Book reviews TuesdayBookBlog

#TuesdayBookBlog Regardless of the consequences by L.D. Lauritzen. Western, mystery, spy novel and more

Hi all:

I bring you a book I found in NetGalley thanks to BookGoSocial, and I had also read some intriguing reviews, so I had to check it out. It’s a peculiar mix of genres, but it works quite well.

Regardless of the Consequences by L.D. Lauritzen

Regardless of the Consequences by L.D. Lauritzen

Sheriff Lance Tallbear’s half-blood Apache heritage leaves him struggling to find his place in a world where neither white nor Indian wants or readily accepts him. He faces the world his shaman father turned away from and acknowledges the one his shaman grandfather prays he’ll return to.

Tallbear’s new case uncovers a mysterious plane wreck discovered in the Superstition Mountains that turns out to stir both his life decisions and ultimate direction. Along with his troubled FBI partner, Brad Hanley, they face a myriad of obstacles in their journey to the truth.

The skeletons at the site hold the clues to not only who the killers were but also why the people died. Tallbear quickly finds the crash site hides a deadly secret that reaches out of the distant past to threaten the lives of all who seek it. He will need to use all his skills and experience to discover the answers and stay alive.

Author L.D. Lauritzen

About the author:

A retired agriculture teacher. L.D. Lauritzen has worked across the southwest. Working ranches in the Dakotas and Colorado. Construction all over the Southwest, docks, dealing cards, and even a stint as a beekeeper. Through his travels he’s met and worked with people in many walks of life. Through golf, coin-shooting, ghost-towning, and other activities, he brings life to his stories, characters, and plots.

“Along with my wife, I travel, take a lot of pictures, and been known to spin a tale or two. Somewhere along the way I decided to try writing. Not sure of what words I want to put to paper, I write a variety of short stories, westerns, mysteries, and science fantasy. I’m fascinated with life, and how we manage to still survive given our society’s penchant for destructive behavior.”

My review:

This novel, set in Arizona, combines elements from a number of genres: the western (the setting and some of the characters, especially sheriff Tallbear, his grandfather, Gray Eagle, a shaman who hopes his grandson will follow in his footsteps, although his deceased son didn’t, and Tom Hawk, a young Apache man who makes a gruesome and dangerous discovery); a thriller/mystery/cold-crime novel (the wreck of an old plane is found in the dessert, and there is a strong indication of foul play); a spy/historical novel (there are secrets affecting several families and going back to WWII, and an agent from the CIA, an Army General, and a Russian mercenary make an appearance), and even a little bit of romance thrown in.

There is plenty of action, more than a bit of violence, standard and not-so-standard investigating and police procedural methods, lies, betrayal, guilt, redemption, identity crises, prejudice, alienation, cultural tension, loyalty, sense of duty, revenge, challenging of conventions, and many more.

I really liked the sense of place, the descriptions of the locations, and some Apache traditions, which are very vivid and cinematic. There were a number of characters to root for (not only Tallbear, his grandfather, and Hawk, but also the flawed FBI agent, Henley, and Irene Katz, a resourceful, clever, and daring woman whose family was involved in the mystery) but there were so many strands to the story and so many players that it was difficult to get to know anybody in detail. Some of the most interesting aspects of these characters’ lives and thoughts were only touched upon, and, overall, the plot dominates the story, although, as it seems this is the first of a series, there will be room to develop more complex and rounded characters, as some of them have plenty of potential. And, there were plenty of baddies, some out-and-out villains, and others more nuanced and whose motivations are more ambivalent and even understandable, a good range that gives the story more depth and helps keep readers on their toes.

The story is narrated in the third person and in chronological order, but readers who don’t like too many changes in point of view might take issue with the many characters whose thoughts and experiences we get to share. This is, first and foremost, Tallbear’s story, but we often witness events in which he does not participate. That makes the story flow at a good pace and sometimes helps us be a step ahead of him (or at least believe we are), but there are some minor inconsistencies, the story at times becomes dispersed, and it can cause confusion if it is read over a protracted period of time and not enough attention is paid to the sequence of events. More attention to the narrative voice and the editing, in the future, might make things tighter and smooth the reading experience.

There is much to catch up and there are elements of the ending that felt a bit rushed, but I enjoyed it overall, and answers are provided to most of the questions, although, as can be the case in literary series, there are some unresolved issues that are likely to turn up again in the future.

This is a story I recommend for those who like mix-genre stories, love a modern Western setting, and are not looking for a cosy read or a deep psychological study of the characters. At the end of the book (around the 92% mark), there is a sample of the next novel in the series, that although it doesn’t appear to have been published yet, shows plenty of promise.

Thanks to NetGalley and to BooksGoSocial for providing me with an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

Thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to share with others who might enjoy the book, and keep smiling!

Book reviews TuesdayBookBlog

#TuesdayBookBlog The Close by Jane Casey (Maeve Kerrigan, N. 10) (@JaneCaseyAuthor) (@HarperCollinsUK) Recommended to followers of the series and everyone else as well

Hi, all:

I’ve realised that recently I seem to have been reading random books in series, sometimes series I had visited before, and it has worked surprisingly well…

The Close by Jane Casey (Maeve Kerrigan, N. 10)

The gripping new detective crime thriller featuring Maeve Kerrigan and Josh Derwent from the Top Ten Sunday Times bestselling author

‘I loved, loved LOVED The Close. If you haven’t read Jane Casey, start immediately – excellent police procedurals with DELICIOUS sexual tension’
Marian Keyes, the Sunday Times No.1 Bestseller

‘With each book in this series, Jane takes us deeper into the lives and minds of her characters. THE CLOSE thrums with the tension of a classic crime thriller but more than that it ties us tighter to the fates of Maeve, Derwent and the wider cast in new and unexpected ways. If this wasn’t already one of my favourite crime series, THE CLOSE would have catapulted it up there. Brilliant’
Sarah Hilary, author of Someone Else’s Skin

‘Jane Casey is writing the most dangerously addictive series in crime fiction and The Close absolutely sizzles with her trademark tension
Erin Kelly, the Sunday Times Bestseller

At first glance, Jellicoe Close seems to be a perfect suburban street – well-kept houses with pristine lawns, neighbours chatting over garden fences, children playing together.

But there are dark secrets behind the neat front doors, hidden dangers that include a ruthless criminal who will stop at nothing.

It’s up to DS Maeve Kerrigan and DI Josh Derwent to uncover the truth. Posing as a couple, they move into the Close, blurring the lines between professional and personal as never before.

And while Maeve and Josh try to gather the evidence they need, they have no idea of the danger they face – because someone in Jellicoe Close has murder on their mind.

Author Jane Casey

About the author:

Jane Casey is an Irish-born author of crime novels. She was born in Dublin in 1977 and grew up in Castleknock, 8 km (5 mi) west of the centre of Dublin. She studied English at Jesus College, Oxford.

Her first book, The Missing, was published by Ebury Press in February 2010. It was shortlisted for the Ireland AM Crime Fiction Award. She then began a series of novels featuring Detective Constable Maeve Kerrigan: The BurningThe ReckoningThe Last GirlThe Stranger You Know and The Kill (which was shortlisted for the Ireland AM Crime Fiction Award 2014). She has also begun a series of novels for young adults, featuring her character Jess Tennant: How to FallBet Your Life and Hide and Seek.

My review:

I read and reviewed book 7 in Casey’s Maeve Kerrigan’s series some time ago, enjoyed both, the police-procedural/mystery plot and the characters, and now, after reading book 10, my emotions are pretty similar, although there have been many changes.

First of all, yes, this can be read as a stand-alone, although, of course, much of the background and many of the nuances, especially in the relationship between the two main protagonists, DS Maeve Kerrigan and DI Josh Derwent, can only be deduced or guessed at. I don’t think that affects the enjoyment of the part of the plot centred on the investigation, although some new readers seem not to have been too partial to the “romantic” part of the plot. On the other hand, readers who have been eagerly following the series seemed to be very pleased with the turn of events and the fact that the “will they/won’t they” relationship between Kerrigan and Derwent was explored in more detail here. Personally, I didn’t mind it, because it gave me a chance to find out more things about them, especially about Kerrigan, who narrates most of the story in the first person.

We meet Kerrigan when she seems very close to a meltdown. She’s survived a violent relationship although not unscarred, and she keeps denying what is evident to those who know her best. She, who is a brilliant investigator, intuitive, and full of empathy, can hardly function at work and finds it difficult to focus and think clearly. Because of that, and despite her reluctance, she finds herself chosen to participate in a special assignment, where she and Derwent have to pretend to be a couple and infiltrate a small suburban community (the close of the title) to investigate a suspicious death nobody had picked on.

The seemingly idyllic close hides a few things (not solely related to the case that brought them there) and with another case back home also requiring Maeve’s attention, there are plenty of clues, twists, turns, red herrings, and suspects to keep readers guessing. We also have Pippin, a dog with a talent for escapism, a menagerie of characters the protagonists (and the readers) have to get to grips with, emotions and feelings (welcome and unwelcome) between them… And an anonymous and dark character, the other narrator (this time in the third person), whose thoughts and company increase the tension exponentially and make for a very uncomfortable reading experience.

The writing flows well, and although impatient readers might have preferred less time being dedicated to the everyday life at the close, I found that the changes in rhythm and the odd touches of humour worked well as they gave us more time to digest the information and at times created an illusion of domesticity and safety, making us forget the dangers and the menace hiding in plain sight.

I enjoyed the ending and even guessed some of what was going on (although it took me a while, and the author was very good at making us second-guess ourselves), and although some things are left hanging on, I am sure most readers will be happy to carry on reading the next instalments in this series. This is not a cosy read, and although they are not examined in detail or in an explicit manner, some of the subjects discussed in the book (domestic violence, exploitation of vulnerable adults, paedophilia, violence, murder…) can be upsetting, so readers need to be cautious.

In sum, this is a well-written, entertaining, and twisty book, with several solid mysteries, and a good combination of a gripping plot and interesting characters you’ll want to get to know better. I have another one of Casey’s books on my list, and I’m already looking forward to reading it.

I thank NetGalley and Harper Collins UK for providing me with an ARC copy of this book, which I freely chose to review.

Thanks to all of you for reading, remember to share it with anybody who might enjoy it, keep smiling and having fun.

Book reviews TuesdayBookBlog

#TuesdayBookBlog EL NORTE by Harald Johnson (@AuthorHarald) A contemporary adventure story with a classic feel

Hi all:

I bring you a novel I’ve reviewed for Rosie’s team. I have read so many great reviews of the author’s previous novels by other reviewers in the group, that I had to check it out.

El Norte by Harald Johnson

El Norte by Harald Johnson

A thrilling, on-the-run, survival adventure across four countries.
Jager Flores is an introverted Texas high-school graduate on a family trip to Roatán, Honduras, to celebrate.
But when Jager’s careful world is blown apart, the panicked boy goes into hiding and then creates a bond with an unlikely ally to stay one step ahead of his violent pursuers.
Now, traveling with a team of immigrants and with corrupt DEA agents after him as he heads back to El Norte (the U.S.), Jager must find the strength in himself to survive and to get justice for his family.

If you’re a fan of the suspense thriller novels of Lee Child, David Baldacci, or Ken Follett, you’ll relish this fast-moving, action-packed story from TV/movie-optioned author Harald Johnson.

Author Harald Johnson

About the author:

Harald Johnson is an author of both fiction and nonfiction, a publisher, and a lifelong swimmer—who actually swam nonstop around New York’s Manhattan island.

His debut novel “NEW YORK 1609” (Omnibus Edition, 2018) tells a unique story about the birth of New York City (and Manhattan) from its earliest beginnings. He followed that with the three books of the “NEANDER” time-travel adventure trilogy (2019, 2020, 2021). The new thriller “EL NORTE” is his fifth novel (and eleventh book).

Connect with Harald on his author website:

My review:

This is a new author to me, but I had read several reviews of his previous novels and liked the sound of this one and the setting. I was also intrigued to see how well the author would manage in a contemporary setting, as his previous novels were historical.

If you enjoy road novels (and movies, as this is a very cinematic story) full of fast-paced action, with a young, troubled, and likeable hero/protagonist and a motley crew of companions he gathers along the way, full of risky and dangerous situations, with a corrupt and heartless baddie you’ll love to hate, which touches upon many stories we have read or watched on the news (the migrant plea, human trafficking, sex-trade and sex-slavery, anxiety disorder, gangs and cartels, police corruption) you will enjoy El Norte.

There are murders, kidnappings, and the protagonist is being chased because of some information he holds that could get somebody else into trouble, and those hunting him (well, there is one man, but he counts on many others for assistance) will go to any lengths to ensure they get it.

No matter how serious some of the topics are, though: this is a novel that aims to entertain, and it is not a treatise or an in-depth study of any of those subjects. There are no endless and overly detailed descriptions of locations or events, although we do get moments when the narrative seems to focus on a particular detail (it might be a tattoo, the food the characters are eating, the way somebody pronounces a word, an item of jewellery, a movement, a coyote…) that are effective in putting us in the character’s shoes, even though the novel is written in the third person. We mostly follow Jager, the protagonist, and experience what he feels and thinks, but there are some brief chapters from some other characters’ points of view, and that not only give us a wider perspective, but it also increases the suspense and tension, as sometimes we know what is coming (or suspect it) ahead of the protagonist.

This novel is a coming-of-age story, where we see Jager start the story as an introverted and fairly naïve young man suffering from anxiety, and slowly become a confident, resourceful, and strong young man, who can face any challenges and lead others. He is pretty lost, hesitant, and feeling overwhelmed by what has happened (and, of course, I cannot reveal the details of the plot) at the beginning of his quest/adventure, a bit like most readers would feel in those circumstances, but then he discovers things about him (and his family as well), he didn’t know. I kept thinking of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces as I read the novel, but you can read it and reach your own conclusions.

This is not a novel that digs deep into the psychology of the characters, and it does focus mostly on the plot, which moves relentlessly forward. Don’t expect to learn much about the background of most of the characters that appear, and even the protagonist doesn’t have much time to dwell on his life and his past, other than a few doubts and moments of self-reflection. There is too much at stake, and you won’t find long intimate discussions about people’s feelings, dreams, goals, or circumstances in life. That doesn’t mean readers will find it difficult to connect with the characters. It is impossible not to root for the protagonist, and even if sometimes we might question his decisions, he never shies away from his responsibilities and is loyal to a fault. And without revealing anything, I can say that there are other characters most readers will take to. I particularly appreciated the way the author portrays anonymous generous souls who aid the protagonist, his friends, and many others trying to get to the North, in any way they can. They might have very little, but they are happy to share it with those who need it more. We get to see the dark side of migration and learn more about those who traffic on people’s hopes and desperation, but there are rays of hope along the way as well.

Much of what happens is taken at face value, and the way the story is told made me think of an action movie, as I have already said, and also of classic YA adventure stories, with the up-to-date news-worthy topics giving it a contemporary feel. There are words and expressions in Spanish (from the various Central-American countries they visit, and Mexico), but those are translated and explained within the text, and the story is an easy read that moves at a vertiginous pace.

This is the journey Jager has to make during the novel, to give you an idea.

I will not elaborate on the ending, as I have made some passing comments about the way the protagonist grows and matures through the story, and although as is the case in these kinds of action and adventure novels, some suspension of disbelief is required, this is not more than would be expected. The ending is appropriate to the story and satisfying, and I’ll leave it at that.

I must add that there is an author’s note/interview, where Johnson answers a number of questions about the novel. This will prove invaluable for book clubs (and it will make a good choice, in my opinion, as there is plenty of food for discussion here), and I enjoyed reading it and having some of my own impressions and thoughts confirmed. The author mentions the book American Dirt (by Jeanine Cummins) and a possible comparison, but although the book is on my list, I haven’t gotten to it yet, so I won’t comment, although I am aware of the controversy.

So, if you’re looking for a quick read, with a classic YA adventure novel feel set in contemporary times, full of action, dangers, found families, and a quest/journey through Central America and Mexico that you’d love to watch on the big screen, jump onto El Norte.

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

(As an aside, as a psychiatrist I was a bit concerned by the medication Jager is prescribed for his anxiety (Diazepam), but I don’t specialise in child and adolescent psychiatry, haven’t worked in the USA, the rest of the therapies mentioned sounded appropriate, and this is a work of fiction, after all, so I don’t think it is a real issue.)

Thanks to the author, to Rosie and her team for their support, and to all of you for reading, sharing, commenting, and always being there. Keep smiling!


The Enigma of Room 622: A Novel by Joël Dicker (@QuercusBooks) A box of tricks and an exercise in metafiction

Hi, all:

I’ve shared my reviews for a couple of books by Joël Dicker before, and his popularity seems to be increasing by the minute. Of course, I couldn’t resist reading and reviewing his latest book (in English).

The Enigma of Room 622 by Joël Dicker

The Enigma of Room 622 by Joël Dicker

A September 2022 Amazon Best of the Month Pick

“Dicker salutes Agatha Christie even as he drops the reader through one trapdoor into another, so that by the end, we doubt we’ve ever read another novel quite like it. (We haven’t.) Fans of Ruth Ware and Lucy Foley will hug this book in between chapters; the many readers who love Anthony Horowitz’s mysteries will celebrate. And me? I’ll be reading it again.”—A. J. Finn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in the Window 

“[The Enigma of Room 622 is an] exhilarating tour de force”–The Wall Street Journal

A burnt-out writer’s retreat at a fancy Swiss hotel is interrupted by a murder mystery in this metafictional, meticulously crafted whodunit from the New York Times bestselling author of The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair.

A writer named Joël, Switzerland’s most prominent novelist, flees to the Hôtel de Verbier, a luxury resort in the Swiss Alps. Disheartened over a recent breakup and his longtime publisher’s death, Joël hopes to rest. However, his plans quickly go awry. It all starts with a seemingly innocuous detail: at the Verbier, there is no room 622. 

Before long, Joël and fellow guest Scarlett uncover a long-unsolved murder that transpired in the hotel’s room 622. The attendant circumstances: the succession of Switzerland’s largest private bank, a mysterious counterintelligence operation called P-30, and a most disreputable sabotage of hotel hospitality. A European phenomenon, The Enigma of Room 622 is a matryoshka doll of intrigue–as precise as a Swiss watch–and Dicker’s most diabolically addictive thriller yet.

Translated from the French by Robert Bononno

About the author:

Joël Dicker was born in Geneva in 1985, where he studied Law. THE TRUTH ABOUT THE HARRY QUEBERT AFFAIR was nominated for the Prix Goncourt and won the Grand Prix du Roman de l’Académie Française and the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens. It soon became a worldwide success in 2014, publishing in 42 countries and selling more than 3.5 million copies. In the UK it was a Times number one bestseller, and was chosen for the Richard and Judy Book Club as well as Simon Mayo’s Radio 2 Book Club.

In May 2017 his novel THE BALTIMORE BOYS, already making waves across Europe and number one in several countries, will be published for the first time in English. Both a sequel and a prequel to THE TRUTH ABOUT THE HARRY QUEBERT AFFAIR, it will centres around traumatic events that blight the lives of the Baltimore branch of Marcus Goldman’s family.

My review:

Thanks to Netgalley and to Quercus Books for providing me with an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

What can I tell you about this book? I kept thinking of different accolades and even genres as I read: jigsaw puzzle, with elements of the classic mystery with an amateur (a couple) investigator, a farce (full of confusion, characters who pretend to be something/somebody they are not, pretences, hidden objects, false clues, fake identities, cheating…), a spy novel, a book set in the world of private banking and high finances, a story of thwarted love and difficult family relationships, an autobiographical book about the author and an homage to his recently deceased editor (Bernard de Fallois), a metafictional exercise about an author writing a book about a mystery (an author called Joël who has recently lost his editor and wants to write a book about him but ends up writing… something else).

This is, as is always the case with Dicker’s novels, a long book, and it jumps backward and forward in time, from the present (2018) to the time of the mystery (15 years prior) and forward and backward between those two timelines. Those who prefer straightforward narratives that follow a chronological order and are not too demanding of our attention should not attempt this book. Although the time frames are clearly indicated every time they change, any distraction could easily cause confusion. It is true that the information is rehashed and revised a number of times, because the investigators (the author called Joël and Scarlett, a woman he meets during his holiday who insists on trying his theory about writing and what would work as a good plot for a story) keep reaching cul-de-sacs and having to dismiss all the clues and suspects they had been working on, so there are options to catch up if you have forgotten any small details. In spite of that, this is one of those books that should not be read over long stretches of time, as I suspect it could become increasingly frustrating, and either it will grab your attention and keep you reading or it won’t, from pretty early on.

For those who prefer their mysteries very tight, with no loose threads and totally realistic, this novel might not work either. It does require a huge dose of suspension of disbelief (this might depend on your interpretation of the overall narrative, but I’m speaking in general terms here, and sorry, but I cannot clarify matters without toppling the house of cards), and you need to be happy to follow the characters (and there are quite a few of those, whose points of view we are offered, always in the third person apart from Joël’s, who writes in the first person) wherever they want to take you without questioning too much how plausible it all is, otherwise, you will not be able to enjoy the experience, because you will get pushed out of the story (the stories) and will no longer care what the answer to the many questions might be. So yes, you need to be happy to be taken for a ride. And quite a ride this is.

For all the reasons above, I will not try to discuss in too much detail either the plot or the characters. Let’s say that I appreciated, most of all, the comments about writing and the reflections about the nature of fiction, the homage to the editor (who might be a character in this novel but who also had a counterpart in real life), and although I kept shaking my head at the twist on twist on twist, I admire the author for daring to (try to) pull such a literary trick out of his hat, and I am sure a couple of the characters of the novel (who are skilled performers themselves) would clap admiringly at his prowess.

I am not going to reveal the ending, but you will probably imagine, by now, that the author couldn’t leave without a final twist. Did I see the twist coming? Well, which one of the many there are in the novel? I kept thinking about other books I have read about writers at work, and I must admit this is one of the most entertaining ones I have come across, and it did keep me thinking and wondering till the very end, even if at times I thought Dicker had gone too far. If you want your characters squeaky clean, nice, totally realistic, and consistent, I advise you not to read this book. Otherwise, there are no major warnings required other than the cautions I’ve shared about the way the story is written and personal preferences.

A random fact I had to mention: there is a character called Olga, and although she is not a nice person by any stretch of the imagination, she does the right thing in the end. So, I won’t take offence at the use the author makes of my name.

The other comment I’ll add is that there is a fabulous note written by the translator as part of the backmatter that illustrates beautifully the process of translating a text, especially one as complex as this novel. I also like his description of the book:

And in this way, the novel turns in upon itself, like the ever circling spirals of a gastropod shell.

The author inside of the story explains that rather than describing a series of facts, a plot should ask a question or a series of questions. And on that front, you can hardly do better than this novel. If you are happy to give it time, don’t mind books playing tricks on you, and enjoy the challenge, give it a go. It might drive you mad, but it is likely to keep you entertained and make you smile in wonder.

Thanks to the publisher, the author, and NetGalley for the opportunity, thanks to all of you for following and reading my blog, and remember to share with anybody who might enjoy it, and keep reading, smiling, and having fun. ♥

Book reviews TuesdayBookBlog

#TuesdayBookBlog How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems by Randall Munroe (@xkcd) Quirky, fun, and full of useful (?) knowledge

Hi, all:

I bring you a non-fiction book that falls into the category of “out-there”, “scientific” and “fun”. You might already know the author, but it was a first for me. Probably not the last.

How to. Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems by Randall Munroe

How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems by Randall Munroe


“How To will make you laugh as you learn…With How To, you can’t help but appreciate the glorious complexity of our universe and the amazing breadth of humanity’s effort to comprehend it. If you want some lightweight edification, you won’t go wrong with How To.” —CNET

“[How To] has science and jokes in it, so 10/10 can recommend.” —Simone Giertz

The world’s most entertaining and useless self-help guide from the brilliant mind behind the wildly popular webcomic xkcd, the bestsellers What If? and Thing Explainer, and What If? 2, coming September 13, 2022

For any task you might want to do, there’s a right way, a wrong way, and a way so monumentally complex, excessive, and inadvisable that no one would ever try it. How To is a guide to the third kind of approach. It’s full of highly impractical advice for everything from landing a plane to digging a hole.

Bestselling author and cartoonist Randall Munroe explains how to predict the weather by analyzing the pixels of your Facebook photos. He teaches you how to tell if you’re a baby boomer or a 90’s kid by measuring the radioactivity of your teeth. He offers tips for taking a selfie with a telescope, crossing a river by boiling it, and powering your house by destroying the fabric of space-time. And if you want to get rid of the book once you’re done with it, he walks you through your options for proper disposal, including dissolving it in the ocean, converting it to a vapor, using tectonic plates to subduct it into the Earth’s mantle, or launching it into the Sun.

By exploring the most complicated ways to do simple tasks, Munroe doesn’t just make things difficult for himself and his readers. As he did so brilliantly in What If?, Munroe invites us to explore the most absurd reaches of the possible. Full of clever infographics and fun illustrations, How To is a delightfully mind-bending way to better understand the science and technology underlying the things we do every day.

Randall Munroe Foto: re:publica/Jan Zappner CC BY 2.0

About the author:

Randall Munroe is the creator of the webcomic xkcd and author of xkcd: Volume 0. Randall was born in Easton, Pennsylvania, and grew up outside Richmond, Virginia. After studying physics at Christopher Newport University, he got a job building robots at NASA Langley Research Center. In 2006 he left NASA to draw comics on the internet full time, and has since been nominated for a Hugo Award three times. The International Astronomical Union recently named an asteroid after him: asteroid 4942 Munroe is big enough to cause mass extinction if it ever hits a planet like Earth.

My review:

I couldn’t resist when I read the description of this book, and it does live up to the expectations, although it is difficult to know what the expectations are because each person’s ideas of what a bad idea (or what a ridiculous idea is) vary enormously.

I am not an expert in Physics, Maths, or any of the subjects much of what is discussed in this book falls under (apart from having strange and bizarre ideas, although I think all of us have those), but I do not think one needs to be an expert to enjoy the book. Although it is true that some of the analyses and the in-depth explanations might go over one’s head, the concepts, the ideas, and the way the author goes about taking any of his ideas to the limit are fascinating. He doesn’t hesitate before contacting true experts (a test pilot and astronaut, Col. Chris Hadfield; a tennis star, Serena Williams, just to name a couple of them) to ask them the most bizarre or outlandish questions. And, credit where credit is due, they are gracious enough to engage with him and patient enough to keep going and answer all of his questions to a point where most of us would have given up.

This is a book for people looking for something different and amusing, especially those of us who look at something, or have an idea pop up into our heads and can’t help but wonder: “what if?” I also kept thinking that authors and artists looking for inspiration and ideas would have a field day with this book. I can imagine science-fiction writers smiling as they read some of the suggestions and possibilities Munroe comes up with and thinking about plenty of uses for them, although I am sure many other people will have their imaginations ignited by some of the wonderfully bizarre ideas contained here as well.

Munroe also includes some of his well-known illustrations, which often emphasise how ludicrous some of the ideas are, making them even funnier. Those looking for more detailed information, also have a section of references (many easy-to-check online articles), an index, and a section of acknowledgments, and the book is peppered with notes, some even funnier than the original explanation. This means that the last 30% of the book or so is back matter, so the actual body of the book is not as long as it might seem. It is also divided up into 28 chapters, subdivided into smaller sections, so this is a book ideal for people with little time to read, who prefer to read bite-size content that doesn’t require sustained attention for long periods of time.

To give you an idea about the kinds of subjects discussed in this book, I will offer you a sample of a few of the chapter titles:

Chapter 1: How to Jump Really High, Chapter 2: How to Throw a Pool Party, Chapter 3: How to Dig a Hole, Chapter 4: How to Play the Piano, Chapter 5: How to Make an Emergency Landing …. Chapter 9: How to Build a Lava Moat… Chapter 16: How to Power Your House (on Earth), Chapter 17: How to Power Your House (on Mars)…

Do not expect to close this book armed with practical advice you can put to good use, although… one never knows!

A note of warning: The book is very USA-centred, and most of the examples given come from the USA, as do the units of measurement. I would have appreciated it if they could have offered the values in SI units as well, as I am more familiar with those. Perhaps in future editions.

If you like books that make you think beyond the usual and that are not afraid to take things to the extreme or to push the limits of the ridiculous, I recommend this one. And I’ll be exploring other titles by the author in the future.

Thanks to the author for this book, and thanks to all of you for reading, commenting, clicking, sharing, etc. Don’t forget to keep smiling!

Book reviews TuesdayBookBlog

Old God’s Time by Sebastian Barry (@FaberBooks) An unforgettable reading experience

Hi, all:

I only started reading Sebastian Barry quite recently, but he’s already become a favourite. He has a way with words, no matter what he writes about.

Old God’s Time by Sebastian Barry

Old God’s Time by Sebastian Barry

‘Have you ever been the custodian of a story no one else believed?’
‘Oh yes,’ he said.
‘You have?’
‘Yes,’ he said.
‘Then I can tell you.’

Recently retired policeman Tom Kettle is settling into the quiet of his new home, a lean-to annexed to a Victorian Castle overlooking the Irish Sea. For months he has barely seen a soul, catching only glimpses of his eccentric landlord and a nervous young mother who has moved in next door. Occasionally, fond memories of the past return, of his family, his beloved wife June and their two children.

But when two former colleagues turn up at his door with questions about a decades-old case, one which Tom never quite came to terms with, he finds himself pulled into the darkest currents of his past.

A beautiful, haunting novel, in which nothing is quite what it seems, Old God’s Time is about what we live through, what we live with, and what may survive of us.

Author Sebastian Barry

 About the author:

Sebastian Barry was born in Dublin in 1955. The current Laureate for Irish Fiction, his novels have twice won the Costa Book of the Year award, the Independent Booksellers Award and the Walter Scott Prize. He had two consecutive novels shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, A Long Long Way (2005) and the top ten bestseller The Secret Scripture (2008), and has also won the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Prize, the Irish Book Awards Novel of the Year and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. He lives in County Wicklow.

My review:

This is the third novel I read by Sebastian Barry, and I seriously doubt he can write a bad line. And if he does, they don’t feature in his novels. This is a tough book, about some terrible events, and if it wasn’t because of the beauty of the writing, I am not sure it would be possible to read it till the end. As it is, no matter how much hurt and horror it piles up, you cannot help but keep reading. And you should.

The way the story is told makes it even more shocking. It is written in the third person, but the reader is inside Tom Kettle’s head, an Irish policeman who retired only 9 months ago, living in a wonderful setting, what appears to be a charmed, charming, and calm life, and following the vagaries of his thoughts, where his memories of his family hold a place of honour. Stream of consciousness describes quite well the narrative style, where readers can find themselves contemplating the comings and goings of Tom’s landlord, his neighbours, the birds, the weather, thinking about his wife, his daughter, and his son, going shopping, cooking… At first, it seems as if this is going to be a cozy novel, where the retired policeman might be called to help on some kind of investigation, and this impression is reinforced when two young colleagues come to visit him, asking for his advice on how to deal with a case he had been involved in many years back. But his reluctance to learn any of the details of the case, and the way his mind seems to start wandering and unravelling from then on, make us realise that Tom is like an iceberg floating in the ocean, or a duck gliding on a lake. They might appear calm and quiet, but under the surface, there are hidden depths and a constant struggle to keep afloat.

What is true and what is not, who is there and who is a figment of Tom’s imagination, becomes difficult to discern as the novel progresses, both, in the outside world and inside of his head. He is one of those unreliable narrators that are not even aware they might be unreliable, and whose minds seem to be trying very hard to protect them, even if it might make them and others question their sanity,

Tom tries very hard to do what is right and eventually manages to face the magnitude of all that has happened in his life. He reflects upon fate, mentions Jonah and Job, and indeed, the Biblical comparison is not a bad one, because when he thought he had put his traumatic childhood behind him and had found happiness with his wife, who also shared a similarly traumatic past, things start to spiral out of control. This is a man who is still mourning his wife fifteen years after her death, and who’s been hit by more losses than a man his age would expect, and very few of the joys a good man would aspire to. There is much personal tragedy here, and there is child abuse as well, so readers should be warned about the nature of the content, in case these are topics too painful for them.

Tom is a good observer, has a huge heart and sense of justice, is aware of his limitations and able to laugh at himself, always happy to try to help others, even at great personal. And he is a man who values the small things and joys in life. I felt touched by his story, and I expect I won’t be the only one.

This novel is literary fiction at its best, featuring some wonderful and some horrible characters as well, full of love, joy, pain, and sadness, written in stunning prose with and for all the senses. If the subject matter and the warnings I have mentioned don’t put you off, do read it. It is an unforgettable experience.

I thank NetGalley and Faber & Faber for providing me with an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

Some samples of the writing, to give you a small taster. Remember that you can always check a sample in any of the online stores, and also that this is an ARC copy, so there might be changes in the published version of the novel.

To lose your mother. It kills you, and then you have to live on.

He didn’t like to turn on the lights because he sensed the resentment of the objects as he passed. Something in the weather had shifted outside, the thick clouds were gone, the wind was still, and an unscheduled waking, intruding on the privacy of inanimate things —so deeply coveted by them. Chair and table, carpet and knick-knacks, wanting to be alone, like Great Garbo.

A soul like him left on earth without the person he had loved —what sort of creature was that?

There are worse things and worst things, he remembered thinking.

He felt he was disappearing to that final dot of light on an old television screen. Flick the off-switch and retire to bed.

It was as if he had just met her, that very same feeling of old in the vanished café, and yet of course in the very same moment, he knew everything there was to know about her. The strange privilege of that. The lovely wildness of it.

Thanks to the publishers, to NetGalley, and to the author for the novel, thanks to all of you for writing, and remember to check it out, share it with people who might enjoy it, comment, and always keep smiling.

Book reviews bookmarks TuesdayBookBlog

#TuesdayBookBlog FINDING VERITY by Jenny Loudon (@jenloudonauthor) Second-chances, an older and inspiring female protagonist, and gorgeous descriptions of landscapes #RBRT

Hi all:

I bring you another book from Rosie’s Book Review Team, and one from an author I discovered recently. Another great one.

Finding Verity by Jenny Loudon

Finding Verity by Jenny Loudon

‘Quite stunning… one of my books of the year.’ – Anne Williams, Romantic Novelist Association Media Star of The Year 2019


The heart-warming bestseller from this exciting debut novelist.

An unhappy woman. An unfinished romance. A sense that time is running out…

Verity Westwood is a successful London businesswoman whose husband is handsome but selfish. When Edward Farrell, a nomadic American journalist from her past, returns unexpectedly, she is swept by the irresistible desire to fulfil her dreams of working as an artist, like her famous father before her. After being caught in a storm on the Cote d’Azur, she vows to change her life.
What she does not foresee is the struggle involved, the ultimate price she will pay, and the powerful force of enduring love that changes everything.

‘Engagingly written’ Crafty Green Poet review

‘A bittersweet read’ Bookworm Lisa review

Author Jenny Loudon

About the author:

Jenny Loudon is a British novelist whose work includes SNOW ANGELS, a moving and uplifting tale of recovery after loss, and the bestselling love story FINDING VERITY. She read English and American Literature at the University of Kent in Canterbury and holds a Masters in The Modern Movement. She lives with her family in the English countryside.

Learn more about Jenny Loudon at

My review:

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

I recently read and reviewed Loudon’s second novel Snow Angels and loved it, and I also loved this one. Both novels share some characteristics even though the stories and the protagonists are quite different.

This novel is about second chances —it starts in 1989 at a party where Verity meets Edward, a handsome American stranger, but despite their evident attraction for each other they both decide to go their separate and very different ways, and it ends in 2013-14, with a Verity who lives in London, is married with two grown-up daughters who have already left the house, a seemingly happy marriage, and a successful business. Life has happened in between and things are not as they seem to be to the casual observer. It is also one of those novels that I think of as an adult coming-of-age story, although perhaps in this case it would be more appropriate to say that it is a novel about “finding Verity” as the title indicates, in many senses: we, the readers, get to know and understand the real Verity, with her self-doubts, her fears, her desires, her contradictions, her attachment issues, her panic attacks, her menopausal symptoms, her naivete…; Verity (and those around her) gets to find —or rather, become— the real Verity; and it is a novel about looking for and finding the truth (Verity comes from veritas, truth in Latin, after all), no matter how unpalatable or hard it might be and how many layers of conventionality and good-manners it might be hiding under.

This is a novel where women are the central characters, Verity in particular, and where all the women (except for a couple we don’t really get to know much about) seem to understand each other and be mostly supportive of each other’s dreams and interests (Tills, Verity’s younger daughter, is a bit contrary, but she is very young and seems to have matured by the end of the story). I liked all of them, especially because they are all very different, multifaceted, and feel like people in their own right, rather than being there just to add depth to Verity’s story. And there is a kind of sorority between them. I was particularly fond of Fiona, Verity’s mother, who despite her mental health difficulties and her troubled marriage does her best to support Verity and offers her good advice; Stella, her friend who lives in the countryside and is always a strong supporter, no matter what, while keeping her anchored in the real world; and Jane, the artist who helps her make her dreams come true. Verity can be very frustrating, because she is quite naive at times, and I think most readers will have their suspicions about what her husband, Matt, might be up to, but she trusts him and feels bad for him nonetheless. Her reactions feel realistic though, and through the novel, we get to understand the impact her childhood had, and why she might have chosen to live the life she was living rather than taking any risks. She is quite taken aback towards the end of the novel when she realises that none of her closest friends or relatives seems surprised by what has happened to her, and she comes to the conclusion that she has been turning a blind eye and working very hard not to see what must have been quite evident. I liked the fact that she is an older protagonist (almost fifty), who despite suffering from empty-nest syndrome, feeling unsure about herself as a woman, a wife, a mother, and a business-woman manages to start a new life afresh, all by herself. Well, with a little help from her friends.

The men… Matt is not a terribly sympathetic character, but there are some scenes that help us understand why he might be the way he is, and he offered Verity something she was looking for (or seemed to) at least for a while. I didn’t like him, but he tries so hard to live according to his standards of what a successful man should be like, that it is difficult not to feel a bit sorry for him. Edward has more of the romantic hero about him, and the author offers us some chapters narrated from his perspective (the whole novel is written in the third-person, mostly from Verity’s point of view), and that makes us get to know him a bit better, although we only learn his secrets at the same time as Verity does. They might seem to be total opposites, but you all know how these things can go.

Apart from the characters (oh, and I loved Charlie, Verity’s old dog. He is a sweetheart), I also enjoyed the focus on Verity’s love of art, her gift as a painter, and her attempts at finding the perfect place to paint. Loudon’s writing is precious; the descriptions of London, Oxfordshire, Scotland, and France are breathtaking, and I felt as if I could see the places, walk and run with Verity through the streets, forests and mountains, and enjoy her canvases. The pace of the narrative is contemplative and paused, allowing us time to get familiar with the characters’ thought processes, their feelings, and their psychological make-up, rather than being swept by non-stop mindless action. Plenty of things happen, but the emphasis is placed on how Verity and the other characters react to them and how they feel about them.

Some short examples of the writing, although you might want to check a free sample to make sure the writing is to your taste.

The truly great marriages are the ones where each person sees inside the other’s heart, and responds. A rare thing, sadly, but they do exist. (Fiona, Verity’s mother, tells her).

The rain had stopped and patches of watery sunlight blotched the landscape, lightening swathes of hillside and sea. Low sunlight added drama, making the atmosphere almost surreal. A double rainbow arced across an entire valley, and snow dusted the mountain tops like icing sugar.

She knew it was a cliché but also recognised deep truth in the observation that life was precarious, and that no matter how much some people liked to believe they were in control, or the orchestrators of their own fate, life was utterly unpredictable.

It was as if the island clung to the edge of the world, and every swerve of the road offered a feast for the eyes.

And the ending… This is not one of those novels that shy away from real life and leave us with the message that taking a life-changing decision is easy and it will all work out as if by magic. There are moments of loneliness, of hesitation; there are glitches and hurdles in the way; and living a day at a time and learning from it is what it’s truly all about. Do not worry, though, there is a happy ending, in case you were wondering.

I recommend this novel to readers looking for realistic female characters, especially women of a certain age, second-chance novels, and romances where the focus is on personal growth, and not only on romantic relationships. Art and nature lovers, and those looking for beautiful, inspiring, and descriptive writing, will have a field day.

Thanks to Rosie and the members of her team for their support, thanks to the author for her book, and, thanks to all of you for reading, sharing, commenting, and spreading the word. Remember to keep smiling and stay safe.

Book reviews TuesdayBookBlog

#TuesdayBookBlog AN END TO ETCETERA by B. Conklin (@rbconklin1) Believe Nothing. Doubt Everyone

Hi, all:

I bring you another great find I picked up from Rosie’s Book Review Team. You know I have a personal connection and interest in books related to mental health, and therapy, and those where the psychology of the characters plays an important role, so you’ll understand why I was immediately attracted to this one. I am not going to enter into issues of diagnosis or evaluate how accurate the book might be, as my experience with young patients is very limited, and I’ve never worked as a therapist, but I can tell you that this is pretty impressive. And some.

An End to Etcetera by B. Robert Conklin

An End to Etcetera by B. Conklin

A boy. A shadow. A murder.

Or not?

Pathological liar? Sociopathic killer? Or just a troubled kid seeking attention? These are the questions that haunt therapist Selena Harris as she undertakes the most challenging case of her career.

Sitting on a couch two feet across from her is an ordinary-looking teenager who confessed in a text, inadvertently broadcast to his entire school, to murdering an autistic child left in his care. With no evidence to support Leal Porter’s testimony, authorities have referred him to Selena for counseling.

Challenging her professional distance is the emotional bond she develops with this lonely, isolated boy, whom classmates describe as “that scrawny kid who talks to himself at his locker.” Although Selena believes the alleged victim is the product of her client’s fevered imagination, she harbors one major doubt:

What if she’s wrong?

Selena can relate to Leal’s feeling of isolation, especially as she has returned to her small hometown on the heels of a divorce to take care of her father, who has suffered a debilitating stroke. In Leal’s case, however, he’s a school outcast due to his predisposition to tell tall tales to worm his way out of trouble.

Stepping outside the confines of her office in a quest for clues, Selena is determined to separate fact from fiction. But nothing in her experience prepares her for the harrowing revelation of the inner demon that lurks beneath the surface of Leal’s confession.

Katherine Burkman, author of April Cruel, writes: “What is fascinating about An End to Etcetera is the nature of the relationship between a psychologist and her thirteen-year-old patient. As a whodunit, we are not sure of what has been done or who is responsible, as we watch both patient and therapist evolve. Extremely well-written, the suspense involves more than that in your usual mystery, since it is the mystery of life itself. The writing pulls you in and won’t let you go.”

Author B. Robert Conklin

About the author:

B. Robert Conklin (he/him/his) lives, writes, and works, not necessarily in this order, in Columbus, Ohio, where he helps his spouse nurture the creativity of their three Gen-Z kids, who seem determined to take less-traveled paths of their own. In his leisure time, he takes nature walks with his family’s two ferrets and practices the craft of cartooning.

His credits include stories in Blue Moon Literary & Art Review, THAT Literary Review, and Kestrel, with another accepted for publication in The Strong Stuff: The Best of Fictional Café, Volume II. With a teaching background in composition and literature, he has also co-authored a college textbook to help emerging writers connect with their world.

His day job involves developing e-learning modules and hosting internationally attended webinars on the topic of nondestructive testing—a profession geared to keeping airplanes from crashing, bridges from collapsing, and nuclear reactors from imploding.

Visit him on Twitter @rbconklin1 or at

My review:

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

The author has published stories before, and not only that, but he has studied and taught writing, and although this is my first contact with his work, his level of expertise is evident in all aspects of this novel: plot, characterisation, style…

The description provides enough clues as to the general plot, and in order to avoid spoilers, I will try not to elaborate too much on that aspect of the book. This psychological thriller (for lack of a better categorisation) digs deep into the mind of its characters, and it has a way of grabbing readers’ attention and making us question everything we read and our own minds.

This is a book beautifully constructed. The story is narrated in third-person, from alternating points of view, those of Selena, the therapist (a child and adolescent psychologist), and of one of her patients, Leal, although there are many extras and the story is anything but straight-forward, both in the plot and the way it is told. The writing is beautifully descriptive, and a lot of the novel is taken up by lengthy descriptions of the therapy sessions between the two main characters. Those, though, as Selena notes, consist of Leal narrating a story. This might (or not) be the story of what happened, and what landed him in trouble at school. Nobody seems to believe his version of events, and he insists on narrating that story in chronological order, in maddening detail, despite any attempts made by Selena at changing the pace, bringing up other issues, and trying to complete her report for the school in a timely manner. Selena, who has plenty of insight into what her behaviour should be like and into the need to keep professional boundaries with her patients, starts to pursue other avenues of information, to try to corroborate or disprove the account Leal is offering her. Her efforts keep being thwarted. Some of the people who appear in the boy’s story are no longer there, others are never available or have their own agendas and won’t cooperate fully, and her personal life (especially her pregnancy and her father’s illness) intrudes as well. After all, she has just moved back to live with her father in the small town where she was born, she is going through a divorce, and this pregnancy came quite unexpectedly after some painful losses. The more we read, the more we question everything, sometimes agreeing with the therapist, sometimes wondering about her own mental state.

There are clues and things that might make readers uneasy and raise doubts, and although this is not a standard mystery, readers need to keep their wits about them. Selena keeps sending e-mails to a mentor/lover and perhaps more, with details of the case, in an attempt at supervision. We get access to dreams, a deep mindfulness session with Leal that might uncover things even he is not aware of, and we can’t help but wonder how a boy so young could be as articulate as he is at times. Selena starts going beyond being a detective of the mind (soul, even) and starts digging too deep into matters, putting herself in situations that might not only be unethical but also truly dangerous.

There are plenty of secrets and half-truths in the story, with characters such as Thuster (who might or might not be only a shadow embodying the darkness inside Leal and all of us), a mother who has something to hide, a couple with a strained relationship, a woman who cannot let go of her relationships, a brother who refuses to grow, a disappeared priest, an artist with a peculiar painting style, women with tattoos, mannequins, guns, drownings, non-conventional families, therapists enmeshed in their therapies… The word “leal” means “loyal” in Spanish, and indeed, trust and loyalty are at the heart of the story.

Those of you who love unreliable narrators (as I do) will have a field day with this story. As per the ending… It is one of those endings that makes you reconsider the whole of the novel you have just read. I found it both, satisfying and disturbing. Disturbing because the ending of this novel, which keeps you guessing and second-guessing yourself all the time, does not disappoint in that aspect either. Satisfying because you do get answers to all your questions, although are those “the right” answers? As is the case with the best novels, this one will keep you thinking long after you have turned the last page.

A sample of the writing:

For those of you who might be intrigued by the title, it comes from a conversation between the therapist and Leal’s mother:

She said she just wants it to end —the etcetera.

The etcetera? I asked her what she meant.

You’ll find out soon enough, she told me. With Leal, there’s always one more thing—one damned thing after another to worry about.

Here, Selena is e-mailing her mentor and supervisor, telling him what the experience of her sessions with Leal is like.

And yet, all the while, I have the feeling there is more going on inside his head than is coming across verbally. His focus is perpetually inward. It’s as though there is a feature-length movie unfolding in his imagination, complete with dialogue, pans and zooms, soundstages—who knows, even CGI—and I am like a hungry dog, grateful for tidbits, leftovers, thrown from a table holding a smorgasbord out of my reach.

An example of the type of descriptive writing I so liked:

The wind died away and the surface of the lake became very calm, as still as green glass. She sat by the shore, hands on her stomach, feeling the movements within coming more and more strongly now, so she knew it wouldn’t be long. The farther shore of the lake became a distant world, foreign and invisible, shrouded in mist, and the stars of the night sky opened like holes puncturing the canvas of a wide purple umbrella.

I recommend this book to those who love beautiful writing, mind games, stories that make you dig deep into the psychology of the characters, especially if you don’t expect lots of action and a fast pace. Some of the topics that come up in the story might be disturbing (there is domestic violence, and some violent scenes, although not too explicit or extreme) but this is a novel more disturbing by what it makes us think of than what it actually says. You have been warned.

Thanks to Rosie and her team for the support, thanks to the author for his novel, and thanks to all of you for reading. Remember to share with anybody you think might enjoy it, and keep smiling!

Book reviews TuesdayBookBlog

#TuesdayBookBlog The Necromancer’s Daughter by D. Wallace Peach (@Dwallacepeach) A dark fairy-tale with complex characters. And dragon #Fantasy

Hi, all:

I bring you a review of a fantasy novel. As you know, I don’t read many books in this genre, but after reading Teagan Geneviene’s fabulous serial Dead of Winter, and after seeing this novel featured on many blogs, I had to give it a go. And I’m so pleased I did.

The Necromancer’s Daughter by D. Wallace Peach

The Necromancer’s Daughter by D. Wallace Peach

A healer with the talent to unravel death. A stillborn child brought to life. A father lusting for vengeance. And a son torn between justice, faith, and love. Caught in a chase spanning kingdoms, each must decide the nature of good and evil, the lengths they will go to survive, and what they are willing to lose.

A healer and dabbler in the dark arts of life and death, Barus is as gnarled as an ancient tree. Forgotten in the chaos of the dying queen’s chamber, he spirits away her stillborn infant and in a hovel at the meadow’s edge, breathes life into the wisp of a child. He names her Aster for the lea’s white flowers. Raised as his daughter, she, too, learns to heal death.

Denied a living heir, the widowed king spies from a distance. But he heeds the claims of the fiery Vicar of the Red Order—in the eyes of the Blessed One, Aster is an abomination, and to embrace the evil of resurrection will doom his rule.

As the king’s life nears its end, he defies the vicar’s warning and summons the necromancer’s daughter. For his boldness, he falls to an assassin’s blade. Armed with righteousness and iron-clad conviction, the Order’s brothers ride into the leas to cleanse the land of evil.

To save her father’s life, Aster leads them beyond Verdane’s wall into the Forest of Silvern Cats, a wilderness of dragons and barbarian tribes. Unprepared for a world rife with danger and unchecked power, a world divided by those who practice magic and those who hunt them, she must choose whether to trust the one man offering her aid, the one man most likely to betray her—her enemy’s son.


From best-selling fantasy author D. Wallace Peach comes a retelling of the legend of Kwan-yin, the Chinese Goddess of Mercy. Set in a winter world of dragons, intrigue, and magic, The Necromancer’s Daughter is a story about duty, defiance, cruelty, and sacrifice— an epic tale of compassion and deep abiding love where good and evil aren’t what they seem.

Author D. Wallace Peach

About the author:

A long-time reader, best-selling author D. Wallace Peach started writing later in life when years of working in business surrendered to a full-time indulgence in the imaginative world of books. She was instantly hooked.

In addition to fantasy books, Peach’s publishing career includes participation in various anthologies featuring short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. She’s an avid supporter of the arts in her local community, organizing and publishing annual anthologies of Oregon prose, poetry, and photography.

Peach lives in a log cabin amongst the tall evergreens and emerald moss of Oregon’s rainforest with her husband, two owls, a horde of bats, and the occasional family of coyotes.

For book descriptions, excerpts, maps, and behind the scenes info, please visit

For her blog on all things writing, please visit

Ready for an adventure?

The Ferryman and the Sea Witch; The Sorcerer’s Garden; Sunwielder; The Bone Wall; The Melding of Aeris; Unraveling the Veil Series: Liars and Thieves, Allies and Spies, Lords of Chaos; The Shattered Sea Duology: Soul Swallowers, Book I, Legacy of Souls, Book II; The Rose Shield Tetralogy: Catling’s Bane, Book I, Oathbreakers’ Guild, Book II, Farlanders’ Law, Book III, Kari’s Reckoning, Book IV; The Dragon Soul Saga: Myths of the Mirror, Book I, Eye of Fire, Book II, Eye of Blind, Book III, Eye of Fire, Book IV; Grumpy Ana and the Grouchy Monsters: A Children’s Space Tale.

My review:

I have read many great reviews of Wallace Peach’s novels, and although the genre wasn’t one of my favourites, I was intrigued by this one, partly because of the description, and partly because I read an interview with the author where she shared how she came to write this story. She was challenged to write a story where one of the protagonists wasn’t attractive and handsome but was beautiful inside, truly good with a heart of gold. A sample of the book nailed the deal, and I am very happy I decided to read it because this novel is as good as everybody said.

Although I don’t consider myself a fan of fantasy, I have always loved fairy tales, and the story of Aster and Barus has something of the fairy tale, a fairly dark one at times. (We all know some fairy tales are incredibly cruel and dark). Death, necromancy, people coming back from death, poisons, religious fanaticism, wars, destruction, intolerance, lies, threats, betrayals, persecutions… At the end of the book, the author explains how the story relates to the legend of Kwan-yin, the Chinese Goddess of Mercy, and though there are similarities, this is an original revisiting of the legend, with many distinct characteristics.

Both Barus and Aster are fascinating characters. They both have to fight against terrible odds to pursue their calling of being healers, of the living and sometimes even of the dead: Barus, because he is severely handicapped by his poor health and his contorted body; Aster, because she was born a princess but also dead, and she is seen as an abomination by the members of a religious order with plenty of power in her kingdom, the Red Order. She does not want to be queen or to exercise her birthright, but that seems to be the only way she can help her father. If you imagine things won’t go according to plan, you will be right.

Aster isn’t the only one who finds herself in a bind that gets more and more entangled the more she tries to free herself from it. One of the male characters she meets, Joreh, is trapped between his loyalty to his father (the Vicar of the order), his faith in the Goddess, and his strong feelings for Aster. His attitude and beliefs change over time, and he is, perhaps, the character who evolves the most in the story. I liked those characters, and many more, in particular, Teko, who brings a light and fun touch to the novel. That does not mean everybody is good in the novel. The Red Order, and the Vicar in particular, have few redeeming qualities (if any), and there are others who are somewhat ambiguous and that helps to make them more realistic.

Those who, like me, aren’t too fond of lengthy backstories and complex and detailed world-building which slows down the story, don’t need to worry. There are beautiful descriptions of places and beings (yes, dragons among others), but those are always narrated (in the third person) from the point of view of one of the main characters and are relevant to the story. The author is excellent at providing us with information about the world order and the people in it in small doses as the story advances, without overwhelming us or causing confusion.

A couple of random quotes will give you a taster of the quality of the writing:

A salty breeze raised a lacy froth on the waves’ tips, and giant swells rolled into a tapered cleft, thundering when they crashed against unforgiving walls. The day’s golden light hid behind a sheath of clouds, and mist billowed with the icy breath of the coming winter.

“No sense scaring anyone with stories that aren’t true when there’s enough true ones to make a person think twice.”

The snowfall had dwindled, but not the wind. Silver-rimmed clouds scudded across a gibbous moon, and the frigid night kissed his cheeks like a ghostly lover, enveloping him in her icy arms.

There are plenty of adventures, and action scenes, alternating with more contemplative moments, and some truly emotional events, and although I was sorry to get to the final page of the story, I found the ending satisfying. In an ideal world, I would love to learn more about Aster’s mother and also about some of the other female characters who only make brief appearances in this novel (much of the story is about Aster’s quest to find her “father”, Barus, and she is mostly surrounded by men), and I would also like to know more about the connection between Aster (and other blood members of her family) and the dragons. I am sure the author has plenty of ideas to work on already, but just in case she is ever stuck, I leave my suggestions there. Perhaps a prequel?

There is violence, death (including the death of children), and some of the content can be disturbing, but if the topic and the description don’t cause concern, I don’t hesitate in recommending the story not only to those who love fantasy, but also to readers of adventure stories who don’t mind a touch of fancy, the supernatural, and who appreciate dark fairy-tales, with psychologically complex characters and superb writing. Another author I will keep a close eye on in the future.

Thanks to the author for this novel, thanks to numerous bloggers for recommending it, thanks to all of you for reading this, and remember to like, comment, and share it with anybody who might enjoy it. Oh, and of course, keep smiling and taking care of yourselves.

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#TuesdayBookBlog #Exiles by Jane Harper (@janeharperautho) (@panmacmillan) #Netgalley Aaron Falk comes full circle

Hi all:

I bring you the latest novel by Jane Harper, who is one of my favourite novelists in recent years, and one of a group of Australian writers (she is originally from Manchester, in the UK) whose publications I always celebrate. This is the last novel of Aaron Falk, her most famous character, and although I prefer some of her other novels, it is a great read. I must confess that I identified with some of the conversations and the decisions a couple of the characters are faced with, and I think after the strange years we have survived, quite a few people might feel the same.

The book will be published on the 2nd of February 2023, and you can preorder it already.

Exiles by Jane Harper

Exiles by Jane Harper


“Once again Harper proves that she is peerless in creating an avalanche of suspense with intimate, character-driven set pieces…Harper’s legions of fans will exult in reading Exiles.”
—David Baldacci, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Federal Investigator Aaron Falk is on his way to a small town deep in Southern Australian wine country for the christening of an old friend’s baby. But mystery follows him, even on vacation.

This weekend marks the one-year anniversary of Kim Gillespie’s disappearance. One year ago, at a busy town festival on a warm spring night, Kim safely tucked her sleeping baby into her stroller, then vanished into the crowd. No one has seen her since. When Kim’s older daughter makes a plea for anyone with information about her missing mom to come forward, Falk and his old buddy Raco can’t leave the case alone.

As Falk soaks up life in the lush valley, he is welcomed into the tight-knit circle of Kim’s friends and loved ones. But the group may be more fractured than it seems. Between Falk’s closest friend, the missing mother, and a woman he’s drawn to, dark questions linger as long-ago truths begin to emerge. What would make a mother abandon her child? What happened to Kim Gillespie?

Author Jane Harper

About the author:

Jane Harper is the author of The Dry, winner of various awards including the 2015 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, the 2017 Indie Award Book of the Year, the 2017 Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year Award and the CWA Gold Dagger Award for the best crime novel of 2017. Rights have been sold in 27 territories worldwide, and film rights optioned to Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea. Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK and lives in Melbourne.

My review:

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

This is the fifth of Jane Harper’s novels I read, and it is the third one whose protagonist is Federal Investigator (AFP Officer) Aaron Falk. This time, the story is set in Southern Australia, in the fictional Marralee Valley, a wine-producing region. The author’s stories —mysterious crimes set in Australia— have gained the accolade of “outback noir”, and it feels right, although they share much in common with domestic noir, even when the setting tends to rely heavily on the landscapes and peculiarities of Australian towns, especially small towns, and nature. The action builds up slowly; there is a lot of attention paid to family and close relationships, to the psychology of the characters, and to the way the crime (or crimes) interact with the setting; and rather than being heavy on the procedural part of the investigation, the stories tend to focus on uncovering the truth by unveiling the personal stories of those involved and testing the different versions of what happened. For those who worry about explicit violence and gore, you can rest assured. There are some creepy and tense moments, and we come to the realisation that not all the characters are as benign as they seem to be, but that is all. And the story is complete in itself and it is not necessary to have read the two previous novels starring Falk to follow it, although those who have will be able to better appreciate the full arc of his story and how he has evolved.

I hadn’t read much about the story beforehand, but it still felt like a final adventure for Falk from early on, and not only because he is joined by some of the characters he met in The Dry, which were favourites of mine. There is a beautiful symmetry in the way the story works out. In The Dry, the first of the three stories Harper has published about Falk, he goes back to the little town where he grew up, to attend the funeral of a friend. In this one, he goes to a small town to not only attend the christening but also become godfather to Greg Raco’s son, a recent friend he met in the first novel and with whom he investigated that case. He is welcomed into Raco’s family and the town, and although he had never visited before, it feels like a homecoming for him.

There are two crimes in this novel, both old (and more or less cold) cases. One is the case of Kim, a woman who went missing the previous year at the local wine fair, and whose disappearance resulted in the cancellation of the christening of Raco’s boy (because this is a book about second chances as well). Even though he didn’t know the woman, Falk became a witness in the case, because Kim happened to be the long-term on-and-off partner of Raco’s brother, Charlie, with whom she shared an adolescent daughter, Zara, who lived with her father in the vineyard. Kim had moved away, married again, and was now also the mother of a little girl. Although most people suspected she had committed suicide, all her friends were surprised that she would have abandoned her daughter, leaving her alone and unattended in her pram at the fair.

The other case was a hit-and-run incident that had taken place in the same area six years previously, in which a man who worked in the office next door to the missing woman, had been killed. Are the two cases related? Zara and the missing man’s son, Joel, think so and are determined to find the truth out. Falk finds himself involved in both cases, in the lives of his friends and the people of the town, and starts questioning many things about his work, his priorities, and his own future.

Among the themes, I have mentioned families, difficult and even abusive relationships, childhood and long-term friendships and how they evolve through the years, small-town life, professional and personal choices, what would we do to uncover the truth and to protect our children, and there is a romance as well, one that I enjoyed precisely because it was a bit unusual but I felt it suited the characters involved perfectly well.

The story is slow and reposed, and it meanders through the events that are happening while the christening and the fair are being organised, as we follow Falk’s thoughts, reflections, and his nagging sensation that he is missing something. There is something quite bucolic about the rhythm and the development of the story, although I didn’t feel the setting was as well achieved and as realistically rendered as in the two other stories (The Dry and Force of Nature), perhaps because Falk is seeing things from a different perspective and he is not the same person and is not in the same place as he was before. There is also something idealised about the way the place is depicted, and although there are some disturbing elements and characters, “noir” is a bit of a stretch for the way the story develops.

The story is narrated in the third person, mostly from Falk’s point of view. There is a change in point of view towards the end of the story that turns things on their head, but I don’t want to reveal too much or spoil the story for those reading it, so I’ll leave you to check it out. It is an interesting choice on the part of the author, and I suspect some readers won’t like it. It adds some depth to the story, although it might be frustrating for those looking for a standard mystery. I personally enjoyed the ending (endings, as Falk, eventually solves both cases), even though I agree with comments that say it seems to come on quite suddenly compared to the rhythm of the rest of the novel.

I am happy to recommend all the novels Harper has published to date. They are beautifully written, and she creates intriguing plots and credible characters (some we love, and some we don’t). Despite the mystery elements, these books are not high-octane, fast-paced, action-packed, and anxiety-inducing thrillers. They are reflective and take their time to set the story and introduce the characters and their conflicts. Although this is not my favourite, I feel it works well as the last call for Falk; it provides a suitable and happy closure for the character, and I strongly recommend it to those who have read the two previous novels. Oh, and I learned that the second Falk novel has also been adapted to the big screen. I look forward to it, as I enjoyed the excellent adaptation of The Dry, and Eric Bana is an actor I’m always happy to watch.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author, for her novel, thanks to all of your for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and always keep smiling.