To continue my miniseries of Steen Espersen’s art, my choice falls on a quirky bird. Steen had considerable humour and showed it in a series of birds. They were ‘portraits’ or caricatures of musician friends. He presented me with this, shortly after I’d joined the Group of Alternative Music, a group of mad musicians that investigated contemporary music and experimented with flux and improvisation. The group included several Danish composers. The concerts often took place in unusual venues, from boats and harbours to art galleries and the odd decommissioned church.
SS Bazinet, Open Wide My Heart Book 1, Traces of Home
Escaping Your Past Can Prove Impossible – But Can Also Be A Healing Journey.
Open wide my heart is a romance. It’s also an unusual and rousing tale of fear, violence, and how humans overcome unmeasurable challenges.
In the brooding prelude, Lea, the protagonist flees an abusive relationship, or her tortured past, only to be involved in a car crash and losing her memory. The driver, who’s a doctor takes her into his and his mother’s home. From there, Lea must find out who she is, and her journey influences everybody around her, including her own family and her fiancé, her doctor, his mother, and a psychiatrist.
SS Bazinet sets the scene and lets the characters work out their darkest fears, their secrets, and their loves. Her kaleidoscopic narrative is written in beautiful prose, one of the characteristics of her authorship. Open Wide My Heart is the first in a series, and that leaves me wondering what darkness will appear in the following instalments. Highly recommended.
JT Atkinson, Amongst Demons
Horror, Demons, Gay, Guilt, Darkness
The Darkness Within Triggers Despair
Amongst Demons is a ride on a horror rollercoaster. You don’t know if the demons are real or just a projection of guilt. Whose guilt? That remains to be seen. As a reader, you feel the hairs on your back rise: the half-world between the walls and under the floor carries you along. Is the dilapidated hospital part of a fantasy, is the funfair real or a projection of inner fears? The protagonist torments himself and you suffer with him. Be prepared to visit the deepest, darkest secrets that an individual can endure. JT Atkinson keeps the reader in suspense with a masterly plot.
Blue Lucy Revelation is an excellent read. Solid and inventive. The characters are convincing, likeable, and individual. My favourites are Puzzle and Liinka, both flamboyant and sophisticated. Another notable character is the remarkable baddy (his presence is confined to one scene) who gets hit and dies giving the reader an insight into his universe and personality. He, like everybody else, strives for what he thinks is right. That is a significant point. Who is to tell what’s right or wrong in a world that is far from faultless? At the end of the day, Blue Lucy is a moral tale that points out human flaws and how to remedy them. Greed and avarice don’t cut any ice with Tiffee Jasso. The storyline is full of surprises and keeps the reader guessing from start to end. Jasso holds together a huge cast of characters and gives each person in the gallery its distinction. There are love stories hidden at every corner, which adds to the humanity of even the aliens. What can I say? It is well worth it to dive into this version of earth, placed somewhere in our – relatively – near future.
Mark Carnelley, The Time Detective
An uncommon Killer, A Remarkable Detective
The Time Detective has a surprising concept. Meet a serial killer, a murderer with a gruesome penchant for numbers as well as a total lack of empathy. Obviously, that lack is a necessity if you want to operate on living and feeling humans only allowing them to die in the greatest agony. Meet his strongest opponent, an attractive protagonist who has some humanitarian grey zones. Both stumble across a wormhole that has its destination in the nineteen-fifties. Nobody else blunders into the past, but that could be because of the care both the protagonist and the antagonist take to be unobserved when entering the parallel world. The time warp gives both the murderer and the ‘time detective’, our protagonist, the opportunities they want. The killer uses his find to attempt to hide his crimes. The criminal investigator gets more than one use of his discovery. Apart from achieving the ability to solve the present crimes, he sees his chance to set things right in the past, which will influence many lives, without making damaging changes to the present. In a way, the ‘time detective’ creates his parallel world and uses it for all it is worth. Carnelley’s prose makes you accept the bizarre happenings and gory violence. The narrative captivated me.
Annie Whitehead, Alvar the Kingmaker
Historical fiction – At Its Best
Broad brush sweeps – a tapestry of long-forgotten times. AW’s message is that only humanity counts. The central figure attracts love and hate in equal measures through his humanity and sanity. Alvar the Kingmaker is a vivid and insightful read. A panorama of ancient times in the slowly uniting kingdom of England. Anglo Saxon heroes and power greedy clerics vie for the control of the land and the king. Strong female characters live and love without asking if they’ll win or lose. Political manoeuvring, greed, envy, and tragedies are part and parcel of the web on AW’s narrative loom. Highly recommended
Joy Ross Davies, The Witch of Blacklion
Enjoyable Paranormal Romance
Fear of Witches and folklore can mar any existence. The Witch of Blacklion is a piece of skilful writing. There is a sprawling gallery of characters to get to know. How many couples? The first one that springs to mind is the farmer and his artist wife. Number two is the doctor and his neurotic but beautiful wife. There’s the doctor’s wife’s mother (who turns out to be a designer – out of love and talent) and a bed & breakfast host. Even the angel and the shapeshifter form a relationship. Those are the main characters — and come across as likeable. Regarding drama the Lusitania and the missile springs to mind. There’s the fear of witches and the attraction to angels. Angels and Shapeshifters can fall in love with one another. People may find it difficult to cope with traumas of any kind, but love conquers all. The book isn’t especially long. There are all the gorgeous clothes. When have I encountered this many exquisite frocks? It works – and fits the genre.
A postapocalyptic scenario. A small group of survivors. Among them a girl, Amy. It doesn’t take long for you to realise that she has a past, young as she is. What that is, and what it means for her future is the mainstay in this plot. Around her, you find believable, vivid characters, human and robotic. The bots are divided between those who aim to kill all humans and those who need them. Travis Borne takes you for a sci-fi rollercoaster ride of epic dimensions. Lenders is long, and it’s violent on so many different levels. The violence has a reason, which will be revealed, but it may not be the ultimate solution. This is up to the reader to find out.
Mr Borne has insight into the current development of artificial intelligence. In his writing, he poses an important question about the danger of playing with something that can easily get out of control. No doubt, he knows about Occam’s razor, the lex parsimoniae (the law of parsimony) and uses it to point out the dangers of creating an autonomous entity, vide the artificial human. Frankenstein’s creature laughs softly in the background. Highly recommended.
Millie Thom, Pit of Vipers
A Worthy Sequel to Shadow of the Raven
York, Wessex, and Anglia beleaguered by the Danes. Eadwulf can’t forget his beloved but settles for marriage. His thirst for vengeance is not slaked, but he hasn’t much luck with his endeavours. The sequel to Shadow of the Raven follows several of the already known characters but especially focuses on Alfred (the Great). His personality develops as he grows up and must follow his brother Aethelred on the throne. The Danes mostly appear as land-greedy raiders. Their brutality is legendary, but the British match their bloodlust. Millie Thom’s writing is as compelling as in the first volume. The ending is abrupt – explosive and makes clear that there’s more to come. This is a series well worth following.
Today, my picture isn’t my painting. It’s a treasured possession, painted by a talented artist friend. Sadly, he died far too early, and his art may already be forgotten in his native Denmark. I want to pay homage to a friend, and an inspiration. A generous person, who lost his life, teaching recovering narcomaniacs to work with colours and fabric. In a shop set up by the GP, who treated my friend’s students and co-workers, Steen contracted the illness that eventually killed him.
The Covid-19 virus spreads. It can perhaps only be seen as nature’s attack on humanity. This has happened before with plague, cholera, diphtheria, and poliomyelitis. Now the time has come to see what coronavirus, Covid-19 can do.
In between, there have been other strange attempts at wiping out humankind, like Ebola, mad cow disease, bird flu, H1N1 Swine flu, and the pre-Covid-19 viruses like SARS and MERS.
The force with which nature attacks is nothing less than astounding. Will nature succeed this time? If the virus continues to mutate so quickly and so often as it has done so far – we may not have much of a chance. Maybe the only hope is to build natural immunity. What do I know, not being a health worker or a virus researcher? Is it possible that we face a global killer?
Supposedly, there are too many who survive the current strains. On the other hand, it seems that the deaths come in bouts. Looking at the statistics, it takes a long time to recover. Unless you’re one of the lucky ones that hardly notice that you have been infected.
Is it possible that we humans are our own worst enemy? Could it be that humankind’s destruction of biodiversity that creates the conditions for new viruses and diseases? If so, what are we coming to?
It appears that a new discipline, planetary health, recently emerged. It focuses on the increasingly visible connections between the wellbeing of humans, other living things and entire ecosystems. Food for thought. What can we learn from the past – and how can we prevent a global killer? There are no easy answers. It’s a funny sobriquet though. We call it a global killer although it kills people. Maybe the rest of nature’s wonders, from trees to flowers, and animals of all sorts are better off without human beings. Who knows, once the worst menace (read civilisation) is gone, the world will recover and return to a pre-historic balance? After all, we humans have done a lot to reduce natural diversity.
Should the world recover, we may even have a chance to come back, better equipped to live and – let live.
In these difficult times, it seems more
important to keep a positive outlook. Hence, a small reminder that, although nature
is up in arms against humanity at present, flowers will still grow and delight
The picture today is a miniature, but I hope it says it all.
Figuring out what’s the matter with life
takes too long and it doesn’t help get you anywhere. It’s better to concentrate
on important issues. Everybody has their own dreams and goals. To me it’s writing
my books, singing my songs, teaching, and everything that brings a smile to my
lips. Yes, there are enough reasons to be content, sometimes even happy. After
all, life is a gift to celebrate.
When the food is good and well prepared, there’s reason to rejoice. When new flowers break the ground, often in the most unexpected places, our bad mood can change for something better. When the sun shines, we get a different outlook. When it’s warm and almost feels like spring, we get courage to do what we must. Then the sun gets past the clouds, and life becomes valuable.
Sure, there are enough reasons to be sad or
afraid. Still, if we succumb to that, what is there to live for? That’s it.
Life is too important for squandering on worry and desolation.
Grieving is another issue. There’s no way around
that, but we only grieve if we’ve lost something that meant a lot. After all, we
don’t mourn for small annoyances.
In other words, there’s much in life that
is worthwhile. There’s much to be grateful for, and much to applaud. Never
Is it time for celebrating life? It might
well be. So many people only see the negative side to everything and lead
miserable lives. What a waste.
If you make every flower you see count, if
you celebrate the little joys, don’t wonder if the great joys come to stay.
It’s up to you. Do you want to be miserable or do you want to see every day as
a blessing? The choice is always there. It’s too easy to sink into misery. It
can be tempting when the unpaid bills grow over your head, or when everyday
difficulties confront you at every corner. That’s when you must stop and ask
yourself what you want from life – and what you’re prepared to invest. Do you
want happiness, or will you indulge in self-created misery?