The Witch of Napoli by Michael Schmicker

witch of NapoliIn 1899 Spiritualist séance’s are sweeping through Europe. But men of science are ready to denounce every act as trickery and fraud. When skeptical, Jewish psychiatrist Camillo Lombardi sees a photo of Alessandra Poverelli levitating  a table in Naples he immediately goes to investigate.

But then she materializes the ghost of his dead mother. He can’t explain it, and as a man of science he refuses to dismiss it out of hand instead asking if she will be willingly investigated by him and on a tour of the Continent,where the scientific and academic elite of Europe will be invited to test Alessandra’s mysterious powers.

As disdainful as she is of his scepticism she agrees. After all his fee is very generous and will help her escape her sadistic husband.

I won’t tell you what happens, we BookEaters try not to do spoilers too often after all! But it was certainly captivating. Here is a writer who know how and when to add conflict but without stretching the bounds of believability. All the characters rang true – in fact the character and basic storyline is based on a real life Spiritualist sensation of the era – Eusapia Palladino and the author has drawn on writings about her from that time.

The tricks that many spiritualists used are detailed throughout and if you’re anything like me you might keep changing your mind about whether Alessandra is genuine or a con artist throughout the book.

As the author is an investigative journalist examining the paranormal, it’s not surprising that this book shows excellent research, what is surprising is how well-written it is. It’s a self-published book, but don’t let that put you off, this is a lot better than a lot of the books I’ve read lately.

4.5 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.

The Fairy Wren by Ashley Capes

imagePaul Fisher is having a bit of a pants time, his wife left him and has just taken an injunction out to stop him contacting her, his bookshop is struggling to stay afloat and now greedy developers are threatening to put him completely out of business by raising the rents.

Then a fairy wren drops his lost wedding ring at his feet, and Paul discovers that there’s more magic in the world than he thought or he’s going completley mad.

Things don’t seem to improve for him though, punching the mayor seals his bookshop’s fate and although he’s met someone new, his wife has reappeared and she seems to be in some kind of trouble. His friends try to help but some of their suggestions are decidely dodgy and the blue fairy wrens clues are more confusing than clarifying.

Books about people that own book shops are always going to entice me – it’s pretty basic, I want to read about my dream life! Throw in a hint of magic and I’m definitely there. But although on the surface this seems like a light dreamy read it is quite a lot more grown up than that!

There is an ambiguity about whether the wren is real or the product of a deluded mind. After all, it’s very convenient how it’s implying he needs to help his ex-wife, a woman he’s still clearly in love with and wants back.   But then this protagonist isn’t self-absorbed, he has friends that have stuck by him and he’s doing what he can to help his fellow shop-keepers. Also there’s a new woman on the scene and she doesn’t seem like the type to hang around people that are obsessed with their ex and hallucinating. So maybe the wren is real? Maybe magic is real but doesn’t appear in ways we think it will.

I really enjoyed this book, it wasn’t what I was expecting at all, it was much cleverer and warmer and more realistic than I thought it would be. Which made it all the more magical.

5 Bites

NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews

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.

Returning Eden by Maria Mellins

imageThe fact that this book is described as a  “gothic ocean mystery” intrigued me straight away. Often we think of the sea as sparkling and sunshiny so this promised something that would embrace it’s depths rather than its shallows!

Eden and her family left the remote island of Cantillon, and her best friend Dylan, suddenly when she was just a child. But now she’s back and starting college much to the chagrin of her parents.

But just as she’s settling in and making new friends,  she escapes an attacker, then a corpse dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, is found floating in the ocean.

Her new friends and Dylan help her investigate the mystery, scared that the killer will strike again. But as they do so they discover that Eden is at the centre of a dark and dangerous mystery – keeping her safe puts them all in peril!

I have to be honest, when I first started reading this I got a sinking feeling in my stomach and not because I was worried about the characters. It seemed to be aimed at a younger age group than I’d thought and the authors voice was a little clumsy. I stopped reading it and didn’t pick it up again until 2 weeks later.

When I did I wasn’t sure why I’d thought the writing was clumsy, and, rejoining the book after the chapters on Eden and Dylan’s childhood friendship, it was clearly aimed at those in their mid-teens upwards. I breathed a sigh of relief and settled in for a good read.

The author does a really good job of creating a perfect gothic atmosphere – misty, menacing and myopic. It’s balanced well by the teenage mood swings – optimism, melodrama and determination, and the story cracks on at a good pace.

If I was to be hypercritical I have to say the characters aren’t quite developed enough, but it seems this is the start of a series so that might be rectified in future novels.

I really liked the idea, it is different and I think a lot of those that read Young Adult books will appreciate that.

3.5 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.

Bad Analysis by Colin Knight

41aL2YZ5p8L._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_When invited to review this novel, my immediate reaction on seeing the cover was one of disappointment, it looked like a “Penny Dreadful” and the plot summary seemed “far-fetched” .

I was wrong, totally and utterly wrong. I made the fundamental error of judging a book by its cover, at my age I should have known better.
The plot summary is: A wealthy, racist, British, aristocrat, with the help of friends in high places, plans to rid Britain of its Muslim population. There are two stages to the plan: First, to secretly fund a massive recruiting drive for the English Defence League, allowing them to become a political force to be reckoned with. Stage two of the plan is to commit a massive act of terrorism that will kill thousands more innocent people than ever before. A carefully laid trail of convincing clues will lead the anti- terrorist squad to a UK based Islamic fundamentalist terrorist cell. The EDL’s calls for mass deportation of Muslims will then have to be taken seriously by the British government.
Yes, it does require a stretch of the imagination to make the plot plausible. But life can be stranger than fiction, who would have thought that terrorists would hijack four commercial airliners and fly them into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon?
Bad Analysis is a brilliant book, superbly written, gripping and fast paced. The hero Craig Wilson is not a macho James Bond type in fact he is a very ordinary family man working as a crypto analysist with The Canadian anti-terrorism squad. He has a gift for interpreting intercepted phone calls and emails. Unfortunately his superiors are bureaucrats, more concerned with office politics than acting on the flights of fancy of their senior analysts. And time is running out.
Colin Knight writes with first-hand knowledge and experience of how anti-terrorist operations work having spent many years in senior positions in the Canadian Police and Security Services. This insider knowledge gives the book the authenticity of LeCarre’s “Tinker Tailor, Soldier, Spy”. I loved it.
Five bites from me (But I still think the cover is rubbish).

Jeff Short
I was born into a Forces family so naturally enjoyed Biggles as a child alongside Enid Blyton. I fell in love with the Librarian at RAF Akrotiri and read and read so that i could see her every day. The book that I read there that had the greatest impact on me was Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 - set on an American airbase on a small island in the Mediterranean, and filled with military incompetence with black humour. I could never take service life seriously again. I usually has three books on the go at any one time. Kindle, Audio and a proper book. My favourite genres are military memoirs and thrillers but being compulsive I'll read anything.