My Last Reviews of 2021

Debi Ennis Binder, Summerbird Rises

Fairy-Tale with Bold and Strange Creatures

Summerbird Asii lives in a village where magic is banned, and it is dangerous to know herb lore. Castle and village guards scour the streets in search of offenders. Those caught will suffer vicious punishment. Nobody knows who lives in the castle menacing the village from the top of its hill.

Summerbird lives in a cottage that she inherited from her grandfather. She has a cat and a crystal ball, and she earns her living as an inept seer. Her biggest trouble is to hide her inborn magic as well as her knowledge of herbs.

Enter a griffin who wants her to go on a quest to rescue several highborn Fey.

This is the premise for Binder’s fantasy novel ‘Summerbird Rises’ and it doesn’t disappoint. The intricate plot, the quirky characters, the evil sorcerer combined takes the reader on a journey to prisons, villages, castles, and a magical land – hidden somewhere. The Fey, the humans, the magical creatures, the sorcerer, and the villagers, the guards, and the obscure inhabitant of the castle on the hill bring this fairy tale to a stunning conclusion.

***

Sherri Lowe, Whisper to Me

Make Promises at your Peril – Especially if You Don’t Intend to Keep Them

Meet Theo Stanyer, Letitia (Tish), his wife, and Sheena plus her dog, Shandy. Saskia is Theo’s daughter, and the cast is complete with the family cat, Smokey. Of course, there are other characters, but the triangle between Theo, Tish, and Sheena seizes the focus from the moment that Theo makes his ill-fated promise never to marry, should Tish die.

This is the premise for Sherri Lowe’s short romantic ghost story.

Nobody sees the vengeful entity; her measures are subtler than that. She blights the atmosphere in her former home, with fragrances and sound. The two women in this triangle are opposed in many ways, Tish was a careful housewife, and Sheena is a slob. This creates humorous as well as threatening incidents.

‘Whisper to me’ presents a well-written and mercurial intrigue that takes its readers from fuchsias via a bee sting, a gardening show, an untrained dog, a temperamental cat, and a furious ghost to a climax – and a possible follow up in another instalment. Certainly, this is an unexpected and exhilarating read.

***

Millie Thom, Take Height, Rutterkin

English Witch Hunt 17th Century Style

In Take Height, Rutterkin, we see how impossible it was for women to fend for themselves. Joan Flower and her two daughters, Philippa and Margaret get to experience it in full force when Joan’s husband dies an untimely death. Joan has some knowledge of the healing power of plants and can scrape a living through her potions. Her daughters get a few chances as temporary servants at Belvoir Castle. Through various mishaps, they both lose their positions – and must fall back on their and their mother’s resources.

At that point, their fate is already sealed. Joan’s wish for revenge, the need for money, and the antagonism from the local Goodwives just intensify their trouble. That the three women fall back on the last resource open to women, prostitution, aggravates the society even worse, and rumours of witchcraft emerge.

The Hammer of Witches, Malleus Maleficarum, comes to life in ‘Take Height, Rutterkin’. It is uneasy reading, but Ms Thom makes a convincing point. During the 16th and 17th Centuries, witch hunts reached the summit, only to die out in The Age of Enlightenment. The question is if the fear of female power lived on after the witch hunts. Looking at history it is easy to see that it continued in many ways. Here we are at the crux and what makes this book important.

This isn’t a treatise, it is a book that evokes strong feelings, ranging from despair to anger. The Flower women appear strong and stubborn, although each has her personal quirks. These come alive in Ms Thom’s superb writing.

***

Maureen Turner, Malchediel, Warrior Angel

A Warrior Angel in Love and War

How do you create a meet-cute between an angel and a ‘normal’ young woman? Maureen Turner knows and convinces with her quirky description of the ‘Surfer Dude’ Angel, Malchediel – known as Mal, when he meets Amy. Amy has no idea that she is of ancient Nephilim descent. Her father hid the fact to protect her.

We’re harking back to Genesis when the angels saw and lusted after the daughters of men. It was during the time when Lucifer and his followers fell from grace. God’s wrath created mayhem as the war between fallen and steadfast angels began. According to Mal and Ms Turner – that war never ended.

On this premise, Maureen Turner builds her fantasy and crafts her engaging and believable creatures. The plot, and character-driven, story unfolds in surprising and convincing ways that leaves you breathless at the end. Not just at the end, there are many unexpected twists before Amy and Mal must take leave of the reader. No doubt, anybody who has engaged with the Angels, Nephilim, Demons, and Fallen Angels will want to know what happens next.

***

Pat McDermott, The Rosewood Whistle

Irish Lore, Irish Music, Irish Love

To forget her difficult marriage, Gemma Pentrandolfo treats herself to a holiday in Ireland. A writer, she wants to try her hand at a full-blown novel.

Ben Connigan has lost his music. His selfish wife, who died years ago in an accident, mocked his musicianship and he gave up playing for her sake.

These two persons meet in the little town called Westport, ruffled feathers and all. Will they find their path again? Will they come together and learn that life and music and love have healing powers? 

If you want to find out, you must read The Rosewood Whistle, a romance that encompasses Irish music and the beautiful Irish landscape, Celtic folklore and history, as well as love between mature individuals, who must learn to nurture their inner child and set their creative powers free.

***

Lucinda E Clarke, When Polly Won the Lottery

What Would You Do if You won the Lottery?

Does winning a lottery create an ideal life for Pollyann – or for her shadow persona, Polly? Both react and act in ways true to their characters – and both must confront unpleasant truths about money and their influence on themselves and the people they meet.

Of course, there is more to the story than that. Polly and Pollyann is the same person, seen from the outside, and their actions are linked in strange ways. Ms Clarke creates pertinent questions through this tactic. On top of this, there is a mysterious stalker to deal with and understand as well as an unnamed character who follows Polly, Pollyann, and the stalker.

Polly Won the Lottery poses questions about the value of money and if it helps create a worthwhile life. It shows how easily we can get off track and how dangerous it is to lose control.

To top it all, Ms Clarke has a sting in the tail of the story, a sting that will surprise her readers. Read it at your peril.

***

Gabriel Constans, The Last Conception

A Pensive Novel about IVF, Blood Lines, and Spiritual Beliefs

Savarna is an Indian American and embryologist, working in a clinic together with her friend and colleague, Johnny. Her parents, members of an ancient sect, have one wish: to see her married and producing a child.

The problem is that Savarna is a lesbian. She hasn’t told her parents and has no thought of becoming a mother. 

It seems to be a simple problem, but Constans slowly unfolds a convoluted plot that will turn Savarna’s and her sister Chitra’s as well as their parents’ world upside down several times.

The broad gallery of characters presents people of differing races, opinions, life plans, hopes, dreams, pasts, and concepts.

The Last Conception concentrates on family values – and how important they are to maintain – on relationships and why to get children – and — perhaps why not. The novel also poses questions about how far we can go pursuing our wishes. A legend of compassion and love, this book points out that we can always find ways to create a better understanding of one another.

***


Jennie Ensor, Silenced

Silence Like a Cancer Grows


Luke, Jez, and Callum get caught up in gangland, each from his or her position. Callum as a police officer and SIO, Luke as a reluctant gang member, and Jez as a giddy young woman. Each has problems and secrets to deal with, Jez’s mother is an alcoholic, Luke’s mother is dead, and his stepfather tends to become violent. Callum carries a troubled past and relives it in his nightmares.
In the opening chapter a young girl, Solita, gets murdered – a horrid and apparently senseless murder. This happens on an estate that serves as headquarter for the Skull Crew. Nobody wants, or dares, to give evidence about this murder – ‘Snitches get stitches quickly turns into ‘Ditches for snitches’.


Ms Ensor brings her cast to life. She handles police procedures as well as gangland culture in a convincing and realistic manner. The casual way lost youths get groomed and brought into a gang is spine-tingling and intense in Ensor’s prose. Her use of the gang argot brings the shady characters to life.


Silenced is about guilt – the guilt we all carry about in our baggage. It also speculates on how youth gangs function, and how they can take over an entire community. A poignant novel about peer pressure, about secrecy, and about role models, violence – and – money.

***

© HMH, 2022

4 comments

  1. Thank you Hanne so much for including When Polly won the Lottery in your reviews and introducing by book to new readers. Really appreciated 🙂

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