Book Review: South of Burnt Rocks West of the Moon

South of Burnt Rocks West of the Moon

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

San Diego Book Award Winner

by G.J. Berger

While fond of historical fiction, the Roman era is one I’m not typically drawn to, a concern pushed to the side by the blurb for G.J. Berger’s South of Burnt Rocks West of the Moon, and I decided to take the plunge. With each page I found myself drawn all the more to the adolescent Lavena’s triumphs and struggles in a transitional era that would test every bit of her enthusiasm, training and even question her survival.

south of burnt rocksSet in Iberia in between the second and third Punic wars, South of Burnt Rocks opens in an era when Rome is attempting to recover resources following Carthaginian assaults that occurred simultaneous to the first of the Macedonian wars. The Village on the Cliff, populated by Iberian Celts, holds a treaty with the Roman praetor Piso, whereby the tribe lives under a levied peace. However, he is recalled to the capital and replaced by a more forceful magistrate who revokes the treaty and plans to resume the monstrous Roman sweep of barbari lands in search of ever more loot: young slaves and their plentiful precious metals.

It is in this setting we meet Lavena, who opens the novel when, as an eleven-year-old future warrior woman, she witnesses a superfluous and ghastly murder committed by a Roman soldier. In short order we bear witness to the truism of various political opinion when Piso’s governorship is discussed amongst a gathering of tribal elders, including her father Sinorix, their leader.

Her father shook his head and grinned. “Piso won’t even let us raid the other tribes for practice like we did before the treaty.”

One of the other old men said, “That’s why we made our treaties…Piso helps us all live in peace, respects us, has for a long time….”

 Her father said, “His men show us less respect than they show their dogs. Roman praetors always leave after they’ve taken what they want from us.”

The narrative moves forward in large part through Lavena’s point of view and as such, readers won’t find Berger lacing the novel with names of historical battles, sieges or dates, as the girl would not likely have referenced them in the way history later would. As readers, we rely on what she knows and learns, and Berger presents this in an engaging and gripping manner that holds us close to their thought processes as well as ensuing action, and provides hints as to some of the tribe’s contact with others.

No river could be longer or wider than her river. Alexandros said the mountains were named after the Greek god, Pyrene. Lavena did not believe that either. Everyone she knew called them Burnt Rocks and that’s how they looked from a distance.

Sinorix contemplates a transition that gives us further insight into what they know of their history.

“Maybe we’ll cross the Burnt Rocks, maybe we’ll go west of the moon and across the big water to the land we came from, to our brothers and sisters in the cold country.”

Lavena prepares, knowing the newer Roman army will soon advance, and she is anxious to prove herself up to the task of helping defeat them. We witness, too, her move into adulthood and become familiar with the role women play in this society, a larger and more central place than Roman women maintain in theirs. It is easy to admire their cunning, will and courage, especially when even at a 2,000 year remove, Berger truly brings home to us just how ruthless and cruel their aggressors are willing to be. His portrayal of the Keltoi brings them to life in such a manner that we seem to be at their side, smarting at the setbacks they suffer, mourning their losses, encouraging their gains.

Also admirable are the differences Berger is able to overcome when telling Lavena’s tale. Much has been made of male authors speaking for female characters (and vice versa); add to this a grownup taking on the voice of an adolescent and as mentioned, that of an individual who would have lived over two millennia before. Combined with the dialogue and relating of events as they occur, readers might wonder that perhaps Berger recorded Lavena’s story as she herself related it to him. We become so engaged in the life of her tribe when they are at peace as well as when the battering rams begin to do their work, that there is no question of whether we will follow her, in the wake of her people’s destruction, as she escapes and seeks to engage other tribes to form a defensive consortium.

Berger also gives us an insider’s view to a Roman legion in the form of Marcus, who is tasked with locating a missing scouting group that includes his own brother. We see the decay up close, as well as the corruption of power, though from the perspective of one not in a position to make any high-level changes. The third-person narration transitions occur smoothly and as Marcus and Lavena’s paths grow closer together, the thrill is palpable as Berger’s expert ability to keep us at rapt attention merges with the alternating views of each character. Depending on events as they occur, we may agree or disagree, admire or despise, feel disgust or sympathy for Marcus, as his creator shows us the many sides to even a Roman soldier. The path he winds through the story leads to an ending that surprised me a bit, and the contemplations I had of Marcus pointed again to the author’s caveat that even Romans aren’t all exactly who we think they were.

While Lavena’s objectives take her often frighteningly close to the army as their campaign carries them through Iberia, she also remains true to her spiritual legacy, and Berger magnificently portrays her communion with nature and the departed to whom she speaks, often asking for guidance. Her progression is fast paced and the detail examined from her eyes—surroundings, perceptive recognition of others’ responses to her and events, clues as to the presence of outsiders, for example—is multiple layered without being weighty. Berger has crafted his narrative to near perfection: not a single word is wasted and the world that was, is brought to life for us to witness. The sounds, sights, smells and sense of Roman Spain as well as the events carrying Lavena through the story are so present that we feel as if we are there with her.

South of Burnt Rocks is an extremely satisfying read, one that engages the audience, stirring us to probe further into an era many of us remember only in bits from school-age history classes. To that end, the author’s notes succinctly fill in many gaps and it is evident the research done for the novel is extensive and painstakingly thorough. Our view to history is a bit more privileged than that of Lavena, who learns she must come to grips with her own family’s role in that succession and what it means for her, as well as for those who come to know of her courageous stand against tyranny.

*********

A copy of South of Burnt Rocks West of the Moon was furnished to the blogger in exchange for an honest review.

*********

BergerIn north central Spain outside the town of Soria sits an archeological dig being restored by the government. The site is the ancient city of Numancia. It was the place of the last stand by the locals against the Roman invaders. By then Lavena would have been an old woman, and Numancia might make for my third novel in a trilogy. At that site I visited reconstructed houses of the kind Lavena might have lived in and walls of the kind that might have protected her village. In the photo I’m looking at the pillar of a taller fancier house the Romans built after they finally won their multi-year siege.

*********

George_1_9-17-13_email6x9When G. J. was eight, his mom told him the story of Hannibal crossing the Alps with elephants and a great army. He asked her what happened to Hannibal after that. Mom didn’t know, but he was hooked, had to find out, had to write about it.

G. J. spent much of his young life on the road and at sea, often working as a crew member on a tramp steamer. Wherever his travels took him, old walls, canals, even storage holes deep in the ground, made him wonder about how they got there, about the people who built them, how they lived and got along. The result is this and two other novels-to-be wherein the places, the history, even some of the Burnt Rocks characters do and did exist.

When not writing, G. J. tries to roam around the places he writes about, likes to sit and soak up the times back then and bring them to modern life in his stories. G. J. is convinced that for all the changes in last 2000 years, people loved and hated, suffered and rejoiced, destroyed and built the same ways then as they do today.

G. J. lives in San Diego with his favorite grammarian and English professor. They visit their two sons and grandson as often as the kids will have them.

You can learn more about G.J. Berger’s work and news at his website and Twitter. A review for Four Nails, the upcoming prequel to South of Burnt Rocks, can be seen here.

Book Review: Song of Australia

Happy Australia Day 2016!!!

Song of Australia by Stephen Crabbe

Growing up as many of us did, learning in history classes of German aggression against others, Stephen Crabbe’s Song of Australia is a departure, moving away from this into the stories of Germans—specifically German-Australians—who suffered discrimination and abuse based on their ethnicity. Set in the state of South Australia during the Great War—a world war at that time not being numbered or perceived to need such label so as to differentiate from some other world war—the book is divided into three novellas, the interconnectedness of which is slowly revealed as the characters move through events that link back to each other.

Song-of-Australia-cover-resized-for-web-192x300Opening with “Magpies and Mendelssohn,” we see Neddy approaching a music hall from which come voices singing “God Save the King,” accompanied by piano. Though initially shooed away, he makes his way inside to warn Elsie Fischer, whose family later Anglicise their names, the better to fit in, of danger to her father. Misunderstood by many, Neddy is referred to as the “dull-witted child.” Indeed, he cannot communicate in typical fashion and uses his singing voice to reach Elsie.

 

[H]is voice utter[ed] a wordless succession of shrill cries. She gaped at him. His voice was so clear, so sure. It uttered just two notes and she could see them as if written. First a crotchet, then an accentuated minim; together making an interval of a rising augmented fifth. A call of alarm!

Crabbe’s flow of words here is somewhat deceptive because although the style seems fitted to approximate what many regard as the more “innocent” speech and perception patterns of the early 20th century, it is brimming with symbolism. Perhaps autistic (the book never reveals exactly what disorder the child possibly experiences), Neddy does not express himself in a way most of the community can comprehend. Rather, he utilizes music to speak, deftly mimicking the magpies whose tree he shares and to whom he relates so closely. It is interesting to note that several websites give magpies symbolic meaning for such traits as being perceptive and expressive as well as deceptive and illusory—characteristics owned by those around Neddy depending upon their understanding of his search for a voice, a medium with which to communicate to others.

In search of voice also is the German community, many of whom are individuals born and raised in Australia but often treated like enemies. Elsie’s father, target of the xenophobic and threatening conversation Neddy had overheard, stifles his own voice while trying to show Elsie to seek her own, even during flight to the relative safety of the city, where they might better blend in.

The book’s other two novellas, “Song of Australia” and “The Parade,” develop in more detail the threat to Germans of Australia as we see Elsie and Edwin, a young man struggling with the contradictions between faith and war, develop a friendship that rewards as well as endangers. Attending language lessons together they become involved with Will Krause’s endeavors to find a place in Australia, itself seeking identification, all intertwined in Carl Linger’s “Song of Australia.”

Edwin, who hides his anti-war stance and Elsie her true background, work to develop a manner in which they might speak to the world, as would Australia, as “free and strong, but peaceful,” in defiance of their true circumstances, which force them into the silence of an illusory existence in which others perceive them not for who and what they are, but rather what their own deceptions perceive them to be.

As the individuals’ stories proceed and make connections, readers are given a greater understanding of the war mentality and how it drives otherwise peaceful citizens to harass some of their neighbors to such an extent that lives, careers and futures are destroyed. Using the language of music to convey some of his most lyrical passages, Crabbe guides readers through a story that matures, much like its characters, who themselves act almost as part of an opera, engaging us in the history of a young nation seeking its identity.

*********

You can keep up with and learn more about Stephen Crabbe and his work at his Facebook author page as well as his blog, where he discusses writing, books, music, language and life.

*********

This post previously appeared at the blog’s previous location.

*********

Book Review: After the Sucker Punch (With Soundtrack)

After the Sucker Punch

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

by Lorraine Devon Wilke

Perceptions can be tricky animals, especially when filtered secondhand, even more so when they involve those closest to us. What happens when we find out that what we thought others thought—of us—is way off base? That actually the reflections they’d been silently entertaining along the way were rather negative? The kicker: what if that person was our parent?

after

Tessa Curzio’s situation goes one step further in that she discovers her father’s dismal judgments about her after he has already passed away and she can no longer ask him about it. In fact, After the Sucker Punch opens with Tessa reading his previously-journaled words reaching out to slap her with a hurt as fresh as the grave the family had lowered him into just hours before. It’s a sucker punch that she knows not only re-writes the past, but also alters the future she is at that very moment moving into.

Knowing the novel’s premise, I was slightly apprehensive about my own relationship with Tessa. Would she be someone who deflects responsibility and whinges a lot about what is done to her? This wasn’t an impression I’d already formed of Lorraine Devon Wilke’s protagonist, more a concern based on real-life individuals who tend to blame parents for everything that goes wrong in their lives. It was a nice, thick book with one of the most well-written blurbs I’d ever read. I really wanted to enjoy it.

Guess what? I loved it. And, as goes the dual affection most parents feel for their children, I also liked it. Devon Wilke fills the story with pieces of a logophile’s dream: crinkly handwriting, tragedy porn—and the use of soundtrack as a verb are some that highlight along the way how the words interact with each other as well as those who utter and listen to them. Tessa is fast on her feet, sometimes too fast, which leads her on occasion to speak out of turn or too soon for what she really feels, but this adds to the novel’s depth and honesty because the author presents our lead as she truly is.

Their brother Duncan was a highly successful product liability attorney who’d made a name and several million in a case involving a child’s death caused by a drug later recalled by the FDA. He had become somewhat of a celebrity and certainly an expert, garnering a pulpit style that often edged toward high-pitched pontification. There was talk of politics and much consensus that he was a bold and righteous crusader. Tessa thought he might just be an ambitious prick but odds were that was sour grapes. Duncan’s financial and general life success stirred bona fide envy in her, as did his inexplicably close relationship with a father who seemed far less interested in her.

She isn’t completely honest or perfectly perceptive, though. Frankly, Tessa is somewhat of a mess. Not entirely, and not all her emotional chaos is visible, not even to herself. As the year moves forward and she assesses her life and where it is going, she also begins to untangle the web of her inner being as well as her relationships with family, partner, friends and career. Once part of a band, Tessa seems to reach out for the sort of stability those days provided, though with each knot she picks free, she slowly begins contemplating what stability really means.

This sense of stability manifests itself in many different ways, some of which we as readers could certainly relate to as Tessa begins a downward spiral of self-doubt. When her auntie, a nun and counselor unfazed by sexuality and her niece’s lapsed Catholic status (and opinions), makes contact and wants to get together, Tessa feels conflicted and practices avoidance:

Aunt Joanne. She had called repeatedly, concerned that they hadn’t talked before they both left Chicago, but so far Tessa had managed to return the calls when she guessed her aunt would be occupied, trading messages without the actual burden of conversation.

Some of the conversations she does engage in lead to snarls in communication, expertly laid out with Devon Wilke’s dialogue. She argues with her sister Michaela, over the latter’s reluctance to ship their father’s multiple journals to her sister, who feels she needs to read them all in order to get a better grip on who her father was and what else he thought of her. There is a breakdown in the relationship with her partner David, the recipient of her sometime unrealistic expectations—“I wanted you to want to read [the journal]”—and who struggles to understand what she is going through.

Devon Wilke’s aptitude for shining light on human behaviors and what motives, conscious and not, often lie behind them, is stunning in its capacity, lyrical presentation and raw reality. It’s not often the latter two of this triad pair together, certainly not well at least, but Devon Wilke does it while avoiding the pitfall of a bitter sarcasm so consistent it becomes a turnoff. Instead, she captures the strength and fragility of the human heart, teaming it with a character readers feel they could be a friend to because the duration of the relationship—for us, the length of the novel—benefits all quarters and not just Tessa’s.

While the entire work is filled with examples of the author’s outstanding abilities to create dialogue and utilize it to tell her story, one set, between Tessa and Michaela, I found to be the most nourishing, for where it leads them, even when it doesn’t point to perfection. Moreover, the third-person narrative doesn’t take Tessa’s side and simply present Micky as the bad guy. Real life is much more complicated than that and Devon Wilke clearly knows it, as she presents both sides in conversations and—the true test—readers can see valid points from the two corners.

It is perhaps unsurprising that as a musician herself, Devon Wilke acts as conduit for Tessa to pour herself into song, and at story’s end “Tessa’s Song (My Search For You)” captures so much of the nuance contained within the experiences Tessa undergoes and that we follow, having experienced many of the emotions as she. Events are different, naturally, but we all have hearts capable of being broken and spend our lives protecting them from such an eventuality.

Available online with a link provided, Tessa’s words are equally strong and vulnerable, and Devon Wilke’s vocal and instrumental arrangement captures so perfectly the rise and fall of sensitivity in the telling of Tessa’s journey in a manner most often best understood by the heart and audio sensibilities.

So elusive, I wonder if you ever figured it out?

How your silence always made me feel a little loud

So convinced if I sang and danced and jumped up and down

You would see me, just me, and maybe be a little proud

It is a recognition that registers, stirring listeners’ own instinct for healing, a powerful resonance for the courageous and often frighteningly difficult steps toward honesty within oneself, and the requisite changes, or decision to remain, that need to be addressed. The song is strong out of the gate—much as Tessa might have been had she began the conversation with her father—the guitar strumming forcefully, with demonstrated strength. As we move through the stanzas, there are glimpses of vulnerability– in the words, certainly, but also with technique: always made me feel a little loud or jumped up and down are part of I phrases that tend for us humans not to come easy and require, surprisingly, sustained support, here demonstrated via the companionship of backing vocals.

Tessa presents in the song as she does in After the Sucker Punch; she is clearly a complicated character, at times confused, and even reader perceptions of her may alternate as they witness her struggle. This is not necessarily a negative, for Tessa, like us, learns more about who she is as the story carries on.

Who she is also appears in song, in its various forms, as an elongated you credits the person her father is or her statement that “we squandered the time we had” both admits her own culpability and insists upon responsibility for other parties, too. She also acknowledges the individual she is as well as that she is in some ways like her father, the trick to doing both of these being able to carry it out sans indictment of the self while also accepting responsibility. It’s not an endeavor for the meek of heart, and friends like Kate could provide support if Tessa accepts it and both don the term friendship in all its ugly glory. That is, truths must be revealed, and friends remain so despite the presence of flaws. Tessa wants to know how her long-term friend can do all this and Kate answers, “Because I was there. I was a witness to your life, Tessa.”

After the Sucker Punch is Tessa’s story, one she can only retrieve with the aid of others whose contributions she will either receive or reject. It is also a portrait of father/daughter relationships and all their attendant baggage, including the need to define oneself within that dyad without further input from the one whose assessment opened the door. Funny, poignant, angry, loving, insightful, momentous, like families themselves, After the Sucker Punch is a story of acceptance from an author readers will want to return to again and again.

*********

A copy of After the Sucker Punch was furnished to the blogger in exchange for an honest review.

*********

Lorraine singingAuthor, photographer, singer/songwriter Lorraine Devon Wilke brings the sum total of her creative experience to all her work, including her compelling contemporary fiction. Pulling from every chapter of her eclectic background, she creates characters and plots that are both unique and recognizable, with dialogue that jumps off the page. Additionally, her book covers are designed with her own photography, and her debut novel, After the Sucker Punch, includes a free download of one of her recorded songs.

A longtime contributor to The Huffington Post, Devon Wilke’s trademark “sass and sensibility” infuses her writing with candor, provocative themes, and, whenever possible, lots of laughter. Whether exploring issues of family, faith, love, or tragedy, her stories always embrace an elemental mix of heart and soul.

lorraine purpleCurrently working on her third novel, both After the Sucker Punch and Hysterical Love are available in print and ebook via Amazon and various other sites. Her extensive photography collection can be viewed and purchased at Fine Art America, she keeps readers updated on her “adventures in publishing” at After the Sucker Punch, and her more topical essays can be found at The Huffington Post or at her blog, Rock + Paper + Music. On the music front, she continues to write and record whenever she can, and has recently been cast in new rock musical set to debut in San Diego, California in early 2017.

Devon Wilke can be contacted here, and all links to her work are available via her website.

*********

Stay tuned for my review of Hysterical Love!

*********

Book Review: When the Tide Turned

When the Tide Turned (Book II in the Mysterious Marsh series)

by M.L. Eaton

tideAttorney Hazel Dawkins has recently given birth to baby Jessica and after seven weeks is asked to fill in, temporarily, at her previous firm while one of the partners takes leave. Though reluctant at first—she is beyond exhausted—she eventually agrees, noting to herself that the money would indeed come in handy, and being able to take Jessica with each day is a supreme advantage. But when strange events and an aggressive client impede on her work, Hazel sets out to sort through it all, only to discover one mystery after another, leading from one dark place to the next.

Set mostly in 1970s Rye, an historic area known as part of the ancient Cinque Ports, at a time when women lawyers were still a bit of a curiosity, When the Tide Turned is liberally sprinkled with what I now, having read this author before, would call Eaton’s trademark imagery, beautifully brimming with words that make you want to read them again, envisioning, breathing in, surrounded by the scenes she describes.

Romney Marsh: a wondrous place where sky, land and sea met in a glorious pageantry of colour. Above the flat land, uncluttered with buildings and trees, the swirl of wind current painted ever-changing cloudscapes in the sky; sun and shadows reflected across meadows of green divided by still, dark dykes edged with rushes and the lace of meadowsweet.

So reads one passage from the novel, a mystery involving events and dark forces spanning two centuries and a painting related to Napoleon’s planned invasion of England. The author also occasionally adds in physical and historical descriptions of the area in which Dawkins lives, sometimes via her reminiscing. In this manner we learn background information and how characters come to be where they now are. Hazel is also subject to strange visions in which she sees people and places, unexplainable events that occur, which begin to bear remarkable—and eerie—similarities to actual events unfolding in her daily life. We see rather quickly, too, a dark force beginning to overshadow her family’s lives, even replacing the benign presence she had become aware of when they’d first moved in to their cottage home.

The mystery initially begins to reveal its nature when a client, Mr. Harris, demands documentation to secure the provenance of a painting. His erratic behavior attracts Hazel’s suspicions and events around the office—too bizarre to ignore—link to the dreams and visions she soon begins to piece together.

Eaton very early on had my full attention, partly because I sought out the afore-mentioned imagery I knew she would likely write into the story, and here she does not disappoint.

[Rype] had escaped the modernisation that had blighted similar town in the nineteen sixties and early seventies, clinging to its Englishness in the same way that honeysuckle and climbing roses embraced the half-timbered buildings along its High Street.

Additionally, Hazel Dawkins is easy to like, and her preparation for the temporary assignment begins very soon after the start of her tale, holding both the magnificent ordinary—her journey into marriage and motherhood—as well as brilliant narrative and conversation on the surroundings and its history filled with ghosts, Viking diet, land reclamation and old pirate bands, all without the slow start many otherwise brilliant works suffer from.

Eaton also lures us in with etymology of place names and keeps us moving with the tide—frantically turning the pages—as Hazel herself tries to figure out exactly what is going on. Like the Shakespearean “tide on the affairs of men” quoted in the epigraph, “On such a full sea are we now afloat,” there is a distinct urgency on part of reader as well as protagonist, to avoid loss of venture.

One morning, in preparation for a visit from Mr. Harris, who had insisted he see Hazel at that time, she visits the strongroom in order to find previous documents and their file, only to be locked in after a good shove has sent her reeling farther in the enclosed space. As she gets her bearings on the situation she now finds herself in, she assesses her prison:

Sudden panic threatened to overwhelm me. The strongroom had been built to protect the deeds against fire as well as theft. How much air was there in this vault? How long could I survive in here? Worse, how long could Jessica survive? Although the day outside was warm and sunny, here in the vault it was dank and cold. I was already beginning to shiver.

Eaton’s storytelling via Hazel is so gripping that readers will remember how the author sets up this scenario with a description of exactly how enclosed Hazel would be.

The strongroom was situated at the other end of the building. It had originally been a store burrowed into the side of the hill on which the building stood, a little way down from the summit. At some stage it had been transformed into a strongroom, lined with steel and sealed by a heavy steel door that boasted a huge iron lock.

clocksWhen we first read it at the start of this scene, it is a mere description; now it has transformed into a dark cloud no one knows about. This frightening event is not too far into the story, and its result is a sort of reader skittishness: I personally didn’t want any part of this vault. Each time it subsequently comes up as a real destination or even hint I found myself becoming nervous, not wanting Hazel to go near it, until I finally realized, That is so previous chapter! Indeed, Eaton doesn’t need to rely on repetitious maneuvers to thrill, for she has plenty of intrigue up her sleeve, rendering readers only too happy to let their dinner burn.

Certainly we could easily forget the rest of the world as we follow Hazel through with her investigations into the odd behavior of her client, connections between painting and her visions, dark secrets linking past and present, where it all takes her and every facet of her life affected, including those who’ve intruded in upon it and will go to great lengths to stop her learning the truth. As she makes her way to startling discoveries, old and new, Eaton takes us through action and intrigue that rise like the tide of the title and epigraph, as we follow breathlessly behind, when there is so much at stake.

Quite simply this is an addicting read one will be unsurprised to learn is a B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree. Moreover, it being the second in the Mysterious Marsh series, it goes without saying I shall be looking toward the opening novel without hesitation. I highly recommend readers do the same.

*********

eatonI’ve wanted to write for as long as I can remember. But Life intervened and I only managed to complete my first novel when I was over sixty.

My first career (as a lawyer) began in the nineteen seventies when there were very few women in the legal profession of England and Wales, and the dice tended to be loaded against them! My first small office on Romney Marsh eventually extended until, after a number of changes, amalgamations and growth it evolved into one of the top 100 legal firms in England and Wales.

My second career (in complementary health) began in 1994 when I qualified as a professional aromatherapist and also became a Usui Reiki Master Teacher. Over the years I have taught Reiki to hundreds of students. With my husband, also a lawyer, I ran a complementary health clinic in the Old Town of Hastings, East Sussex for several years.

All forms of holistic health interest me but it is energy healing, in all its various facets and forms, which I find most fascinating and from which I can never quite retire.

*********

You can learn more about M.L. Eaton at her website or Amazon author page. Some of her other works include When the Clocks Stopped (B.R.A.G. Medallion Winner) and Norfolk Twilight, as well as The Elephants’ Child and The Lion Mountains, first and second in The Faraway Lands series. I am also pleased to announce that The Snaking River, latest in the series, is now available. All may be purchased at Amazon and Amazon UK.

Click here for my review of The Elephants’ Child.

When the Earth Cracked, third in Eaton’s Mysterious Marsh set, will launch in April.

*********

A copy of When the Tide Turned was furnished to the blogger in exchange for an honest review.

*********

My Tottering TBR: Reads of 2015

Strictly speaking, I suppose this isn’t really a blog about my tottering TBR, given these are books I’ve read this year. Never mind! Some of them are titles I plan to read again, others may very well end up being re-read. All of them are worth passing the word on, and so I hope I can pick up this chunk of my pile and add it to yours–unless, of course, you’ve already got them.

In which case I’d say, what are you waiting for? Get reading!

Stay tuned for reviews upcoming, scroll back in time to check out some of my thoughts on a few of these books. 🙂

Happy New Year, and long may you read and nourish your soul!

read list 2015

Side Note: I received The Giver DVD as a present last year, though, being subject to our household rule re: reading the book before seeing the film, made a trip to the library. I’d actually read the book years ago but remembered very little of it. The re-read was worth every moment and for those aiming to choose a title for their book club, it is my number one pick. Everyone who values freedom needs to read this dystopian novel, which would be among the first for the burn pile in a totalitarian society.

booklist 2015.png

The image curiously without a cover? Well, not sure why it turned out that way on Goodreads, but I decided to make it a little fun and let that one be a surprise. Hint: There’s a related anniversary coming up and this book was one of my biggest surprises of 2015. There were a few I’d been fearful I wouldn’t dig, but did. This one, however, was a topic I’d previously steered clear of, but instead re-introduced to me an historical figure I completely fell for. Huzzah to breaking barriers!

I’ll be publishing my review for this one soon.

booklist 2015 (2).png

I love George Washington and can’t get enough of books about our Revolution, so George Washington’s Secret Six was a delightful find, especially given my own early spy aspirations. Interestingly, this batch of books concerns oppression of many different sorts, a sad commentary on history, truth be told–that we could find so many ways to write about tyranny, individual as well as collective. However, I remain steadfast in my belief that history must be remembered no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel–and passed on truthfully: no whitewashing and no omissions based on standards of today. We owe our ancestors so much, and remembering their struggles, even in fictional form, is the very least we can do. In the case of novels such as The Unwanteds, which, like The Giver, is not historical, we do recall societies in which many of these standards were implemented–or rigid rules were, ostensibly for the protection of the people–and aim to pass to our children the same freedoms we enjoyed.

booklist 2015 (3).png

This year I continued an historical fiction series I’d begun in 2014 and couldn’t get enough. I got to read a few of my son’s choices and began to write my thanks in a series called “Ordinary People”–a nod to those regular, everyday people who courageously performed acts of selflessness for the benefit of others, often at risk to their own lives. This series will be continuing in 2016 as, despite the state of the world today, there is no shortage of these brave souls, only widespread recognition of their achievements.

booklist 2015 (4).png

Surprises came with a few of these lovelies: as I was in the midst of reading Northwest of Eden I knew I would review even before I’d finished reading. Force 12 in German Bight captured me entirely and I am privileged to have edited a work that was more than just a job, as the fiction fantasy of The Dead Gods gripped my attention with the amazing story and its author’s gift with words.

booklist 2015 (5).png

A sequel I knew I wanted to read before it was written; an Alamo story I sunk my teeth into and my first read of an author so astute in the ways of various viewpoints I long for the next one by her (on my bookshelf as we speak). Also: A fantastically fun and poignant story in Witch Ever Way You Look At It  that I couldn’t put down.

booklist 2015 (6).png

A couple of reviews upcoming from more authors I yearn to read more of. I don’t want to give too much away on these, so keep your eyes peeled!

*********

Do stay tuned for more reviews in upcoming days as well as other musings.

May you have a wonderful 2016, with books and otherwise.

Happy New Year!

 

 

My New Pad

It’s been some time coming, and I have decided to make the move. Actually I have already started posting at a new home: so far a welcome to the new year and January 3 gets a special nod as this day in 1959 the territory of Alaska, six months following an overwhelming vote in favor of statehood, gets the official signature.

For now previous material shall remain live and I welcome you to my new abode that you can access with just a click.

There also are a few posts at the group blog, The Review, not having made the journey to before the second sleep, that shall do before too long at the new nocturnal meeting place. I’ve been working on series exploring big cats, Alaska history including a 1916 Christmas album I’ve compiled, and have more outlines making their way from my notes to the research and then keyboard. I’ll also be returning to book reviews and have several great novels queued up as I type. One of them is the re-visitation to an author and the characters she brings to life from a seminal period in English history. Neither will you want to miss as I meet up again with Merlin, a companion from childhood. And for your historical bent, a work of fiction based on events in the life of someone related to the author.

And that’s not all! At before the second sleep as well as The Review, we are consciously and continually expanding our scope to include genres and topics of a wide variety to showcase creativity in many forms. Having made my own move this will be much easier and allow me to journey more into this realm.

So join me for some more middle of the night musings and check out the great team and amazing array of talent and exploration at The Review, where we also have lots of giveaways and a fun Facebook page where, amongst others, you can meet up with lots of great indie and traditional authors and fellow bibliophiles with interests of all kinds. You can also follow and receive notification just as you do here, and never have to worry about searching the Internet.

Looking forward to seeing you, and here’s wishing you a splendid 2014!

berry cream pie
Photo courtesy Lisl Zlitni