Book Reviews

Who Among Us by Chris Harrison

26818468What Da Book Says:  Disowned by her family and deranged by anger, Jennifer Enzo views the world as a demonic garden, a film script and a list of names to be assassinated. But when she finds her own name on the list she is forced out of her insular world to counter a sinister threat to her life.

Professor Virginia Bruck’s world is divided between her research in artificial intelligence and posing for her husband, the eccentric German artist Earnst Bruck. Suspected of being the source of a destructive rumour she decides to do what her semi-aristocratic family have never done throughout centuries of rumour, and fight back.

Frieda Schoenhofer, a self-made millionaire, is determined to explain the death of a local witch. Police are equally determined to explain a baffling double murder and Frieda becomes their first suspect after the body of a man is found hung above the north door of Bamberg Cathedral.

All three women share a common association: the Malandanti, a four hundred year old network of covens on the brink of collapse following rumours of a plot to kill the leading members. As the conflict intensifies and the familiar world disappears, they will be forced to reassess their own ambitions, confront the nature of guilt and innocence, and question how their beliefs explain the supernatural forces they each control.

What I Says:  I am a big fan of paranormal books, vampires/witches/werewolves I love reading stories featuring them, there is such a history already in place and reading a book by one author means you can read a book by another and the characters feel similar.  In recent years though the book world has been flooded with some terrible stuff, it’s all about cute boys, weak girls and magic spells along the line of “izzy-wizy-lets-get-busy” and for some reason 1000’s of readers seem to love them.

Chris Harrison though has stepped up and is writing some bloody brilliant stuff, the characters are strong, both women and men, the spells are stunning, spread across many pages, chanting, carving into skin and human sacrifices, it’s how it should be. 

Who Among Us is part political thriller, part Study of Satanic religious beliefs and even a wee bit of Scifi thrown in. The story is spread across Europe, there are a few plot lines running at the same time but still easy enough to follow.  In his writing Chris is not afraid to kill of a character or destroy whole towns.

I can’t fault the writing, I have really enjoyed reading this.  I recommend though that you start with reading “We are Toten Herzen” the story starts there and is referenced many times in this book.

Please read this book as it deserves to be read by 1000’s.

5_stars

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Book Reviews

The Saddest Pleasure A Journey on Two Rivers by Moritz Thomsen

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What Da Book Says: Abruptly expelled from his farm in Ecuador at the age of sixty-two, Moritz Thomsen indulges in that saddest of pleasures – travel – taking a trip to Brazil and ultimately a journey up the great Amazon River by boat.

Assaulted by ghosts and memories at every turn, as his journey unfolds he re-examines his life to understand how he came to be living a life of self-imposed poverty and hardship. Outwardly he sails up the Amazon towards Manaus, giving us poignant and limpid descriptions of the river, yet inwardly a shattering romantic symphony rages, running from the depths of human misery to life’s small but exquisite transcendent pleasures. He spares the reader nothing.

What I Says:  This is a book about a journey on two levels, it is based in reality travelling through Brazil, but the bulk of the journey is done in Moritz’s head as he relives important moments of his past.  Moritz has been kicked off his farm by his partner Ramon due to Moritz becoming ill, now he is in exile in Quito with nothing to do, so he decides it is time to travel down/up the amazon, something he has always wanted to do.  That is all we are told, you feel sorry for this old man, and disgusted with the “evil Ramon”.  Doing one of these long journeys is always part exploring new places and part discovering yourself, the flashbacks to Moritz’s past hit him as soon as he leaves the first airport.  His Dad was a real peace of work, coming from money, anything his son does is a disappointment to him.  As the book progresses we witness many snapshots of Moritz clashing with his dad, we see him meeting Ramon, setting up the farm and finally we see the truth about the eviction, which was something Moritz wasn’t aware of until the realisation hits him on this journey.

Moritz is an amazing writer, his style draws you in quickly, with each rant and “Goddamn” you get more comfortable.  He doesn’t shy away from anything, he does moan constantly though.  There are moments in this….almost a confessional…that hit the reader hard, his desperation on the farm is heartbreaking especially when he looks at himself in the mirror for the first time in years and sees what affect the jungle has had on him.

This has got to be considered one of the great travel books based in South America, I highly recommend this as Moritz has a voice that you must experience.

5_stars

Book Reviews

Dead Wendy by Richard Carr

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What Da Book Says:  Winner of the 2012 FutureCycle Poetry Book Prize. DEAD WENDY is a sequence of elegiac poems, reflections on broken relationships and unlikely friendships, lyrics—sung, shouted, wept—of life’s raw drama and ultimate tragedy. At heart, it is a love story. The narrative a tapestry of memories brought forth in three distinct voices as each character recounts events, the poems chronicle the last days of a young woman and the two men who loved her—and pursued her beyond death.

What I Says:  I quite liked this one, a book of poetry told from the perspective of 3 different people.

Wendy is dead. The boy starts off the book telling us his life and the love he had for Wendy. Then we have the point of view of Wendy, from beyond the grave!!!! Finally, and this is probably the saddest part of the book, The old Man, he loved Wendy too and he also cared for the boy but the sad thing is neither the boy nor Wendy acknowledge him even though he has been in their life.

This has a real liquid feel to it, depending on how you read a passage the boy could be in a relationship with Wendy, or he could have killed her or at one point he could have been grieving her loss whilst at war. Wendy seems to be both dead and alive, possibly in some kind of purgatory. The old man could be a relative, a god, death or a personification of nature.

However you read it this, it is interesting, I reckon you’ll come out thinking something different each time.

4_stars

Book Reviews

The One Rule of Magicy Chris Harrison

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What Da Cover Says:  Frieda Schoenhofer is dead, murdered in Rotterdam. For her grief-stricken parents the true story of their daughter’s life is about to begin.

Her father, slowly demolishing the world around him, tries to eradicate painful memories by throwing out his lifelong collection of film memorabilia. Her mother is convinced Frieda has been reincarnated as a new born foal.

But Frieda isn’t dead. She is travelling Europe hoping to rescue her father’s discarded collection. A journey of redemption that takes her to Nice, Prague, Turin and Vienna, where she meets a crooked dealer in antique silverware, joins a funeral party full of mourners who can’t stop laughing, falls in love with a beautiful marionette, and discovers a plan to destroy the legacy of Mozart.

The One Rule of Magic explores Frieda’s attempts to make amends for the crimes of her old life, come to terms with what she has become, and prepare her parents for the bizarre truth surrounding their daughter’s disappearance.

What I Says:  Yet another interesting take on the vampire myth, I’ve no idea how Chris Harrison keeps managing to find new angles on this subject.  In this outing he is dealing with grief, on one side you have the fledgling vampire dealing with the changes of dying and being reborn, you also have the family dealing with the lose of their child.  He covers some stuff I’ve not come across before in vampire books which was a nice surprise.  Reading as Frieda learns about her new abilities was enjoyable.

Whilst all that is happening Chris manages to include an interesting plot, it is quite basic, but with his ability to create such interesting characters it becomes a gripping read.  The only issue though is the length, the book is too short, the story could have done with being extended, you only see Frieda’s side of things, it would have been interesting to see what other characters were doing at the same time, including that bit more would have made this a 5 star book for me.

I really recommend you read Who among us first, just to avoid any spoilers.

A great addition to the Toten Herzen universe, looking forward to the next book.

4_stars

Book Reviews

Love of Country A Hebridean Journey by Madeleine Bunting

35921918What Da Cover Says:  Few landscapes are as iconic as the islands off the north-western Scottish coast. On the outer edge of the British Isles and facing the Atlantic Ocean, the Hebrides form part of Europe’s boundary. Because of their unique position in the Atlantic archipelago, they have been at the centre of a network of ancient shipping routes which has led to a remarkable history of cultures colliding and merging. Home to a long and rich Gaelic tradition, for centuries their astonishing geography has attracted saints and sinners, and stimulated artists and writers, inspiring awe and dread as well as deep attachment. Over six years, Madeleine Bunting travelled north-west, returning again and again to the Hebrides, exploring their landscapes, histories and magnetic pull. With great sensitivity and perceptiveness, she delves into the meanings of home and belonging, which in these islands have been fraught with tragedy as well as tenacious resistance. The Hebrides hold a remarkable place in the imaginations of Scotland and England.

Bunting considers the extent of the islands’ influence beyond their shores, finding that their history of dispossession and migration has been central to the British imperial past. Perhaps more significant still is how their landscapes have been repeatedly used to imagine the British nation. Love of Country shows how their history is a backdrop for contemporary debates about the relationship between our nations, how Britain was created, and what Britain has meant – for good and for ill.

What I Says:  My knowledge of the Hebrides at the start of this book was “they are somewhere north of Scotland”….turns out even that simple little fact was wrong, They are on the North West.  I also knew they were made up of loads of little islands….almost correct, yes there are lots of little islands but Lewis/Harris is the 3rd biggest Island in Great Britain, so it turns out I know nothing.

Madeleine Bunting had been planning this trip for years, she had a map on her wall of the Hebrides as inspiration and like me she has this need to travel North to escape the South of England.  She fully immerses herself, talking to anybody she can, trying to get a handle on Gaelic and even going on trips in rough seas on a small boat.  The history of the place is incredible, before the Government started the clearances people had been farming these small islands for 1000s of years, their survival was amazing.  Bonnie Prince Charlie landed here too, to kick of his campaign against the English.  Another very interesting thing raised by Madeleine was to do with maps, on a map of the UK the sea is just a border, you don’t realise it’s vastness until you are out on a boat looking at a map of the sea which shows the land as the border.  Made me chuckle.

This book has made me want to visit, the biggest appeal for me are the causeways between some of the islands, that would make for a great road-trip.  This book is heavy on the history, politics and religion but not for one second does it get boring.  A fascinating source of info on the Hebrides that I would highly recommend….plus it has maps (wooooooo).

4_stars

 

 

Book Reviews

PRIMORDIAL YOUTH – The Early Poems ’96 – ’99 by Harry Whitewolf

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What Da Cover Says:  Poems (and paintings) from the fragile mind of a messed-up young man battling with depression.

What I Says:   This book reminds me of two poets, firstly Allen Ginsberg.  Ginsberg decided to release the complete works and he included all of his early poems, he didn’t care if they weren’t his best, he wasn’t ashamed of them, he felt the readers needed to know how he became a poet, what he was like in the beginning.  Harry Whitewolf has done something similar here by sharing his early work with us, in fact he has taken it one step further by including mistakes and any corrections he made at the time.  The poems are far from his best work but you can see glimpses of the future Harry, especially in “Landlubbers” a poem that is still valid today, it almost feels like he predicted Brexit.

The second poet is Charles Bukowski.  Bukowski would write his poems on any scrap of paper he could find when inspired.  This book has scans of Harry’s original poems done on a typewriter, you can see that he has grabbed any piece of paper he could grab, sometimes not even putting it in the typewriter the right way round, there is a real desperation to get down the thoughts in his head.  Also the typewriter seems to be haunted with random red letters appearing on the page.

The content is dark and depressing, Harry was in a bad time of his life and it is interesting to read his good days and bad days, most sad of all was when he was feeling great and he realised that depression was his inspiration and how could he write again.  Slipped into the book are a number of paintings full of hidden faces, they are creepy but very talented.

Once Harry becomes a superhero of the poetry scene this will be an important book, I recommend reading all his other books before you start this one.  I give the poems 3 stars but the book overall gets 4 stars.

4_stars

Book Reviews

Sea of Glass by Rebecca Gransden

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What Da Cover Says: Smoke fills the city air, choking the street, curling up and around the tower. Kattar Bassis hits the ground and crawls blindly through the chaos. A light shines out in the black, leading him to the entranceway of his building. So begins his ascent and search for the ever elusive EXIT.

What I Says:  One of the best things about reading a Rebecca Gransden book is that she weaves a tale that leaves your imagination to interpret what is going on.  There are so many ways to understand the story that a small group of people would have their own ideas on the plot.  This is my theory:

The Sea of Glass is a modern retelling of Dante’s Inferno, instead of travelling downwards through hell to locate the route to Heaven, Kattar (our hero/traveller) is travelling up a big corporation’s building to locate the EXIT.  Each door he goes through could be a promotion to the next level on his way to the top.  Kattar meets various people on his journey, who are being tortured in their own way having sold their souls to the big corp.  As in the Inferno the people Kattar meets ask for his help, he meets somebody he knows and he has help himself from various guides.  Having got the Inferno idea stuck in my head early on this made it a very interesting read.

It’s nice to see the horror side of Rebecca’s writing with her adding her surreal twist to things.  Only downside to this book is how does one go about entering a tall building knowing they may never make it out again?

4_stars