Clef Notes, an anthology of shorts, by Elaine White
There are two sides to every story.
#ClefNotes #lgbtq #indieauthor #mmromance
Charles likes to write on the edge. She's at her best when she teases with lust and tempts with danger. Xavier has all the elements to be a wild ride. The red herrings are jumping and the adrenaline is pumping. Xavier has a score to settle and name to clear. Eve has a name to make and a lot to prove. Taking a walk on the wild side is always a pleasure when Miranda Charles is at the wheel.
Having recently enjoyed ‘A Funeral for an Owl’ by indie author Jane Davis (see review dated 2 Jan 2018), I dived further into her back catalogue and found this book (first published in 2012) and I’m delighted to report that the author’s accessible writing style again made for a really enjoyable read.
In particular, Davis does have a wonderful knack for developing interesting teenage characters and in this offering the central protagonist (Judy Jones) is recovering from a deliberately mundane, yet life-changing incident, in which a wall collapses on her. In fact her survival is positively miraculous. Still, the wall is a very effective metaphor for other constructs around self-image, relationships, indeed life and the book explores how susceptible to collapse these things can also be when buffeted by external, or self-made pressures. The stress-test that the human experience places on individuals, families and communities can be profound and the mechanisms created to defend one’s well-being can be elaborate, or at times blindingly simple. Though not meant to be a commentary on faith, Davis does at least invite the question whether spiritual faith and/or faith in each other aids the character’s ability to cope and navigate the unexpected, or whether the key is our shared humanity and the capacity for random acts of kindness.
For those readers with children, especially teenagers, there are interesting moments for reflection at the shifting nature of the parental relationship, but also a potentially visceral empathy with Judy’s parents and the impact of the kind of news for which we all live in a state of dread. But, if subsequently the child then purports to experience visions, how does one react to that?
At its core the book focuses on the experience of loss – of health, identity, belonging, an anticipated future - and the attendant bereavement. The interlacing of aspects of the characters’ individual and collective journeys is cleverly handled by the author, though for me the slightly bizarre departure from the rails of Elaine Jones (Judy’s Mum) was an unnecessary distraction. Yet, all-in-all a fascinating and thoughtful novel, which does emphasize the potential corrosion of loneliness, however it may be imposed.
The Devoured by Curtis M. Lawson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Desperately on the trail of his missing son, an old Confederate solider will stop at nothing to reunite the remnants of his family, even if he has to slay every trace of Utgard filth along the way. Finding unexpected companionship in a young orphan, the gunslinger closes in on the god responsible - Thurs, he who hails beyond the stars.
(WARNING: This review contains spoilers.)
I received this book in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Curtis M. Lawson for giving me the opportunity.
If I wasn't so pessimistic about book to movie adaptations, I'd say this would make a brilliant film - in fact, I imagined it as such; Lawson's stunning use of words did wonders to create vivid imagery inside my head. I found myself thoroughly impressed by the intelligent, highly attractive prose, and by how each scene seamlessly came together to tell an exciting yet ultimately tragic tale. Despite being a short novel of less than two hundred pages, it expressed itself with a lot more substance than other full-length books I've read. A part of me wishes it was longer, but I realise it may have lessened the overall impact.
The character of the "old man" was probably the pinnacle; he was so utterly badass, and believe me when I say I don't use that term lightly. Smart, skilled, and completely unapologetic about his paternal devotion - he's someone I won't forget anytime soon. I'm not saying he was a perfect man, far from it, but he owned every scene he was in. He was the sort of being that would draw an entire room to his entrance, and not just because of his (suspiciously) large size. Emmett, however, whilst starting out with good intentions, truly lost his way as he succumbed to the unsavoury power of Utgard. I could relate with him in a way, in that I'm well aware of the pain of watching a parent slowly fade away. Nothing compares to that feeling of hopelessness, and if given the same opportunity, I'd have likely welcomed the same solution.
Moving on from that painfully honest bit of information.
As with all books I read, I tend to look deeper into things; for meaning in aspects that are probably meaningless. Both Emmett and his father shared a particular trait of being tall, bulky and at times, questionably strong. The fact that Utgard's a stronghold of giants, I was left contemplating a connection. Could it be, that the old man's ancestry is intermingled with otherworldly blood? If anything, at least, I can have my theories, incorrect and insignificant as they may be!
I can't say the Old Western theme has ever appealed to me, but I now feel inclined to seek out similar tales. Of course, few, if any, are going to have such a factual and accurate setting seeped in unforgiving folklore. The historic element of the American Civil War worked wonderfully with the touch of Norse and Native American mythology, and I was impressed with the knowledge poured into it. Either Lawson did his homework, or he simply knows his stuff. I also loved the brutality of the surrounding world- cannibals and witches, oh my! Seriously, sometimes witchcraft should be punishing, rather than glamorous.
In conclusion: The unnamed hero has been one of the coolest characters I've ever had the pleasure to read about. Whilst including both history and the supernatural, Lawson makes a short novel seem like an epic best-seller.
"Thought - critical, logical thought - that's what separates a man from an animal. That's what keeps us progressing further and further. That ability to think our way around any and every problem is why the Devourers fear us."
"And what about memory?" Hank asked.
"Memory is what keeps us strong in the toughest times, and it's what prevents us from becoming monsters when our hands are forced to kill. It's the memories of love and happiness that let us come home from the dark places where the world sometimes takes us. It's memory that lets a man find the strength to fight the gods themselves for what's right."
© Red Lace 2018
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