The summary on Amazon.com reads:
Dancing on Dewdrops is an entrancing collection of poems, prayers, and short stories that capture the utter joy of youth, wrestle with the inherent elements of change, offering strength and solace—all while celebrating life across several generations. The rustic poetry, prayers, humor and short stories for children will appeal to all ages. Dancing on Dewdrops provides inspiration, delivering the lasting imagery that leaves an indelible imprint on the heart and human spirit.
I honestly wish that I could agree with this summary, or with the one other review that loved the book and gave it a 4 out of 5 stars. Unfortunately, this books is (as far as I know) my very first 1 star review.
This book of “rustic poems, prayers, and elegant short stories…” was not at all what I expected, and not at all up to my standards for any of the sections.
In the first section the author has provided us with several poems of varying lengths that mostly either deal with boyhood or death/loss. However, the poems read as though he couldn’t decide between traditional rhyming schemes and ‘free form’ poetry and so got caught in a bad in-between. On top of that, many of these poems do not portray what the descriptions say they are about. Poetry is very subjective, but in my opinion these could have used more work.
In the second section we are given a few prayers, mostly short and mostly not rhyming (though a few fall back into the couplet trap here and there). However, they all sound very bland and typical of prayers I’ve been hearing weekly for my entire life. I was really hoping for more elegant writing and more eloquent prayers.
The third section is labeled as ‘short stories’ but they are really a few short tales of the author’s childhood. While these are mildly interesting, the writing is, again, not as well refined as I believe that it should be and each tale needed a bit more editing and polishing.
Finally, they fourth section contains a duology of children’s stories, labeled as having ‘morals’ these tales are long winded, written in language too advanced for most still reading ‘children’s’ stories, and needed much more polishing before being put out for show. I believe with another revise and edit session (or two) this book could really pop, but right now everything is metered, rhymed, and written in a way that makes it feel off and grating to my nerves in a very bad way.
The cover, however, is GORGEOUS!
Title: The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen
Author: Lindsay Ashford
Published: October 2011
Genre: Historical fiction. Mystery, thriller and suspense
When Jane Austen dies at the age of just 41, Anne, governess to her brother, Edward Austen, is devastated and begins to suspect that someone might have wanted her out of the way. Now, 20 years on, she hopes that medical science might have progressed sufficiently to assess the one piece of evidence she has – a tainted lock of Jane’s hair. Natural causes or murder? Even 20 years down the line, Anne is determined to get to the bottom of the mysterious death of the acclaimed Miss Austen. A compelling speculative fictional account of the circumstances surrounding Jane Austen’s mysterious death from established crime writer Lindsay Ashford, based on her own and relatives correspondence.
Thanks to Honno Welsh Women’s Press for sending me a paperback copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
I do like Jane Austen’s novels. Some more than others (Pride and Prejudice is my favourite at the moment, although there are some that I can’t even remember if and when I read them, so this could change), but I am not an expert on the subject or her number one fan. Still, when I was offered a copy of this book, I was intrigued. I had written a post about Jane Austen for my series of guest classical authors and it proved one of the most popular in my blog, and I remembered from checking her biography that she’d died quite young after a somewhat unclear illness. So a book exploring her death, and backed up with research into the archives at Chawton House, in other libraries, and also by careful perusal of some of her best known biographies was intriguing. (I’m also a doctor, but not in internal Medicine, and no Dr House either).
The book is narrated in the first person by Miss Anne Sharp, a governess who goes to work for one of Jane’s brothers, Edward, and his wife, Elizabeth, at Godmersham. Her personal circumstances are difficult, and not that different from those of Jane herself, a single woman, educated but of no independent means. In Miss Sharp’s case, she does not have a family to rely on and she considers herself lucky obtaining a position with a wealthy family, even if her standing is unclear (she is neither a servant to share the world of downstairs, nor a member of the family who can participate in all their social gatherings). She meets Jane when she visits and they are kindred spirits, well-read and less interested in fashion and finding a husband than in cultivating their minds and observing the world and the society around them. They soon become friends, and correspond and see each other often over the years, despite changes in circumstances, until Jane’s death.
The novel mixes well-researched data with some flights of fancy (the intricacies and complexities of the Austen’s family relationships are rendered much more interesting by suggestions of illicit affairs involving several family members, which then become one of the backbones of the hypothesis that Jane was poisoned with arsenic, providing a possible motivation). I’ve read reviews stating that if this novel had been published within 50 years of Jane’s death it could have been considered slander. This is probably true (I won’t go into detail, as I don’t want to give the plot away) but hardly the point. Yes, there are suppositions that would be virtually impossible to prove, but they help move the story along and serve to highlight the nature of the society of the time.
I liked the portrayal of Jane, indirect as it is and from the point of view of a fairly unreliable narrator. She is presented as a bright, humorous and fiercely intelligent woman, devout of her family but fully aware of their shortcomings. She is a keen observer of human nature and a good amateur psychologist, producing wonderful portraits of the people and the types they come across. There isn’t much detail about the process of getting her novels into publication, other than what the narrator conjectures, as she is no longer in the Austen’s circle at that point.
In the novel, Anne Sharp has feelings for Jane that go beyond friendship, but she never reveals them to Jane, and three is no suggestion that Jane reciprocates her feelings. One of the keys to the novel is the narrator. Although I thought the observational part of the novel was well achieved (I’m not an expert on the literature of the period, though, but I felt there was enough detail without getting to the point of overburdening the story), I was not so sure about how rounded Miss Sharp’s character was. She can be self-restrained one minute (in her relationship with Jane) and then throw all caution to the wind and risk her position with no solid basis for her accusations. And some of the theories she works with and then rejects felt a bit forced (yes, I had worked out who the guilty party was going to be well before she gets there). I didn’t dislike her, but wasn’t fully convinced either.
I enjoyed the book. The story moves along at good pace and it made me want to read more about Jane Austen’s life, and, especially, revisit some of her novels. As a murder mystery of the period, it is perhaps closer to a cosy mystery than to a police procedural (for evident reasons), with the beauty that the background and the period are well researched and fascinating in their own right. I would recommend it to readers in general, particularly to people who enjoy or are curious about Austen’s work, although I suspect that to real scholars of the subject it might appear too little and too fanciful. But if you want a good read, go for it.
What the book is about: The possibility that Jane Austen might not have died of natural causes. The story is told from the point of view of one of Jane’s friends who pieces together what she believes was the reasons and the guilty party to Jane’s murder. And not only hers…
Book Highlights: The inside information about Jane Austen and her family (although I don’t think there’s evidence of some of the fancier aspects of the story, but see above). It makes us want to go away and read more.
Challenges of the book: Our level of engagement with the narrator.
What do you get from it: A renewed interest in Jane Austen and her historical period.
Realistic Characterization: 4/5
Made Me Think: 3.5/5
Overall enjoyment: 4.5/5
Overall Rating: 4/5
Hardcover: $ 27.84
Thanks to Honno for sending me a copy of the book and to Lindsay Ashford for this fascinating novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and if you’ve enjoyed it, like, share, comment and CLICK!
Olga Núñez Miret
Title: Life or Death
Author: Michael Robotham
Published: July 2014
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Thanks to the publishers for providing me a free copy through Net Galley.
This novel’s tagline is The Shawshank Redemption meets No Country for Old Men and it is fairly accurate.
Audey Palmer escapes prison the day before he was due to be released, and everybody, including the inmates of the prison, wonder, why? This question propels the novel where Robottam makes a skilful use of third person point of view that alternates between a large cast of characters, but they are all so distinct that the reader never loses track.
From Audey, whose memories are slowly uncovered, to a diminutive but feisty FBI female agent, Moss, the prisoner of the next cell and a deeper character than at first appears, a sheriff hell bent on revenge, we get to see things from their perspective, whilst at the same time we’re not shown the whole story until the very end. The pieces fall into place eventually, and although we might have our suspicions, everything fits in beautifully. Considering the times and the stories in the news, unfortunately the truth behind the case does not feel like a huge stretch of the imagination.
Audey is a survivor against all odds but at the same time has an uncanny talent for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. When asked about it, he comments that he must have broken a mirror and found a horseshoe in the same day. There are many coincidences throughout the plot, but then life is full of them and there is an internal logic to the characters and the story that pulls it all together. Audey has something of the tragic hero as fate seems heavily stacked against him but he never gives up. And those on his side seem to grow in stature by coming into contact with him.
The style of the novel is easy to read, well-paced and at the same time beautifully written, with some gems of insight and style. I also loved the dry sense of humour and the pathos. The plot and the story keep us engaged, but the level of writing and the skill lift it above the humdrum standard thriller. This novel will work equally for people who enjoy complex characters and those who prefer an action filled adventure. A great book.
Here I leave you the description and some editorial reviews:
Why would a man serving a long prison sentence escape the day before he’s due to be released?
Audie Palmer has spent ten years in a Texas prison after pleading guilty to a robbery in which four people died and seven million dollars went missing. During that time he has suffered repeated beatings, stabbings and threats by inmates and guards, all desperate to answer the same question: where’s the money?
On the day before Audie is due to be released, he suddenly vanishes. Now everybody is searching for him – the police, FBI, gangsters and other powerful figures – but Audie isn’t running to save his own life. Instead, he’s trying to save someone else’s.
Michael Robotham has created the ultimate underdog hero, an honorable criminal shrouded in mystery and ready to lead readers on a remarkable chase.
“Life or Death is a nerve-shredding thriller with the heart and soul so often missing from lesser crime and suspense novels. I couldn’t stop reading, yet I didn’t want Audie’s story to end. Robotham is an absolute master.”―Stephen King
“A pitch perfect plot with a stunning twist that involves a sheep in wolf’s clothing. Talk about topsy turvy — but it works — big time.”―Steve Berry, author of The Lincoln Myth and The Jefferson Key
“Robotham has a talent for creating fascinating and complex characters, and Audie Palmer may be his best yet.”―Booklist (starred review)
[A] prison-break tale with a twist . . . The writing is top-notch . . . Plenty of edge-of-the-seat excitement, forcing readers to frantically turn the pages to find out how all these different strands intersect. Robotham’s skill as a writer remains undeniable: He offers memorable characters caught up in an irresistible story.”―Kirkus Reviews
“Michael Robotham is the real deal.”―David Baldacci
“Robotham is a first-class storyteller.”―Associated Press
About the Author
Michael Robotham is author of Watching You, Say You’re Sorry, Bleed for Me, Shatter, and other novels of suspense. A former investigative journalist who has worked in Britain, Australia and the US, Robotham is one of the world’s most acclaimed authors of thriller fiction. He lives in Sydney with his wife and three daughters.
Realistic Characterization: 4.5/5
Made Me Think: 5/5
Overall enjoyment: 5/5
Overall Rating: 5/5
Buy it at:
Format & Pricing:
Paperback: $15.99 (http://www.amazon.com/Life-Death-Novel-Michael-Robotham/dp/0316252034/)
Kindle: $17.15 (http://www.amazon.com/Life-Death-Michael-Robotham-ebook/dp/B00HP4HABG/)
Audiobook: $22.08 (http://www.amazon.com/Life-or-Death/dp/B00LU0RCVO/)
Thanks so much for reading and you know what to do, like, share, comment, and CLICK!
Olga Núñez Miret
Title: The Dystopian Nation of City-State: An Anthology: Origin, Corruption, and Rebellion
Author: Courtney James, Kaisy Wilkerson-Mills
Published: 20th Nov 2014
Genre: Science-Fiction, YA (12 to 18)
I must confess this is not my usual kind of book, and I read it as it were by mistake. I have a long list of books to read, organised (?) according to how pressing the reviews are (I review for a digital magazine, also in Netgalley, and for a literary blog apart from sharing in my own blog and in a variety of places) and I got confused. When I realised this was not the next book on my list, I’d read around 70% of it so I couldn’t see much point in switching over. And I was gripped by the story/stories of this strange futuristic universe.
This is an episodic book, a collection of scenes and snippets, that can result a bit jarring when reading, but the whole picture of this dystopian future that is created through the variety of accounts and scenes becomes an almost coherent (and pretty scary) whole.
Not being a big sci-fi reader, I didn’t particularly miss the technological detail (although I think good aficionados might have something to say about buildings 200 storeys high. I loved the idea of an Olympus space-floating island where only the elite could live. I can imagine the technological challenge) whilst I happily connected with some of the darkest aspects of the story, like the strange cult that requires human sacrifices, the extremes of social prejudice and classification (that reminded me of Huxley’s A Brave New World) and the extremely corrupt politics.
The language was very simple and I thought the book could have benefited from another pair of eyes on the proofreading, editing stage, but the typos did not become distracting. It was an easy read although some people might appreciate more detail regarding descriptions of the layers of the world and the new technology. Considering the book is listed as for ages between 12 and 18 it probably pitches at the right level.
I’m not sure if there are plans for carrying on writing the series, but I felt with a bit more work connecting the episodes, there is very good material and fascinating ideas to get imaginations fired up. And as happens with the best dystopias, it makes one think about our world today.
It might be too fractured for some readers, but if you approach it with an open mind and are interested in dystopias and exploring possible future scenarios, there’s much to enjoy in this book.
Realistic Characterization: 3.5/5
Made Me Think: 4/5
Overall enjoyment: 4/5
Overall Rating: 4/5
Buy it at: Amazon
Format & Pricing: e-book
Olga Núñez Miret
Title: Atonement, Tennessee
Author: Teagan Geneviene
Published: 21st December 2013
Genre: Urban Fantasy
If there is such a thing as your “standard novel” and I’m not sure there is, Atonement, Tennessee is definitely not it. Although some aspects of the story might seem familiar to readers (we have a newcomer to a small and seemingly fairly quirky town, a catalogue of slightly odd characters, hidden and dark stories behind perfect surfaces…), others definitely will not. Although we spend most of the time in Ralda’s head (her given name is Esmeralda and that plays quite an important part in the book), we also see things from the point of view of Lilith, her cat, and that allows us to gain more knowledge than Ralda has, but from a peculiar viewpoint that means we are observes and what we see is unfiltered by either reason or prejudice.
Other novel and original aspects are its mixing of the everyday and the magical/paranormal. There are dogs barking, cats sneaking out, moving companies that keep getting delayed, but also strange and eerie mirrors, a cemetery that is part of the property and hides many secrets, attractive but strangely bizarre men, unknown magical birds, and fairly unusual dreams.
Ralda is self-reflective and we not only see things from her point of view (for the most part) but her internal dialogue works as a narrator who accompanies us. But how reliable a narrator is she? The many everyday worries that surround her (will the cat get out of the house? Will she finally get her possessions back? How much will it cost to repair the house?) keep pulling her attention away from the many strange and fantastic things that are also happening. She doubts herself, but she’s shown as dealing well with other people’s problems and being highly effective. When it comes to herself, though, things are more complicated and she does not want to accept that she can be at the centre of unknown powers and events. It is not so much that she’s trying to misguide us; it is that she does not even want to allow herself to think about certain things (like what she might feel for the male characters).
Although something mysterious happens early in the book (that seems connected to one of the objects), this is by no means the main mystery. Why Ralda is there and who she is are at the heart of the book and by the end we might have our suspicions, but like the protagonist, we lack information to come to any conclusions. We have the answer to some of our questions, but can only speculate about others. But this leaves room for the sequel, on which I understand the author has begun work.
The writing style is engaging and accessible, there is enough description to fire the imagination without being overly detailed and doing all the work for the reader, and the chosen point of view offers fascinating psychological insights into the main character.
What did I love about the book? The setting, the fabulously strange house, the cemetery, Lilith, the sheriff (not as onedimensional as everybody thinks), the friendship between the four women, the locket, the bed, the dreams…It reminded me of Edgar Allan Poe but not as dark.
What didn’t I like? That there isn’t a second part to tell me more about the mysteries that are suggested but we don’t get to know enough of.
Who do I recommend it to? If you like spooky tales, old houses, mystery, cats, legends, magic and stories about women I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. Ah, let’s not forget unusual birds and cemeteries…Is there anybody not included?
I encourage the author to bring us part two very soon. We want to know more!
Here the book trailer, in case you want to get in the mood for the story.
Realistic Characterization: 3.5/5
Made Me Think: 5/5
Overall enjoyment: 5/5
Overall Rating: 5/5
Format & Pricing:
Olga Núñez Miret
Title: Short Shorts
Author: Cyril L.C. Bussiere
Published: 28 August 2014 by Cyril L.C. Bussiere
Genre: Short Adult Stories
Format: Kindle Edition
Price: £0.77 includes VAT & free wireless delivery via Amazon Whisperent
File Size: 1076 KB
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Sold by: Amazon Media
What the book is about: A collection of nine short stories covering subjects from cybernetic love, to ghosts and vampires to broken hearts and memories. ‘Short Shorts’ is thought-provoking and will make you think about what is really happening in the stories it contains.
Book Highlights: Bussiere has such a way with words that they make you feel you are actually in the story witnessing what is going on. I felt I was sat in a huge auditorium watching each story unfold in front of me as I read each one. His words carry the reader along smoothly and never once did I have to stop and re-read anything because of any uncertainly of what was going on. I’ve read the book several times and, each time, I come away with more thoughts of just what is happening in each story. Some of the stories contain a twist I was never expecting, which is a sign of a great author.
Challenges of the book: I had no challenges reading this book or relating to any of the new characters introduced in each story. I felt I knew them from the first few lines in, almost as if I had been reading about them for days, rather than the few minutes it took me to read each story. Some may feel they want to know more about each character and wish the stories had gone on longer but, for me, I was able to imagine what may have happened to each character after finishing each story. Each of the stories remained on my mind many days after reading the book.
What do you get from it: Love, pain, hurt, emotions, sadness, mystery, loneliness and, most of all, thoughts of what may have happened before and after each story. I never thought a real mixture of emotions could be found in an entire book containing so few pages.
What I would have changed if anything: I would have loved some of the stories to have gone on a little longer but, I guess, Bussiere could not have then called the book ‘Short Shorts’. I fell in love with some of the characters created by Bussiere and would dearly love to read more about them, especially the ones featured in the sadder of the stories. I came away hoping they would eventually find some happiness in life. Bussiere could certainly, and should consider, writing whole novels containing some of the characters from the stories in this book.
Who Would I recommend this book to?: Anybody who is a real lover of short stories and who likes a wide variation in the stories contained in a book. It would also appeal to anybody who likes to think more about the characters and their stories, after finishing reading a book. This is the perfect read for anybody with a busy lifestyle who has little, if any, time for sitting down to read a good book.
Read Cyril’s Lit World Interview here.
Realistic Characterisation: 5/5
Made Me Think: 5/5
Overall enjoyment: 4/5
Overall Rating: 4.5
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I had read this book when it was first published in 2013. The second print was released in January 2014. It is a book to share, a book that will change your perspectives which is why I have chosen to review it for my first post in LitWorldInterviews.
Though trained in therapy, this review is written not from the perspective of a therapist but rather that of a reader who happens to be a therapist.
Title: The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves
Author: Stephen Grosz
Publisher: Chatto & Windus (3 Jan 2013)
Pages: Hardback, 240 pages
Genre: Literary Non-Fiction – Psychology
What’s it about?
The Examined Life is a collection of essays based on Stephen Grosz’ case histories of his work as a psychoanalyst. In Grosz’ words, it is a book about ‘change and loss’.
Grosz’ art in story-telling is apparent. The human-ness of each client, and the interaction between he and his clients cannot help but make the reader realise all of us share common experiences such as pain and suffering in our living, and we are creative and versatile of ways to protect ourselves by whichever means possible.
In telling these stories, Grosz manages to enlighten the reader to the hidden meanings of his clients’ lives. There are the ‘facts’ obvious to all, and then his narratives which distil the motivations leading to a depth of understanding of the human psyche.
The reader is also acutely aware the therapy process occurs within the confines of a therapist’s room, and the accounts told by the clients are rarely verified or corroborated. As a therapist, I am aware therapeutic ‘conversations’ are about honouring the client’s perspectives, not seeking ‘universal truths’. So the reader is left with stories of people as seen through the eyes of a highly experienced psychoanalyst and poignant narratives which prompt the reader to reflect on humanity. Take for example, the young man diagnosed as HIV positive who had spent some 3 years of his therapy sessions with Grosz mostly sleeping because it is there that he felt safe and thus could rest. That was a place of healing. Now reconsider the judgment we have of the benefits or the necessity or the efficacy of those sessions.
This book is inspirational, thought provoking and highly entertaining. Most importantly, by the absence of technical jargon, it is accessible to all and not just those interested in or within the field of psychology.
The essays illuminate and clarify the process of psychoanalysis – the conversations in therapy and the skills of listening, talking and being present with clients – without advocating for this specific technique or method.
I recommend this most certainly to readers curious about the complexities of human mind and behaviour.
Perhaps Grosz said it best:
“The philosopher Simone Weil describes how two prisoners in adjoining cells learn, over a very long period of time, to talk to each other by tapping on the wall. ‘The wall is the thing which separates them, but it is also their mean o communication,’ she writes. ‘Every separation is a link.’
This book is about that wall. It’s about our desire to talk, to understand and be understood. It’s also about listening to each other, not just the words but the gaps in between. … It’s something that is a part of our everyday lives – we tap, we listen.”
Realistic Characterization: N/A
Made Me Think: 3/5
Overall enjoyment: 4/5
Overall Rating: 4/5
Buy it at: