Archives for posts with tag: Alchemy

Hi all:
I know I’ve been telling you for a while that I had reviews pending to share, and I thought as you might have a bit of time to read over the holidays (ha!) I’d bring you some before the year ends. (Doesn’t time fly!)
Here two books that although very different share fabulous plots, strong female characters and a good deal of ‘magic’, ‘secrets’ and very unexpected things. Both writers are also great bloggers and I’m sure will keep coming back.
First:

Alchemy by Ailsa Abraham

Alchemy by Ailsa Abraham

Alchemy by Ailsa Abraham. Sometimes perfect solutions bring unexpected problems.

Ailsa Abraham’s novel Alchemy starts with a premise that would be the perfect ending for many novels, in appearance promising an idyllic utopian future for all. With a mysterious thriller-like beginning, a discovery that for once falls in the right hands, and a deal too good for all governments to ignore, one wonders where the story will go from there. Fascinating and enlightened characters appear and then quickly get to work, and new characters, whose relationship to the previous ones is not always evident at first, make an entry.

There is magic related to Pagan religious practice, and we follow two young children, a boy and a girl, as they discover their faith and are trained to reach the highest ranks. Do not worry if you’re not very versed in the different pagan practices and groups, as Adrian, a Professor in Ancient Religious Studies and once born (not magical) and his girlfriend, Helen, a thriller writer, serve as a point of contact and questioning guides into the ins and outs of the new world religious order. And if you thought everything seemed too nice to be true, there’s evil at work and dangerous alliances that put humanity at risk. A pair of unlikely hero and heroine will have to step forward and pay the price.

If you think fights over fuel and religious wars are responsible for all that’s wrong in our world, read this book and you might think again. Alchemy is a novel that combines a plot interesting from an ethical and philosophical point of view, with a good story and fascinating characters that I hope will be further developed in other books in the series. And if you like a good romantic story of impossible love, Riga and Iamo are far more interesting than Romeo and Juliette. (And two of the most intriguing characters I’ve met in recent times).

If you have an open mind and like to explore big questions whilst being transported to worlds both familiar and completely alien to ours, you should read this book. If you love adventures that go beyond the usual, don’t miss it. If you love beautifully written books with great characters, this one is for you too. In summary, if you have a bit of imagination and enjoy reading, give it a go. I am looking forward to reviewing Shaman’s Drum soon.

Links:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00I3A4HCQ/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00I3A4HCQ/

Paper:

http://www.amazon.com/Alchemy-Ailsa-Abraham/dp/1909841501/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Alchemy-Ailsa-Abraham/dp/1909841501/

Here, her Amazon page so you can keep up with her news. And don’t forget to follow!

http://www.amazon.com/Ailsa-Abraham/e/B00AYKUBQ4/

And her blog:

http://ailsaabraham.com/

And:

Bad Moon by Anita Dawes

Bad Moon by Anita Dawes (and Jaye Marie, her sister, as they are a team)

Bad Moon by Anita Dawes. Blood Ties and an Unforgiving Fate.

Bad Moon is narrated in the first person by Annie, a young girl who lives happily with her family: mother (Ruby), father (Jed), and older brother (Nathan). She adores her father, although her mother’s behaviour is far from exemplary (she regularly invites other men to her home and that results in incidents with her husband, who takes it out on the men and seem remarkably tolerant of his wife’s behaviour). At first, Annie is worried that she might end up becoming a woman like her mother when she grows up and thinks it is all due to her mother’s family (her father says that her mother was born under a ‘bad moon’ and she comes from ‘the Hills’ where people seem to have their own morality and rules of behaviour). The inhabitants of the Hills seem to be directly related to those of The Hills Have Eyes or the banjo players in Deliverance. What Annie doesn’t know is that things are worse than she ever could imagine. She has lived all her life in a world of lies and secrets. She is convinced she must learn the truth to avoid history repeating itself and is prepared to go to any lengths to achieve that. The costs are high indeed.

Annie does not have much formal schooling (she decides to leave school when she realises things aren’t as they should) but she is extremely articulate, and some of the descriptions of the landscape surrounding her home, of her experiences and dreams, her mystical feelings on visiting the caves previously inhabited by a Native-American tribe, and her reflections are beautiful and lyrical. We might disagree with some of her decisions but it is difficult not to admire her determination. She never tries to be liked or makes excuses for her own behaviour (she might blame others at times, but despite not being a believer or having much in the way of role models, she does question her actions and tries to make things better), and she is neither all good nor all bad. It’s a testimony to the skill of the author that although Annie’s head is not a pleasant place to be in, we can’t help but wish she’ll succeed and live to see another day.

With themes including incest, rape, infanticide, murder, cannibalism, paedophilia and plenty of violence, this is not a gentle novel or an easy read. There is sex and violence, although these are not graphically rendered, but anybody with a modicum of imagination will be left with many powerful images difficult to forget. The strong intuition of the main character, the roles of fate, blood and family history and the communities portrayed turn this book into a tragedy where instead of kings and gods we have as protagonists a family in the outskirts of society and outside of history. (The historical period of the story and the outside society are not described in detail and this adds to the sense of claustrophobia an entrapment.)

If Annie is a heroine, a tragic hero or an anti-hero is open to interpretation and I haven’t decided yet. I’m not sure I’d like to meet her in real life, but I know I’d like to read more about her.

Links:

http://www.amazon.com/Bad-Moon-Anita-Dawes-ebook/dp/B009BK3AYS/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bad-Moon-Anita-Dawes-ebook/dp/B009BK3AYS/

Paper:

http://www.amazon.com/Bad-Moon-Anita-Dawes/dp/1326330179/

 

Here is her Amazon page to keep up with her news. And don’t forget to follow!:

http://www.amazon.com/Anita-Dawes/e/B0034NUE10/

And her (and sister Jaye Marie’s) blogs:

http://jenanita01.com/

http://anitajaydawes.blogspot.co.uk/

Thanks to the authors for two great books, thanks to you all for reading, and don’t forget to share, like, comment, and CLICK! And Keep Reading!

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Hi all:

Hugh Roberts from  Hugh’s Views and News is hosting a blog hop party.It’s wonderful to be able to invite you all to enjoy the promised sunshine now that Spring has arrived. I was invited to join by Lord David Prosser himself, a great blogger, a generous man, and an envoi to the Queen (don’t miss his books to learn more).

I had great problems choosing only one blogger and was tempted to invite many, although suspect we’re all bound to be inviting each other, and as I was thinking, I read a post by Ailsa Abraham, a great author, a witty blogger (The Bingergread Cottage, a must read, recently with great interviews), an otter with a very peculiar style, honest to a fault, and who can make you laugh and a second later have you in tears. And, who I recently discovered has a beautiful voice too. And I though, yes, who wouldn’t want Ailsa in a party!

Ailsa Abraham

Ailsa Abraham

Here what she says about herself in her page:

From my home in rural France, the little village under the mountain, an hour from everywhere, I’ll be updating you on my writing, quirky things that happen here and welcoming other authors into the Bingergread Cottage. It’s called that because it’s an upside-down house (more space up than down) and so the reverse of the usual witch’s dwelling.

Dip into the liquorice all-sorts box and see what you come up with. Shamanism, healing, writing or any of my other varied interests? You’ll probably get to meet my hounds, Titch and Lily and the Old Feller himself, The Ancient Mariner. Don’t forget to come back regularly to check for competitions, special offers, free short stories and work in progress.

If you are wondering…why the otters? Well they are one of my totem animals and my Shaman name is Otter, Ottie to my friends. Watch out for lots of pictures of them in this blog.

And her two books:

Shaman's Drum by Ailsa Abraham

Shaman’s Drum by Ailsa Abraham

Alchemy by Ailsa Abraham

Alchemy by Ailsa Abraham

Here is her page in Amazon.


lets-party2

Like everything, this blog hop has a few Rules/Guidelines.

Guidelines

  1. Choose a fellow blogger who you think spreads blog love.
  2. Write a short post about them.
  3. Entitle your post Walking On Sunshine Blog Hop Party (so others can find your post).
  4. Create a pingback to this post, so that the link appears in the comments section, so that other participants can read your post.
  5. If you are not sure how to create a pingback, then copy and paste the link to your post in the comments section below (so that other participants can read your post)

I was in two minds about inviting more people but I’ll leave it up to Hugh to make his own rules.

Have a great spring, don’t forget to visit everybody, and have fun! 

Hi all:

As you know apart from writing and translating (when I have time!) I read books and review in a variety of places. And every so often I bring them here for your information. Today I have a varied selection. See if you find something of interest:

The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly. Non-stop action and dragons in China.

Thanks to Net Galley I got a pre-release copy of this novel. It’s still in pre-order, so you can read about it before it comes out.

The Great Zoo of China is a good romp, a fabulous ride and a fast-paced adventure/thriller book. You have to be prepared to suspend disbelief and to not mind if situations are stretched a bit far, but if you are happy to do that…you’ll have a fun read.

The book reminded me of Jurassic Park and reading the interview with the author at the end (that I recommend to readers and writers alike) I was not surprised to discover it was one of his favourite books.  The main differences are the setting and the creatures. If Jurassic Park could be seen as a criticism of capitalism’s lack of scruples, one has to wonder, what would be crueller and hungrier, capitalism run amok or communism desperate to become the biggest power by hijacking the world’s attention? While you might have your own opinion on how likely a scenario this is, the possible reasons provided as background don’t interfere greatly with the enjoyment of the story, unless you take them too seriously.

The Great Zoo of China (hardback cover)

The Great Zoo of China (hardback cover)

The similarities with Jurassic Park go from the pseudo-scientific details (although this book’s premise is more fanciful if you like myths and dragons you’ll enjoy the thought), to the size of the creatures, little children, and families, the action-packed episodes and our wondering who (if anybody) will make it out live.

I liked the female hero although we get but a few glimpses of her previous life and there is little psychological depth, but she has guts aplenty. It’s easy to root for her.

To begin with, the book made me think of a huge action movie, later of an adventure computer game where the main character is always looking for a new weapon to fight the big menace (here really enormous). It also reminded me of horror movies with the scary monster who refuses to die and always keeps coming at you. And of the old movies by instalments where you would go from one nail-biting cliff-hanger to the next without time to catch your breath.

The book is a quick and easy read and a page turner. It made me very aware that there are only so many ways one can say big, huge, enormous…

If you’ve read many books in this genre I don’t think it will break new ground or be utterly surprising but it achieves its aims successfully and it is big. If you want escapism, a read that will make you jump and keep you entertained, this novel more than fits the bill.

This is the pre-order link:

http://www.amazon.com/Great-Zoo-China-Matthew-Reilly-ebook/dp/B00MENIERC/

The Serpent Papers by Jessica Cornwell

The Serpent Papers by Jessica Cornwell

The Serpent Papers by Jessica Cornwell. Alchemy, codices and witches in Barcelona

I requested a free copy of this novel from Net Galley when I read the description and saw this was a book about a quest for knowledge, the search for an old manuscript, and the action took place in part in Barcelona. Being from Barcelona and having loved books and reading all my life, it was difficult to resist.

The Serpent Papers is the story of the search for an old illuminated manuscript (a palimpsest to be precise) that has been hidden for years to prevent its destruction. The links of this manuscript with alchemy, an enigmatic figure (Rex Illuminatus confused  at times with the historical figure of Ramon Llull), immortality, witches, and women’s murders make for a complex story. At the heart of the novel there’s a scholar/detective/expert, Anna Verco, who might or might not have some paranormal powers (that might instead be due to organic reasons). Like in many of these books, the search for meaning also becomes an inquiry into the main character and what she stands for.

Cornwell (granddaughter of John le Carré) builds up a complex structure to tell her story. Letters from different periods, accounts of previous attempts at investigating Rex Illuminatus by other experts, interviews of people who knew the victims, dreams and hallucinations…All of them sound and read real, showing a breadth of knowledge and characterization rich and convincing. The language can go from the poetic and lyrical to the mundane and down-to-earth, changing registers with ease.

I loved the little snippets of folk story and legends of the city of Barcelona, the descriptions of the landscape of the island of Mallorca, and the challenges the story poses. It is not an easy read and it can be demanding, both of one’s attention and also of knowledge and deductive capacities. I wondered if a cast of characters for the different eras with some brief descriptions might not make the reading experience easier.

Men using their power and violence to silence women, women being cast as witches as a way of shutting them up, and centuries of attempts at keeping secrets under wraps are not new ideas (at times it made me think of Lars von Trier’s Antichrist although the novel is more complex) but that does not detract from a solid novel that I kept imagining in a big screen near us. I can see actresses fighting over the main character and Barcelona and Mallorca looking very handsome indeed in the adaptation.

I understand this is the first in an ‘alchemical thriller’ trilogy. The appeal and the pull on the imagination of the subject would keep readers coming back for more. Readers who like books about intrigues in a historical setting and with conspiracy theory backgrounds will enjoy it, although I suspect it might be slightly more demanding than previous titles that have become very popular.

In a separate note, I wasn’t sure about the Catalan sentences. There were a number of typos and I couldn’t work out if it was phonetically recorded rather than intended as orthographically correct. More consistency in that aspect would have made the book more seamless for me (that would not be a problem for people not familiar with Catalan).

Just in case you want to check what others have said, here is the Guardian:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jan/21/the-serpent-papers-jessica-cornwell-review

Here the link to the actual book:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Serpent-Papers-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00MELZJM2

 

Alex Haley's Roots. An Author's Odyssey by Adam Henig

Alex Haley’s Roots. An Author’s Odyssey by Adam Henig

Alex Haley’s Roots: An Author’s Odyssey by Adam Henig. Shining some light on the Roots controversy.

This is an informative account of the period of time in Alex Haley’s life following the publication of roots and the TV series but it is not a complete conventional biography. Although it does not delve deep into the author’s motives (it is not a deep psychological portrait), it does a great job of reviewing existing sources and even on occasions adding new material from interviews. I was aware of some of the controversy surrounding ‘Roots’ but not of the evidence and details that unfolded. This is a must for people interested in Roots and Haley, and considering its length, it offers a good summary of the sources. I’d love to see and read more of the extensive sources the author explored to produce this work, as there seems to exist much untapped potential.

A well-written and compelling account of a fascinating work (however we might choose to define it) that changed people’s perception of African-American history and stories.

As an author, I also enjoyed the collection of blogs chartering the journey of Adam Henig to, first research, and finally self-publish the book. I hope more books will follow.

http://www.amazon.com/Alex-Haleys-Roots-Authors-Odyssey-ebook/dp/B00HRN891A/

Thanks to all the authors for their books and special thanks to all of you for reading. Please, like, comment, share, CLICK and above all, keep reading!

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