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review 2018-03-20 20:39
Unsettling, entrancing tale of escaping the traps we're born to
Along the Indigo - Elsie Chapman

Disclaimer: Reviewing pre-publication proof via NetGalley


I loved this. Vivid, strong character writing and a fully fleshed-out sense of place from the first page made this an engaging story, and the dark fantasy/paranormal elements, while light, tinted the story with a deliciously creepy atmosphere.


Marsden is saving up to skip town with her 8-year-old little sister before one or both of them get roped into joining Nina's girls like their mom. Their dad died (or killed himself) when she was her sister's age, and their mom started working the not-so-secret nightshift in the boarding house they live in/brothel.


Being pressured toward sex work isn't the only source of Marsden's misery. She's half Chinese in a white, rural American town. Her mother's job - and her likely future - are an open secret, and the predatory, bullying behaviour of her peers and neighbours has her self-isolating to survive. And she can't hear the voices of the dead - despite regularly visiting the covert behind the boardinghouse to strip the bodies of the dead for cash. It's the last remaining piece of family property, a sort of suicide forest, tainted by the murder spree of a mad ancestor.


So there's a lot going on here. The visible minority/POC/mixed ancestry thing is handled well and comes up in Mars & her sister's experience, as well as another boy in town's story. The absent/abusive parent thing is troubling but very well handled, as is the dysfunctional community. And the suicides. There's heaps upon heaps of messed up in this book, but the author doesn't bury you in it. It's an engaging read, atmospheric and challenging without feeling hopeless. It reminds me of Brenna Yovanoff's books, and Kendare Blake's Anna Dressed In Blood just a touch. I think it's set in eastern Oregon or Washington maybe, or one of the prairie/desert states further east of there, but it has more in common with Southern Gothic paranormals. Creepy, foreign and familiar at the same time, unsettling and entrancing. Will circle back to this author's earlier works and follow her future books with great interest. Highly recommended read.

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review 2017-02-06 17:53
The Little Yarnmouth Abduction by Tim Van Minton


Twelve year old Evan Peregrine is plagued by nightmares where he relives the accident at sea where he lost not only his leg but his mother as well. Currently living with his Uncle Cedric on the small island of Little Yarnmouth, his days are filled with his studies at school on the neighboring island of Middle Langton where he is constantly being bullied by B. H. Potts, a rich boy who looks down on him. With a storm brewing, Evan keeps his eye on the sky during his after school detention. But detention is only the beginning of his problems as he is quickly accusing, by B.H. Potts of course, of having murdered the teacher who ordered the detention. Evan makes a run for it. He aims his little boat into the wild storm and sets course for Little Yarnmouth but instead is blown ashore on to a third island, Little Reikel, where he meets Nira. Nira is about his age and is an actress in the making. She persuades Evan to take her with him as her father took their boat over to Middle Langton. Along the way they stop at Little Yarnmouth to find the island completely deserted of its inhabitants. They do find two rather shady characters resting in another boat at the pier.


As Evan sets about to prove his innocence and rescue the abducted residents of Little Yarnmouth, he runs into several colorful characters, among them a dog named Corporal Punishment and a rat named Charles who likes to play fetch. Eventually Evan’s name is cleared, his nightmares although not gone now have an newly added aspect, and the rescued islanders look at him in a heroic fashion.


Although this book is geared toward young adult readers there is much here for the adult reader as well. Well drawn characters, a setting that is harsh and unforgiving (North Scotland Isles), a plot full of twists and turns, and a mystery unlike any other I’ve read all make for a page-turning story that will hold your interest. Happily, the conclusion lends itself to a possible sequel. A great story to be read by parents with their children.



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review 2015-10-15 20:01
Barbara Havers, you're the best!!
A Banquet of Consequences: A Lynley Novel (Inspector Lynley Novel) - Elizabeth George

Oh, yes, this is why I love Elizabeth George's work! While I've enjoyed all of her books, except for "What Came Before Her" which deviated greatly from her other books, the last few haven't been quite on the mark as her earlier work - almost, but not quite.  But as many others have said, Ms. George is back on track with this one.  She's a fabulous writer of British mysteries and I'm always amazed that she isn't in fact British.


Barbara Havers is my favorite character in the Lynley series and this book centered mostly on her and her efforts to remain efficient without going off the deep end as she tends to do. She's such a likable character and I held my breath every time she came close to stepping over the line as she tried so hard to redeem herself with her boss and avoid a much dreaded transfer.  I felt that at times the animosity that her boss, Isabelle Ardery, has for Barbara was too extreme and unprofessional, almost to the point of being ridiculous.  I think that was one negative aspect that I had about the book and I found Isabelle to be very annoying.  But the wonderful humorous parts as a co-worker tries to remake Barbara and Barbara's hilarious responses to those attempts more than make up for that small annoyance.


As far as Lynley and his love life, that isn't what draws me to this series. Sure, I care about him and don't want to see him hurt.  But it's Barbara's character that keeps me reading.


I don't want to go too much into the mystery as I know I don't like knowing too much about a plot before reading a mystery. I will say that I thought the mystery was very well plotted, with enough red herrings to keep you guessing.  Ms George doesn't write cozy mysteries and this one is a disturbing story about a very dysfunctional family.  What I like about the Lynley series is that Ms. George doesn't hold back clues and you learn each of the clues as the police learn them and can try to puzzle things out with them.    This one had a lot of suspects and I jumped from one to the other and was still surprised at the end.


As much as I recommend this book, I do recommend that anyone starting off with this series start at the very first book, "A Great Deliverance", so you can build a connection with these characters. I really do feel as though I know these people personally as they have been part of my life for a very long time.  And I do hope that they will continue to be a part of my life for a long time to come.  This is a character driven series and the only way to really get involved with these characters is to start at the beginning.


This book was given to me by the publisher through First to Read and Edelweiss in return for an honest review.

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review 2014-10-11 00:16
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

This is the fist book I’ve picked up from the Man Booker longlist. Yes I had some trouble getting a few of them while I was in the States. In fact, I only managed to pick up two, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves and To Rise Again at a Decent Hour. Since then I’ve managed to pick up a few others either in e-book form or ordering physical copies online. Happily the first two I picked up this summer have been put on the shortlist. Is that a sign that I can choose a good book by its cover? Hmmm! Probably not. Trying to acquire a few of these longlisted intriguing novels, I decided to pick up We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves first.

After reading the description on the back cover I was worried that it would be contrived and gimmicky. Some say the description is a big spoiler however I found the book was more than what was described on the back cover and anyway everybody has heard or knows the basic principle of the novel. Fowler created a story full of anxiousness, mystery, and sensitivity. We follow a dysfunctional family through the eyes of the main character, Rosemary Cooke. Or is she the main character? Rosemary is quirky, slightly guarded, highly intelligent, and honest. She is quite the reliable narrator, which we can see clearly when she second guesses some of her memories as she recounts the first few years of her life living with her “sister” Fern and brother Lowell.

The novel opens with the voice of a character who is hiding herself and her pain. A pain that she has held within herself for many years. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is Rosemary’s attempt to come to terms with all that is and has been wrong with her family since the addition of a baby chimpanzee to their family called Fern. Who would have known the consequences of this addition to the family?

Rosemary’s parents are distant and acting as they see fit or as they would think is necessary. Rosemary’s relationship with her father seems strained beyond repair. As the story continues, it becomes clear where the problems lie. The entire family has strained relationships with each other due to Fern’s appearance. It’s as if Fern became the focal point of the family and no other member of the family saw the other family members’ needs.

Fowler constructed the story in a way that you don’t get the full picture until the very last page. Starting in the middle of the story, clues about the Cooke family are strewn through the pages almost as if it were a journal. Rosemary is witty and at times brutally honest. She gives us all the information we need to know, facts included. The language Fowler uses and her writing style contribute to the novel’s emotional power. I was marvelled at Fowler’s brilliance in choosing certain vocabulary and expression. Communication and language were two of the primary themes in this novel and we as readers got to have a closer look at these themes from many angles. Communication and language are what initially separates the Cooke’s, however it is what drew them closer to Fern.

I couldn’t help it but I found myself searching for information on chimpanzees that had been raised with humans and ran across a few You Tube videos. There was something seriously unsettling, eery, and lugubrious about it all. It just didn’t seem right from the child’s point of view and certainly not from the chimpanzees’. I found this book incredibly moving and informative. I think it might have a good chance to win the Man Booker but who knows since I haven’t read any of the other shortlisted ones yet. However, this one is a must read and is very difficult to put down.

Karen Joy Fowler is known for having written sixteen books in total including The Jane Austen Book Club, which was adapted to film in 2007. Some of her other novels are Wit’s End, Sarah Canary, Sister Noon, Black Glass, The Sweetheart Season, What I Didn’t See: Stories, and many more. She broke into writing with her well-known collection of science-fiction short stories called Artificial Things in 1986. She also won the Pen/Faulkner Award 2014. She’s been lucky to have been chosen for the Man Booker shortlist, for the first year that the competition was open to authors outside of the Commonwealth, as well as being nominated for a 2014 Nebula Award. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is definitely a five-star book not to miss out on.

Source: didibooksenglish.wordpress.com/2014/09/16/we-are-all-completely-beside-ourselves
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review 2014-06-10 16:02
Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
Forbidden - Tabitha Suzuma

This is not a story about a forbidden romance. It's more than that. It's a story of a dysfuntional family, centering around two children barely of legal age, forced to grow up before their time because of their irresponsible parents. An absent father and an alcoholic mother meant that the two eldest had little choice but to wise up and be stand-in parents for their younger siblings - and it's no easy task. It was a stressful burden, and it showed.

Lochan and Maya's alternate POVs were used to tell this story, and (good news!) it wasn't difficult to distinguish the identity of the narrator in each chapter. Lochan was rather prone to long-winded thoughts, which could be a bit boring at times, so I skimmed. He was also very much an introvert, so much so that it was verging on being a psychological problem (the inability to communicate with non-family members). I'm not sure if his condition made sense to me, because none of his other siblings had it - even though he'd endured worse than them, yes; of the 5 children he was probably the most unwanted and his mother spared no pains to remind him so. Their parents were horribly unfit to be parents.

Logan was a complex character. He couldn't help himself, and wouldn't let others help him. He was so terrified of what would constitute "help" from outsiders, and rightly so, because whether he liked it or not, him and Maya were not fit, either, to take care of their siblings, anymore than their parents were. He wouldn't be the first of elder siblings in the history of the world to bring up the younger ones, but society these days in the country he lived in would not allow him to. There was a pervasive undercurrent fear of being found out and separated by the authorities.

Maya, in comparison, felt more normal as a person. The beauty of the writing in this book is that the characters felt - to me - like real people; their thoughts, actions, emotions and struggles felt real.

The romance

A love so taboo that it is not even included in a conversation about illicit relationships.

It's no secret that the romance in this book, such as it was, consisted of an incestous relationship between the main characters, who were siblings. Throughout the tale I was sitting there, thinking that this could well be hormones talking, because they're in their late teens and it would not be surprising for them to fall in love with somebody, and who else would you expect someone like Lochan to fall in love with, if he was going to? Being a loner, he was totally unexposed to society, the only girl his age that he was able to talk to was his sister.

This attraction between them had always been there. We were introduced to Lochan's character in a chapter narrated by Maya and vice-versa - it was pretty clear that they both recognised the other as physically attractive. However, recognising each other's attractiveness does not necessarily means romantic attraction - it was later on, in two separate incidents, when they were unable to deny any longer their feelings for each other. When Maya was in denial, she described their relationship akin to being "twins", as opposed to her post-denial assertion that they're "partners" and "equals". She can't see him as her brother anymore, now that she's faced her feelings for him, but her sisterly love for her other brother Kit remained unchanged.

Their circumstances in this story was a very important factor, because all these circumstances combined made their romantic love for each other feel so natural. Which makes this, I feel, an admirable piece of writing, albeit a rather controversial one. I'm not sure, however, that if they would fall in love with each other if they'd been born as siblings in better circumstances, because I think humans these days are indoctrinated not to fall in love with their own siblings; they have to be really isolated, like Lochan and Maya were, in order for something like this to happen.

This review has turned out to be much longer than I expected. Therefore I shall end it with this very short verdict: Worth a read.

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