MARKING TIME by April White

3 02 2016

Marking Time coverSaira Elian is a 17-year-old Californian girl whose English mother disappears while Saira, a solitary parkour free-runner and tagger (hope I got that right!), is out doing her thing in “the tunnels” somewhere under LA. Faced with the Child Protection Services unless she can name a relative who will take responsibility for her, Saira reluctantly tells them about someone in England.

That someone was waiting for me when I stepped off the British Airways fkight in London: Millicent Elian. I hadn’t seen my grandmother since I was three years old […] My mother couldn’t stand her. Not a big surprise given the way she was sizing me up, probably wondering if I was worth the effort. […]

“I see you got his height.” Millicent’s tone was not flattering.

“Hello, Millicent.” I knew I should be more polite and call her “Grandmother”, considering she just kept me out of foster care, but she hadn’t really earned the title.

“And his manners, too, obviously.”

“I wouldn’t know.”

[…]

“I have a car waiting.” Of course she did. Millicent’s fancy gray Rolls Royce waited at the curb outside the airport, and her fancy gray driver held the door open for us.

“Home, Jeeves,” she said with total authority.

“Jeeves? You’re joking.”

“I don’t joke.” Millicent’s expression didn’t change.

Jeeves caught my eye in the rear-view mirror and very slowly, he winked. It wasn’t much, that wink, but it was something.

It turns out that the Elians are a family of time-travellers, and Saira’s mother, who is normally gone for only a couple of days (or so it seems!) is now being held against her will in Victorian London. And that, of course, is where half the story, and most of the adventure, takes place.

One aspect of the story that fascinated me was the love between Saira and a young man in Victorian times who had already known Saira in the future in her own time and fallen for her there – or should that be “then”? He, of course, doesn’t know about this yet, and she can’t tell him because the secret of how he came to be still a young man all those years later is just – well …

I’ll leave it to you to sort all this out when you read the book, and add only, by way of encouragement, that while the ingredients may not be entirely original (there’s Hogwarts here, and Ann Rice, and Jack the Ripper, and Time Travel) the resulting dish is something different from the usual run-of-the-mill YA, and I enjoyed every minute of it.





THE IN-BETWEENER by Ann Christy

6 09 2015

In-BetweenerThis is Zombie Apocalyptic done really well, how the phenomenon came about and how it works set out more clearly and more credibly than in any other zombie story I’ve read. And the main characters, a man of 23, once a teacher, now trying to look after a mixed bag of children who survived, though far from unscathed, and a girl of 17 (I think) who has been on her own for a year following the death of her mother, are both very real and completely unforgettable.

Definitely not one to be missed if you like this sort of thing – and even if you don’t. You may even change your mind about the whole genre!

And an “in-betweener”? Someone who has died then come back to life; not a zombie – yet.





SHAMAN FRIEND ENEMY by M. Terry Green

14 04 2015

Shaman Friend EnemyThe second in the series and not as good as the first, Shaman, Healer, Heretic, but that was brilliant (my review HERE); this is very good in parts and good in others. I enjoyed it though and I’m fascinated by shamanism so I shall definitely be reading the third one.





THE WITCH OF NAPOLI by

10 03 2015

Witch of Napoli

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley
in exchange for an honest review. Thank you

A young reporter named Tomasso publishes a convincing photo of an Italian medium, Alexandra Poverelli, levitating a table, and it causes such a stir that the scientist/psychiatrist Professor Camillo Lombardi comes all the way to Naples to investigate the claim. To his astonishment, she proves she can do far more than simply levitate tables.

Result? She and the young reporter, Tomasso, who has fallen in love with her, are taken on a tour, first of Italy and then of the capitals of Europe, by the wealthy Professor Lombardi. Many are convinced by her. Others are either sceptical or fanatically against her – including the representative of an English society which investigates mediums, a repulsive character bent on engineering Alexandra’s downfall.

The novel is based on the life of Eusapia Palladino, who is dismissed in Wikipedia as a fraud (but then so is homeopathy!). However, in this story her powers are certainly genuine. That she can and does accomplish seemingly supernatural feats is not in doubt. The only question is how. Is she really in communication with the dead, or is there some other quite different explanation?

An interesting point is that this (the whole “medium” thing) is often seen and presented – especially in its late 19th-century context – as part of the supposed war between science and religion. In fact the Church is quite as much her enemy as the scientific establishment. More so. Many scientists did – and do – have an open mind (and so they should, for that after all is the scientific method), her sponsor, Professor Camillo Lombardi, being such a one, whereas no one from the Church (as represented in this novel, at least) showed any sign of an open mind.

It is an enthralling story, and it was a brilliant decision to use young Tomasso as the narrator, to watch it all unfold through his eyes, the eyes of one who loved the much-abused but still tempestuous Alexandra for who she was and not what she could do.





SHAMAN, HEALER, HERETIC by M. Terry Green

2 03 2015

Shaman etcI am always more than happy to download a free book from Kindle when an offer catches my eye, but I often read only a few chapters then delete the book if it fails to live up to its cover and blurb – or only a few paragraphs if it is full of grammar and spelling mistakes or has not been properly formatted for Kindle.

The Amazon Free Book system really works, though, when the book on offer is a good one and is the first of a series several of which have already been published. You immediately order – and pay for! – the sequel

And that is what happened here. I got it in December, it sat in my Kindle, ignored, for three months, then I opened it in an idle moment and was hooked. It is, quite simply, brilliant. It is original – I have never read anything like it – it is gripping, and the heroine, Livvy, is perfect.

Livvy is a shaman in present-day Los Angeles. Well, perhaps it is a slightly alternative Los Angeles, I don’t know how popular and trendy shamanism is there in reality, but in this story it is the alternative therapy and shamans are everywhere. But most of them are “techno-shamans” who make use of special goggles to enter other planes of existence, rather than drugs (traditional ones like peyote or mescaline, or more modern ones like LSD or ecstasy) or mind-altering activities such as fasting or dancing. We follow Livvy as she enters the Middleworld, then the Underworld, in search of someone’s lost soul – all absolutely fascinating – and we are there when she realises that all is not right. It is too quiet. Deserted, in fact. What is happening?

And during the night she wakes in a panic. There is someone in her room. Only it is not a someone, it is a kachina, a Hopi god. Which of course is impossible, she tells herself. Her “manager”, SK, a dwarf, later tells her the same. Only it was there. It touched her, tried to communicate with her. Why? Read the book and find out.

As I say, I loved it, and have already downloaded the sequel!





BE STILL, MY LOVE by Deborah Hughes

25 02 2015

Be Still My LoveThis is a difficult book to review without spoilers. At the very beginning something occurs that it is better the reader knows nothing about when she opens the book for the first time. However … as what occurs is stated explicitly in the blurb, I feel justified (albeit reluctantly!) in telling you that  when Tess’s husband goes down the road in his car, with their dog, to pick up one or two things they need for the barbecue they are preparing, he never returns. A drunk driver smashed into his car killing him and the dog instantly.

But Tess is a medium. She has an angel guide whom she trusts completely. Or did. Now, suddenly, she loses her faith in her guide, and her faith in God. Or at least her belief that God is good, blaming Him for the death of her husband and her dog. (She seems just as upset about the dog as the husband!) And as a result of all this anger, she loses her ability to function as a medium.

A year later, still in deep mourning, and still raging at God, she is persuaded by her psychiatrist to go on vacation, and finds herself in a seriously haunted hotel.

The building had previously been the mansion home of a wealthy man and his daughter. This daughter, who had committed suicide following the death of her lover, is one of the ghosts. But there are others, and the others are dangerous. Ghosts are not dangerous, she protests. These are, however, as she soon learns from bitter experience. But are there living men, also, intent on causing further grief?

An enthralling ghost-story/love-story (yes, there is a man at the hotel – an artist – and her dead husband popping up in the background – hence the title); fascinating for anyone who, like me, is intrigued by the whole notion of ghosts and mediums. I shall definitely be reading the sequel.





GHOSTLY MURDERS by Paul Doherty

29 01 2015

Ghostly MurdersThis is the fourth and in some ways the best yet of Doherty’s series of novels based on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Ghostly Murders is in fact the Poor Priest’s tale (his other tale) a ghost story in which two brothers, both young, both priests, get caught up in the aftermath of a horrifying crime involving some Templars who were fleeing for their lives at a time when all the world had turned against them.

But of course, before that tale can begin, the pilgrims must settle down for the night. And this particular night they find themselves caught in an evening mist close to dangerous marshes on which they can see lights (“corpse candles”) flickering in the growing darkness, so they decide to stop in a nearby village. Only the village is deserted, and has been since the Black Death thirty years earlier, and not only deserted but downright eerie, and not made any less so by the pilgrims themselves.

‘Let’s pray,’ said Mine Host, ‘to St Thomas à Becket whose blessed bones we go to venerate at Canterbury!’

The Miller gave a loud fart in answer, making the Carpenter snigger and giggle. Nevertheless, the pilgrims grouped closer. The Summoner moved his fat little horse behind that of the Franklin. He was not just interested in the Franklin’s costly silk purse, white as the morning milk. Oh no, the Summoner smiled to himself: he, like some others, was increasingly fascinated by this motley group of pilgrims making their way to Canterbury in the year of Our Lord 1389. All seemed to be acquainted with each other and the Summoner definitely knew the Franklin. They had met many years ago on a blood-soaked island. He was sure of that, as he was sure that the Franklin had had a hand in his father’s death. He would have liked to have talked to his colleague the Pardoner but he was now suspicious for the Summoner had recently discovered that the Franklin and the Pardoner were close friends. Indeed, this cunning man, with his bag full of relics and the bones of saints slung on a string round his neck, was certainly not what he claimed to be.

Behind the Summoner, the Friar, nervous of the cloying mist, plucked at the harp slung over his saddle horn. As he played, the Friar glanced furtively at the Monk riding alongside him. The Friar closed his eyes and strummed at the harp strings, calling up a little ditty he had learnt, anything to drive away the fears. He did not like the Monk sitting so arrogantly on his brown-berry palfrey: that smooth, fat face, those dark, soulless eyes and that smile, wolfish, the eye-teeth hanging down like jagged daggers. Who was the Monk? Why was the Knight so wary of him? And the latter’s son? The young, golden-haired Squire, he always kept an eye on the Monk, hand on the pommel of his sword, as if he expected the Monk to launch a sudden assault upon his father, the Knight. Was the Monk, the Friar wondered, one of those strigoi mentioned by the Knight in his tale? Did the Monk belong to the Undead? Those damned souls who wandered the face of the earth, finding their sustenance in human blood?

The whole setting reminds the Poor Priest of another Kentish village, Scawsby, and when prevailed upon to tell a tale he tells them of the strange events in Scawsby during his time there.

In fact, he tells them, it had all begun much earlier, in 1308, in the reign of the present king’s grandfather. A group of Templar Knights, fleeing from London to the coast, had been lured into just such treacherous marshes on just such a misty evening and there, mired and helpless, set upon by robbers led by the local lord of the manor and the parish priest, intent on seizing the Templar treasure.

‘We have been trapped,’ one of the knights whispered. ‘They have led us into a marsh.’

‘There must be paths!’ Sir William exclaimed. ‘Just like the one we are standing on.’ He grasped his sword tighter. ‘The Virgin, the Veronica?’ […]

An arrow whipped out of the darkness and took him full in the shoulder.

All the Templars are killed, but as he dies, their leader, Sir William Chasny, shouts “in English, in Latin, in French, ‘We shall be watching you! We shall always be watching you!‘”

Seventy years later, following the suicide of the previous incumbent, a new young priest, Philip Trumpington, comes to the village with his brother, Edmund. There, he is confronted by the past, for the church is full of ghosts, both good (the murdered Templars) and bad (especially the ghost of Romanel, the priest who organised the massacre), and full of voices whispering ‘Spectamus te, semper spectamus te! We are watching you, we are always watching you!’

As if the ghosts were not enough, there is also an attack on the village by a band of French marauders. But why on this small inland village? Can they too be after the Templar treasure?

Another of Doherty’s seemingly inexhaustible stream of wonderful minor characters makes an appearance in this book: the coffin woman. Read it, if only for her!

She is old and seems to know more about what happened seventy years ago than she is telling. What was her part in all this, wonders Philip.

The tension builds as Doherty skillfully blends his three story lines: the pilgrims, Philip and his brother, and their predecessor Romanel.

But unlike Romanel, the Poor Priest is not interested in “treasure on earth”. Will he therefore prove immune to the evil that has corrupted the souls of and led to the death of so many others?








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