Thursday, May 19, 2016

Against a Darkening Sky: A Novel by Lauren B. Davis

Against a Darkening Sky: A Novel.  Lauren B. Davis. ChiZine Publications.  May 2015. 300 pp.  ISBN#: 9781771483186.

Wilona, the only survivor of a plague that destroyed her family, travels to the village of Ad Gefrin where she becomes the apprentice to Touilt, a seithkona or seer/healer.  Many people come to Touilt for her medicine treatments and Wilona learns quickly.  This is King Edwin’s medieval kingdom in a time of great transition with the coming of Christianity.  It is believed that when all convert, the kingdom will prosper as natural progression from belief in the triune God.

Before that occurs, however, we have an account of Wilona’s training which is lovely reading.  In between learning about how nature provides healing properties, we realize how dark, cruel and primitive are the conditions under which these people live.  Touilt sees many visions which the reader may find frightening but which Touilt interprets as life-giving, protective and wise.  Wilona herself has visions of an owl which is to be her guide, totem or daemon.

We next meet Egan, a devout monk whose Christianity is bounded by his own humility or scrupulosity.  His superiors take his bumbling errors in stride at first but then decide his humility reeks of excessive pride.  At the same time they recognize his timid kindness and speech as a great tool to be used in servicing the King’s desire that all come to Christ. 

Wilona and Egan develop an uneasy friendship at first.  When the town villagers come to destroy Touilt’s spirit drawings and figures and physically beat her, Wilona trusts no one.  She believes it is only time that awaits her own torture to force her to convert.  Egan insists otherwise.

The remainder of the novel dwells on changing circumstances that change the people’s certitude about Christianity.  The results of these challenges are riveting as the ending reveals a new way of dealing with how spiritual beliefs fit into the vicissitudes of daily medieval life. 

Very nicely crafted – recommended fantasy historical fiction that challenges adamant religiosity!

Lost and Gone Forever: A Novel of Scotland Yard's Murder Squad by Alex Grecian

Lost and Gone Forever: A Novel of Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad.  Alex Grecian. Penguin Publishing Group (USA). May 2016. 384 pp.  ISBN#: 9780399176104.

Inspector Walter Day was kidnapped and held for one year by a man named “Jack.”  Whatever the latter inflicted upon Day, he no longer has any memory of his previous life.  Now he manages to escape, although he does so with great trepidation as he fears Jack is just around every corner waiting to grab Day and return him to his imprisonment.  Little by little, he inches his way back into society, shaping and selling old cigarette and cigar butts he has reformed into new products.  He even manages to enlist homeless urchins to assist him and pays them for their efforts. 

Day’s old friend, Nevil Hammersmith, a former Sergeant who lost his job over a case that also involved the disappearance of Day, has formed a private investigation agency with two female assistants.  Although he takes on new cases, his obsession is finding Day.  He even hires two bounty hunters to find and eliminate Jack, believing if he is removed Day will reappear.  However, the two chilling bounty hunters are about much more than heeding Hammersmith.  The reader wonders if this “Saucy” Jack is really Jack the Ripper, the killer who was feared by every decent British citizen. 

Even Hattie, Hammersmith’s assistant, gets involved in the missing persons search.  The owner of a brand new, gaudy and innovative department store (new for that time period of the late 1800s) is also involved accidentally and undergoes a dramatic transformation. 

The mystery will be solved but one must journey through several harrowing scenes and a very handy, albeit somewhat contrived, resolution for all characters that should greatly please lovers of the crime/thriller genre.  This reviewer has not read the previous books in the series, but that doesn’t matter as this is a fine stand-alone mystery that will probably draw readers to read the other novels as well.  Nicely crafted, Alex Grecian!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Thing Is by Kathleen Gerard

The Thing Is.  Kathleen Gerard. Red Adept Publishing. December 2015. 276 pp.  ISBN#: 9781940215587.

Meredith Mancuso is fiercely grieving as her fiancĂ© has passed away.  She used to be a successful novelist whose romances and stories were and are best sellers that it seems everyone knows. But Meredith has become a recluse and is ignoring calls from her agent and publisher because she’s just so bogged down in sadness.  It’s more than grieving; it’s rock solid depression.  That is until her accountant, CPA, numbers driven sister, Monica, rings her door – or actually is banging on the door like she’s going to break it down if Meredith doesn’t open up.  Before Meredith can blink her eyes, Monica is pushing a furry dog into her arms – a Yorkshire terrier called yes, Prozac!

This then is the story of Meredith’s baby-sitting venture with Prozac whom she is constantly trying to get rid of but whose attachment slowly but surely grows immensely – albeit pushed by bribery, threats of imprisonment for doggie abuse, and other hilarious scenes that are sheer delightful reading! 

For Prozac is a “Spirit Guide Dog,” that is one who is sensitive to the moods and feelings of wounded folks and able to heal them with his vibrant, loving presence.  He has a weekly schedule – he actually belongs to Meredith’s aunt who is recovering from surgery - of visiting but I won’t spoil that but let you discover the craziness of each spot they visit.    Of course, Meredith doesn’t really realize that she’s a tough project for Prozac but he gives her a healthy dose of her own stubborn rejection which is absolutely hysterical. 

The Thing Is has no linear plot; it just happens.  While that might trouble some readers, it is actually pleasant to just “go with it” along with Meredith and Prozac.  It’s a nice, light read that you’ll want to re-read just to enjoy the laughs all over again! Nicely done, K. Gerard!