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review 2018-01-08 00:00
In the Days of Rain: A Daughter, a Father, a Cult
In the Days of Rain: A Daughter, a Father, a Cult - Rebecca Stott Rebecca Stott was a 4th generation member of the Plymouth Brethren, an exclusive Christian sect. They believe every word of the bible as being the Word of God and believe they are commanded to keep themslves pure from the world which they see as under the control of Satan. They "withdraw" from those who fall foul of their rules and discipline them, to the extent that a man or woman could be shut in their bedroom, fed by a tray left outside the door, and denied any contact with family or friends until they are deemed repentent and clean. All the power and leadership lies with men and the women are subservient and silent. Rebecca Stott's grandfather and father were respected leaders and preachers, but following a massive split in the 1970's her family left the sect.

It is the story of how her indoctrination from childhood set her mind into ways of thinking that were hard to shake off and which despite her own university education and questioning mind, still linger many years later. But it is also the story of her volatile yet loving relationship with her father who was highly intelligent and who was able, before a clampdown by the Brethren leadership, to gain a degree from Cambridge and was enthralled by literature, drama and poetry. When at last he freed himself and his family from the cult his main thought was, "How could I have been so stupid".

This is the question that seems obvious yet if your understanding of " the truth" is a matter of life and death, good and evil, fight or surrender, heroism or cowardice, obedience or betrayal, then what choice do you have? Only when the illusion is shattered and the spell is broken do you become free to escape.

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review 2017-12-30 02:01
16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 16 - New Year’s Eve / St. Sylvester’s Day: A Miraculous "Sky Stone"
The Sacred Stone - Karen Maitland,Bernard Knight,Simon Beaufort,Ian Morson,The Medieval Murderers,Susanna Gregory,Philip Gooden
The Sacred Stone - The Medieval Murderers

Book themes for Hogmanay / New Year’s Eve / Watch Night / St. Sylvester’s Day: a book about starting over, rebuilding, new beginnings, etc. –OR– Read anything set in medieval times. –OR– A book about the papacy –OR– where miracles of any sort are performed (the unexplainable - but good - kind).

 

Well, go figure, this book took me by surprise.  I've read enough of the Medieval Murderers round robins at this point to be thoroughly familiar with both the format and the recurring characters -- and I've seen enough of the participating authors' writing styles to know exactly what to expect, and to have developed my preferences ... or so I thought.  So far, while I've liked the series well enough to go back to it again and again, my rating of the individual books has always been a solid 3 1/2 stars -- while there were individual sections in each book that I loved (or at least liked a great deal), there was always at least one that I didn't particularly care for; and more often than not, by the same author -- Bernard Knight.  Not so here: In fact, Knight's entry was one of my favorites. There had been one other Medieval Murderers book -- King Arthur's Bones --  where I'd already noticed that as soon as Knight ditches his very medieval-style macho main series characters I care decidedly more for his writing, particularly if and to the extent that he puts women at the center of his plots and writes from their perspective, as is very much the case here.  But up until now, I'd considered his chapter in King Arthur's Bones a one-off, because pretty much every other Medieval Murderers entry I've seen from him was centered around his main men, with plenty of gruff voices, growling, and repetitive vocabulary.  So Mr. Knight, might I suggest you continue to write about women ... or at least, allow that female touch to brush off on your writing about medieval men of the law, too?  It seems to be doing them (and you) a world of good!

 

The other thing I really liked about this book was the way in which it -- consistently throughout all the different authors' sections -- treated the superstitions associated with the meteorite or "sky stone" which it follows from its first appearance in 11th century Greenland to the present day.  Given the magical powers historically associated with meteorites in popular belief, there would have been occasion aplenty to either take the individual chapters down a route blurring and even trespassing beyond the edges of reality (looking at you in particular, Ms. Maitland), or to talk down to the charactes for their adherence to such beliefs; but (again, as in King Arthur's Bones) the authors thankfully show themselves both too solid historians and too emphatic writers to be tempted into doing either.  As with their entry centering on the Arthurian legend (where the principal question, of course, is whether you believe in Arthur's historical existence in the first place), in The Sacred Stone there is the repeated suggestion that the "sky stone" might have miraculous / unexplained healing powers and be a force for good -- but it is always counterbalanced by the whole series's central premise; namely, that a malign object's path is being traced throughout the centuries, from the Middle Ages to the present day -- an object that inspires and fosters violence, murder, treachery, and all-out evil; and here, in fact, it is precisely the belief in the stone's alleged benign powers that brings about the evil acts at the center of each of the book's individual sections.

 

I was sorry not to see Michael Jecks as a co-author of this particular installment of the Medieval Murderers series, but, as I said above, there was not a single chapter I would have wanted to do without; my favorites probably being the prologue and epilogue (there are, for once, no author attributions, but even without those I'm fairly confident that both of these were written by Susanna Gregory), as well as the chapter authored by Bernard Knight (easily enough identifiable because a very much aged version of one of his series characters does make an appearance, even though he's not the central character), and the sections written by two of my longstanding favorite Medieval Murderers participants, Ian Morson and Philip Gooden (in both their cases easily enough identifiable because their sections were written from the point of view of their main series characters). -- As an aside, I was also glad to have read an earlier entry in the series, House of Shadows, fairly recently, because it (inter alia) lays the groundwork for a plot line that I am happy to see Morson went on to incorporate into his main series (the Falconer mysteries, set in 13th century Oxford) and which he continues to spin in his entry for this particular book as well.

 

Final comment: I was tempted to use a different book for the New Year's Eve / St. Sylvester's Day square and attribute this one to the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti holiday book joker, as the Sol Invictus cult actually makes a recurring appearance in this book.  (And trust me, I almost fell off my chair when it was first mentioned and I realized it was going to be a theme in one of the sections -- and even more so, when it even showed up again in yet another section.) However, none of the book's sections are set even remotely on this particular deity's birthday or make reference to that particular day (and there is only the vaguest hint, if even that much, at the connection between Dies Natalis Solis Invicti and Christmas), so "Middle Ages", "miracles" and Square 16 it is, after all.  (The book would also work for the Hanukkah square, however: It features several main characters who are Jewish -- in fact, one entire section is set in the Jewish community of medieval Norwich -- and the miracle of light plays a role in more than one section as well.)

 

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review 2017-12-12 02:39
Penny White's back for more Fantastic adventures
The Cult of Unicorns - Chrys Cymri

Sure, all I know about the life of an Anglican priest comes from this series and Paul Cornell's Lychford novellas, (oh, and one series of Grantchester) and maybe Fantasy fiction isn't the best source, but man, being a priest in a small village/town in England seems to be lonely and horrible -- especially around Advent. Which is where we find Penny White -- running on fumes, bouncing from obligation to obligation -- with barely enough time for her grieving brother, her gryphon partner and her snail shark (never mind the duties in the parallel world of Daear) -- not to mention casually dating a police inspector and a dragon. Throw in a murder mystery and . . . wow. How does she sleep?

 

Before we get to much of that Penny and her brother, James, go to Lloegyr for the trial in the death of James' girlfriend. It is quick, decisive, decidedly alien (as it should be) and adjudicated by a panel of 3 unicorns. Apparently, Unicorns are impossibly fair, honest and just so they make the perfect judges. No one, not even the dragons would dare protest what the unicorns decide. Penny can't help but note how almost everyone she sees reacts strangely to unicorns -- she'd probably do the same, however, if she weren't so dragon-obsessed. When bodies start showing up on Earth with what seem to be unicorn-caused injuries, Penny seems to be the only one who is willing to follow the evidence. At the same time, maybe it's just me, but it didn't seem that Penny was too bothered by the murders -- and certainly didn't seem to spend too much energy investigating them. (although, that might have more to do with the obviousness of the culprits and the difficulty getting anyone else on board with it).

 

James is not handling the grieving process too well -- not that anyone does -- and I was less-than-impressed with the way Penny was dealing with him.. It really seemed out of character for her. I think it points to a slow-build of a problem for Penny and her dual callings. In the first book, we got hit over the head with the concern that she'd be too focused on the other world too much to do a decent job on Earth, and while it was only brought up once or twice here, I think it's easy to see that the danger was real. I like how it seems that Cymri is moving this problem to the back burner, just so it can keep growing as a problem while being subtle about it. Professionally/vocationally, things are not going well for Penny, and I think this will continue for awhile.

 

While writing about book 1, I was worried about an impending romantic triangle -- and I like the way that Cymri dealt with it here, much more than I assumed I would when we left it off. I'm not sure I'm ready to breathe easily about it yet, but I have hope (I also haven't read as many romantic triangles this year as I have in years past, maybe my tolerance for them will increase). Actually, I liked just about everything about the romance angle in this book. Especially Morey's.

 

The Murder plotline (and the aftermath) serves as the narrative hook for the book, but doesn't seem to occupy as much of the time as you'd think. Where The Temptation of Dragons introduced us to this reality (or dual-realities, I guess), this one explores it -- with a greater emphasis on Earth. We really spend very little time on the "other side." Which was okay, really. I imagine that won't always be the case (glancing ahead at the blurb for the next volume, it looks as if I'm right).

 

I'm not sure what else to say at this point, but I'm pretty sure I've been less thorough than I intended. I enjoyed The Temptation of Dragons and The Cult of Unicorns kept all the charm and wit about that, but grounded the characters and their actions better (or at least more firmly). And really, that's about all you can hope for from a series -- you keep everything you liked in the previous installment and build on it. Cymri nailed that, which serves to make me plan on getting to book #3 faster than I did this one.


Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for this post -- thanks so much for this book.

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2017/12/11/the-cult-of-unicorns-by-chrys-cymri
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review 2017-10-13 15:49
"Finding Grace:Captured by a Cult", by Warren Adler
Finding Grace: Captured by a Cult - Warren Adler

What would you do if your loveable child is in the clutches of a notorious cult? Would you question yourself: where did we go wrong, was our child unhappy, did our chattered life had a terrible effect on her…etc. a million questions and very few answers….The novel gets to the heart of brainwashing and its power to control. It also highlights how far parents will go to get their child back, even if that child is an adult.

Mr. Adler is a master in creating drama with visual scenes and building upon relationships. At first blush, the book seemed to be of Grace and the parental attempts to find her but it soon morphed into an overwhelming sexual obsession between two self-centered characters: Harry and Paulie, Grace divorced parents. The story jumps back and forth from the present and go back in time as the characters often reminisce about their life together. At one point, their romance is rekindled and this completely takes over the plot. These two characters did not fully won my heart… but their quest and the drastic measures taken to turn Grace around and bring her home is where this story excels in delivering its message.

This easy and fast read set some decades ago moderately dabbles into the cult mindset and their persuasion techniques. Although the premise is more about the efforts and courage needed to find and bring Grace back home we nevertheless have a look at this young woman who has been sucked into a cult and is now under their firm grasp. 

As with all of Mr. Adler’s work, the narration flows smoothly and his powerful prose leaves a whirlwind of emotions. After-all having your child under the spell of mind control who shuns your love can only be but devastating. 

An emotional read 

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review 2017-09-21 01:26
Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini
Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology - Rebecca Paley,Leah Remini

This book is unreal! You have to read it to know what I mean. Leah Remini is so brutally honest, I tend to believe her. What these people do is just despicable. Kudos to Leah for getting herself and her family out.

 

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