Dragonfly by Resa Nelson

Click here to get the eBook from Amazon
Click here to get the eBook from Amazon

This story has quite an unusual setting. It is never spelt out but it seems to be set in America in the Dark Ages. Known as The Great Turtle Lands, the majority of the population are the peaceful Shining Star people, a small dark race that listen to the shaman’s and honour all living things. Amongst them are a handful of refugees from a Viking-like world. They live peaceably having adopted the ways of the Shining Star people, except suddenly now a shaman has appeared and is insisting that  dark days approach and Greeta must walk with her in the dreamtime. A key to the survival of all people in the Great Turtle Lands will be a gift that Greeta doesn’t yet know she has.

But she can’t leave now, she doesn’t want to be different, all she has ever wanted is marry Wapiti and have lots of babies. She runs to find him, hoping to convince him that they should delay no longer, instead she finds him with her cousin who taunts her for being tall and pale. Worse, Wapiti laughs at her too. For the first time in her life, Greeta is beginning to realize she has nowhere to fit in. Trying to run from her pain she agrees to go with the Shaman, but it seems she’s about to leap into much more pain than she’s leaving behind.

That’s when this story takes a sharp leap into a fantastical world. Not that I’m criticising mind, I like it when writers take a genre and give it a different treatment. This author is pretty good at it too, though to be fair she’s had a bit of practise as she has already written another series of books based in this world.

I liked this book, I felt I could trust the writer to deliver and I wasn’t wrong to do so. She keeps the story cracking along, throwing in healthy measures of danger, temptation and confusion to keep things interesting. We could probably do with seeing a bit more depth in most of the characters but I think that may happen as the series develops. She has the skill to do that and proves it with one of the characters Greeta meets in the dreamtime – a wonderfully unapologetic older woman very much in charge of her own destiny.

This makes for a good escapist read and is certainly suitable for those aged about thirteen and up.

3 and a half bites.

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Death Grip by Tracy Sherwood

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Click to buy from Amazon
Kat Hartley needed more from life than just being the perfect American wife and mother so she jumped at the opportunity to do a tour of duty in Iraq. She was hoping it would cure her of her restlessness and when she returned she’d be able to give her husband and children the attention they need from her. But war turned out to be more seductive than she’d known, offering an intensity of comradeship and acceptance for who she is rather than having to squeeze herself into an uncomfortable mould.

Now her tour is over, but a huge part of her is still there – watching her fellow soldier die in a fiery Humvee explosion. Real life has just as much hostility, particularly from her 12 year old daughter Alison who is as angry at her for leaving as she is for her coming back.

Struggling with PTSD and survivor’s guilt, Kat is in a race against time to win her family back before she loses them forever but self-medicating with alcohol isn’t likely to help.

This is an independently published book and the author sent it to us free of charge in return for an honest review. There’s still a bit of stigma around self and independently published books, a snobbery within the publishing industry that implies that authors can’t get their books published and that is why they self publish. That’s just not true and this is one of the books that proves its not true.

Without any spoilers there are a few more plot twists in this book than I’ve shared in the summary above. Some are revealed quickly and I gasped as I wondered how on earth Kat could possibly deal with them. Some are hinted at for a while leaving me with an increasing sense of nervousness.

The characterisations in this book are extraordinarily good. Their speech patterns are individual but realistic. Their motivations are understandable regardless of whether they are common or unusual motivations and they drive the characters actions. Even some of the minor characters are believable.

If I have any critiscim of this book it’s that it is too short. I finished it in one sitting, about two and a half hours. Though to be fair I’m not sure it should be much longer, but there are a couple of places the author could have dug a bit deeper. I think this is particularly true of the ending which could be seen as implying that one shocking event could be enough to combat PTSD. I’m fairly sure this wasn’t the author’s intention, but it did leave a bit of Hollywood feel which could have been easily rectified with just a little more time spent.

4 bites.

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee

AsIWalkedOut
As it’s a classic you should easily be able to grab a copy of this from your local independent bookshop. But you can always click the pic to grab a copy from Amazon.
Back in 1934 Laurie Lee decided it was time to leave home and make his own way in the world. He was just 19 and did this the way many 19 year olds of today do – on a whim.

But England then was very different and instead of catching a train or jetting off on a gap year, Laurie slings a change of clothes and his beloved violin in a bag and sets off to London on foot.

It’s summer, and he is in no hurry, surviving off the charity of strangers, coins from playing his violin and the bounty of the land, he paints such a gorgeous picture of pastural England that you’ll need to lock your door before you start reading else you might set off yourself!

Once in London he makes a living labouring and playing the violin, but his ambition to write is keen and he befriends a couple of young poets and even manages to get one of his own poems published.

But soon the tug of the world is too strong to ignore, he knows the Spanish phrase for ‘Will you please give me a glass of water?’ and on the strength of this decides to heads for Spain. Landing at Vigo in the north he starts travelling South. Slowly learning the land and the language but quickly learning that the country is headed for a civil war.

The language in this book is beautiful. I was in love from the very first sentence; “The stooping figure of my mother, waist-deep in the grass and caught there like a piece of sheep’s wool, was the last I saw of my country home as I left it to discover the world.” I’d never read Laurie Lee before but I knew I was in the hands of a true word-smith.

And the language is what kept me reading, it is so beautiful and evocative that I’m seriously considering painting passages from it all over my writing nook to inspire me – if you’re a writer you need to read this mans words.

However as a memoir of such an enthralling part of European history I felt it could have used a little work. True it’s an honest memoir of his experiences but a little less focus on his views whilst travelling and a little more focus on the lives of those he met would have improved this immensely.

He was a young man it’s true, and when young we often suffer from seeing only with our own eyes, but I felt as if he didn’t grow up at all throughout the whole book. In fact it was only when he returned home that his life in Spain and the reality of what was happening there seemed to hit him at all.

The epilogue, where he tries to get back to Spain to help, has convinced me to read the final instalment in his auto-biography when I get the chance, and the language in this book means I’ll certainly be re-reading it so it is still very deserving of ….

4 bites!

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages by Tom Holt

imageAs you can see this bills itself as a tale of “transdimensional tomfoolery”, in short think Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams but set in suburbia instead of on discworld or in space.

It all starts when Polly, an utterly ordinary property lawyer, notices that someone keeps drinking her coffee. That would normally be the kind of annoyance that could start a passive-aggressive version of world war three in a British office, but whoever it is seems to also be talking to her clients. And doing her job. As if this isn’t weird enough she then goes to the dry cleaner’s to pick up her dress for the party, it’s not there. The dry cleaner’s that is, although by extension the dress is missing too.

Her brother, a jingle-writing musician with time on his hands is enlisted to help and ends up possessing a magic pencil sharpener. A disappearing housing estate is thrown into the mix and then there are the chickens who think they are people.

This was one of the many books I download from Audible, I see no reason why small details like having to drive a car or do housework should get in the way of my reading pleasure! However in this case listening to the audio book lessened my pleasure. For me, listening to an audio book will usually take longer than reading it, this book was 15 hours and 34 minutes long. Now that’s not a problem usually, in fact I’m tearing through a 12 hour book at the moment. But when a story is as convoluted and as nonsensical as this it makes it hard.

But that wasn’t the biggest problem, there were several others. First the main characters were not just ordinary, they were mundane, created purely for the author to send them up. That made it kind of hard to feel any real sympathy for them or to care about their unusual plight. The reader of the story excacerbated this by giving Polly’s brother a really nasally, sneery voice.

The story itself was mildly entertaining, but tried too hard to be clever and didn’t succeed. If you are a fan of Terry Pratchett and have a long summer holiday stretching ahead of you then it may be worth it for you. Though I’d suggest reading either Sir Terry himself or giving Ben Aaronovitch a try.

2 bites (and a bit of indigestion!)

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.