Categories
HM On Writing

New Reviews

JG MacLeod, Abalone

Domestic Violence with a Vengeance

Liz is a reticent and shy girl who manages to be a good student regardless of her difficult home life.  James is an older boy with apparent learning difficulties. Possibly, his problems are down to a lack of interest in getting an education as he seems reckless rather than stupid. Liz’s English teacher suggests that she should help James to graduate. These are the premises for JG MacLeod’s cautionary tale. What strikes me as strange is that a teacher is the one who, albeit unintentionally, pushes Liz into the arms of her abuser. It is hard to envisage that a teacher would have so little insight into a troubled youngster. Nevertheless, Liz, who already has a young girl crush on James agrees to help him. They soon become sweethearts and from there the story develops into a nightmare for Liz. She gives up school to follow James to the south, but they stop over in a small town and settle there for an unspecified period.

MacLeod is an accomplished author and brings her message across in vivid scenes between Liz and James. There is a large cast of supporting actors, from Liz’ hapless father and James’ abusive mother to school friends, notably Liz’ best friend Jan, and Liz’ would-be sweetheart, named Cortyn. Add to the mix James’ brother Peter who suffers from Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. Later a prospective saviour turns up, a cowboy clad entrepreneur, Martyn.

MacLeod shows a deep insight into the mechanisms that instigates Domestic Violence. She shows the danger signs and points out how easy it is for a young and insecure girl to get inveigled into an abusive relationship. She shows that without a safety net in the shape of a loving family, this type of girl may have little chance of avoiding her fate.

David W Thompson, Sister Witch: The Life of Moll Dyer

Human Spite and Violence Bring Madness.

Moll Dyer and her family leave for England, hoping to prosper. There they face hardship and intolerance, as Irish nationals and Catholics. Things get worse for Moll, as she gets raped – and defends herself. Left pregnant, her family gives her the choice of going back to Ireland to live with an aunt, or to follow her uncle Sean to Maryland. Both she and Uncle Sean have become outcasts but leaving for the colony gives them hope to forge a new life. Sea travel is no pleasure trip in the 17th Century, and the travellers experience both stormy and becalmed seas. A newlywed couple befriends Moll, and she helps the young woman, Beth, with her troublesome pregnancy. Still, the journey ends disastrously for Beth and through her, for her husband Gideon.

On the arrival in the virginal world of Maryland, it looks like Sean and Moll will create a better existence for themselves. Society accepts them, and they settle down to farm the land. They get to know and love several indigenes. This idyll doesn’t last long and rumours about Moll’s presumed witchcraft.

Written in the first person – Moll’s voice – Sister Witch touches many themes from slavery to witchcraft, and from fear of outsiders, to hate and spite. This is a masterly executed piece of historical fiction. Thompson studies the living circumstances, intolerance, religion (aboriginal as well as Christian). He points out how easily people become a mob and how love and tolerance can be found only with open eyes and hearts. Thompson explores women’s situation, early medicine and how easily that could be misunderstood in a society that fears the supernatural. The characters, especially Moll, are vivid and convincing. It springs to mind that the ultimate sacrifice is a motivating theme for the entire novel.

Eric Wilder, Sisters of the Mist

Paranormal Crime Thriller

Wyatt wakes in the middle of the night. Taking a breath of air on his balcony, he observes the New Orleans mist enveloping the streets. There he has a vision of his lost love at a ghostly parade of limousines trailing a hearse. That beginning sets the scene for a quest to seek and save her. Halloween is coming and monsters abound on his way to his goal. Along with Wyatt’s quest to save his beloved is a subplot that pivots around a racehorse, a mob boss, his beautiful daughter, and the two PIs who pursue the stolen horse.

Sisters of the Mist is slick, professionally written, full of mist and Spanish moss. There are visions and ogres and swamp monsters – beautiful women, vampires, prostitutes, and stalwart men. The numerous characters are painted in vivid colours. The Honey Island Swamp plays a huge role in the plot, also as a highway to a parallel world. It was a pleasure to see how the witch’s hut located in the swamp, as well as the ghostly castle that appeared later, established Wilder’s penchant for description.  Finally, I’d like to add that it proves an author’s merit to read a random part of a series and find that you can follow the plot and ‘organize’ the cast without trouble. Also, there was no obvious hook at the end – and that makes or breaks a story for me.

Parris Afton Bonds, The Brigands

The Texan/Texican Uprising – a Historical Romance

Old Mexico is in uproar. Many factions want to create new states, and the upheaval attracts fortune hunters en masse. Among them are two men, an English lord (Alex Paladin), and an Irish traveller (Niall Gorman). Both are involved in the ‘Texican’ movement for independence. Two women also arrive on the scene, Rafaela is to marry the English lord, as her rich father wants a title. In other words, Rafaela is a bartered bride, and it isn’t something to please her. Fiona is a feisty Irish girl, who hopes to gain land where she can live and prosper.

This is the premise for a romantic and dramatic tale that mixes up every cast member’s ideas of what they want to do with their lives.

What struck me was the shamrock locket that turned into a four-leaf clover locket.

Page 35: ‘Unconsciously, her fingers clutched her necklace’s shamrock locket that she considered, if somewhat foolishly, her good luck charm.’

Afton Bonds, Parris. The Brigands (The Texicans Book 1) (pp. 35-36). Lagan Press. Kindle Edition.

Page 40, 68, 112, 209, the same locket is described as a four-leaf-clover. EG: ‘That shade was probably as fake a color as her four-leaf clover locket was cheap.’

Afton Bonds, Parris. The Brigands (The Texicans Book 1) (p. 40). Lagan Press. Kindle Edition.

Also, that Fiona could see Rafaela’s narrow hips through an 1835 garment struck me as extraordinary. I can believe the wide shoulders – provided she wore mutton sleeves, which would fit the period. Even without hoops, the skirts were voluminous, and corsets did their part in reshaping the female figure. By the way, the bustle didn’t become fashionable until the early 1870s. Last, another detail in Rafaela’s outfit doesn’t gel. She wears a man’s hat. A beaver hat is a top hat worn by men – in 1835, women wore bonnets. 

‘The girl was inordinately tall, wide of shoulder, and narrow of hip, so long as one ignored her jutting bustle. Her light brown hair whipped free of her fashionable beaver hat and momentarily veiled her pale features.’

Afton Bonds, Parris. The Brigands (The Texicans Book 1) (p. 22). Lagan Press. Kindle Edition.

That aside, this was an engaging and absorbing read. The vivid descriptions plant the reader in the middle of the action. There are twists and turns to surprise even the most inexhaustible reader. The male arch-villain turns out to have some human qualities and becomes likeable in due course. It is refreshing that Fiona and Rafaela aren’t conventional beauties. Both seek independence, and that is another unusual trait in a historical romance. Ms Bonds delivers an insightful and (partly – see above) well-researched historical novel, with engaging and believable characters.

Michelle Kidd, Timeless Moments

Time Travel, 1917 – 1967 – 2014

Three plots, three periods, three separate fates — or are they? Several mysteries surround Jack, Jewel, Jane Doe (Janie), and Hunsdon. Letters can help or betray the writers and settle the doom or rescue of one protagonist. There are secrets to unveil and pain to suffer for every character in this time travel cosmos, which is our normal world in three epochs. For me, it was somewhat difficult to recognize the various periods. There were no distinct features to latch onto. In my opinion, it would have helped to be confronted with more historical detail, but I recognise that there is a difficulty in fitting in much of this in a book that concentrates on the inner qualities and the circumstances pertaining to each character. Alternatively, one might have added more details regarding clothing or speech.

That aside, Timeless Moments is an absorbing read, with clear-cut characters and a fantasy-driven story. 

Beth Hildenbrand, The Path of Temptation

Poetry of Innocence, Temptation, Fall, and Resurgence

Short poems can say a lot. There is a Haiku-like singularity and a daring in Beth Hildenbrand’s poems. They are stark and painful, but still uplifting. Each section is illustrated with a picture, female in form, except the last that portrays the Phoenix rising. Beth Hildenbrand’s message is simple but profound. We are all innocent until we fall – and it is up to us to rise again.

Minette Meador, The Centurion and the Queen

A Sword and Sandals, 60 AD British-Roman Episode

Delia is the sister of the Celtic King Conall, but still a queen in her own right. Marius is a Centurion, in British exile because of his suspected involvement in the assassination of Caligula. His second, Leonius, evolves into an adversary to handle with care. We are in the period when Queen Boudicca rose and almost defeated the Roman power.

The plot concentrates on two parts, the love story between would-be foes, and the uprising of, and fight against the Celts. Marius and Celia can’t suppress their attraction – and in that this plot reminds me of Bellini’s opera, Norma, as well as Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Avalon Series, notably The Forests of Avalon. All in all, the plot works for me, there is drama, insurrection, humour, blood and gore, heart-wrenching romance, and pain.

Meador’s research is meticulous, and that’s why one issue sticks out like a sore thumb. What possessed her to use the title ‘sir’? The correct title to assign Marius would be Primus Pilus, probably Primus addressing him. After all, ‘Sir’ wasn’t used until the thirteenth Century (around 1294). Otherwise, an engaging and captivating read. Raw and violent, dark, but romantic.

Jennie Ensor, Not Having it All

Satirical Comedy – Marital Frustration – Friendships in Various Guises.

Bea and Kurt have it all, or have they? Both have demanding jobs. Their love life has retained its spark. They have a 4-year-old daughter, Fran, who misbehaves without being able to explain why – and an au-pair, Katie. She develops a strong animosity against the child in her charge.

Bea’s friend, Maddie, has exceedingly little. She is a would-be junk artist with two cats and a longing to get a child. Colin faces redundancy and takes unusual measures to deal with it. His search for love has never brought him much good.

Jennie Ensor takes these components and creates a vaudeville, a laugh-out-loud but serious take on today’s society. Misunderstandings, communication failures, secret surveillance, and hidden cameras bring everybody close to despair. Everybody mistrusts everybody with hilarious results. Ensor handles the multiple point of view through secret dairies, email conversations, the assessment of Maddie by her psychologist, and the au-pair’s candid comments written in her pidgin-English hand.

For Ensor, this is a deviation from her usual writing style, and she handles it with aplomb.

©HMH, 2021

Categories
HM Poetry

Triad

Maid

You see me now in youth and glory

You see me fresh and free of worry

Will future bliss be my ascension,

Or will my life just give me friction?

I stand here on the threshold wary

But who can say that life will tarry?

No, I must wait and pray and please

To find a friend, to live in ease

Mother

To each his own, and thus flows life through gentle vessel

Casket, critic, savage guardian, still gives quiet space to nestle

Gentle mirror of tradition, tutor too to help awaken

Triad’s triad ne’er forsaken

Ugly, Old, or poor and sickly, I can notably inspire

Young in beauty – rich in power, without reason, wouldn’t tire 

Secrets shelter, secrets darken, secrets wither and conspire

Still, the circle has no ending – giving life but to expire

Matron

Now, looking back what did I hope for?

Now, all my life what did I grope for?

My life is blank,

My words are frank:

I did my share

But found no care

Now, what is left is an enigma

And still my age remains my stigma

Ye maids and mothers please beware

To set you right I must declare

That youth and age cannot compare

The end may force you to despair

Thank you Debi Ennis Binder for the inspiration for this poem. The middle part (Mother) I wrote in answer to a challenge she set me — re a riddle in her WIP.

© HMH, 2021

Categories
HM Paintings

Still-life with Chrysanthemum

This is my last flower picture – and the last in the series of cherished paintings from my childhood. I remember that we had a vase exactly like the one in the painting but don’t know where it is now. It was rather small but might have been a European copy of an Imari vase. This is another of the paintings that I found in the attic. I had it framed while living in England.

© HMH, 2021

Categories
HM Stray Toughts

A Crazy World?

Some years ago, I purchased a keyboard for one of the ancestors of the smartphone. Recently, I ordered a reserve ‘hand’ to hold my phone and kindle. I also have a drawing tablet to use as an alternative for my mouse. Why? The strain of working with a mouse, typing on a small screen, and clicking on links got too much for my hands, shoulders, and arms. To think that it needs to be so complicated. Yet, handwriting strains as much if you write a lot. Imagine all the letters it would take to keep up with online acquaintances – and add the work one puts into a book. My shoulders would be permanently attached to my ears if my only option were handwriting.

Was it easier in the days of the first typing machines? Clearly, social networks and the entire networking philosophy have changed the way we live. Would we want to change it back? My answer would be a resounding NO. We live and fit into the circumstances our society offers – and it is good so.

We can discuss the environmental impact on the world we live in until we are blue in our heads, but we still have little influence on innovations. Sometimes, it feels as if every development necessitates another, and we, the humans, stand by with no power to change what we call progress. Did people ever influence the world? We seem to float along a stream, never knowing where it will take us. Then we talk of destiny or fate and wash our hands. Still, one person against the world never makes for much of a change. Of course, we can always fall back on that story of the woodchopper who became president of the United States.

There will always be solitary voices that have an impact – for better or for worse.

Don’t forget that some of those solitary voices have brought war and misery rather than good to the nations. Having said that, it is still true that we can take baby steps towards a better world. How? Through our way to tackle the world. Through our words and convictions. We can create an impact in our sphere of influence, but if we don’t all pull in the same direction at the same time our efforts won’t leave more than scratches on the surface. There is much to be said for our modern world – but the negative impact that our way of living causes may well outweigh the good parts. Maybe it has always been this way. History certainly comes across as a series of blunders that got repaired, sometimes less than adequately. Still, if we don’t dare to hope and, buoyed up by such hopes, act, we will fail.

How can we avoid facing that we live in a complex world and that platitudes won’t cut it in the big picture?

Alone, we don’t amount to much. We need solidarity but, more than that, we need a consensus about what we want from the world, and what we will give to achieve our goals. Life will always remain an enigma – but we have a right and a duty to make the best of every day. Who said that life was going to be easy told a lie.

© HMH, 2021

Categories
HM Poetry

Falling in Love

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Blissful state that tumbles kingdoms

Frees the wary from their phantoms

When the naughty boy of misrule

Fires arrows wild and cruel:

Every hit can start rebellions

Bring on unrestrained illusions,

Landscapes razed by fierce accension

Just to gain that sad attention.

Once achieved the game is up

Blindfold lad has drained his cup

Lost his interest, moved askance

Searching for his next big chance

Young or old is no great matter:

One becomes mad as a hatter

Others shrug the arrows off

Grin and bear it, do not scoff.

Everything remains a choice

Nothing, reason to rejoice.

Go the distance if you dare

Sure, the chubby wouldn’t care

Easy come maybe, or go

Love at random: ever so

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From Aspects of Attraction

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© HMH, 2014

Categories
HM Paintings

Chrysanthemum

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Somebody in my household must have had a penchant flower-paintings: my third childhood painting instalment is a lovely rendition of golden chrysanthemums in a vase. This may not have been my parent’s style though, because I found some of the best flower paintings in the attic. This is one of them. The frame is the original one and had to be carefully restored. Curiously, the frame was made of gypsum and the restoration may not keep for more than ten years. I’m keeping an eye on it. . .

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© HMH, 2021

Categories
HM On Writing

A Good review?

What is a good review? It is helpful. It is fair. It is honest. It isn’t venomous, or destructive.

All authors experience negative reviews, and that is all right. We can’t expect to please everybody. Naturally, there are various approaches to reviewing, and that leaves us with a few questions. What is a ‘bad’ assessment? And what is a ‘good’ appraisal?

All authors and readers probably have their own ideas of what should go into a review. Some think that so-called spoilers will ruin a book, but to me that depends on the book. If it is a crime thriller, obviously, it would be wrong to reveal the killer or the perpetrator. On the other hand, in literary and or speculative fiction it matters less – especially if the plot is less in focus than the characters.

In my reviews, I aim to give an idea of what the readers can expect, not necessarily giving a plot outline but, maybe mentioning elements that struck me as important. To me, it also seems important to give an impression of the atmosphere and use of language that the author applies to bring the book to life. I find it interesting to analyse the characters and how they develop through the plot or their circumstances.

Reviews don’t need to be long, but it is fine to mention issues that stuck the reviewer as especially apt, or especially unlucky. If we aren’t honest in our analysis, our description of the experience, reading a book – why write about it at all? If there are some mistakes in research or some issues with grammar or typos, the reviewer must be careful about how to approach these problems. In my opinion it isn’t all right to say that a book needs editing without stating why. Use examples – or don’t mention the issue at all. This isn’t about anything but fairness. If one writes a review in which one throws about negativity without underlining it with examples, it stops being fair.

Is it better to contact the author privately with critique? Some reviewers think so, but that would stop their review activity if they don’t know the author personally.

So, should we refrain from pointing out mistakes in a review? No. We can do it – but be gentle about it. If a book appears too ineptly written, it may be better to drop it, and leave the author in ignorant bliss. . .

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© HMH, 2021

Categories
HM Poetry

Musical Birds

Violin drills emerge from the trees

But nobody glimpses a fiddler, a source:

Blackbirds can emulate any one sound

They relish a challenge for fingers or throat.

The robin however, his red breast afire

Sings harmony, filled with enchantment, desire

His voice trills and ululates; he measures invention

Forms pictures of bliss while he waits for his cue

Both birds are such artists of musical skill.

We rarely can match them

Their gift or their flair has style and panache

Primeval and deep, full of beauty and nerve

Their offerings echo in ear and in mind

Give challenge or discord

But mostly delight

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© HMH 2013

Categories
HM Paintings

Irises

The second painting from my childhood home is a flower painting. There is no signature, but it doesn’t really matter. This is a beautiful painting that I’ve loved for a long time. It had an accident Many years ago – a boy was playing ball in the corridor where the picture hang – and the ball hit it. It lived on for a while in this decrepit state. Then I decided to do the only possible thing to save it, cutting off the damaged part. Maybe it improved the painting as the focus is strong on the flowers now.

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© HMH, 2021

Categories
HM On Writing

My First Reviews 2021

SS Bazinet, Dying Takes it out of You

A deadly Virus

A deathly disease that turns its victims into monsters. Two brothers, single-cell twins that are in a way mirror images of one another. One is a scientist the other an artist. Their names are aptly chosen, Milton and Dory, which name gave me associations to Gustave Doré, the artist that brought Milton’s Paradise Lost to life.

Dory has contracted the illness that turns people into a mixture of vampire and rabies victims. Milton fights to find a cure. Their history is fraught with conflict, not the usual sibling rivalry, but a conflict between Dory and their father, who saw the younger twin (Dory) as a head case. Add to the mixture a mysterious character, Thomas, who might be an angel. That was my immediate reaction.

This triad of archetypes combines in a mind-reading feat that takes the reader through lucid dreams and swivelling nightmares, in a setting that shows us our deepest fears and highest hopes. This is dystopian fantasy on a high level, as one would expect from SS Bazinet. Seen through the times of the Coronavirus, there is something visionary about the scenario – the deathly virus and the insanity that grabs people in a frenzy when confronted with a plague. Bazinet has created a dance macabre – a memento mori – for her readers.

Two Brothers, Dory, and Milton

John Milton Paradise lost – of Satan, and the host of fallen angels warring the righteous angels, of Adam and Eve.

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SL Baron, Blood Ties

Vampires Mourn

Militancy is at the core of this daunting Vampire Tale that follows Vanilla Blood. SL Baron keeps up the hedonistic aspect of vampirism, notably the various blood tastes, but the odds are harder. Bridget, an elder vampire must deal with the loss of her beloved Sébastien who gets shot in a terrorist attack in Paris.

As a result, the united vampires stand up together to fight against terrorism. All of them come together and, although they must face old foes, they join their efforts to prevent further unnecessary and tragic deaths.

We meet The Children of the Night, Livia, her lover Lucian, and her daughter Cassie Lynn in this stirring novel that tackles a difficult reality that concerns every human being. It is impressive that SL Baron manages to keep her writing light and entertaining without losing sight of the hard facts of modern life.  

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Uvi Poznansky, Apart from War

Three in One

The Music of Us/Dancing with Air/Marriage before Death

It wasn’t difficult to step into the third part of Still Life with Memories – in fact – it didn’t occur to me that this wasn’t the first book of a series. Apart from War can be read as a coherent trilogy. That speaks loudly about Uvi Poznansky’s writing acumen.

The love story between the two protagonists, Lenny and Natasha is heart-breaking and profound, although Natasha’s proverbial Jewish Mama brings in comic relief and sometimes some darker notes.

What stroke me most in these books – apart from the flowing prose and immaculate historical research were the strange music choices. I asked myself if they might be a symbol of the innate trouble in the relationship between Natasha and Lenny? Could it be a symbol of Natasha’s oncoming Alzheimer’s? Or was it a matter of little musical knowledge?  One thing is clear, all or several song lyrics have been changed. Sometimes the change is subtle, like in The White Cliffs of Dover. In others, it is blatant, like changing the nightingale in Berkeley Square from singing to silence. In another song, what sprang to mind was that Vera Lynn never doubted that we’d meet again. I could go on, Night and Day, changed to Dark and Light. So, in Make it one for my Baby and One more for the Road, the baby suddenly became heartbreak and the long road – love. That is not all.

In Natasha’s first concert appearance in these books, she is part of a camp event – a musical entertainment for the troupes. She is scheduled to play Rachmaninov’s third piano concerto – without an orchestra? Wisely, she changes her mind and plays God Bless America. By the way, that is a major shift. Her second concert, which takes place in Carnegie Hall is dedicated to Mozart’s Requiem. I can understand the symbolic value of using a requiem (which involves an orchestra, a choir, and four soloists) as Natasha’s program. She certainly explains that her father transcribed it for four-hand piano. While there is a four-hand transcription by Carl Czerny, I find it hard to imagine that feat boiled down to two hands – without losing some substance. Why doesn’t Natasha play anything that is written for piano? In my mind, it must be a choice, deliberately made. Would I have done this? Perhaps – and then again perhaps not.

All that aside, Apart from War presented an absorbing world to dive into for any thoughtful reader.

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Susan Finlay The Secret Town (Project Chameleon)

Chilling Instalment in Project Chameleon

Claire and Steve have barely made it out of France after the kidnapping of their youngest child. They are in Holland – and have no idea where to go next. A friend seems to have the solution: a secret town in the US.

At first, everything seems idyllic, but impressions can deceive. After a few weeks, the nightmare starts again. The family pulls together and finds friends in unexpected places.

Ms Finlay works her suspense and makes the reader doubt everybody. Her writing flows, and the characters are lifelike – showing their fear and doubt and – eventually – disgust with their situation. Through twists and turns, Ms Finlay pulls her readers into the story and make them share the angst of her protagonists. In this part of Project Chameleon, we are on the edge between a cosy mystery and a thriller. Any fan of mysteries will enjoy The Secret Town.

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Penny Hampson, An Officer’s Vow

Regency Drama with a Plucky Heroine

Lottie flees her obnoxious cousin. Nate Crawford is on his way home after being wounded in battle. Lottie is on the run, from an unwanted suitor. Nate believes that his life is at an end because of his crippling injury. They meet – and their tale begins.

In this regency drama, Ms Hampson pulls all stops and throws in Lottie’s friend Harriet Spencer, French spies, a duke, his friend and secretary, the leader of a bawdy house, as well as various people serving the main characters as maids, innkeepers etc.

An Officer’s Vow throws a different light on the regency period than the books by Jane Austen that concentrate on character development. Here the reader will find tumult and erotic entanglements, all presented in pleasant prose that is easily read. All in all, this escapist confection that is ripe with romance and imbroglios will delight lovers of Regency romance.

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Eva Pasco, Underlying Notes

Perfume and Music Play on All Your Senses

Landing inside Carla Matteo’s head as she is in the throes of night sweats, the reader immediately enters the action in Underlying Notes. What kind of life is it? On the surface, it’s a simple life. Carla is married to Joe and has been his true helpmate for years. Underneath there are all sorts of disturbing factors, which is mostly the case for married people. Is it fair to speak of a midlife crisis? Perhaps even mention a marital crisis?

Joe may or may not have extramarital activities, and Carla has made career choices that she may or may not regret. Add to that a cast of Italian family members – possible mob connections – former and current friends, Italian food, and music, spanning from the 1812 Overture, over The Hollies and The Beetles, to Andrea Bocelli and Italian schmalz. In this way, Ms Pasco confronts her readers with a many-faceted, fragrance rich environment.

On top of it all, resides Carla’s love for perfume. It is her refuge and passion, as well as something she has investigated for years, notably on a website for fragrance aficionados. Thus, a new career opportunity surfaces but dwindles as fast, due to a stuck Amtrak train and a long taxi ride.

Below and above there is food, fragrance, unbridled marital lovemaking, and music to heighten the senses. In Ms Pasco’s flowing prose, and through her insight into human nature, this becomes a mesmerizing tale about humanity.

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Debi Ennis Binder, Dragon Rings

Epic Saga Taking Place in the Fantasy Realm Nesht

The kingdom of Nesht is ripe for attack. Blue humans of a vile disposition have subdued dragons and enticed slavering beasts to assist their assault. In Nesht, the attack comes unexpectedly. Will the king and his retainers, including high witches and warlords succeed in defending the vulnerable kingdom?

Ms Binder has chosen to write her saga in third person omniscient and that gives her the option of moving between the character viewpoint at will. It fits the genre; Binder has a tale to tell. It is dramatic and there are plenty of twists to keep the readers’ interest.

My only objection to her writing style is the use of the word ‘f**king’, which seems an uneasy fit. This word only appears in speeches when the characters are in heightened emotional situations. My problem with the usage is that it doesn’t work. Why? It sticks out like a sore thumb because the dialogue is otherwise polished. Also, it seems unlikely that the characters using this word wouldn’t as they have an inherent connection to their sexuality. In my opinion, it might have worked better either to leave this word out as being redundant or to coin a forceful expression to convey the character’s distress or anger.

Dragon Rings is an epic tale with gruesome monsters, humane dragons, formidable witches, notably the high witch, Mayra ara’Ferren. She gets assistance from likely as well as unlikely corners. Still, betrayal, treason, and selfishness endanger everybody. Ms Binder creates gruesome war scenes, romance, and (unlikely) friendships. She builds a world of magnificent landscapes, castles, gardens, and wonderful libraries. All in all, this is an entertaining and exhilarating read that will attract lovers of fantasy. There are philosophical aspects for literary connoisseurs, but first and foremost, this is a sprawling fantasy, which has a clear-cut ending but also the potential for a continuation.

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Kevin Ansbro, Kinnara

Modern Time Fantasy

A chilling start. Three strains twisted around one another although taking place in three distinct corners of the world. Norwich, Kaiserslautern, Phuket. Hannah and Callum who are schoolfriends fated to fall in love, a quirky parental quartet, The Kinnara – part human and part swan – who is condemned to spend his life immobile in the Andaman Sea. An insane serial killer. Oriental heat and fragrance. Murky Germany. Upright – or downright Norwich. These are the elements of Ansbro’s Time bending fantasy in which the multiple points of view take the reader effortlessly from character to character and from country to country.

It is hard to say where Ansbro’s writing excels more – in the violence of the killer or in the fabulous ocean images that he presents. One thing is clear – this is a master at his art. The characters are vivid – from the young lovers to the Thai guy who befriends Callum – and from the serial killer (who will chill the reader to his or her bones) to the Kinnara, around whom the entire plot pivots.

Ansbro has a penchant for describing anything, from the Boxing day tsunami over the featureless Kaiserslautern area to the quirky Norwich family life, in a way that captures the readers’ imagination and takes her or him on the magic carpet flight of his inspiration.

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©HMH, 2021