Kathryn Gauci, The Embroiderer
Unfolding an Enigmatic World
A prophecy haunts Greek-born and Turkish raised Dimitra Lamartine to such a degree that she can’t love her grandchild, Maria. Her red hair and unruly character become the Ariadne thread that leads through the maze of this tapestry of paintings, couturiers, embroideries, and priceless jewels. In the darker parts, war and violence takes over, as well as fire, murder, and secrets. On her deathbed, Maria reveals her past to Eleni, her half-sister.
The luxury and dizzying elegance that encompasses the first chapters is set off with the brutality of the war.
Gauci’s debut is historical fiction, where history vies to take over. At the same time, it is a family saga with four generations of women – living, longing, and hating. The historical backdrop is necessary but threatens to become a mere history lesson. In my opinion, this is a problem with the debut novel that reveals a female world during the end of the Ottoman empire and beyond. Without a doubt, Gauci has learned to balance history and fiction in her later books. Recommended.
Paul Cude, A Right Royal RumpAss
Loveable and Impish Dragons
Prehistoric creatures, aka dragons, live and learn just like everyday children.
Paul Cude weaves a tale around two friends, a newcomer to the ‘nursery ring’ – and the school bully. Among dragons, an education encompasses several more years than is usual among humans. Other than that, the parallels between their world and ours are recognisable. This is a hilarious and witty take on schools, children in the guise of dragons, and the problems their teachers face when dragons (or children) get up to mischief.
Paul Cude, Frozen to the Core
Evil versus good
Can Man save his innocence? Can the naga survive? Will Man’s father take over the world? Will Man’s brother survive, and will Man’s mother?
Frozen to the Core is advertised as a book where evil wins. What occurred to me is that it’s all a question of viewpoint. Dragon/men or men/dragons are oppressed and kept on an icy world. There is one prisoner, who is the scapegoat for the race. The leader oppresses his people and tortures the scapegoat. His sons suffer under his maliciousness too and at this hangs a tale. Man (the eloquent name of the older son) is a thoughtful creature, but not only that, he discovers that he has a spark of the magic that is denied the captives on this icy world. Enter another magical creature, a naga, who recognizes Man’s potential. Evil and good are poised for another fight, but it is unclear who is evil and who is good in this match. Are the oppressors outside this world – or is the leader and father figure the incarnation of evil? Who will win, who is the oppressor oppressed? Is the captive dragon the culprit and is that the reason for the torture he suffers under the leader’s reign? Is the naga the real persecutor or are the outside forces evil incarnated? These are pertinent questions. Who can judge? What strikes me is that the father/leader is proud of his eldest son. There is hate between the two, but there is also – surprisingly – love. That discrepancy is what makes this such a compelling read. Cude manages to pose existential questions in this prequel to his White Dragon Saga. As one reads on the enigma grows. Who is malevolent and what is evil? This way any reader will be kept at the edge of his or her chair, trying to judge between good and evil.
Cindy J Smith, Voices In My Hea
Thoughts from A Gentle Nature
In this poetry collection, Cindy J Smith reveals her sensitivity, her religion, and her longings.
It’s heartfelt and honest but, in my opinion, the rhyming schemes and metres could be improved. Poetry is a demanding taskmaster and more variations, as well as bolder word choices, might enhance her output. Her poem ‘Opinion’ makes me hope that she won’t take my suggestions amiss.
It is admirable that Ms Smith lays her soul bare and isn’t afraid of sharing hurtful parts of her life. In that, she shows her poetic and gentle soul.
Rosalind Minett, Uncommon Relations
A Psychologic Rollercoaster
In the prelude, Minett leaves a clue to the conflict in the core part of the book. Her psychological analysis centres on the possible trouble infertility and adoption can pose.
Terry lives a humdrum life with his wife Gudrun. His career at a pharmaceutical firm isn’t inspiring, and his mate, Leon sees him as a ‘yesterday’s man’. He, like so many, nurses unattainable dreams of excitement and wealth.
The accidental meeting with his physical double pivots Terry into a whirlpool of expectations, dreams, and jealousy. He pursuits the unknown man, who turns out to be his twin, Gerry. Gerry, who has everything that Terry dreams of, doesn’t want to investigate their background. Terry goes ahead and stumbles on a hornet’s nest.
Minett unfolds the story with remarkable insight into the depths of human nature. Her prose is satirical and – sometimes – disquieting. Highly recommended.
Joel Schueler, Jim and Martha
Jim and Martha leave their normal and unexciting life to take up residence in an eco-village. In reality, this village was a squatters’ paradise with little pretension at farming etc. The characters on display are typified exponents of people you’d expect to find in a commune. Jim is a bit of a cad and Martha struggles with a mind that won’t shut down. Both are tragicomic, but it’s unclear what brought them together in the first place.
All in all, I didn’t enjoy this book. The prose was ornate and gave me the impression that Mr Schueler concentrated on displaying uncommon words. Some might call it stream of consciousness, but the stream often leapt from one character to another, without rhyme or reason. Could it be that this author is influenced by authors such as Italo Calvino and Salman Rushdie?
Marcee Corn, Always Thaddeus
A Beautiful and Profound Thriller
Beth mourns the death of her son to a degree where she denies it.
Sandy mourns the loss of a beloved husband – and blames her younger self for her sister’s death.
Andrew can’t forget his dead son and has withdrawn to a small island near the Maine coast.
The three main characters’ fates intertwine, and all converge in the Owl’s Nest, where Andrew has set up his abode.
The coastal landscape and weather play a large part in the ensuing tragedy.
There are deep insights into the ravaging influence of childhood abuse in the unfolding of the drama that centres around Beth. At the same time, Marcee Corn portrays the romance that blossoms between Sandy and Andrew, college friends that lose contact and meet again as mature adults.
This book unfolds in waves of troubled beauty.
Scott Finlay, Epoch
How do people cope when they all suffer from amnesia? How can a society function without the simplest footing?
The epoch begins after an apocalyptic event that wipes out memories as well as rendering all electronics useless. The one saving grace is that people have or develop a physical remembrance of their former skills. Not that it makes life simpler. The struggle for survival brings out the best in some characters but the worst in others.
The main protagonist whose skill turns out to be writing and drawing (was he a reporter or an author?), a doctor, a ruthless businessman, a policeman, a murderer (a serial killer on the loose), power-drunk individuals, gangs, and an endearing nitwit, all come together in a small town and work – or fight against one another – to build a new civilization.
Finlay poses valid questions about our humanity, but he never preaches.
© HMH, 2020