her family.

Extract from The Last Princess

Northumbria, England.

AD 866

‘It’s too far for them to travel without us,’ my mother protested.

There weren’t many women who could admonish their king and get away with it, but Mother wasn’t your usual woman. She was strong and capable, an equal match to my father’s bravery and flair.

‘Nonsense. Kings have been sending their children on pilgrimages for years without issue.’

‘The girls aren’t on a pilgrimage though, are they, my love? They’re simply parading themselves for the good of our kingdom in the hope of snaring a suitable husband.’

Father dismissed her comment with a wave of his hand and snatched up his goblet of mead, draining the contents in one gigantic gulp. He threw his arm out and a servant jumped to attention, immediately filling the empty vessel.

‘We’ll be all right, Mother,’ I said in a bid to quiet the unrest etched into the queen’s brow. ‘We’ve got Edmund and lots of soldiers with us.’

A trusted friend of my father’s, Edmund was an elderman, and it landed on his shoulders to serve the king in any capacity. At the moment, it was my father’s wish to send his three daughters across Northumbria on a “husband-grabbing rampage”—Mother’s words. ‘I’d feel much happier if one of us were accompanying them, that’s all.’

My father rose from his elaborate throne and approached his wife, tucking a loose curl of her hair beneath her veil and kissing her gently on the forehead. My sisters always looked away when our parents were loving, but the exchange fascinated me. I hoped that our husband-grabbing rampage bore me a spouse as loyal, and handsome, as my father.

Although marriage at a young age wasn’t what I’d hoped for myself, I understood the commitment we, as heirs to the crown, needed to make to secure the future of our realm. At seventeen, I should have been wed long ago, but Father had grumbled over every suitor who stepped through the doors of Bamburgh fortress and into his court. It was at Mother’s insistence that we now embraced the task ahead. 

‘They’re good girls, strong-willed like their mother.’ Father chuckled and cupped Mother’s chin in his hand, raising her head so they were looking into each other’s eyes. ‘They have Edmund and my best guard, but I doubt they’ll need them. I saw Edith practising with a sword when she didn’t know I was watching.’

Father winked at me as Mother rolled her eyes in dismay.

‘When will you start to act like a lady, Edith?’

I shrugged and tried to look suitably mortified for my mother’s sake, but I was elated that my father, the king of Northumbria, thought my skills with a sword were enough to keep us safe on the road. My private lessons with Edmund were paying off.

‘Go. All of you, gather your things as you leave at first light.’

My sisters and I shot off in all directions, excited to get back to our chambers and start packing. As the eldest daughter, I could take the largest luggage chest, which meant at least two good dresses for the journey, whereas my siblings would have to entertain suitors in the same old dress. I could have cut back on the lavish jewels and slippers and let them pack more, but I wasn’t that nice when it came to my sisters.

Being only two years apart in age from one another, my sisters had bonded so much that it was difficult for anyone to break through into their confidence. I’d tried over and over as they were growing up, but they always saw me as the older sister, able to come and go as she pleased. Over time it was easier to ignore, tease, or annoy them as I saw fit, something my father found amusing but our mother discouraged at every opportunity.

‘Try to act like a princess, Edith,’ she would tell me when I’d hidden their slippers or put a spider in their bed. ‘One day you will be a queen, and a queen doesn’t drop a leech into her siblings’ bathwater.’

It was unheard of for a daughter to succeed as heir, but as our father had only produced girls, it rested at my feet to take up the mantel of queen should something catastrophic happen to the king.

Father had spoken to me at length about it only recently, calling me into his private study, which contained hundreds of scrolls—or lessons, as Father liked to call them. He showed me a map of the kingdom and where our boundary lines met with Mercia, the centre of England.

‘One day all this will belong to you, my daughter.’

I’d traced my finger along the map, outlining Northumbria from east coast to west, a sense of pride and passion rising through me. Losing my father was not something I wanted to contemplate—he was an amazing man and an even better king—but the thought of ruling our beautiful land was too tempting to push those wicked thoughts from my mind.

‘I thought only sons could rule, Father.’ 

‘Nonsense. If I will it, which I do, then you will succeed me when I die.’ 

‘But the eldermen might object.’ 

‘They wouldn’t dare defy the ruling of their king.’ The power in his voice thundered around the small room, and I knew he was right. Nobody would have the strength of character to argue with him, apart from my uncle. 

Being the king’s only brother, Aelle didn’t cower like the other eldermen. He stood up to my father and tested him. Although Father always bellowed his dissatisfaction at being challenged in his court, I knew he secretly enjoyed sparring with his younger brother. They had a similar relationship to me and my sisters—they loved each other one minute and wanted to bury each other in the vegetable garden the next. 

‘What will your first act be when you become queen, Edith?’ 

I’d pondered his question for a moment as I studied the map on the table. 

‘I’d invade Mercia, then Wessex, and become queen of all England.’ 

He roared with laughter and swept me into a warm embrace that only a father can give. 

‘That’s my girl,’ he said. ‘A warrior queen.’ 

GET your copy of The Last Princess

 BHC Press – https://www.bhcpress.com/Books_Wilson_The_Last_Princess.html

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Barnes & Noble

Waterstones

Google Play

Kobo

Apple Books

About the author:

Shelley is an English multi-genre author. She has written nine young adult/middle-grade supernatural, fantasy, and historical novels, a children’s meditation book, and six motivational self-help titles for adults.
She is a proud single mum of three and lives in the West Midlands, UK. Shelley loves travelling in her VW camper searching for stories. She also enjoys paddle boarding, Tudor and Viking history, supporting Leeds United, and obsessing over to-do lists!
 

Her latest book, The Last Princess, is out on 24th May 2022, published by BHC Press Books.

https://www.amazon.com/Shelley-Wilson/e/B00G5KPMJI/

Good luck and thanks to Shelley for sharing the news with us, thanks to all of us for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and keep reading and smiling!

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog ENDING FOREVER by Nicholas Conley (@NicholasConley1) Inspiring, hopeful, beautifully descriptive and heart-wrenching at times #RBRT

Hi all:

I bring you today a book by an author who always makes me think and wonder. I kept thinking about an author and blogger I know while I read this book, and I think she’ll know why.

Ending Forever by Nicholas Conley

Ending Forever by Nicholas Conley

Axel Rivers can’t get his head above water. Throughout his life, he’s worn many hats — orphan, musician, veteran, husband, father—but a year ago, a horrific event he now calls The Bad Day tore down everything he’d built. Grief-stricken, unemployed, and drowning in debt, Axel needs cash, however he can find it.

Enter Kindred Eternal Solutions. Founded by the world’s six wealthiest trillionaires and billionaires, Kindred promises to create eternal life through mastering the science of human resurrection. With the technology still being developed, Kindred seeks paid volunteers to undergo tests that will kill and resurrect their body—again and again—in exchange for a check.

Axel signs up willingly, but when he undergoes the procedure—and comes back, over and over—what will he find on the other side of death?

 https://www.amazon.com/Ending-Forever-Nicholas-Conley-ebook/dp/B09XW82CXT/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ending-Forever-Nicholas-Conley/dp/194805194X/

https://www.amazon.es/Ending-Forever-English-Nicholas-Conley-ebook/dp/B09XW82CXT/

Author Nicholas Conley
Author Nicholas Conley

About the author:

Nicholas Conley is an award-winning Jewish American author, journalist, playwright, and coffee vigilante. His books, such as Knight in Paper Armor, Pale Highway, Clay Tongue: A Novelette, and Intraterrestrial, merge science fiction narratives with hard-hitting examinations of social issues. Originally from California, he now lives in New Hampshire.

www.NicholasConley.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.

This is the third book by Nicholas Conley I read and reviewed, and having loved both, Pale Highway and Knight in Paper Armor, I was eager to check his newest work. His books are never run-of-the-mill or formulaic, and they don’t fit easily into a genre, and that is the case here as well. They also make readers question their beliefs, thoughts, and assumptions, in this particular book, about life and, especially, about death. Not an easy topic, and not one many books discuss openly, and that makes this unique book, all the more extraordinary.

The description included with the book provides a good idea of the plot without revealing too much, although this short book —which probably falls into the category of science-fiction for lack of a more suitable one— is not a mystery or an adventure story, and a detailed description wouldn’t provide true spoilers. But there is something to be said for discovering its wonders without being prewarned in advance. For that reason, I’ll only add that grief (as mentioned) and guilt are behind the main character’s feelings and many of his actions. He’s been pushed (by life and by his own decisions) to desperation, to the point of no return —or so he thinks— and the experiment he signs himself for offers him money, evidently, but perhaps something else, something or someone that will bring him peace.

Apart from grief, guilt, loneliness, depression, trauma, the nature of memory, family life, becoming an adult orphan, losing a child… if those topics were not enough to make it a must-read, the novel also comments on human greed, arrogance, and the immaturity and silliness of some of those mega-rich people who come up with self-aggrandising vanity projects, sometimes hiding behind the gloss of some future venture with commercial possibilities, or under the guise of research useful to humanity at large. I don’t think I need to name any names, here, as I’m sure a few will easily come to mind. And, of course, this is a book that explores our relationship with death and our reluctance to look closely at it.

Axel is the central character, and Conley presents him without any embellishments. This is a broken man, and although the story is narrated, mostly, in the third-person; we only see things from his point of view. The main story takes place over a few days (the ending, though, reveals the after-effects of what happens during Axel’s deaths and is set at a later date), but there are fragments in italics that clearly represent the memories of the character, and there are also brief interjections and thoughts we are allowed to see that come directly from his head. It is impossible not to sympathise with the character, because of all he has gone through, from early childhood onward; and the more we learn about him, the more we get to empathise with him as well. There are other characters, and although we don’t spend so much time with them, it is evidence of the author’s talent that they all feel real and complex nonetheless. I loved Brooklyn, whom Axel meets at the experiment, and who is truly his kindred spirit. Her little girl, Gwendolyn, is wonderful as well, and that makes their part of the story even more poignant. Malik, Axel’s friend and always supportive, keeps him grounded and real. Dr Kendra Carpenter is a more ambiguous character. She is on the wrong side of things, and her attitude is less than exemplary, but her reasons make her less dislikeable and more nuanced than a true baddie would be. We don’t meet the people financing the whole scheme, but that is not necessary to the story, as this is not about them. There are some important characters whom we only meet through Axel’s memories, both from his recent and from his more distant past, but they also become real to us.

The author writes beautifully. I have said already that this book probably falls within the science-fiction category, but not into the hard sci-fi subgenre, as it does not provide any details about the science behind the experiment. The novel is speculative in the sense of exploring and coming up with fascinating ideas and insights into what the other life (death) might look like, and the Deathscape and its inhabitants (for lack of a better word) are described in gorgeous (and sometimes scary) detail, with a pretty limitless imagination. Although the “real life” events taking place in the “now” of the story are narrated in third-person past, what happens while he is dead is narrated in the present (third-person again, apart from the odd moment when we hear his thoughts directly), but the changes in tense felt organic and in keeping with the nature of the story. Of course, one needs to suspend disbelief when reading such a book, but that is to be expected. I was completely invested in the story, and there was nothing that suddenly jolted me and brought me back to reality. Apart from the wonderful description, and the memories that are so vivid they pull at one’s heartstrings, the feelings of the main character are so recognisable, understandable, and so compellingly rendered, that one can’t help but share the way he is feeling, and that applies to both, when he is feeling devastated and when he is feeling hopeful.

Those who want to get a better idea of what the writing is like, remember that you can always check an online sample.

I struggled to decide what to share, but I decided to include the introduction and a couple of fragments:

 Dedicated to everyone I have ever lost. Every sunset precedes a sunrise, and what the dead leave behind shapes the future. May the memory of you —each of you—be a blessing.

 Here, Axel is talking to his father, as a young child. His father has lifted him on his shoulders and is showing him the lake.

…when Ax said that they were on the edge of the world, Papa said, “no, son. That out there, on the horizon.” He pointed. “It’s the beginning of the world. And it’s all yours to explore. To dream. Remember that.”

 “On the other hand, big machines don’t run unless all the little pieces work, right? And infinity… we might be small, Axel, but y’know, maybe we’re still totally vital to the whole thing running. Every decision we make influences every other part of it, I think. Even after we die. Might as well make the most of it while we’re still alive, I say.” (This is Brooklyn talking to Axel).

What a beautiful ending! Conley has a way of making readers experience the highs and lows of existence, of asking them to look into the abyss and to face subjects that make them uncomfortable, like death, but he always rescues them and offers them hope and a positive ending. And this story is no different. Do take the time to read the author’s acknowledgements at the end of the book. They offer an insight into the book’s creation and the author’s own world.

So, would I recommend it? Well, what do you think? Of course! I have mentioned the themes, and although the story is ultimately one of redemption and hope, there are some emotionally difficult and extremely sad moments as well, and it might be a tough read for people who are facing or have recently had to deal with some of the topics mentioned. I’d leave this to the judgement of the individual, but I’d say that most people will finish the book with a smile on their faces and feeling more hopeful and confident about the future.

Another great book by Conley, one of a group of authors I am happy to read and recommend without any hesitation.

Thanks to Rosie and the members of her team for their work and support, thanks to the author for another beautiful book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and always keep smiling and safe. ♥

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog DOCTOR GLASS by Louise Worthington (@louiseworthington9) For those who like to dig deep into the workings of the mind (but notice the content warning) #psychologicalthriller

Hi all:

I bring you a book in a genre I read many books in. This is the first in a series, so if you like psychological thrillers, this might be for you. But it does come with a warning. Or several.

Doctor Glass A Psychological Thriller Novel by Louise Worthington

DOCTOR GLASS by Louise Worthington

THE DOCTOR WILL SEE YOU NOW.

Psychotherapist Emma-Jane Glass has prioritized work over leisure for far too long. She does whatever it takes to help her clients, and it’s bordering on professional obsession. When she publishes a controversial article about unstable mothers murdering their children, an anonymous letter arrives on her doorstep:

I will expose you.
Then, I will mutilate you…
Wait for me.

After she is abducted into the night, Doctor Glass finds herself at the mercy of a dangerous sociopath. But being a relentless doctor of the mind, she feels an urge to help her fragile captor, even if it might shatter her sanity—and her life. It becomes a game of survival, and only one mind can win.

For fans of deeply layered thrillers by Ruth Ware, Tana French, and Alex Michaelides comes the newest voice in psychological fiction.

CONTENT GUIDANCE: This novel explores aspects of psychology and mental health and contains depictions of self-harm, alcohol abuse, eating disorders, and suicide. Please read with care.

 Link to the book:

Doctor Glass: A Psychological Thriller Novel

Link to the publisher’s website:

https://www.tckpublishing.com/

Author Louise Worthington

About the author:
Louise Worthington writes psychological fiction for fans of deeply layered thrillers by Ruth Ware, Tana French and Alex Michaelides. She has a passion for exploring the complexity and darker side of the human heart in tales imbued with strong emotional themes and atmospheric settings from poisonous gardens, medieval dungeons to an isolated property by the sea. Common themes are family, motherhood, making money from murder and revenge. 

She is the author of six novels, including Rachel’s Garden and The Entrepreneur, and the gothic horror, Rosie Shadow

 Author’s website:

https://louiseworthington.co.uk/

My review:

I thank Maria from TCK Publishing for providing me with an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review. This novel had been published before, but this is a new revised edition.

I was intrigued by the premise of the novel (having worked in mental health, I am always interested in seeing how the subject is portrayed), and although the author has published a number of books before, this is the first time I read her work. This is intended to be the first in a series, and I suspect it won’t be the last one I read.

The book’s description offers enough clues as to the story’s content, and I don’t want to spoil it for any future readers by adding too many details. The content guidance also hints at some of the themes. This is a novel that deals with topics that many people might find upsetting or disturbing. Although this is not unusual with psychological thrillers, be warned that this novel is pretty open and honest in its depiction of extreme behaviours (self-harm, abusive relationships, murder/suicide, filicide, somewhat unusual sexual preferences, eating disorders, co-dependency…) and a variety of mental health problems (PTSD, pathological grief, personality disorder, Stockholm Syndrome…) This is not a sanitised version of any of those problems, and readers need to be aware of that. (I worked as a psychiatrist and have seen my share of things, although, thankfully, not everything that goes on in the book, and I didn’t find it disturbing, but I am not the standard reader, so do take the warnings seriously). Oh, I almost forgot to mention that there is a touch of the supernatural/paranormal as well.

I am always interested in the therapist in the novels featuring one, and Emma-Jane Glass is a woman totally dedicated to her work, who at first appears very professional and self-confident, but what she goes through makes her question much of what she thought was certain. Her experiences and thought processes, although extreme (I won’t mention suspension of disbelief, because we all know this is a novel, after all), rang true (not that I’ve ever met a therapist who regularly uses hypnosis in my professional capacity, but then I’ve always worked in hospitals, mostly for the NHS, so it might be more common in private practice), although I missed knowing more about her, where she came from, and her background. We only learn about her friendship with Lucy, who has an office next door and works as a nutritionist, and we also hear about her supervisor, Celia (whom we never meet until very close to the end), but there is nothing else of a personal nature. The story is narrated in the third person, mostly from Dr Glass’s point of view but not exclusively, although that does not help us understand who she is, beyond her professional identity and interest. (It does give us some interesting insights into the minds of some of the minor characters, though). This being a series, it is possible that those aspects will be developed in other books, but I missed that. Lucy is a likeable character, full of doubts and not as self-confident as Emma-Jane. We know about an important loss she suffered, and there are times when it feels as if her friend was living vicariously through her whilst trying to help her at the same time (as Dr Glass seems to be more involved in Lucy’s life than interested in having a private life of her own). I liked her, but I wasn’t sure the relationship between the two was sufficiently developed either.

I don’t want to go into too much detail talking about other characters. The main antagonist (whom I wouldn’t define as a standard baddie) does terrible things, but he has also gone through some soul-destroying suffering, and he is evidently very disturbed. Although his emotions and his most extreme behaviours come across as pretty realistic, there are elements of his characterization I wasn’t too sure about, but I don’t think anybody will feel indifferent about him. There are some other characters that make an appearance, and I was particularly moved by the story of one of Dr Glass’s patients, Vanessa, and her experience of grief. Some reviewers found the details about the sessions, both Dr Glass’s and Lucy’s, unnecessary, as they felt they detracted from the main story. Apart from my personal interest in the subject, I did think that the sessions help give us a better understanding of the thought processes of the protagonists, and also illustrate the kind of strain and pressures they are subject to, which go some way to explaining how they react at times. The rest of the characters are not fully developed, and there are a few things readers will be left wondering about, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.

The author writes beautifully, and there are lyrical passages, vibrant images, and masterful use of metaphors, which contrast with the darkness of some of the content while offering readers a reprieve and mirroring how the mind works, finding beauty in unexpected places and in extreme situations sometimes, as a self-defense mechanism and refuge. Some parts of the novel move at a faster pace than others, and, in general, the action picks up speed as the story develops, until almost the very end. There is an unexplained prologue, which many readers have complained about, and although it seems related to one of the topics that appear in the novel, it is not fully contained by it, and it made me wonder.

As usual, I recommend checking a sample of the novel if readers are not sure if it might suit their taste (making sure to heed the warnings first), but I thought I’d share a couple of examples of some of the content I’ve highlighted, to give you a small taste:

She finds the quietness of Vanessa’s sad smile moving, and she respects the way she wears her pain like glass: transparent, fragile. So brave, to not wear a brave face; to wear a real, feeling one.

 She watches a spider slowly crawl across the ceiling and onto the lampshade, sprinkling dust like dandruff. All that ceiling, all those walls, they’re like acres, countries, to a spider. Such freedom. Here she sits, trapped in a web. The spider’s unhurried movement stirs the mounting hysteria building inside her.

I have already mentioned that some things are left to readers’ imaginations, although the main story has an ending, and one pretty satisfying, at least for the main character. Considering the amount of time and detail dedicated to developing the story, I felt the ending was a bit rushed, but as this is a series, such things are likely to get balanced out in the future.

This is an enticing opening to a new series, one that promises to dig deep into psychological subjects, and if the characters keep growing, it will become even more compelling. I’d recommend it to readers looking for psychological thrillers that don’t mind digging deep into dark subjects, but please, make sure to check the content guidance.

Thanks to Maria, to the publishers, and to the author for this novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and especially, don’t forget to keep smiling and keep safe. 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

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

Hi all:

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

No Shadow Without Light by Luke Gracias

No Shadow Without Light by Luke Gracias

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

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

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

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

Can they save the world from its own destruction?

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

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

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

Author Luke Gracias
Author Luke Gracias

About the author:

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog Black, White, and Gray All Over: A Black Man’s Odyssey in Life and Law Enforcement by Frederick Reynolds Packed with local data and insights, this memoir pulls no punches

Hi all:

I bring you one of the books from Rosie’s Book Review Team list, a non-fiction one this time, and it is a police memoir with a difference.

Black, White and Gray All Over by Frederick Douglass Reynolds

Black, White, and Gray All Over: A Black Man’s Odyssey in Life and Law Enforcement by Frederick Reynolds 

From shootouts and robberies to riding in cars with pimps and prostitutes, Frederick Reynolds’ early manhood experiences in Detroit, Michigan in the 1960s foretold a future on the wrong side of the prison bars. Frederick grew up a creative and sensitive child but found himself lured down the same path as many Black youth in that era. No one would have guessed he would have a future as a cop in one of the most dangerous cities in America in the 1980s—Compton, California. From recruit to detective, Frederick experienced a successful career marked by commendations and awards. The traumatic and highly demanding nature of the work, however, took its toll on both his family and personal life—something Frederick was able to conquer but only after years of distress and regret.

“Black, White & Gray All Over not only recounts the stories of Frederick’s life and career but also the stories of his fellow officers. An honest, no-holds-barred history of the city of Compton’s gang violence, crack epidemic, and legacy of government corruption leaves readers of all backgrounds with a better understanding of race relations as well as the gray areas of policework in one of America’s most brutal cities.” -Zora Knauf

“If Fred Reynolds’s memoir Black, White and Gray All Over was just about being a cop in Compton, California, dealing with gangs, murders, officers killed in the line of duty, and the politics that drives it all, it would be worth the read. This book goes deeper, into what it means to be a man, more particularly a Black man, and to overcome every obstacle along the way to redemption. Don’t miss this one!” -#1 Bestselling Author J.J. Hebert

 https://www.amazon.com/Black-White-Gray-All-Over-ebook/dp/B09JF9VB4Z/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Black-White-Gray-All-Over/dp/B09JF9VB4Z/

https://www.amazon.es/dp/B09JF9VB4Z/

Author Frederick Douglass Reynolds

About the author:

Frederick Douglass Reynolds is a former Compton police officer and a retired LA County Sheriff’s Homicide Sergeant with a combined 32 years of experience working some of the worst areas of Los Angeles County. He retired in 2017 with over seventy-five commendations including a Chief’s Citation, five Chief’s commendations, one Exemplary Service Award, two Distinguished Service Awards, two Distinguished Service Medals, one city of Carson Certificate of Commendation, three City of Compton Certificate of Recognition, one city of Compton Public Service Hero award, one California State Assembly Certificate of Recognition, two State Senate Certificates of Recognition, a County of Los Angeles Certificate of Commendation, one Meritorious Service Award, two City of Compton Employee of the Year Awards, and two California Officer of the Year awards. He lives in Southern California with his wife, Carolyn, and their daughter Lauren and their young son, Desmond. They have six other adult children and nine grandchildren.

https://authorfrederickreynolds.com/about-frederick-douglass-reynolds/

 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.

This is a memoir, and as far from fiction as one could imagine. In fact, it is so full of facts and data that it can become overwhelming at times. The sheer number of events, of characters (well, not really characters, but real people: relatives, friends, neighbours, infantrymen, police officers, detectives, criminals, victims, local authorities, politicians…), of dates, of cases… make the book overflow with stories: sometimes those the author, Frederick Douglass Reynolds, participated directly in; others, stories providing background information to the situation or events being discussed or introducing some of the main players at the time of the action. I think anybody trying to recount even a small amount of what happens in the book would have a hard time of it, but anybody interested in the recent history of Compton law enforcement and local politics will find this book invaluable.

The author goes beyond the standard memoir, and although his life is the guiding thread of the book, he does not limit himself to talking in the first-person about his difficult childhood, his traumatic past, his petty criminal activities as a gang member in his youth, his time as a Marine Corps Infantryman, his less than stellar experience with personal relationships (until later in life), his allergy to compromise for many years (to the point of even refusing to get involved in the life of one of his children)… This well-read and self-taught man also offers readers the socio-historical-political context of the events, talking about the gangs, the rise of crack cocaine, the powerful figures moving the threads and holding authority (sometimes openly, and sometimes not so much), and he openly discusses the many cases of corruption, at all levels.

There is so much of everything in this book that I kept thinking this single book could become several books, either centring each one of them on a particular event, case, or investigation and its aftermath (for example. although Rodney King’s death didn’t take place in Compton, the description of how the riots affected the district makes readers realise that history keeps repeating itself unless something is done), or perhaps on a specific theme (as there is much about gangs, racism, corruption, the evolution of police roles and policing methods, violence in the streets, LA social changes and local politics, drugs…). Another option would be to focus on the author’s life and experiences growing up, on his personal life (his difficulties with relationships and alcohol, his PTSD…), and later his career, but perhaps mentioning only some of the highlights or some specific episodes, and with less background information about the place and its history (although some brief information could be added as an appendix or in an author’s note for those interested in knowing more).

This is a long book, dense and packed with a wealth of data that might go beyond the scope of most casual readers, but there are also scary moments (forget about TV police series. This is the real deal), heart-wrenching events (the deaths of locals, peers, colleagues, personal tragedies…), touching confessions (like the difficulties in his relationship with his son, becoming grandad to a boy with autism and what that has taught him), shared insights that most will find inspiring, and also some lighter and funny touches that make the human side of the book shine. Although Reynolds openly discusses his doubts, and never claims to be spotless, more upstanding, or better than anybody else, his determination to get recognition for his peers fallen in action, and his homage to those he worked with and who kept up the good fight clearly illustrate that his heart (and morals) are in the right place.

Most people thinking of reading this type of memoir are likely to know what to expect, but just in case there are any doubts, be warned that there is plenty of violence (sometimes extreme and explicit), use of alcohol, drugs, and pretty colourful language.

I recommend this book to anybody interested in the history of policing in LA (particularly in Compton) from the 1980s, gangs in the area, local politics, corruption, and any major criminal investigations in the area (deaths of rappers included). It is also a book for those looking for an inspiring story of self-improvement, of managing to escape the wrong path, and helping others do the same, and it is a book full of insights, inspiration, and hope.

I wonder if the author is planning to carry on writing, but it is clear that he has many stories to tell yet and I hope he does.

Thanks to the author for this book, thanks to Rosie and the members of her team for their ongoing support, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to keep smiling, to keep safe, and to share, like, comment if you wish. Big hugs!

Most of you probably know that I haven’t been promoting my books very much, but my friend, very talented blogger, fabulous writer, and wonderful artist, Teagan Geneviene (if you are not following her blog, here, what are you waiting for?) has created this wonderful image for my YA series Angelic Business, and I had to share it with you. If you are curious, you can always check the page I dedicate to My books (here), oh, and the first book in the series is free in most places. Just saying…

Thanks, Teagan!
Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog Sea of Tranquility: A novel by Emily St. John Mandel (@picadorbooks) (@EmilyMandel) Pandemics, time travel, and gorgeous writing #sci-fi

Hi all:

I am back, and I have a few books to share. This one is by an author I have come to truly treasure. Oh, and it will be published on the 28th of April, so not long to wait.

Sea of Tranquility Emily St. John Mandel

Sea of Tranquility: A novel by Emily St. John Mandel 

The award-winning, best-selling author of Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel returns with a novel of art, time, love, and plague that takes the reader from Vancouver Island in 1912 to a dark colony on the moon five hundred years later, unfurling a story of humanity across centuries and space.

Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal—an experience that shocks him to his core.

Two centuries later a famous writer named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour. She’s traveling all over Earth, but her home is the second moon colony, a place of white stone, spired towers, and artificial beauty. Within the text of Olive’s best-selling pandemic novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him.

When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the black-skied Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: The exiled son of an earl driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.

A virtuoso performance that is as human and tender as it is intellectually playful, Sea of Tranquility is a novel of time travel and metaphysics that precisely captures the reality of our current moment.

https://www.amazon.com/Sea-Tranquility-Emily-John-Mandel-ebook/dp/B099DRHTLX/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sea-Tranquility-Emily-John-Mandel/dp/0593556593/

https://www.amazon.es/Sea-Tranquility-Emily-John-Mandel-ebook/dp/B099DRHTLX/

Author Emily St. John Mandel

About the author:

EMILY ST. JOHN MANDEL is the author of six novels, including Sea of Tranquility, The Glass Hotel, and Station Eleven, which was a finalist for a National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Her work has been translated into thirty-two languages. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.

https://www.amazon.com/Emily-St-John-Mandel/e/B002BMMGK2/

My review:

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

I discovered Emily St. John Mandel eight years ago thanks to Station Eleven, which I loved, and I was also very impressed by The Glass Hotel, so I had great expectations for this one, and I wasn’t disappointed. Although it is not necessary to have read the other two novels mentioned to enjoy this one, there are characters and points of commonality between the three, and the way the story is structured (or rather fragmented and then put together, creating interesting and beautiful shapes) is also similar, with jumps back and forth in time (several centuries here), and, in this case, centred on a popular subgenre of science-fiction, time travel.

I don’t read science-fiction often, although I have read some novels in the genre that I’ve enjoyed. This novel is not hard science-fiction. There isn’t a lot of attention paid to how things work and the complex science behind it (the main character knows nothing about it and freely admits to it), nor long explanations and descriptions of the future settings we visit. There are several colonies on the Moon, and also further away, but although we get a feeling of how living there might be (because the characters experiencing it have always lived there, and we perceive things through their eyes. If anything, they are more intrigued by life on Earth than the other way round), there isn’t a deep analysis of every aspect of life in the future, and the mention of metaphysics in the description fits the when trying to describe this novel. It does ask some big questions, about what is important in life, about reality and simulation, about people sometimes living many lives and reinventing themselves, and about circumstances that can make us reconsider our reality, our priorities, and our sense of self.

Because I feel that the way the story is told and the plot are intrinsically linked, and it is difficult to talk about one without unravelling the other, I won’t even try. The blurb provides enough clues for readers to decide if they might want to investigate further. We get snippets of the lives of several characters, who have led completely different lives separated by centuries but are somehow linked. We have men, women, younger and older characters: a female writer famous for writing a dystopian novel set during a pandemic (sharing many similarities with St. John Mandel, in a fascinating exercise in metafiction); a young man exiled by his well-off family to Canada who goes on to fight in WWI; an old violinist who plays at an airport after losing his wife; a woman trying to find a friend whom she thought had betrayed her and discovering something truly disturbing; a listless man trying to find a job that will grip him and help him give meaning to his life… We get to see things from all those characters’ perspectives, narrated in the third person, sometimes in the present tense, but mostly in the past tense, but perhaps because of the fragmented nature of the narrative, and also because of the peculiarities of the characters (who seemed to all be preoccupied with analysing and observing what was happening around them, rather than fully experiencing and living their lives, at least at the beginning), I felt as if I was peering over their shoulders and being a spectator, although with privileged access to their thoughts as well. It wasn’t a problem for me, and as the novel progressed and the whole picture became clearer, I came to change the way I felt about some of the characters and to understand and appreciate them more. Being an avid reader, I really enjoyed the character of Olive Llewellyn, an author from the Moon on a book tour on Earth. The fact that her book has a lot in common with Station Eleven, and also the way her visit coincides with a pandemic on Earth, makes her feel particularly close to us and to our recent experiences, but, as I said, the rest of the characters grew on me, particularly Gaspery, who gains in complexity and interest, and I’m sure I won’t forget him in a hurry.

The author writes beautifully, combining brief and magical descriptions of locations, capturing awe-inducing moments in poetic language, and expressing complex ideas in simple but effective ways. This is a book where plot, characters, structure, and language live in perfect harmony, and despite the jumps in time and the moments of action, the overall tone is contemplative and reflexive. There are moments of telling, due to the nature of the story, but this does not detract from the atmosphere or the flow of the novel, and it does feel like a pretty short read that manages to pack quite a lot of meaning and thought into few pages. Despite the changes in time lineand point of view, the narration is always clearly signposted, and there is no risk of getting lost within its many worlds.

A few samples from the book (although there might have been changes prior to publication):

What if one were to dissolve into the wilderness like salt into water.

Olive here, thinking about the death of one of her characters in her novel, which one of the readers had described as “anticlimactic”:

 ... isn’t that reality? Won’t most of us die in fairly unclimactic ways, our passing unremarked by almost everyone, our deaths becoming plot points in the narratives of the people around us?

The thing with being away from her husband and daughter was that every hotel room was emptier than the one before.

What you have to understand is that bureaucracy is an organism, and the prime goal of every organism is self-protection. Bureaucracy exists to protect itself.

This is the strange lesson of living in a pandemic: life can be tranquil in the face of death.

I enjoyed the ending, and I can’t imagine a more satisfying one. There are twists and plenty of mysteries in the story, but things come together in the end. I am not sure if readers will find the ending surprising or not (it might depend on how much they read about time travel and how closely they follow the clues), but I enjoyed the sense of closure (for all the characters), and also the overall feeling of quiet, calm, and hope that its end brings. We might agree or disagree with the main character’s decisions, but I liked his attitude towards life and towards his fellow human beings.

Do I recommend this book? Definitely. I am sure fans of the author will enjoy it. Readers looking for a hard science-fiction novel or keen on a time travel narrative full of big adventures and thrilling moments might want to look elsewhere. But those who enjoy beautiful writing, don’t mind getting lost in speculation and allowing their minds to wander through a world of possibilities, should try this book. And if they haven’t read Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel and enjoy this one, they shouldn’t hesitate and just keep reading St. John Mantel.

Thanks to the publisher and to the author for this wonderful book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and above all, keep safe and keep smiling.

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

#TuesdayBookBlog Dark Hunter: A town under seige. A killer within by F.J. Watson #RBRT #historicalfiction

Hi all:

I bring another of the books I discovered thanks to Rosie’s Book Review Team, and although this is the first fiction book by the author, she is well known for her historical books and her work on TV.

Dark Hunger by F.J. (Fiona) Watson

Dark Hunter: A town under seige. A killer within by F.J. Watson

The year is 1317, and young squire Benedict Russell has joined the English-held garrison of Berwick-upon-Tweed after the spectacular Scottish victory at Bannockburn three years earlier.

Serious and self-doubting, he can’t wait for his time there to come to an end. Living on the disputed territory between Scotland and England is a precarious existence, and as the Scots draw ever closer and the English king does nothing to stop them, Benedict finds himself in a race against time to solve the brutal murder of a young girl and find the traitor who lurks within Berwick’s walls.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09QV7VZJT/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dark-Hunter-F-J-Watson/dp/1846976111/

https://www.amazon.es/dp/B09QV7VZJT/

Author F.J. (Fiona) Watson

Fiona Watson is a medieval historian and writer. She is the author of A History of Scotland’s Landscapes, Scotland from Prehistory to the Present, and, with Birlinn/ John Donald, Under the Hammer: Edward I and Scotland. She was the presenter of the BBC TV series In Search of Scotland.

Fiona lives in rural Perthshire.

 My review:

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

I have never read any books by the author, but she is an expert in Scottish history and has written and talked about it often, and that is evident when reading this novel, that fits well in the historical fiction genre, with the added attraction of a mystery, the murder of a young woman, thrown in. The investigation of that murder would have been difficult enough in normal circumstances, but it becomes almost impossible in the trying and tense times Scotland, and particularly Berwick-upon-Tweed, are living through in the historical period the novel is set in.

I don’t want to discuss the plot in detail. I am not referring to what really happened during the siege of the city (that is easy to check, and the author doesn’t stray from the facts but puts plenty of flesh onto the bare bones that have reached us about the event), but to the mystery introduced by Watson. I don’t want to spoil the story for readers, and there are plenty of details that I feel need to be read to be appreciated, but I am pretty sure that most mystery readers would enjoy the story because although it is not conventional, they will recognise many of the elements of stories with amateur sleuths (a good observer, with no special training but clever, with particular talents to go beyond and see what others don’t, a keen eye for picking up clues and examining evidence, some very peculiar allies, some early forensic analysis of the scene of the crime, and even a cipher). But there are plenty of themes that play a part in the story and that will easily connect with all kinds of readers: doubts about one’s identity and profession (particularly relevant for the protagonist, a young man on the verge of adulthood); the difficulty in really knowing and understanding others (and not jumping to conclusions and judgements about those around us); how to go beyond appearances and listen to one’s heart; the importance of learning to accept our own priorities and ignoring other people’s opinions; issues of national identity, loyalty, duty…; conquerors and conquered and their relationship (changing at times), and particularly the way women are victimised and pay a big price in war situations (something we are all thinking about at the moment); the social differences of the period and how those dictated one’s fate…

There are many characters in this novel, and in some ways it made me think of Shakespeare’s historical plays, where there is a vast cast of characters with very complex relationships of power and influence between them. Here we have the same, with the complication of the added fictional characters. Although with so many characters it is impossible to get to know them all in-depth, the author’s skill in making us see things from the protagonist’s perspective means that it is difficult to tell apart the historical characters from those she has created for the story. Benedict is the perfect protagonist for this novel. He is an outsider, both to the situation and to the place, and that makes him the perfect guide for the reader, as we feel as puzzled and uncertain as he does. He is naïve and has little experience in soldiering and real life, as he was following religious studies before a family tragedy changed his fate and threw him in the middle of a dangerous and fairly alien situation. On the one hand, he is more educated than many of the men around him, even those in charge, and that gives him unique skills that help him solve the mystery and discover other behaviours far from exemplary. On the other, he is new to the politics and to the struggles for power that underpin many of the events that take place, and his view of army life and of the situation he finds himself plunged into, at least at the beginning of the story, is simplistic and unrealistic. He expects people to behave according to high moral standards, but he soon discovers those around him are only human beings and far from perfect, and the “enemies” are not big scary devils either. As the story is narrated in the first person and present tense from Benedict’s point of view, readers` opinions are coloured by his judgement, sometimes pretty quick and one-sided, and only get to appreciate the nuances of some of the other soldiers and inhabitants when the protagonist is confronted with evidence that contradicts his first opinion. To give him his due (and I did like Benedict because he is passionate and devoted to what he feels is his mission, and is willing to give a chance to people ignored by the good society), he is willing to acknowledge his mistakes, to change his point of view, and he is, at times, a good judge of character, even when that means going against general opinion. In her acknowledgements, the author describes Benedict as “priggish” and “naïve”, but she also refers to “his kindness and gentle spirit” and to a “less jaded view of the world” that reminds her of her son, and I cannot argue with that.

His love interest (and there is one, as there should be in a novel that is also a coming of age story) is, perhaps, my favourite character, and Lucy is fascinating and unusual for many reasons. It was refreshing to see a female protagonist (quite a few women appear in the story, although most don’t have big parts, as seems to be the case in many war stories) who isn’t conventionally beautiful but is irresistible nonetheless. The fact that she has to face many challenges, (other characters call her “a cripple”) but never bends to conventions or hides behind closed doors make her unique, although I have a soft spot for all the women in the novel, as they have to endure trials beyond those of the men, with little if any, acknowledgment.

Berrick-upon- Tweed plays a very important part in the novel, and it is more than a setting, as it does reflect the feelings and the changing fortunes of Scotland, England, and the people inside it, with its changing loyalties and sense of self. The author includes a map of the town with the main locations that play a part in the story, and that helps us better imagine the comings and goings of the characters and the intrigues that take place. (There was no cast of characters included in my copy, and I am not sure if that is to appear in the final version or the paperback copy, but I think it might be useful to readers to have a bit of added information about the characters, especially those based on real historical figures).

I enjoyed the writing. Apart from the first person present tense narration of most of the novel, the first chapter contains a brief fragment, in italics, told from a different point of view, whose meaning we don’t fully understand until much later in the story (but we might suspect from early on). There are descriptions of places, people, and everyday life that give us a good sense of what living in that period must have been like, and despite the tense atmosphere, there are lighter interludes as well. There are beautiful passages, some contemplative, reflective and poetic, and also some very tense and action-packed moments, although the rhythm of the novel, which takes place over a year, reflects well the seasons and the experience of the men at the garrison, with a lot of waiting, preparing and hanging around, and some frantic moments when all hell breaks loose. The alternating of quiet moments with fast-paced ones (and those become more frequent towards the end) accommodates well both, the historical events and the mystery, giving each enough time to develop. Mine was an ARC copy and there might be changes in the published version, but I share a couple of fragments I highlighted:

 I stretch and walk again, trying not to think about the passing of time, for such thoughts only draw it out like an arrow that is never sprung.

 Wandering downstairs before bed, I stand outside in the yard for a moment, watching the moon —waning now— cast her patient gaze upon us. The stars lie above, held up by angels. I pray that all will be well.

 I see, too, that we live in difficult times precisely because those, from the king down, who should behave the most honourably, the most justly, are little better than liars and thieves. This I have learnt.

 The ending… As I said, the historical events are easy to check, and the novel remains faithful to them, although it emphasises how things change and nothing is settled forever. As for the fictional characters, especially Benedict, the ending is fairly open but hopeful, and I liked that aspect in particular. And, do not fret, the mysteries are solved.

 I really enjoyed this novel, set in a historical period I knew very little about, and I particularly enjoyed the feeling of closeness and of sharing what it must have been like. I would recommend it to readers who enjoy historical fiction, particularly those interested in Scottish history, lovers of mysteries set in the past, those who enjoy puzzles and ciphers (I always feel I would like to be shown the actual text they are trying to decipher), and readers who enjoyed The Name of the Rose might want to check this one (although it has been a long time since I have read it or even watched the movie, so take that with a pinch of salt). This is not a cozy mystery, though, and readers should be warned about the use of strong language at times, violent scenes (not the most explicit I’ve read, but this is a war after all), torture, rape, and violence towards women (again, not explicit but disturbing nonetheless). But anybody who enjoys well-written and well-informed historical fiction set in the XIV century, are interested in the Scottish-English conflict and don’t feel the warnings apply to them, should check this novel. Fiona Watson’s move to fiction is a success, and I hope this will be the first of many of her novels to see the light.

Thanks to the author, the publisher, and to Rosie and her team for all their support, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, keep smiling, keep being kind, and keep safe.

Ah, and I wanted to let you know that I’ll be away from home for a couple of weeks or so, so don’t worry too much if you don’t see me around. I am not sure how much I’ll be able to connect while I’m away (I hope for a nice break with friends, so fingers crossed!), so I might not appear or be able to say much when I do, but don’t worry. I’ll be back soon. Stay well!

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog Our Trespasses: A Paranormal Thriller by Michael Cordell (@TCKPublishing) Mystery, paranormal, horror, twins and cinematic writing #horror #paranormal

Hi all:

I bring you a hybrid book that combines two genres I am a fan of. I enjoyed it!

Our Trespasses by Michael Cordell

Our Trespasses: A Paranormal Thriller by Michael Cordell

Deliver us from evil…

Drowning in a meaningless existence flipping burgers, Matthew Davis suddenly collapses from a powerful psychic connection he shares with his twin brother, Jake. The pain is violent and immediate, and Matt knows exactly what it means… hundreds of miles away, Jake has been viciously killed. But instead of severing their connection, the murder intensifies it and Matt begins to suffer the agony of Jake’s afterlife.

Hell bent on solving Jake’s murder in order to break the connection, Matt travels to his troubled hometown of Hatchett, Nebraska, where an old lover and savage new enemies expose the festering wounds that Jake left behind.

Matt tries atoning for Jake’s sins, but when a demon infests the connection between the two brothers, Matt must find a way to sever their bond before his world, and ours, become engulfed in the flames of hell.

Fans of Stephen King’s The Outsider, Stephen Graham Jones’ The Only Good Indians, and William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist will find this new paranormal thriller impossible to put down.

https://www.amazon.com/Our-Trespasses-Paranormal-Michael-Cordell-ebook/dp/B09GPXRWJT/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Our-Trespasses-Paranormal-Michael-Cordell-ebook/dp/B09GPXRWJT/

https://www.amazon.es/Our-Trespasses-Paranormal-Thriller-English-ebook/dp/B09GPXRWJT/

Here is the link to the publishers website:

https://www.tckpublishing.com/

Author Michael Cordell

About the author:

Michael Cordell is a novelist, playwright and produced screenwriter. His first novel, “Contempt”, is an Amazon Best Seller and Amazon Top 10 Legal Thriller. He has sold three screenplays to Hollywood, including “Beeper”, an action-thriller starring Harvey Keitel and Joey Lauren Adams.

Michael currently lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.

You can reach Michael at michaeljcordell@gmail.com

 https://www.amazon.com/Michael-Cordell/e/B001KECNKU/

 My review:

I thank TCK Publishing (Maria Inot in particular) for providing me an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

I had never read any novels by Michael Cordell, but once I started to read this one, I was hooked. His experience working as a screenwriter (and a screenwriting teacher) comes through, as there are some scenes in this book so vividly rendered that it is impossible not to see them playing inside your head while you read it. And, they aren’t always comfortable viewing either! (I’m not sure I’ll look at a clothes closet the same way again, but I will not go into it to avoid spoilers).

This novel offers an interesting combination of genres. Although it is not the first time I come across a mystery/thriller with paranormal/horror elements (I’ve enjoyed Hyde by Craig Russell and The Coven Murders by Brian O’Hare, for example), this one has some interesting elements that might appeal to people who don’t normally read in either of those genres. The main character, Matthew (Matt) Davis, is not a detective or a policeman, but a pretty normal guy whose brother has been killed. We are aware, from the very beginning of the story, that he had a special connection with his twin brother Jake, but we soon learn what this truly means in the current circumstances. Although he ends up investigating his brother’s death, this is not out of revenge or even to try to get his brother’s murderer to justice, but for a pretty different reason. The paranormal element, which starts pretty low-key, moves onto full-blown horror towards the end of the novel, and I am not revealing anything unduly when I say that hell and demons play a big part in the story (and there are crows. Those of you who loved Hitchcock’s The Birds will nod in recognition at several scenes in the book).

I think these two genres mix quite well in this particular novel, as long as readers are willing to suspend their disbelief and not stick to the specifics of either genre (the mystery-thriller especially). In fact, I think the combination of the two genres works to keep us guessing and makes it more difficult for us to focus on solving either aspect of the story (because there are several mysteries and a lot of secrets hiding in this narrative). Although the pace of the novel is more contemplative than many thrillers are, the tension builds up slowly but ramps up towards the end, and its particular rhythm allows us to get to know the main character (whose point of view we follow —although narrated in the third person— the whole story) and to get a good picture of the little Nebraskan town where the story takes place. Of course, the author does not reveal everything about the character, and although we might have some suspicion about what really happened in the past, the ending brings some interesting twists to the story.

Apart from the novels mentioned in the above description, the story also had elements that made me think of The Dry by Jane Harper. The grown-up man coming back to his hometown after many years away to attend a funeral (in that case that of a friend, rather than his brother), and the descriptions of the weather, the place, and the secrets brought it to my mind, although there are no paranormal elements there. And I also thought about A Nightmare on Elm Street more than once (although no Freddy here).

I liked Matt well enough, even though his life seemed to be very unfocused and low-key to begin with, stuck and unable to move on for no clear reason. Things become clearer as we read on, and we get to understand his actions and empathise with him by the end. I also appreciated Matt’s sharp and dry wit, and his somewhat dark sense of humour, especially evident at the beginning of the novel (seeing the funny side of things gets difficult as the days pass). Jake… We get different versions of Jake, and although he is not a sympathetic character, he is an intriguing one, and not as one-sided as he appears at the beginning. I liked Claire. Although we don’t get to know her very well, she has done the best of a bad situation, and she is supportive, tries hard to do the right thing, and is a friend to her friends. I loved Andy. He is a fantastic character, and I would happily read a whole book about him. He also provides some light relief to the story (but he has some eerie moments as well)! The twin’s mother is a character I would have liked to learn more about, and I would also have liked to know more about the family dynamics, but that would have slowed the story down and turned it into something else.

The book abounds on reflections about guilt, duty, family ties and relationships, loyalty, small-town politics, faith and religious belief, the need to forgive and move on… The protagonist is faced with some impossibly tough decisions, and although not in the same circumstances, many readers will empathise with the feeling of being trapped and having no good way out.

I have mentioned the vividness of the writing, and the skill and craft of the writer come through. The story flows well, and although the rhythm is not frantic or typical of a thriller, it keeps you turning the pages (or sweeping them) to learn what is going to happen next. There are beautifully descriptive passages and quite a few hair-raising action scenes that make it into a satisfying reading experience. Remember that you can always check a sample of the book in your e-book store if you want to make sure the writing style fits your taste.

A couple of snippets of the book here:

 That was one of the things you could count on in Nebraska: most everyone was nice and more than happy to help. It was already starting to put him on edge.

 Skiz had told him a story that sounded as reasonable as talking monkeys riding unicorns, and yet he’d latched onto it as if it were a scientific fact. (If you wondered about the suspension of disbelief, the protagonist has some misgivings as well).

 The ending will satisfy most readers, I think. I have mentioned the twists (you might or might not see them coming, but I wouldn’t say they are evident), and because of my particular taste in endings, I would probably have preferred something a bit more nuanced and less final, but that is me. It makes perfect sense in light of the genre combination, but horror for me… must leave us feeling uneasy rather than reassured.

As to recommendations, this is a good and fun read, and people looking for books that combine genres, happy to suspend their disbelief, and not scared of paranormal and horror elements, (and not easily offended by somewhat unorthodox religious references and bad language) will have a great time with this story. I would also recommend it to those who enjoy movies in those genres, as it is very cinematic.

Thanks to the publisher and the author, for this novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to stay safe, optimistic (as far as you can), and to keep reading, smiling, and enjoying life to the maximum. 

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog AN IDLE KING by Andrew Paterson A journey into the heart of darkness and a hell that feels ever closer #RBRT

Hi all:

I am bringing you another one of the selections from Rosie’s Book Review Team, and one that I chose because I had read a couple of books by our dear friend, talented blogger, and writer Mary Smith (sorely missed) set in Afghanistan, and I wondered how her point of view would compare with that of a former Canadian army officer who had fought there. I don’t think I had other wars in mind at the time, but things have moved on since I selected the novel, as we all know, and now it feels strangely apt and many of the reflections contained in the book hit the right spot for me.

It is so weird to think that many of the things I read about in dystopic books seem to be coming true at the moment… I guess we read these books thinking that the stories they contain might happen at some point, but I don’t think most of us expected it to be during our lifetime. And now we have global warming peaking up, pandemics running riot, and war in Europe (and threats of WWIII). Let’s hope all these books are wrong.

Sorry for wandering off on a tangent. Here comes the review.

And Idle King by Andrew Paterson

An Idle King by Andrew Paterson 

Imagine fighting a war no one wanted you to win. Imagine never wanting to leave.

Afghanistan has been abandoned by the international community. Left to the ravages of warlords and mercenaries, vying for dominance over the new Silk Road.

For Callum King, a former officer who was discharged from the army, his past remains very much tied to that forsaken place. When he receives an offer from one of his former soldiers to work for a private security company in Kandahar, the contract represents an opportunity to make amends for his failures as a soldier and a leader. But the cost would mean walking away from a family that he’s tried so hard to put back together.

An Idle King is a modern retelling of an ancient story about lost soldiers who can never go home.

Andrew Paterson is a former infantry officer who served with the Canadian Army and deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 as a Platoon Commander. He now lives in Ottawa with his wife and two sons.

 https://www.amazon.com/Idle-King-Andrew-Paterson-ebook/dp/B09KF8L1DD/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Idle-King-Andrew-Paterson-ebook/dp/B09KF8L1DD/

https://www.amazon.es/Idle-King-English-Andrew-Paterson-ebook/dp/B09KF8L1DD/

 My review:

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

I didn’t know the author before reading this book, and there isn’t much information available about him, other than the brief biography included above, which mentions his army experience that comes through loud and clear in the novel.

The plot can be summed up quite briefly: Callum King, a former army officer who was discharged in not very good terms, is struggling to find his place in civilian life. He is running a group of veterans and is back with his family, but there is something amiss. When he hears about one of his soldiers —the one involved in the incident that led to his discharge— he sees it as an opportunity to make amends, despite his family’s reluctance to his getting involved. So, he ends up back in Afghanistan in what proves to be the mission from hell (or close enough).

Although the main character and most of the members of his team will be recognisable to readers of war novels or people who watch war films, the story is not the typical one of heroism under fire and all resourceful soldiers who can deal with anything (although there is something of the brothers-in-arms at play). Regret, the difficulty in fitting back into life as usual, finding one’s place and identity in a changed and changing world, learning how to communicate with family members, discovering the narratives and stories that keep us anchored in the past and prevent us from moving on… It is a book that is not afraid to look into the depths of its protagonist’s soul and mind, to go digging even further, and it doesn’t pander to anybody’s expectations.

Callum is a complex character who tries his hardest to be true to himself and to not disappoint everybody else’s expectations (those of his father, his wife, his son, his friends, and team members, his employers, and society at large), but he has difficulty understanding himself and getting his priorities in order. It is difficult to identify fully with him because most of us have never experienced anything even remotely like what he went through, but the author shares with us his thoughts and point of view (although narrated in the third person, the use of the present makes us feel as if we were there), and we also get to share in some of the other characters’ thoughts and experiences, and that gives us a wider perspective of the situation while we can also appreciate how he comes across to others.

The rest of the characters are quite varied: the somewhat naïve but eager and less-experienced soldier; a non-military medic who ends up in a very tricky situation; a couple of soldiers who bail off as soon as they have any misgivings about the whole thing; a soldier more interested in his boxing career than in anything else, a fabulous huge and fatherly Maori from New Zealand whom I loved; as I did Murph, a female soldier who becomes Callum’s right hand and is resourceful as can be; a man that has lost his way but still retains his loyalty; a local with inside knowledge caught in the middle of an impossible situation… Oh, and the client is disagreeable, unbearable, demanding…. They also come across some fascinating individuals, but I won’t try and mention every single one of them. Let me just say that it feels at times as if we were on a mythical trip (The Odyssey perhaps), where we go from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the magical to the most abject carnage, and from naked realism to the heights of surrealism.

I have mentioned the point of view, and the author writes beautifully (some of the scenes are indeed breathtaking) and vividly about landscapes, people, and situations, some real and some hallucinatory or dreamlike. The pace is not constant, and there are slow and contemplative moments, but also action scenes that rump up the rhythm and the tension. Although this is not a violence-fest or a narration overflowing with senseless gore, there are very violent scenes, so I wouldn’t recommend it to people looking for a peaceful and relaxing read. This is, after all, a book set in a territory where war and armed conflict have become the norm, whatever the official status of the nation might be at any given time. The novel is peppered with military terms, some that I was vaguely familiar with, but others I didn’t really know (although that didn’t prevent me from following the story or being gripped by it). As I read an ARC copy, I wasn’t sure if later editions might include a glossary of terms, which readers not versed on the subject would appreciate.

The ending is bitter-sweet, because although it is not a happy ending (it wouldn’t be befitting to the book genre), I found the resolution satisfying, at least for the main character, and I am happy to confess that I felt very moved by the two last conversations in the book, where we see several generations of men of the same family, who have always cared about each other but never managed to talk in a meaningful way, finally communicating their true feelings for each other.

There are many quotable fragments I would like to share, but I will choose only a few, and you can always check a sample from your favourite online store if you wish to check it in more detail.

 Your people have been coming here for thousands of years trying to conquer our country. You might as well throw sand against a mountain.”

 “Nation-states are finished. The future is the market-state. Instead of politicians and parliaments, now the world’s run by hedge fund managers and venture capitalists.”

 “You are fragmented and lacking certainty. You will not be able to make any decisions that way.”

“I don’t understand.”

“That is your problem, my friend. Like most people, you spend your life asking the wrong question.”

“Which is what?”

“What is my purpose?”

“Then what’s the right question?”

“What is our purpose?”

 “There`s so much he could say, so much he should say. Why do the truest things always remain unsaid?”

 I recommend this novel, which reminded me of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and even more of Apocalypse Now, to anybody who doesn’t mind harsh narratives that question the nature of reality, identity, war, and our own selves. Right now, when the future appears particularly uncertain, it seems more relevant than ever. A novel that will leave readers with more questions than answers, and one they will keep thinking about for a long time.

Thanks to the author and to Rosie and her team for their support, thanks to all of you for reading, sharing, commenting, and liking, and let’s hope things get better. Keep smiling, keep safe, and keep positive. 

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