by Alex Conner
I love both Paris and Venice as settings and have to admit that influenced my request for this book. I did get some taste of Venice, but unfortunately not as much as I'd hoped for.
The story itself has possibilities, though it moves rather slowly and the author over uses the word 'had'. It isn't necessary in 99% of the sentences when you're already writing in past tense! It got really irritating and distracted me from the story.
The other thing the book got wrong is what too many series are doing these days, leaving resolution for a future sequel. I have to admit this has made me generally avoid series written in this century, with very few exceptions.
There is mystery and intrigue, but too much left unanswered at the end.
by Tola Rotimi Abraham
A story that takes us into a different culture in Nigeria. Identical twins take different paths in life after circumstances break up their family, one into modern life and the other into Yoruba tradition.
It's an interesting concept and the language and structure suggests translation from a West African language, but after the first few paragraphs it settles into present tense.
Despite this, I was able to read it in small snippets and follow the story of the twins and their separate lives. The chapters change pov among four siblings so you get the contrast of events that leave them in the care of their Yoruba grandmother. There are some disturbing realities of what it's like to be poor and female in a third world culture.
Overall I found the story interesting, but depressing. The present tense writing makes it feel like someone telling a story in a monotone, but with enough horror of events, including sexual assault, that you can't help but listen.
by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
This was an interesting concept and quirky in the way of Japanese stories in translation. The difference in sentence structure actually serves to place the reader in a Japanese coffee shop.
Apparently it's a second book of a series, but it stands alone just fine! The general premise is that you can travel back in time in a particular coffee shop, though you can't change anything. You are given a cup of coffee and have until the coffee goes cold, at which point you will be pulled back to your natural time. A very original time travel concept!
The character development was good and reminded me of my experience of the Japanese people when I visited Tokyo many years ago. The stories were charming and entertaining for those who enjoy Japanese media.
So, Bingo has been moved to Goodreads this year. I'm currently pushing to finish my Netgalley books and reviews before it starts. Meanwhile I've made a shelf here, even though many of us have abandoned BL due to non-functionality and soooo much spam! But I'll post some updates here, just because it feels right. The game did start here and I like seeing my chosen books laid out on my dedicated shelf. I'm adding a few as technology allows.
Here's my card for this year. I've applied a couple of the card pack to change squares to ones I have books for.
by Signe Pike
Once in a while you start reading a book and the author's voice draws you right into a magical world. This was one of those.
It is the untold story of Languoreth—a forgotten queen of sixth-century Scotland—twin sister of the man who inspired the legend of Merlin, according to the blurb. I checked and there really is such a legend of Languoreth with Arthurian overtones, though the details might vary a little.
Regardless, the story drew me in quickly and put me right into the Dark Ages, a historical period I love reading about. The writing is excellent and I've put the author on my watch list! I've also requested the sequel to this one. Apparently it's to be a trilogy.
The story has everything you would expect from such a tale. Battles, an illicit romance, and an interesting take on healers called Keepers that I haven't seen elsewhere. There's a touch of magic and fantasy elements in just the right amount. It is told from Languoreth's point of view and I found her an easy character to love.
Forget comparing this to other series. It will be one future novels will aspire to be compared to!
by Nigel Pennick
Nigel Pennick is well known and respected for his books on magic and folklore. This is a good book on Earth-based spirituality. It is not, as the title might suggest, about Elemental Spirits.
The book is about natural magic, in his own words, "It is the power of everyday objects and human actions." I think it's a good starting place for someone interested in nature magic, but not drawn to a specific path or the Pagan religions like Wicca.
Some of the correspondences were different than I've read elsewhere in older sources, like Friday has always been green but Pennick assigns in blue and the purposes of Opal really threw me, but most of them are familiar with just the occasional anomaly.
Pennick gives us an over view of working with minerals and stones, animals and birds, and of connecting to the magic of the Earth in general. It isn't in depth information, but a decent starting point. He covers making magical tools and offers some food and drink suggestions as well as simple rituals throughout.
The one thing I would caution someone new to the subject is that some of the 'rules' like making your own magical knife are not hard and fast. I would look at the information as folkloric and likely to be a little different than another person's path might take them.
by Rachel Strauss
This is a short and basic book about the art of woodburning. It starts with information on safety, which is good, then goes over tools, techniques, ways to add colour and finishes. It mentions different material a pyrography tool can be used on besides wood, including canvas which was a surprise!
The book does provide patterns to follow, but there is a section on project ideas and it does tell how to transfer patterns. Anyone can Google graphic designs and line drawings that can work well.
It does go into how to add texture, but I didn't see a lot on using different line sizes to add shading and other expert techniques. I'd say this is one for the beginner.
by Denny Sargent
"Embrace your monster." That line in the Preface really appeals to me. The author explains how he came to develop his own system of werewolf magick and though it may seem a little weird, it actually makes sense.
This could have gone airy-fairy, but instead the author gives us history of Shamanic practices where the essence of animal mind gets induced by ritual. He emphasises that he is not a Shaman himself, but the history is well-researched and he relates some personal experience of meeting with genuine Shamans.
I was impressed with the amount of research that went into the history of animalistic ritual in different cultures and the serious approach. I found it extremely interesting and may well refer back to it sometimes as an academic work
by Kate Weinberg
I had to wonder why I requested this one for review because I usually steer clear of college settings, mainly because I never had the opportunity to go to college or university and I just don't identify with the situation. It was the final line of the blurb that did it: "What is the true cost of an extraordinary life?"
The writing is good so I was able to get into it. Jess is the sort of person who prefers to keep invisible in a crowd, but she develops a friendship with a popular girl and hero worship of a teacher who has a way of attracting students almost like a cult leader. Shades of The Dead Poets Society!
Overall I liked the concept but it did take a long time for anything to happen. This will probably appeal more to younger people near college age.
by Gerrie McCall, Chris McNab
This is a beautiful book! Full of amazing full colour illustrations of various kinds of dragons and related creatures and other mythical beasties. Most I had heard of but there were some new to me too!
Snippets of information and 'Did you know' sections inform the reader of accepted legend or any actual creatures that might have inspired the myths. A hard copy of this would make a great coffee table book.
This started really slow and by the third chapter I was drumming my fingers, wondering when something was going to happen and what on Earth I was thinking when I requested it for review.
I persisted because the glowing reviews far outnumbered the less impressed and I didn't want to miss out on a potentially good story, although I had pretty much already decided this author isn't for me.
There's no way around it, the protagonist is a dull character. She's never gone anywhere or done anything. The writing meanders.
This one just wasn't for me.
by Kayne Sampson
This has an interesting concept where demons are corporeal and have uneasy relations with humans. There was a lot of emphasis on swordplay and a smattering of magic that would appeal to sword and sorcery readers, but the writing struck me as middle-grade and didn't hold my attention as much as I'd like.
I would recommend it for boys 10-13 and maybe a little older. Especially reluctant readers who might get captivated by the fight scenes.
by American College of Veterinary Behaviorists
I read a lot of books and articles about cats, but this started teaching me a few things I didn't know pretty quickly. For example, highly bred cats who are bred for temperament gets theirs from the father cat. Who knew?
The one big disappointment in this book was when it came to talking about cats who don't get along over a sustained period, it told me to ask my vet. My vet would just say re-home one of them which isn't an option! I was hoping they could give me some insights on how to get two cats at war in the same house to make peace, or at least manage to tolerate each other. To be fair, it did mention there are medications that might help.
There was some good related advice about making sure each cat has their own space and places to hide. The information was laid out in bites that made it easy to read, although it was sometimes repetitive and a lot of the information is already known by cat enthusiasts, but people new to cat ownership will certainly benefit from it and some things that seem obvious sink in better when put in writing. I'm not sure how the format will work with referring back to specific information but perhaps a paperback would be easier to flip through for that.
Overall it is a valuable source of information with something for cat veterans and a wealth of information for new cat owners. It would probably be my first choice for books I should have read when I first became a cat slave.
by Rosanna Ley
The story starts out with the death of a marriage. I usually don't like that sort of scenario, but it's an obvious one to provide the catalyst for a foreign adventure. Only this one starts out with the wife going home to her family's farm, which has problems of its own. Joanna is a journalist and her job, along with some letters found in the attic of the old farmhouse, lead her to several European cities, starting with Venice.
I have to admit, what I had hoped for from this story was a far more vivid experience of Venice than I got. The story focused more on relationship issues of both Joanna and her sister Harriet and the problems with a mother going senile, plus financial difficulties on the farm. It isn't the sort of story I would normally pick up and at one point I seriously considered skipping to the end.
However, as things developed I got involved in the sisters' separate journeys to find direction. The story became multi-layered with Harriet's adventures in online dating and a stalker who keeps turning up on the farm, plus Joanna's dilemma about whether her marriage should be saved or chucked and some weird shared hallucinations of the people in her letters in the places she visits for her travel article. Then of course there's the mother who keeps calling out workmen to do things they can't afford and the neighbour who is always helpful and coming around to help out. I figured I had him worked out early in the story and it turned out I was right, but the stalker did surprise me.
The travel descriptions were better for Lisbon and Prague, two places I've never been but could go to when travel is functional again. The story balanced somewhere between Romance and Mystery and trying to work out who Emmy was kept me guessing through to the end. Overall I enjoyed the story, though I felt the reveals were being spoon-fed to me. The writing was good but lacked the artistry of a real seat-of-your-pants novel. It might appeal to someone looking for an easy read or beach read.
So who keeps a physical diary to record books read and make notes about them?
I never have before but this book journal is so pretty I couldn't resist!
Photo stolen from Twitter because it shows some inside pages.
by David Ditchfield & J S Jones
This is a true story about a young man who got pulled under a train and lived to tell the tale. After a teaser at the beginning to leave us where the accident is about to happen, we read about everything going wrong in his life in the lead up to that point and his alcohol dependency which underlies some of his problems.
The accident is described blow by blow, telling us the full traumatic episode as well as a mystical near death experience that happens. This is followed by both physical and psychological treatment, as well as his journey to share the mystical experience with others. He also learns that he's not alone in these experiences.
Having read a fair bit about near death experiences, or NDEs over time, I found it fascinating. David's experiences fit in with many other accounts I've read and to my joy, the book has an introduction by Raymond Moody, one of the primary authors I've read on this subject.
What is different about this case is that David was driven to paint what he saw during his mystical experience, despite not having been an artist before. This was followed by a similar impulse to write music of the classical type when his only previous experience of music was playing a guitar for a punk band. He couldn't read music, but with help he was able to transcribe an entire score for an orchestra and hear the music in his head played live, including procuring a usually hard to get tenor for a vocal passage.
It's an amazing story of an extraordinary near death experience that sent me to the Internet to see the paintings and hear the music. The music is especially moving and can be heard on his own website. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in NDEs.