A book that is small in page numbers, but larger by far in content, Cave & Julia is set in Autotelia and London. I’ve not come across the author’s...moreA book that is small in page numbers, but larger by far in content, Cave & Julia is set in Autotelia and London. I’ve not come across the author’s work before and was intrigued enough by the story to do some research. Autotelia is the name given to an imaginary place in which other stories are set. The word itself struck me as real rather than imagined, so I looked further. I found a Portuguese dictionary that told me it means: the doctrine that a work of art, especially a work of literature, is an end in itself or provides its own justification. I found no other entries in English dictionaries.
Enough. The story, if that’s what it can be called, is about relationships and, possibly, dreams. But, oddly, that doesn’t seem to matter. It’s a work that recalled to mind D.H. Lawrence’s The Trespasser in tone. It’s a piece of narrative without the usual hooks on which to hang a story. We are introduced to the narrative character, Cave, a journalist, and to Julia, much married and partially destroyed by an unclear event in her childhood. Some attempt is made by Cave to investigate the event, but it is left a question, with insufficient detail to determine what really happened.
The language is fine and always appropriate. An air of mystery and uncertainty pervades the whole tale. Nothing is as it seems, or, perhaps it is. This is a piece of writing that leaves the reader full of questions; impressed but uncertain why that should be.
It’s one of the Amazon Kindle Singles, and is tagged as a fantasy short. At 15 pages it is short, and, existing, as it does, in a space difficult to identify or even in some senses understand, it is fantasy, but fantasy of a literary sort.
I found myself intrigued, curious, disturbed and entertained. But be aware, this is not a story for those looking for a beginning, middle and end, with a denouement or indeed any formal structure. This is more an evocation, an illustration, an account. I enjoyed it, as, I suspect, will those who like things that are not spelled out for them. (less)
Adam Bromley’s Unknown Unknowns is a spy thriller set in a non-existent land and featuring a feisty female protagonist. It has the usual cast of educa...moreAdam Bromley’s Unknown Unknowns is a spy thriller set in a non-existent land and featuring a feisty female protagonist. It has the usual cast of educated gentlemanly service head, fanatically loyal killing machine sidekick and a clutch of suitably villainous baddies.
But, it is written with humour and doesn’t take itself seriously. The story is well structured and carries enough detail for credibility without boring the reader with the usual fine points about guns, plots etc. It is different. The pacing is good and much of the story believable. The barriers placed in the way of success are difficult and challenging without being impossible.
Unusually, for a spy thriller, the characters, in spite of fitting the usual profiles, are drawn with care and given depth so that the reader actually cares about what happens.
The plot, involving a secret weapon of immense danger to the world in general, a soviet-based antihero and those who wish to illuminate him, and a rogue CIA man on a mission to save the world, is entertaining and gripping. I read the book in a couple of sittings. The final half holding my attention so well that I completed that in one go. The denouement is satisfying but leaves the reader wondering just enough.
For lovers of thrillers, this is a must read. For those who generally find such works uninviting, I suggest you give this one a try; you might be pleasantly surprised. I was. As a reader who tends to avoid thrillers, I was entertained, surprised and amused by this one. (less)
Poetry, in any tongue, is a demanding art form for both creator and reader. The best poetry combines an exquisite appreciation for the subtlety of lan...morePoetry, in any tongue, is a demanding art form for both creator and reader. The best poetry combines an exquisite appreciation for the subtlety of language with an ability to convey mood, emotion and content, and a gift for evocation.
In Ananya Chatterjee’s The Poet and His Valentine we have an Indian software professional and translator conveying all that the poet should. This is largely a collection of what might loosely be termed ‘love poetry’, but that’s by no means the whole tale. Ananya includes some darker, more disturbing subjects in this anthology. I found myself moved, amused, outraged and transported to other times and places as I read her work.
The prevailing mood is one of optimism, often against the tide of events. This is a brave and questing spirit, a voice many will empathise with easily. But the poems of love found, love lost, love sought are interspersed with pieces of observation on life, art, social injustice, and environment.
There’s inspiration to be found in these verses. Indeed, in her introduction, Ananya says, ‘If it succeeds in touching a few chords, and in inspiring more people to read and write poetry, I would know my purpose was served.’ I can say that, for this reader, that success is complete. I’ve long considered setting down my thoughts in verse, and have trodden that road with faltering steps. Ananya’s example has made it much more likely that I’ll continue on that journey.
This is an enjoyable, amusing and thought-provoking read. I recommend it to all who love, or wish to, and to all who have a taste for comprehensible language used to great effect. (less)
Michael DeAngelo’s Mageborn is a slim volume from his Tellest series. The fantasy tale introduces readers to new characters and gives a taste of the i...moreMichael DeAngelo’s Mageborn is a slim volume from his Tellest series. The fantasy tale introduces readers to new characters and gives a taste of the invented world in which they live. Gaston, the aged wizard, and Adelia, his new pupil, are well drawn and it’s refreshing to see a young woman as a lead character. Her pairing with the ancient and slightly eccentric male lead adds a good deal of charm to the story.
Whilst I question some word choices, I found the overall style of writing in tune with the tale. The vaguely ancient and sometimes obtuse language fits well with an arcane world, lending veracity to the fantasy elements. The world itself will be familiar to readers of the earlier books in the series, but it was slowly and subtly revealed as the story progressed, adding layers of mystery designed to enhance the reading experience.
I enjoy reading about people I can empathise with, and had no difficulty seeing through the eyes of both main characters. The switch of viewpoints was a little confusing on occasion, but this seems a fairly common feature of contemporary writing and I’ve no doubt many readers would be undisturbed by it.
There is adventure and tension mingled with the charm of this introductory tale. The descriptive passages paint pictures that bring the world alive and some of the incidents, cleverly crafted for surprise, do cause the reader to gasp. The story slowly builds and the denouement flows naturally from events, leading to an ending that is satisfying and promises more to come from this unlikely but well-matched pair of protagonists.
Readers of the genre will find this a delightful read and it serves well as an introduction to the world of Tellest for those unfamiliar with it. A good read. (less)
April Taylor’s Court of Conspiracy is the first in her series, The Tudor Enigma. This fascinating alternative history fantasy is crime novel set in a...moreApril Taylor’s Court of Conspiracy is the first in her series, The Tudor Enigma. This fascinating alternative history fantasy is crime novel set in a Tudor England where Henry VIII’s son by Ann Boleyn, Henry IX, is on the throne. Much of the action takes place in and around Hampton Court Palace. It’s clear that the location is very well known by the author, who makes the place live with her subtle descriptive passages intertwined in the action.
Her hero, Luke Ballard, is an apothecary; a mix between a doctor and a chemist in times when such separate professions didn’t exist. He’s also an elemancer; a person able to harness elemental powers for good. The opposite number of such a magic practitioner is the sunderer, who uses the same powers for evil. So, we have all the intrigue, prejudice, ignorance and jealous fear of an age when religious allegiance ruled, mingled with magical powers for good and evil. It makes for a powerful and intriguing mix.
April Taylor has a facility for selecting just the right tone and syntax to reflect the times she’s depicting, using unusual language in context so that it’s easily understood. The dialogue is of its time, but no barrier to comprehension, so the story flows easily and without pause. The reader is submerged in this imagined world, which feels historically authentic.
It’s a story that examines good and evil, but in the context of the underlying threat of religious conflict between established Catholicism and the newly founded protestant dogma. This is a world where torture is routine and justice is a concept based more on power than right. The King’s word is God’s word and you’d better make sure you don’t get on the wrong side of those with in authority.
In this atmosphere of fear and mistrust, where political intrigue is a daily reality, Luke is engaged by the Queen to discover who is plotting to kill the King. This is a task steeped in danger, fraught with difficulty, and hindered by the need to keep on the right side of authority: a wrong move can easily get a person into the Tower and put to the test of iron and flame.
All of April Taylor’s characters are real people who come alive on the page. These are players with flaws to counterbalance their gifts, heroes and heroines who make mistakes. Proper human beings the reader can so easily empathise with. And the villains are deliciously evil, their motivations fully developed.
The mystery of the threat to the throne is revealed slowly through the actions, skills, mistakes and deductions of Luke and his various helpers. The author skilfully displays the underlying mistaken prejudices against women of the times, showing her heroines through the eyes of the distrusting young Ballard with his preconceptions borne of religious, political and personal bias.
The denouement is a real page-turner, as the action gains pace with the discoveries piling up evidence and increasing the danger to all concerned. The resultant ending is at once both satisfying and enigmatic, leaving the reader wanting more from this series, hungry to know what is in store for the reluctant hero and his helpers of both genders.
This is a book that will be enjoyed by readers who appreciate fantasy, historical mystery, romance and crime novels. You’ll find all of these elements in this tale that manages to successfully blend the genres. I thoroughly recommend it and look forward to the next in the series. (less)
Walter Rhein’s The Reader of Acheron, is book one of the Slaves of Erafor series, a fantasy set on a future Earth at a time when reading is prohibited...moreWalter Rhein’s The Reader of Acheron, is book one of the Slaves of Erafor series, a fantasy set on a future Earth at a time when reading is prohibited. The eponymous Reader is, necessarily, a figure of mystery living under threat of torture and death.
There is a prologue to the tale, which I’m not certain is essential and which may even stop some readers from moving into the tale itself. I have to tell you that it’s definitely worth getting past this short barrier. The real story, couched in language that evokes another time, builds inexorably to the denouement and an ending that closes this portion of what is clearly going to be a continuing adventure for those characters remaining.
There are two story threads that interweave. Initially, there appears to be no connection between these accounts, though clues and hints slowly build. Both tales describe the domain in which the characters exist, unfolding a world of slavery and class, where those not in the upper strata are either drug-addled slaves in everything including name or are paid slaves in everything but name. The whole of society is structured to maintain the status quo of those few with power and position.
Characters are well drawn and have their idiosyncrasies, making them human and accessible. As with a great number of books in this genre, women are little represented. But that results from the narrative viewpoints, which, in one case reduces female contact to the wife and child of the slave owner and, in the other, provides the typical mercenary soldier’s view of women.
There is a well expressed underlying theme here of the abuse of knowledge; the way in which society may be structured in such a way as to filter information and program learning so that it truly benefits only those at the peak of the social pyramid. Those in power, curating the knowledge, have a terror of their underlings discovering this knowledge, of course. The message is sobering and pertinent, but doesn’t get in the way of the story, which is well told and absorbing.
I thoroughly enjoyed this read. I was able to empathise with the characters and understand their motives, desires, hopes and anxieties. There is a great adventure here, but there is also a great deal more going on beneath the surface, and I have no hesitation in recommending this book. I look forward to the sequels. (less)
An odd choice of book for a non-specialist and a fiction writer, perhaps. But, this work has something to offer to more than the teachers of English w...moreAn odd choice of book for a non-specialist and a fiction writer, perhaps. But, this work has something to offer to more than the teachers of English who are its intended readership.
Pecha Kucha, for those unfamiliar with the technique, is a patented form of Powerpoint presentation. It was developed in Japan and has rapidly spread over the globe as a means of getting information out to many different types of people. In this book, the method is discussed as it applies to the teaching of English as a foreign language. But the principles and advantages of the technique seem applicable to many other fields. I read this in the hope that it might give me insights into the making of promotional material for my books.
I’ve long considered making videos to market my work, but the process has always seemed too complex and time consuming. However, this method, using software with which I’m at least slightly familiar, shows promise. I’ve no doubt that it will require some learning, patience and application from me, but I also have little doubt that it will help me produce short videos that will be effective and interesting. In fact, I’ve already started on that process, inspired by accounts detailed in this book.
The author, who works in Chile as a TEFL teacher, illustrates the ebook with many samples of the Pecha Kucha technique in use. He suggests it as an effective way of engaging with students and enthusing them to the topic. There’s humour here, as a well as expertise. And the candid style of writing makes the book accessible to all.
If you’re a teacher, or if you’re looking for ways to enhance your book marketing, you’ll find this an instructive and inspiring work. I recommend it. (less)
D.H.Lawrence’s The Trespasser, published, after The White Peacock, in 1912 is very much of its time. Unlike the more famous Lady Chatterley’s Lover, t...moreD.H.Lawrence’s The Trespasser, published, after The White Peacock, in 1912 is very much of its time. Unlike the more famous Lady Chatterley’s Lover, this is a book that might excite the interest of a modern publisher but wouldn’t be actually published. The language, full of deeply poetic angst, is identifiably old fashioned, and the plot is so thin, and no longer in any form unique, that no current editor could consider publication.
We live in a different age and few these days would have the patience to read this piece of literature in the way necessary to absorb fully the subtlety of the nuanced language. As a step back into an earlier time, when readers were prepared to mull over the words and ideas presented by an author, it did an excellent job for me. But, I admit, there were descriptive passages I skipped, wanting to get back to the emotional conflicts and leave the landscape to my imagination.
Lawrence has a way of employing language in ways that most writers wouldn’t dare, and he not only gets away with it, but produces evocative and moving prose. If the story is thin, the characters most certainly are not. This is a book all about character in its literal and metaphorical senses. Modern readers, by which I mean those young enough to remain unaware of the furore over Lady C (which I read in my late teens, when it was finally released in UK), are unlikely to understand the moral dilemma at the heart of the novel. When the idea of faithfulness in marriage has been as widely disparaged as it has in modern literature, it must be hard to comprehend why anyone would put themselves through the torture here described simply in order to satisfy the whim of then current social and religious mores.
I’d like to report that I enjoyed the book, but it is a work more to be endured, whilst the empathetic reader is compelled to discover an outcome that is, in reality, inevitable. Those interested in Lawrence, studying literature, or fascinated by portrayals of English life at the beginning of the last century will find a great deal here. For the rest, I suspect the archaic language and the lack of a modern plot will prevent any real enjoyment. (less)