A colorful cast and exotic locals feature in #fantasy A Flight in the Heavens (The Theurgy of the Gods Book One) by Gabrielle Gagné-Cyr

Today’s team review is from Jenni. She blogs here https://jenniferdebie.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jenni has been reading A Flight in the Heavens by Gabrielle Gagné-Cyr

57858699. sy475

3.5/5

If there is one thing to say about Gabrielle Gagné-Cyr’s freshman effort, it is an impressive stack of pages. Buckle your swashes ladies and gents because A Flight in the Heavens is 400+ pages of fantasy adventure, full of the colorful cast and exotic locals one would hope to find in a book primarily centered on a flying pirate ship.

Unfortunately for this reader, the over 400 page factor is where Flight falls flat. Gagné-Cyr has woven a fascinating world from a tapestry of both well-loved science fiction tropes and more modern creations. There’s a distinctly Pokémon-ish feel to this hunt for gods, the badass lady captain with a mech-arm and an impressive war machine under her command is strongly reminiscent of Charlize Theron’s Furiosa in the latest Mad Max installment, and one of the hunted gods reads as patterned on the Great Forest Spirit from Princess Mononoke. All three of these are properties I have enormous personal attachment to, and yet all of that promise gets dragged under by the weight of the prose. Where one sentence would convey the meaning desired and deliver a sharper impact, Flight tends to give readers three sentences that are often confused by awkward vocabulary choice.

I read the following pair of sentences twice before I was comfortable with the meaning, and even now the way myriad is used here makes the philologist living in my heart twitch:

“Humans were bound to have come here before. In conjunction with their gods, they had built the deities’ shrines a myriad of eras before.” (A Flight in the Heavens, page 110)

That said, I largely picked up Flight because it came with the warning that there was an LGBTQ+ romance involved and your girl got curious. You don’t see that much in science fiction, at least not from your main characters, so I was interested to see how well that portion of the narrative was handled, and I’m happy to report that it was handled well.

Our two female leads tend to stare and sigh over each other in the back third of the novel, and there’s some awkwardness with a boy being in love with one of them for most of the book without realizing she plays for the other team, but the romantic thread itself is handled with as much grace as the afore-mentioned writing style allows. There’s some shaming and eventual fridging of the resident slut that I’m not wild about, but the leading lesbians are strongly drawn and their attraction to each other is relatively believable.

All in all, I stand by my opening statement. The completion of over 400 pages of anything is an impressive accomplishment, and one that should be celebrated. The fact that a sequel is not only planned, but apparently well on its way, should also be applauded as an impressive accomplishment from a new author.

Unfortunately for me, the clunky prose meant that it didn’t quite soar.

Desc 1

“I see you my little moppets.”

The king is dead, long live his murderer.

After fifteen years of passive torment, Farrah and her implacable group of renegades endeavour to alter their fates by attempting to assassinate the man who stole everything from them, Daemon Daromas.
Alas, he who wields the theurgy of the gods has no rivals in the lands of Iscar but those foolish enough to challenge their wrath.

When confronted by this ancient and destructive force, the renegades have no choice but to flee the capital and embark on the airship of Iscar’s most notorious sky corsair Captain Feras Sadahl, daughter of the late pirate sovereign. 
Their meeting with the corsair, however, might not have been as welcome as they would have hoped.

As Farrah and her allies set out on a journey to find the means to challenge their oppressor, they soon discover that the price of power is steep and the road to get one’s hands on it, perilous.

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

57858699. sy475

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT A Tale From Pre-History, The Drowning Land by David M. Donachie @bayushi_hituro

Today’s team review is from Jenni. Find out more about Jenni here https://jenniferdebie.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jenni has been reading The Drowning Land by David M. Donachie

56774590. sy475

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I pulled David M. Donachie’s The Drowning Land out of the review pile. I mean, I read the synopsis, obviously, so I knew a little about the story, but this was my first experience with a novel centered on early man and I couldn’t help but wonder if that would keep me from caring about the characters.

Would they be too different, too outside a modern mindset, to connect with?

In retrospect, that is a silly thing to get hung up on. I’ve read and connected with stories populated by characters much further removed from humanity than Donachie’s version of paleolithic people, and that’s what Donachie creates—people.

People just as full of fears and foibles, hopes and dreams, cruelties and kindnesses, as people today. People grappling with a world that has simultaneously been gradually changing for generations and is suddenly changing way too fast. And the people who can adapt, those who band together and allow old prejudices to die—they are the people best suited to survive and thrive in this changing world. Any of that sound familiar?

There is a clear message in Donachie’s work, for those looking for one, but there is also an excellent story. A story about two teenagers from different cultures, different species even, learning first to trust each other, and then work together, and then love each other in spite of overwhelming odds and the literal end of the world as they know it. Donachie’s protagonists each bring specific strengths, talents, and skills to their partnership, so watching them stumble through a language barrier and grow into this partnership is a truly rewarding experience.

There is also a villain. Multiple villains, technically, but our primary human antagonist is also a point of view character for a few chapters and there is strength in getting that insight into him. He’s not evil for the sake of evil, he’s just another man trying to fit the changing world into his personal belief system, like all of us are.

Granted, his personal belief system involves human sacrifice, so we can all definitively call him “the bad guy”, but there is a very scared person under that badness and getting that look at his psyche is a visceral reminder of that old truism: “No one is the villain in their own mind.” The antagonist thinks that what he is doing will save his people, just as the protagonists are trying to save theirs.

Because, at the end of the day, beneath the fact that these are all early humans and neanderthal descendants, they are still just people. People beautifully researched, imagined, and rendered by a man with a talent for storytelling and a knack for weaving fact into his work. When you finish The Drowning Lands, I highly recommend reading the Afterword, where Donachie lays out the historical basis for his characters and setting. There’s a retroactive richness added to the experience when you realize how grounded in potential fact and believable hypothesis this novel truly is.

An excellent story, well told, and certainly one I’ll be recommending to friends looking for a fresh new voice.

5/5

Desc 1

The world is drowning.

Edan’s tribe has always survived by knowing the land and following its stories. But now their world is changing, and they must change with it, or die.

When young fisherman Edan rescues the troll seer Tara from Phelan wolf-touched, he makes a powerful enemy. But Tara’s visions bring them hope that the world might still be saved.

Edan must break away from tradition and cross the Summer Lands in search of a new future, but where does that future lie? With Phelan’s wolf clan? With the Fomor sea-devils? Or with Tara’s uncertain hope for salvation?

The Drowning Land takes us back eight thousand years to the Mesolithic Period when a lost land, Doggerland, still connected England to France across what is now the North Sea. Inspired by the extensive research conducted by archaeologists over the past two decades, this is a story of our distant ancestors and how they confronted the climate catastrophe that overwhelmed their world.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

56774590. sy475

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistoricalRomance John Eyre by @MimiMatthewsEsq

Today’s team review is from Jenni. Find out more about Jenni here https://jenniferdebie.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jenni has been reading John Eyre by Mimi Matthews

56036070. sy475

There is a very specific kind of delight in delving into a novel that retells a favorite story.

We know that Elizabeth and Darcy end up together, but what’s this I hear about zombies wandering around in regency England? What do you mean Maria is a vampire and merrily turning the Von Trapp children into the undead on a whim? Mansfield Park with a mummy curse?

Yes please. Any of it. All of it.

And to these hallowed halls of lovingly upended classics, Mimi Matthews brings us John Eyre, a retelling of Bronte’s Jane Eyre with several delicious inversions. The gender swapping is the obvious one, we have Bertha Rochester and John Eyre rather than Edward and Jane of the original. We have two silent boys of unknown origin for John to teach, rather than the precocious little French girl who was Jane’s charge. And lastly, delightfully, where Charlotte Bronte only hinted at the vampiric nature of the spouse chained up in the attic (see Anatol’s The Things That Fly In The Night if you’re curious about that), Matthews takes the concept and runs with it.

And when I say she runs with it, I mean she runs with it.

We’re back to classic vampire lore here: wolves, mist, silver and sunlight—there’s not a sparkle to be seen and no fixing this vamp with love.

Where the examples listed in the opening of this review all light heartedly melded supernatural elements with the original stories for largely comedic effect, Matthews is telling us a straight up vampire horror, with all the supernatural spooks, classic vampiric powers, and peril that entails.

Fitting, since the original Jane Eyre isn’t exactly a comedy to begin with and trying to make it one might cause some tonal issues.

For me, when reading a retelling like this, half the delight comes from comparing it to the original story. What changes did the second author make to the first’s work? What did they do that works better?

One of the great strengths of John Eyre comes from the dual narrators. Where Jane Eyre is told in the first person “I” and exclusively from Jane’s perspective as the events of the story happen to her, Matthews switches things up. John Eyre maintains a third person “he/she/they” perspective on our main storyline with a focus on the titular character, interspersed with old letters and journal entries from Bertha giving readers her backstory and crucially, slowly unveiling her first husband.

Where Bronte leaves Rochester a gruff enigma, giving readers only hints of how he became the man he is until the final big reveal at the climax, Matthews helps us know both of her leads. We watch Bertha grow from a relatively naïve, if intelligent and well-travelled, heiress into the strong, commanding woman that John meets when he comes to Thornfield Hall over a year later. We learn about both halves of this developing relationship and are more invested in the relationship because of it.

I’m a firm believer that there are no stories so sacred they can’t be retold should the right person attempt it, and with John Eyre Matthews has proven herself to be the right person. If I hadn’t had to eat and do a load of laundry, this would have been a finished in one sitting kind of book. As it is, it’s still a finished in one day book.

Excellent, all the way around.

5/5

Desc 1

From USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews comes a supernatural Victorian gothic retelling of Charlotte Brontë’s timeless classic.

Yorkshire, 1843. When disgraced former schoolmaster John Eyre arrives at Thornfield Hall to take up a position as tutor to two peculiar young boys, he enters a world unlike any he’s ever known. Darkness abounds, punctuated by odd bumps in the night, strange creatures on the moor, and a sinister silver mist that never seems to dissipate. And at the center of it all, John’s new employer—a widow as alluring as she is mysterious.

Sixteen months earlier, heiress Bertha Mason embarked on the journey of a lifetime. Marriage wasn’t on her itinerary, but on meeting the enigmatic Edward Rochester, she’s powerless to resist his preternatural charm. In letters and journal entries, she records the story of their rapidly-disintegrating life together, and of her gradual realization that Mr. Rochester isn’t quite the man he appears to be. In fact, he may not be a man at all.

From a cliff-top fortress on the Black Sea coast to an isolated estate in rural England, John and Bertha contend with secrets, danger, and the eternal struggle between light and darkness. Can they help each other vanquish the demons of the past? Or are some evils simply too powerful to conquer?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

56036070. sy475

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Ya #Paranormal #Romance EVERLONG by @RRaeta #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Jenni. Find out more about Jenni here https://jenniferdebie.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jenni has been reading Everlong by R Raeta

57540323. sx318

I was about 13 when Twilight first hit shelves and became an international sensation, making yours truly a Grade A, prime market specimen, target customer for every supernatural teen series to arrive in my local Books-A-Million, and as a teen I cheerfully fulfilled those market expectations. Even now, barreling rapidly towards my 30s with all the supposed maturity that that entails, I still love a good urban fantasy/supernatural romance/vampire thriller to take my mind off the real world for a few hours.

What I mean is that for well over a decade, I’ve read a lot of this genre. Cozy mysteries, earnest teen dramas, steamy and/or gory adventures, the 19th century foundations of the genre, modern research about the genre—shelves and shelves of vampires.

So when I say that R. Raeta’s Everlong is one of the most poignant, beautiful vampire stories I have ever read, those are not words written lightly.

The novel is written with the limited 3rd person omniscient perspective, a fancy way of saying that we, the readers, know everything our protagonist knows without the explicit “I” narrator. For some authors this would create some distance between the protagonist, the exquisitely drawn Lily, and the audience, but Raeta is not just some author.

With the deft touch of a true craftswoman, Raeta draws the reader into Lily’s mind, making us feel as she feels- something that becomes more and more important when a major shift occurs and Lily “awakens” maybe a third of the way through the narrative. This mental “awakening” is one of the clearest examples of ‘show rather than tell’ that I’ve just about even seen, grounding the reader immediately in the fresh eyes that Lily sees the world with, and letting us know that something intrinsic to her psyche has crystalized.

I know that this description lists towards wishy-washy, but to explain in more detail, or describe a greater length, would be to spoil one of the biggest delights of reading the novel.

The friendships and romantic relationship that bud and build throughout the novel feel real. Every secondary character is textured, with their own linguistic and habitual idiosyncrasies and layered backstories. There is a care given to crafting the supporting cast that many authors would not give, or would not give in a standalone novel, but rather over the course of an entire series.

Because that is another thing that sets Everlong apart. In a genre that thrives on expansive universes and sequels that stretch on ad infinitum, this is a contained novel. There is a definite ending to this story, and oh honey is it an ending.

Bittersweet in the best way and perfectly suited to the tale Raeta has told up until this point, I once again cannot say more without the risk of spoiling your experience.

A masterclass in how to build a story and a world that readers will care about, and the reason of my first 2AM stay-up-to-finish-the-book session in months, Everlong does not disappoint on any level and if this is only the freshmen outing for Raeta, I can’t wait to see what she does next!

5/5

Desc 1

Lily doesn’t remember her death, or even her reawakening, but she knows this: the sun is to be feared, words are her salvation, and—above all—the bench facing the playground is hers. She is the pin holding the hands of the clock, watching the world move and change around her while she remains fixed, lonely and unchanged… until a boy takes a seat beside her.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

57540323. sx318

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #CulturalFiction In The Shadow Of Ruin by @tdebajo

Today’s team review is from Jenni. She blogs here https://jenniferdebie.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jenni has been reading In The Shadow Of Ruin by Tony Debajo

57425735. sx318

Tony Debajo’s debut novel, In the Shadow of Ruin, is a novel of generations. There is great strength and potency to be drawn from telling family epics, the weight of legacy and the making or breaking of kindred ties are as universal as any story telling tradition from any time or place.

That said, when we’re speaking about generations, readers should be aware that implied in that are many, many characters to keep track of. There is the first king, who had two wives, who each bore a prince. One of the princes becomes the second king and has three sons in turn, the other prince becomes an outcast with his witch mother. All of the kings and sons and princes have attendant bodyguards, advisors, tribal chiefs they consult with, and paths that they must follow, geographically and spiritually, across the novel, and on a technical level it’s a lot for both a reader and an author to balance.

It is a good thing, then, that Debajo seems to be something of a gymnast, deftly crafting his narrative across two timelines, a half dozen primary characters, and the expansive landscape that he has built for all of this to play out in.

Woven throughout the narrative are the gods of Nigeria, the Orisa, who help or hinder our protagonists and antagonists as gods are wont to do. The Nigerian pantheon is not one I am familiar with outside of their representations in the most recent season of American Gods (2017-present), so getting this take on the Orisa in their “natural habitat”, as opposed to transplants like all the deities brought to America in the TV show, was delicious. They fit the landscape and the narrative as naturally as any of the mortal characters.

The battles, and there are several to be expected when an exiled prince makes a bid to steal his brother’s throne, are appropriately epic in scale and bloody in detail. After the palace is sacked and the royal city burned, the three sons of the second king scatter to allies at three points of the compass and their journeys, likewise, are as arduous as you would expect for fugitives fleeing a wicked uncle. The terrain they flee across is lush in detail, textured by an author with an obvious familiarity and love for the world he has created.

Before wrapping up this review, I will give one spoiler—there is a major cliffhanger. The last pages of In the Shadow of Ruin make it painfully obvious that there is more to come from what Debajo has tantalizingly named his Fractured Kingdom Series. A frustration for greedy readers like me, because we’ll just have to wait for the next one and I’m not always good at waiting.

An excellent first outing for Debajo and a fabulous book for anyone looking for a family epic, a mythic landscape, and a bloody good time, In the Shadow of Ruin does not disappoint on any level.

4/5- but only because I’ll have to wait for the next one.

Desc 1

King Jide Adelani has ruled the lands of the Yoruba in West Africa for many peaceful years, but now his kingdom is in turmoil and the cold grasp of death’s embrace is closing in around everything he holds dear.

Jide spent years garnering the respect and loyalty of the tribes in the hopes of uniting them into one cohesive empire when his half-brother, Prince Olise, returns from banishment to claim the throne as his own.

The offspring of a union between the late King Adeosi and the evil enchantress Ekaete, the bitter Olise has devoted the last decade to one purpose; to seize the throne and rule the kingdom. If he fails, he risks his name being erased from the history of the tribes.

With the support of his mother, a powerful witch whose name is whispered in fear across the lands of the tribes, the outcast Olise now seems unstoppable in achieving his goal.

Facing overwhelming military might and dark forces that he cannot comprehend, Jide must either choose to ignore the warnings of the gods, and seek help from those who also practice dark arts; or risk losing his kingdom.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

57425735. sx318

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Kings, Conquerors, Psychopaths: From Alexander To Hitler To The Corporation by Joseph Abraham MD

Today’s team review is from Jenni. She blogs here https://jenniferdebie.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jenni has been reading Kings, Conquerors, Psychopaths: From Alexander to Hitler to the Corporation By Joseph Abraham MD

Created with GIMP

A couple of years ago, blogger and artist Matthew Inman (theoatmeal.com) drew a comic titled “You’re Not Going to Believe What I’m About to Tell You”, essentially explaining the “backfire effect” and our almost instinctive resistance to new information when that new information contradicts prior, long-held beliefs- i.e., George Washington owned a set of dentures made from the teeth of his slaves. 

We don’t like hearing these kinds of facts. They contradict the mental space we inhabit, showing the world in an honest, ugly light, and most people have an intrinsic revulsion to that kind of ugly honesty.

I would encourage readers to take a few minutes to read and digest Inman’s comic before starting Dr. Joseph Abraham’s Kings, Conquerors, Psychopaths, because it is harrowing from the first page and the “backfire effect” is very real.

Across the course of his tome (and at over 300 pages tome is the right word here), Abraham systematically breaks down what he calls the “fairy tale” of history. Childish fantasies that we hold into adulthood about good kings or noble conquerors are torn away and these historical figures are revealed as they were: murderers, sadists, and worse on a grand scale, a continental or even global scale.

Therein lies the thesis of Kings, Conquerors, Psychopaths— from this bloody foundation all civilization as we know it was formed. There is not a country today that was not created through bloodshed or conquest in some form or another and those stains still stick. It’s a bleak outlook, but then when a book starts with the My Lai Massacre of 1968, bleakness is to be expected.

Written by an American, Kings, Conquerors, Psychopaths has an obvious American cast to it. I would be curious to see this same book written by someone from a different kind of democracy, one without the same history. What is a New Zealander’s take on the Vietnam War and American atrocities committed therein? How would a Greenlander or a Canadian describe Queen Victoria? Abraham convincingly describes her in the light of Genghis Khan, would someone from a different culture do the same? Hitler and Nazis play a heavy role across the book as some of the best documented perpetrators of atrocities in the 20th century, how would a German fit WWII into the scope of history?

Going back to Inman and the “backfire effect”, there is an instinctive desire to see Nazism as an aberration. That Hitler was a particularly bad man who did bad things whose badness we’ve learned from and will never repeat again. Personal hopes for atrocities left unrepeated aside, Abraham argues that Hitler was just one conqueror in a line as long as history itself, stretching through King David of the Bible, Alexander the Great, British colonialism, Genghis Khan, Shaka Zulu, Napoleon and beyond.

And yet Abraham’s book ends on an oddly hopeful note. For all the red on humanity’s collective ledger, Abraham sees us on the upswing. The slowest of rising arcs still curves persistently skyward—few developed countries are ruled by the man who murdered his way to the throne and murderers all challengers still, and an engaged public has the ability to hold leaders and corporations accountable (to an extent).

The hope is faint, the softest voice at the bottom of Pandora’s deep box, but it is there. As the closing lines says, “We are the last feedback in the system.” Essentially, We the People must be the final check and balance to the scale.

 5/5, but be ready for what you’re getting into.

Desc 1

Xenophobia.  Racism.  Fascism.  Intolerance.  Inhumanity.  Coercion. 

Right wing populists increasingly draw attention around the globe, but the attention is misdirected.  The real problem is not the the authoritarian, but the authoritarian personalities who follow him.  If people do not blindly follow and obey the despot, he is irrelevant.

Why do we attach ourselves to demagogues and mountebanks?  Why do we defend even their most obvious hypocrisies and lies?

The answer is found in the history of civilization.  For the past 10,000 years, those who disagreed with the king or his nobles risked ruin and death. 

But that is only part of the answer.  The other part is that, despite our romantic traditions, kings and conquerors were vicious criminals.  They represent the most evil psychopaths, narcissists, and sadists in the history of humanity.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Created with GIMP

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Epic #Poetry KINGS AND QUEENS by @jn_eagles

Today’s team review is from Jenni. She blogs here https://jenniferdebie.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jenni has been reading Kings And Queens by J. N. Eagles

51835294. sy475

There is something familiar about J.N. Eagles’ Kings and Queens that I cannot quite seem to put my finger on.

Perhaps it reminds me of the sweeping, 19th century epic poems- something along the lines of Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, or Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Possibly it is something older, sifted from the fragments Sappho or the uneven unfolding that is Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

Chances are, it is something in the middle, that I am hearing an echo of the medieval Breton lai in Eagles’ lines, reminiscent of Sir Orfeo, or Bisclavret.

Or, lastly, maybe, something much, much newer than any of these- like Max Porter’s melding of poetry and story in Grief is a Thing with Feathers.

Whatever lineage my subconscious keeps tripping over, it is obviously there. Eagles’ fairytale through poetry is obviously drawing on threads almost as old as story itself; kingdoms to be defended, thrones to be earned, dragons fought and tamed, selves discovered, and knights to be sacrificed, all time-honored and long-loved pieces of European lore.

There is magic in returning to the staples and reading them anew, and Eagles’ reinterpretation of the classics is just that, magical.

Grounded with a queen trying to find her own voice and place within her kingdom, and punctuated by beautiful pen and ink illustrations, Kings and Queens is marketed as coming of age poetry, likely geared towards younger readers, but is sure to be enjoyed by lovers of verse and story at any age.

4/5

Desc 1

Kings and Queens is a coming of age poetry book. The story follows a young queen as she struggles to find herself while dealing with the king’s rule, the fire-breathing dragon, and the evil queen.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

51835294. sy475

Rosie’s#Bookreview Team #RBRT This Is Us: Black British Women And Girls Curated by Kafayat Okanlawon

Today’s team review is from Jenni. She blogs here https://jenniferdebie.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jennie has been reading This Is Us: Black British Women And Girls Curated by Kafayat Okanlawon

45451072. sy475

A cynic or a scholar might say that it is tellingly colonialist that the only way I can think to describe This Is Us is in terms of consumption, and yet it is true.

This Is Us is delicious, a banquet by small bites- tiny tastes of the richest flavors. The nature of this collection allows for the most incredible pairings, a teenager’s dreams, hopes, and heartbreaks followed immediately by a grandmother’s experiences arriving in London in the 1960s, followed by a woman in her 30s struggle to define herself in spaces that do not recognize her.

There is sisterhood and love and betrayal, generational acceptance and distance, family both by blood and by bond all written in the pages of This Is Us. Chapters are loosely organized by theme: something along the lines of sexuality, self-acceptance, finding your voice, romantic relationships, friendships, faith, etc. but these are my names for them- there are no formal title cards, and rightly so. Most of the essays fit into more than one of these named categories, and the correlations I have identified could well be arbitrary, or completely different from the intent of Kafayat Okanlawon, the self-described “curator” of this text.

I like that Okanlawon describes herself as a curator, rather than taking the more traditional “editor” title that we are used to seeing with essay collections or anthologies. A simple word choice, but it elevates the pieces; essays, poems, memoirs and reflections, to the art that they are. 

Because they are art.

The best art depicts life through a unique perspective.

It takes the familiar frame of the world and tilts the camera, showing us the new, the unexpected, and the (yes, we’re back to food) delicious perspective of the artist.

For another reader, with another family history, another hometown, and another skin color, the stories contained in This Is Us might be familiar. A reflection of her life and experiences, a validation of everything she is, has been, and will grow to be.

For me, This Is Us is a tilting point. A changing point for my understanding of the human condition. It details experiences with institutions and individuals that are largely outside my, white girl raised in small-town Texas, frame of reference.

Change isn’t always comfortable.

But art shouldn’t always be comfortable, and change is good.

This Is Us is not just an enjoyable read, it is a necessary book. Necessary for readers of every shade and level. Necessary in the way that eating is- for both sustenance, and for pleasure.

5/5, will read again.

Desc 1

This is Us is a collection of poetry and prose by Black British women and girls aged 4 to 86. With over 100 pieces, the book ties together the lives of women across generations to capture a lifetime of lived experience.

Collected by Kafayat Okanlawon from strangers, acquaintances, friends and family, the stories here are more than words on paper; they are a representation of resistance, freedom and sisterhood.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

45451072. sy475

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT Writedown: Lockdown in the Galloway Glens at the Time of Covid by Margaret Elphinstone et al @marysmithwriter

Today’s team review is from Jenni. She blogs here https://jenniferdebie.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Jenni has been reading Writedown: Lockdown in the Galloway Glens at the Time of Covid by Margaret Elphinstone et al

55980943. sx318

I have to be honest, Writedown 2020, a collection of lockdown accounts from writers in the Galloway Glens, was a difficult read for me.

Not because it is bad, quite the opposite. Each writer is beautifully in touch with both their own experience and the world around them, and expresses themselves with stunning combinations of memoir, anecdote, diary, and poetry.

Nor was it difficult because it is overwhelmingly sad. This is not page after page of building sorrow, loss upon loss piled until is suffocates the reader. Writedown contains melancholy, there is pain from these authors as there was pain for all of us across 2020 and the first ten months of quarantine, but it is not oppressive.

What is pervasive though, what made this such a difficult book for me, was the isolation. In one early chapter, an adult daughter is dropping off groceries to her mum and needs to use the toilet terribly. She frets over whether it was safe for her to enter her mum’s home and pee. She worries that a simple bodily function, a necessity of life and that caving to it might accidentally bring the virus to her loved one.

The daughter does enter the house, she touches nothing until she gets to the bathroom, and carefully wipes down every surface in the bathroom after she finishes, giggling through the door with her mum at the ridiculousness of the situation.

She leaves the house without touching her mum.

In years to come, I pray that the mum and daughter in this story continue to laugh at this moment, at the height of lockdown insanity, when going to the bathroom became dangerous. I hope that the children of the family laugh at the craziness of it for years to come when mum and grandmum decide to tell and re-tell it.

I hope that next time I read Writedown, it doesn’t make me cry, because it’s the missing hug at the end that does it for me. The fact that at the end of this silly little episode, mum doesn’t get to wrap her daughter up and tell her everything will be okay. Instead, mum is left alone in her home, while the daughter returns to “her own family where hugs abound.” 

After months in quarantine, seeing no one but my housemates and my cat, I can feel the weight of missed hugs, both my own and others. The absence of back-slaps, shoulder nudges, high fives and handshakes, cheek kisses and warm hugs aches, and that is why Writedown was hard for me, because instead of transporting this reader out of our bleak reality, it nailed me to it, and I have remind myself to be grateful for that. To savor every second in this world, regardless of how isolated I feel these days.

Writedown is beautiful, at times painful, but always honest. It is a necessary record of an extraordinary year, and every contributor should be proud for the part they have taken in it.

5/5, but brace yourself.

Book description

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

55980943. sx318

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #FamilyDrama BLIND TURN by @CaraAchterberg

Today’s team review is from Jenni, she blogs here https://jenniferdebie.com/the-miscellaneous-drawer-blog/

#RBRT Review Team

Jenni has been reading Blind Turn by Cara Achterberg

55883337. sy475

I suppose this review should start with a disclaimer: I’m a Texan.

Not only am I a Texan, I’m a northeast Texan. I was born and raised roughly 50 miles from the city of Jefferson, where Cara Sue Achterberg’s Blind Turn nominally takes place. This setting is what drew me to her novel in the first place, despite tight family drama’s like this laying way outside my usual genre.

For fellow Texans out there looking for loving descriptions of the historic red brick post office, the Beauty and the Book hair salon, Big Cypress Bayou, or the annual Krewe of Hebe Mardi Gras parades, I’m afraid you will have to look elsewhere. Achterberg’s “Jefferson” is a kind of Anytown USA, rather than specifically Jefferson TX, zip code 75657.   

For me, the weakness of Achterberg’s work can be found in this. In a novel where one of the biggest hurdles is that the entire town turns their backs on the protagonists, the absence of that uniquely Jefferson spice is felt keenly. A weekend jaunt through Jefferson, the B&B and antiquing scenes are fabulous!, or even an afternoon stint on Wikipedia would have helped lend the novel local flavor and enriched the setting and the story immensely. When someone tries so hard to write a generic small town, they lose some of the DNA that makes every small town unique.

That said, there are some universal truths in Achterberg’s novel. Truths like small towns are places were “people mistake proximity for intimacy”, and frequent musings on the “invisible and impossible ways” people’s lives intertwine. There is beauty in these universalities, and in the ways that a mother’s love can transcend even doubt about her child’s innocence, in the redemption and of a flawed father, the generosity of a near-stranger who becomes a part of a family, and the maturing of a teenager.

There is beauty in forgiveness, of the self and of others, and that too lies at the heart of this very human novel full of very human characters.

The great strength in Achterberg’s work lies in this humanity, in the ways she makes her characters stumble and fall as they struggle to grow into themselves. There are no perfect people in this novel, but they’re all trying, and damn do we love to watch them try.

When Jess runs away from home, all of sixteen and crumbling beneath the weight of the world, our hearts run with her. She has been through so much, physically and emotionally, how can we begrudge her this escape?

And when she comes home? When her parents find her and finally realize how much hurt their child has been hiding and they break with the weight of it? How can an empathetic reader not break as well?

Despite the story taking place across several months, Blind Turn is a rapid read. The inciting incident, a horrific car crash that upends everyone’s lives, happens about page three and the punches keep coming from there. Courtroom drama, complicated family dynamics, small-town histrionics, and workplace politics all come into play in Achterberg’s story, just as they do in real life.

And just like in real life, the ending is messy. A man is killed in the opening car crash and there is no un-ringing that bell. Jess, who was driving the car, her parents, who have alternately fallen together, apart, and together-ish again throughout the novel, the dead man’s widow, and the town as a whole all have to learn to live with that. Lines of love and loyalty are tangled, but everyone we care about as readers is working towards better. Working towards being whole.

There’s no riding off into the sunset here, but there is satisfaction in the conclusion both in redemption well earned, and in completing a story well written.

3.75/5 for fellow Texans who see what it could be with a little research.

4/5 for everyone else.

Book description

In the aftermath of a fatal texting and driving accident, a mother and daughter must come to terms with the real meaning of forgiveness.

Liz Johnson single-handedly raised an exemplary daughter. Jessica is an honor-student, track star, and all-around good kid. So how could that same teenager be responsible for the death of the high school’s beloved football coach? This is Texas, where high school football ranks right up there with God, so while the legal battle wages, the public deals its own verdict.

Desperate for help, Liz turns to a lawyer whose affection she once rejected and attempts to play nice with her ex-husband. Jessica faces her angry peers and her own demons as she awaits a possible prison sentence for an accident she doesn’t remember.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

55883337. sy475