Friday, 23 August 2019

Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron

Barron is an exquisite storyteller. This story should be enjoyed like a glass of fine wine, sip by sip and word by word, as the author weaves beautiful fictional magic. As she conjures up demons, shamans and the kind of magic that sucks people dry.

Arrah feels immense pressure to make her family, her people and her ancestors proud. As yet her ancestral powers have failed to make an appearance, which can be rather embarrassing at the annual ceremony where all the tribes and witch-doctors gather. Her father and grandmother have faith, but her mother doesn't even try to hide her disappointment.

There is one thing she can try to evoke magic, however it comes with a price - the kind of price that is irreversible. When local children start going missing, including a dear friend, she finds she has no other choice. It's the beginning of an intricate, vicious and ruthless power struggle. A struggle that will leave death and despair in its wake. It will make Arrah either crumble like a sandcastle or rise to the occasion.

It's YA fantasy, however it has the intricate world-building and mature complexity of high fantasy. The blurb doesn't do it the justice it deserves and neither does my inadequate attempt to give a brief idea of the plot. It's an intense and captivating read. A fascinating exploration of myth, culture and fantasy.

Buy Kingdom of Souls at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: HarperVoyager pub date ebook 3rd September 2019, Hardcover 24th September 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

Follow @renathedreamer on Twitter, Rena Barron on Goodreads

#BlogTour What Happens Now? By Sophia Money-Coutts


Today it's my turn on the BlogTour What Happens Now? by Sophia Money-Coutts.

About the Author
Sophia Money-Coutts is a journalist and author who spent five years studying the British aristocracy while working as Features Director at Tatler. Prior to that she worked as a writer and an editor for the Evening Standard and the Daily Mail in London, and The National in Abu Dhabi.

She writes a column for the Sunday telegraph called Modern Manners and often appears on radio and television channels talking about important topics such as Prince Harry's wedding and the etiquette of the threesome.

What happens Now? is her second novel, following her debut, The Plus One, published in August 2018.

Follow @sophiamcoutts on Twitter, on Instagram, on Goodreads, on Amazon, Visit sophiamoneycoutts.com, Buy What happens Now?
About the book
After eight years together, Lil Bailey thought she'd already found 'the one' - that is, until he dumped her for a blonde twenty-something colleague.

So she does what any self-respecting singleton would do swipes right, puts on her best bra and finds herself on a first date with a handsome mountaineer called Max. What's the worst that can happen?

Well it's pretty bad actually. First Max ghosts her and then, after weeing on a stick (but mostly her hands), a few weeks later Lil discovers she's pregnant. She's single thirty-one and living in a thimble-sized flat in London, it's hardly the happily-ever-after she was looking for.

Lil's ready to do the baby-thing on her own - it can't be that hard, right? But she should probably tell Max, if she can track him down. Surely he's not that Max, the highly eligible, headline-grabbing son of Lord and Lady Rushbrooke, currently trekking up a mountain in South Asia? Oh, maybe he wasn't ignoring Lil after all...

Review
I have to say that what I originally liked about the style and voice of The Plus One, the first novel by Money-Coutts, remains consistent with this book. The author has a way of mixing a brash, brutally honest voice with a dark sense of humour and a devil may care attitude. Imagine 'Knocked Up' meets 'Friends' with a dollop of British snark.

Lil ventures back into the shark infested pool of dating and meeting potential partners after she is discarded by the person she thought was the one. Instead she finds that she is his number two, something she was completely unaware of. So much for trust, happiness and loving relationships.

When she meets a handsome stranger it seems like the perfect opportunity to prove to herself that she is still desirable. One thing leads to another and in the heat of the moment two become three, which throws both Lil and Max off their game.

I enjoyed the way the author made this a conversation about pregnancy and choice without making it confrontational or veering into extreme views. It's just a woman, her thoughts and her emotional response. Alternatives are brought to the table the way they would be between friends. Again, kudos to the author for keeping this lovely, fun read in its lane.

It's a funny and at times emotional contemporary read. You can't help but fall in love with the quirky characters and their places in this story. There aren't many authors who can replicate an air of realism, as opposed to the fictional feel of a read, but Money-Coutts is one of them.

Buy What Happens Now? at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: HQ; pub date 22 August 2019. Hardback £12.99 - ebook £5.99 - Audiobook £12.99. Buy at Amazon com.

Read my review of The Plus One by Sophia Money-Coutts.


Thursday, 22 August 2019

#BlogTour The Deaths and Afterlife of Aleister Crowley by Ian Thornton


Today it's my turn on the BlogTour The Deaths and Afterlife of Aleister Crowley. It's alternate history come historical and biographical fiction.
About the Author
Ian Thornton’s debut novel, The Great and Calamitous Tale of Johan Thoms (How One Man Scorched the Twentieth Century, but Didn’t Mean to) was published by Simon & Schuster Canada in September 2013. Harper Collins published worldwide on June 28th 2014 to coincide with the centenary of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the pivot of the novel. It was translated across Europe and taught at the Sorbonne.

Prior to becoming a novelist, Ian worked for Broadcast magazine in London and also for Variety. He is a co-founder of the global television industry publisher, C21 Media and www.c21media.net.
He covered the Royal wedding in London for CTV, Canada's premier independent broadcaster, and has recently written for Wisden Cricketer, The Guardian, The Hindu and for the Soho House magazine, House. He also wrote on the football World Cup in South Africa for the Canadian sports channel, The Score, and has worked for Queen’s University in Ontario, where his project was presented at the White House as part of President Obama's new media initiative.

Ian is the official biographer of the Compton cricket club in California and has been a judge on the largest Latin American film festival, Expresion en Corto. He is currently producing a feature documentary.

Originally from Leeds, Ian currently resides in Toronto with his wife Heather Gordon and their children, Laszlo and Clementine.

Buy The Deaths and Afterlife of Aleister Crowley


About the book
Aleister Crowley - otherwise known as the Great beast - is one of the most reviled men in history. Satanist, cult leader, debauched novelist and poet, his legacy has been hotly contested for decades.

But the truth is: Crowley is alive and well, in the elevated and life-preserving air of Shangri-la. they used to call him the wickedest man in the world, but the Great Beast only laughs at those fools. the British Secret Service, Churchill and Rasputin all knew the real Crowley, who was the greatest spy and the Scarlet Pimpernel of the twentieth century. this genuine English hero and unrivalled drug fiend used his pre-eminent knowledge of the Occult to run amok behind German lines in two world wars and to turn both Mussolini and Hitler into twitching and hollow wrecks.

And so now, the inspiration behind the music and sexual revolutions of the sixties is about to return for his curtain call, for there is a dark Orwellian dystopia coming. And Aleister Crowley is convinced that only he can save the world.

Review
'There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt. Love is the law, love under will.' The problem with people who believe their own myth is that they can be dangerous, and also very convincing. Crowley was like many charismatic people who lie to shower themselves in the admiration of others. Creating his own set of rules, guidelines and morals in order to excuse his own lack of adherence to any the aforementioned dictated by society.

If you read between the lines I think Thornton allows a window into the relationships, events and experiences that could have shaped Aleister into the man he became. Although hidden behind the sarcastic meanderings and a seemingly nonchalant attitude Crowley has towards his childhood and experiences as a young man, the scared and vulnerable child shines through. Neglect, abuse and association with adults who would rather use than guide the child, all of those things define the young boy and meld him into the grown man he becomes.

The suggestion being that we only ever see the surface and can never know what a person has been defined by. It puts a different slant or perspective on the historical version of Crowley, albeit one based on a fictional narrative.

The concept is quite clever and allows for a multitude of scenarios and storylines. There seemed to be a slight fixation on the sexual side of the story. The way the abuse as a child was smoothed over and led straight into the manipulative sexual rituals of certain groups, was slightly disconcerting.

It's an ambitious piece of work, there's no doubt about that. I enjoyed the style and the writing. It's alternate history come historical and biographical fiction.

Buy The Deaths and Afterlife of Aleister Crowley at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Unbound; pub date 22 Aug. 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

#BlogTour The Unlikely Occultist: A Biographical Novel of Alice A. Bailey by Isobel Blackthorn


Today it's my turn on the BlogTour The Unlikely Occultist: A Biographical Novel of Alice A. Bailey by Isobel Blackthorn.
About the Author
Isobel Blackthorn is a prolific novelist of unique and engaging fiction. She writes across a range of genres, including psychological thrillers, gripping mysteries, captivating travel fiction and hilarious dark satire.

Isobel holds a PhD in Western Esotericism for her ground-breaking study of the texts of Theosophist Alice A. Bailey. Her engagement with Alice Bailey's life and works has culminated in the biographical novel, The Unlikely Occultist.

Follow @IBlackthorn on Twitter, on Facebookon Instagramon Goodreads, Visit isobelblackthorn.com
Buy The Unlikely Occultist


About the book
Librarian Heather Brown discovers the fascinating life of Alice Bailey - a long forgotten occultist.
Back in 1931, Alice is preparing to give a speech at a Swiss summer school. But how can she stave the tide of hatred and greed set to bring the world to its knees?

Soon after, Alice is put on Hitler's blacklist. What she doesn't realize is the enormity of her influence to the world, and the real enemies who are much closer than she thinks.

A dynamic and complex figure, Alice Bailey’s reach was huge. She was influential among people and organizations of global power, especially the United Nations, and is widely regarded as the Mother of the New Age.

Yet today she is maligned by fundamentalist Christians, Theosophists, Jews, academics and above all, by conspiracy theorists. Are any of these groups justified in rejecting the unlikely occultist?

Review
It won't come as a much of a surprise that there are plenty of invisible women in history who have influenced life the way we know it, and yet we are completely unaware of them. When I say we I mean the majority of society or the world even, depending on which domain the person has influenced.

Alice A. Bailey is one of those women. She made her mark on the world in her field of interest and expertise, and in many other areas. Creating a ripple in a large body of water, and yet she was ridiculed for it and scorned into obscurity.

Blackthorn puts forth some interesting theories for the reasons why Bailey was discredited. In the end competition and the fight for recognition in areas that were deemed non-scientific (pseudoscience) and based on theory rather than fact, was fierce. Perhaps more so between women trying to assert themselves in a male dominated world and those who thought nothing of borrowing ideas.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the reasons that are more frequently mentioned in regards to Bailey and her fall from grace. Some of her work has a very clear anti-Jewish slant. Sentences such as: 'Today the law (karma) is working and the Jews are paying the price, factually and symbolically, for all they have done in the past'. For someone who had such concise thoughts on how to help those in need, her thoughts and New World Order ideology was often a stark contrast.

I think it's fair to say that Blackthorn definitely gives readers the opportunity to learn about an influential writer, who has a body of work with not enough recognition. The attempt to dissect and study her life, relationships and work comes together in a way that sheds a favourable and fair light on Bailey. The combination of fact and fiction brings her name and influence to the table and perhaps even a 21st century view on the woman and her legacy.

Buy The Unlikely Occultist: A Biographical Novel of Alice A. Bailey at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Creativia; ecopy pub date 4 Dec. 2018.   Buy at Amazon com.

Read my reviews of A Matter of Latitude and A Perfect Square by Isobel Blackthorn.

The Other Half of Augusta Hope by Joanna Glen

For me the story is about all of us being connected at some level, regardless of where we are in the world. Six degrees of separation. It's also about fate and small pieces of a large puzzle fitting together to create a bigger picture. One could say it's coincidence, one could also say there is no such thing as coincidence.

Augusta  and Julia are twins, but they couldn't be more different. Julia is everything her parents expect her to be and more, and Augusta dances to her very own music. She loves words. Words are life, discovery, mystery and knowledge. Words lead to people, things and places. They are doors to other worlds.

Simultaneously the reader is introduced to Parfait on the other side of the world. His life is a complete contrast to that of Augusta, and there is no connection between the two, barring a wish and a dream of places far away.

The juxtaposition of the two lives of these two young people is relevant to our day and age, especially that of Parfait. His fate as a refugee and that of his brother is tragic. Glen wants us to see the way we live our day-to-day lives, whilst men, women and children risk their lives to reach a safer country in an attempt to escape their war-torn countries and the violence.

In a way Julia becomes the guilty conscience the author hopes our society will develop. We need to stop acting as if we see nothing, hear nothing and then speak nothing. A visceral connection needs to be strung from us to them.

Both Parfait and Augusta experience and have to deal with incredible grief and guilt. It is one of the bridges that connects and leads them to each other. In fact they become the hypothetical bridge of connection.

It's a profound and emotional piece of literary fiction. The main character has shades of Eleanor Oliphant, and the story is introspective with politics and family dynamics woven into this beautiful contemporary read.

Buy The Other Half of Augusta Hope at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: The Borough Press; pub date 13 Jun. 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

Follow @JoannaGlenBooks on Twitter

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

#BlogTour The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada by Neil Randall


Today it's my turn on the BlogTour The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada.

Enter the Giveaway below to Win 3 Copies of The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada (UK Only)
About the Author
Neil Randall is the author of seven published novels and a collection of short stories. His work has been published in the UK, US, Australia and Canada.

Follow @NARandall1 on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram, on Amazon, on Goodreads, Visit narandall.blogspot.co.uk
Buy The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada

About the book
Nine stories
One artist
The whole world against him

The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada is the story of an outsider, a lonely, misunderstood young artist who chronicles all the unpleasant things that happen to him in life. Abandoned by his parents, brought up be a tyrannical aunt, bullied at school, ostracized by the local community, nearly everyone Jacob comes into contact with takes an instant, (often) violent dislike towards him.

Like Job from the bible, he is beaten and abused, manipulated and taken advantage of. Life, people, fate, circumstance force him deeper into his shell, deeper into the cocoon of his fledgling artistic work, where he records every significant event in sketches, paintings and short-form verse, documenting his own unique, eminently miserable human experience. At heart, he longs for companionship, intimacy, love, but is dealt so many blows he is too scared to reach out to anybody. On the fringes of society, he devotes himself solely to his art.
Review
It's a series of stories, represented by chapters, a summary of a life in short episodes. Life defining moments and experiences that Jacob holds on to as more important than other moments. In a way it is a very Kodak moment, flashback or memories in a noirish and almost satirical style.

It gives the story a specific style. On screen one would perhaps present a fading out into blackness after every episode, a short interval and then another that starts off in an entirely different time and place.

It's uncomfortable at times and bends the frame of reality a wee bit in places, as fiction is wont to do. I think the author wants show the extreme in an attempt to showcase the damage inflicted upon Jacob and victims in general. Sometimes reality is far worse than any fictional scenario.

Whilst I understand the whole idea that the bullies and abuse make Jacob the shell of the man he becomes, I am also inclined to disagree with that element of the book. Jacob the child, the teen, the young and older man all show a propensity towards violence and inflicting pain. Whether that is a self-fulfilling prophecy caused by abuse and neglect, a protective stance or something more innate, is worth a discussion. Also debatable is how much we control our own outcomes, regardless of the input of others,be it negative or positive input.

What isn't debatable of course is that a lifetime of neglect, abuse and bullying can define the life of the victim. However not every victim becomes violent or remains the underdog going forward.
Randall makes a good point about perception. Jacob is already predisposed to think the worst of people, ergo doesn't know how to react or recognise when there is no ill intent aimed his way. Towards the end there is an interesting conversation between Jacob and one of the boys from the incident he perceives to be the catalyst of everything. Jacob is surprised by the fact there could have been an alternative scenario for that day and perhaps his life.

It's difficult to fit this into a genre per se. It's a contemporary read with the feel of a noirish fictional memoir.

Buy The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: J.New Books; pub date 20 Aug. 2019. Buy at Amazon comBuy at J.New Books.

Enter the Giveaway below to Win 3 Copies of The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada (UK Only)

a Rafflecopter giveaway *Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.*

#BlogTour A Place to Lie by Rebecca Griffiths


Today it's my turn on the BlogTour A Place to Lie by Rebecca Griffiths. It's a dark psychological thriller with a strong emotional core.
About the Author
Rebecca Griffiths grew up in rural mid-Wales and went on to gain a first class honours degree in English Literature. After a successful business career in London, Dublin and Scotland, she returned to mid-Wales where she now lives with her husband, a prolific artist, their three vampiric cats as black as night, and pet sheep the size of sofas.

Follow @rebeccagriffit7 on Twitter, on Goodreads, on Amazon,
About the book
In a dark, dark wood

In Summer 1990, Caroline and Joanna are sent to stay with their great aunt, Dora, to spend their holidays in a sunlit village near the Forest of Dean. The countryside is a welcome change from the trauma they know back home in the city; a chance to make the world a joyful playground again. But in the shadowy woods at the edge of the forest hide secrets that will bring their innocence to a distressing end and make this a summer they will never forget.

There was a dark, dark house

Years later, a shocking act of violence sends Joanna back to Witchwood. In her great aunt's lonely and dilapidated cottage, she will attempt to unearth the secrets of that terrifying summer and come to terms with the haunting effects it has left on her life. But in her quest to find answers, who can she trust? And will she be able to survive the impending danger from those trying to bury the truth?

Review

Caroline and Joanna used to be as close as sisters can be until dark secrets create an insurmountable wall between them. The kind of wall that makes the two of them into complete strangers. It's no surprise that Joanna hasn't got an explanation for the bizarre behaviour Caroline exhibits just before her death.

There appears to be no reason for her erratic and violent actions that ultimately led to her sudden death. Unanswered questions leads Joanna on a search for the answers and the truth, even if that means discovering uncomfortable truths.

The truth seems to be connected to events going back to their childhood when the two of them were sent to stay with their aunt Dora. Carefree play with friends in the forest suddenly becomes sinister and dangerous when something terrible happens that changes their lives forever, but it doesn't leave the same impression on both of them.

It's a dark psychological thriller with a strong emotional core. Griffiths plays on the fact that we all experience events in a completely different way and our reactions are also individual and very personal. This thriller and the crime is viewed and projected through that kaleidoscope vision, which in turn shows the vulnerabilities and loopholes in relationships, even ones that are supposed to be really close.

I found the ending quite interesting, perhaps because Griffiths doesn't pander to what readers may be expecting or think they need. You'll have to read it to find out.

Buy A Place to Lie at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Published by Sphere | Paperback | £7.99 | 22nd August 2019. Buy at Amazon com.