Freeman, Lorna: Covenants (Borderlands I) (2004)

I love Lorna Freeman’s writing. I’ve read the whole Borderlands series several times.

I’ve tried several times to figure out what there is about this series that I like so much. The first thing that comes to mind is the quality of Freeman’s writing. It draws me in and refuses to let me go. In the ocean of average authors, Freeman is a lighthouse. Her books are clean. This is a rare quality today. Explicitness is seemingly sought after by the masses, at least when I consider the many authors out there. No sex and nothing gory. How amazing is that? Along with the naive worldliness of Rabbit, his tricky mentor – Faena Laurel, the respected captain Suiden and his nemesis Slevoic – we get served a story full of action, humor, wisdom and fun. I’m left a happier person each time I read her books.

“Covenants” is book no. 1 in the series about Rabbit. This is the story of how he comes into his magic, his discovery of familial relationships and his willingness to be true to himself.

Pratt, T.A.: Spell Games (2009)

This is the 4th book in the Marla Mason series. I haven’t read the previous installments: “Blood Engines”, “Poison Sleep” and “Dead Reign”, but still felt as though I was able to follow the story-line.

In “Spell Games” Marla’s long-lost brother turns up in her life again. They parted on bad terms and Marla isn’t sure how she feels about seeing him again. But her brother, Jason, is a con-artist and quite a talker and manages to convince Marla to give him a chance. She ends up helping him with a con, and surprisingly has quite a good time – until complications arise.

There are some really strange characters in this novel. One of them is a mushroom-worshipping sorcerer. I guess  that’s what I liked about “Spell Games” – its strange twists and turns and dry wit.

As entertainment, this is a pretty good choice of reading.

Peeler, Nicole: Tracking the Tempest (Jane True II) (2010)

Tracking the Tempest
Cover art by Sharon Tancredi

This cover by Sharon Tancredi is wonderful. I love the feeling I get while looking at it and the spirit of the main character Jane that she manages to convey in her drawing.

As time has passed and I have written many reviews, I have come to realise that how my head works when approaching a novel has changed. Instead of reading all books as if they needed to be judged by the same ruler, I am now able to divide my thought processes into categories. By doing this it feels as though I am bringing my Aspergers into play instead of trying to bypass it and be “a regular” reader.

Along with several of my early reviews, this one of Tracking the Tempest is an updated one (June 2014 instead of May 2012).

I consider this a true series. Even though I had not read Tempest Rising, I had no problem beginning with number two. Necessary background information was shared without info-dumping and Jane’s relationships with various people were fairly self-explanatory. Tracking the Tempest starts off with Jane working hard to learn how to control her magic and especially how to shield herself.

The light wavered, stilled for a split second, and then winked out of existence. I couldn’t help but close my hand with a little flourish. Now that I couldn’t blow anything up, I was allowed to be pleased with myself. That was the first time I’d managed to create and disperse a mage light start to finish.

“Who’s your daddy?” I demanded rhetorically, doing a little happy dance.

“He died centuries ago; you wouldn’t know him,” Nell replied, coming toward me. “Stop hopping about and shields up.”

One thing I appreciated about Jane is that she is a regular person (despite being a halfling and despite Peeler’s tendency toward hunky men for Jane). I stink at the romantic stuff. Absolutely do not get why romance has to be so mushy (to my husband’s great frustration). Asperger people might be the greatest killers of romantic moments that exist. So not understanding all of Jane’s worries and frustrations about Ruy is just the way things work for me. Let’s just get to the sex is the way I tend to think.

But Peeler makes the romance funny. The way sex and so-called romantic moments tend to be. That I can appreciate and I did. I love it when an author makes sex steamy but also when an author makes sex ridiculous.

One of the comments I read on the novel said something about the Boston Public Parks not being closed at night. I checked that out by googling and that was correct. Living in a stinking rich neighborhood is not a prerequisite for a stinking rich person, so I felt that the same person’s comment about Ruy living in Bay Village didn’t really fit. His personality (what I understand of it) does seem to work with Bay Village.

This is another thing I have learned to do with my reviews. Categories are incredibly difficult for me, so I have to read other people’s reviews so I can place these books in the proper category. Which is why I have ended up adding links to other reviewers at the bottom om my own reviews.

Tracking the Tempest also seems to be about giving in to truth, in Ruy’s case accepting that his wishes for how the faery world operates might not have much to do with reality. Having been in that situation myself, I can sympathise. Once upon a time I was Mormon. Eventually my cognitive dissonance grew out of bounds, I checked out some facts and there flew my beliefs away into the sunset. Ruy seems to be at this same point himself. A point where you realise that your support of something has been abused and you yourself allowed it.

Poor Conleth. Something is mighty strange and wrong about his killings and obsession with Jane. And what a childhood. Hmmm. Perhaps he needs to be pitied more than hated.

Jane discovers that her lack of knowledge about the faery is even greater than she had thought. While she seems to have taken everything in her stride thus far, perhaps a point comes when more knowledge becomes too much knowledge.


Reviews:


Available at: Amazon, Borders, and Barnes and Noble

Barraclough, Lindsey: Long Lankin (2011)

Long Lankin - Lindsey Barraclough

Lamkin, Bold Lamkin, Bold Lantern, Bolakin, False Linfinn and Long Lankin are some of the titles belonging to the story of the mason who builds a castle, is cheated of his fee and who then exacts a bloody revenge (A.L. Lloyd). I have included below what is thought to be the original ballad along with one of the musical interpretations of the story.

Long Lankin is Lindsey Barraclough’s first novel. Whatever hiccups it might suffer from are compensated by Barraclough’s excellent prose. For a new author her flow was a delight.

Horror stories are not my forte simply because I am too easily frightened by authors stringing words together in that manner, but Long Lankin is within my endurance limit. Barraclough’s ability to convey the creepiness and uneasiness of the horror story did affect me in the manner the author probably intended.

During their stay at great-auntie Ida’s, Cora and Mimi encounter a mystery of terrible dimensions. As all children ought, Cora and Mimi venture into places they should not. Auntie Ida has not explained why they need to stay away from certain places, thinking to spare them from a terrible truth. Even though I promised myself that I would never do such a thing to my own children, I too have been guilty of doing underestimating them. Auntie Ida is going to discover what I did. Telling the truth is generally the wisest.

With their new friends, Peter and Roger, the four children set out to explore the church and the graveyard, and our horror story begins. Cora is the hero of this story. She is the one who is responsible for looking after her little sister. This is the age-old duty of older siblings. But keeping Mimi safe becomes increasingly difficult.

Cora and Mimi become embroiled in the history of the village, the history of the church and the history of their Auntie’s old house Guerdon Hall. Some places are the perfect settings for a horror tale. Old manors struggling to keep themselves together would qualify in my mind. Another such location can be old churches and graveyards, perhaps even forests and marshes. Long Lankin has three of these: Guerdon Hall, of course. The church close to the house and the nearby marsh.

Choices may have far-reaching consequences, sometimes centuries into the future. Everything has a cost. Payment must be made one way or another. Friendship, family, loss, grief can be some of the price extracted. Cora and Mimi coming to stay with Auntie Ida happens to be one of these long-term costs. I love the way Barraclough brings the old ballad into her story in tiny drips along the way. The Lay of Lambert Lanikin is frightening enough on its own. Add the terror of the future that Barraclough shares, and we can all huddle under our covers waiting for the wolf under our bed to jump onto it.

What a creepy good time I had!

Exactly what age group this falls into is difficult to say. According to the author, she did not have a particular age group in mind when she wrote Long Lankin.


Reviews:


Long Lamkin, 2008; By Wong Mei Sheong;
Long Lamkin, 2008;
By Wong Mei Sheong;
Thought to be the original version
Belinkin was as gude a mason
As e’er pickt a stane;
He built up Prime Castle,
But payment gat nane.
The lord said to his lady,
5 When he was going abroad,
“O beware of Belinkin,
For he lyes in the wood.”
The gates they were bolted,
Baith outside and in;
10 At the sma’ peep of a window
Belinkin crap in.
“Gude morrow, gude morrow,”
Said Lambert Linkin.
“Gude morrow to yoursell, sir,”
15 Said the fause nurse to him.
“O whare is your gude lord?”
Said Lambert Linkin.
“He’s awa to New England,
To meet with his king.”
20 “O where is his auld son?
Said Lambert Linkin.
“He’s awa to buy pearlings,
Gin our lady ly in.”
“Then she’ll never wear them,”
25 Said Lambert Linkin.
“And that is nae pity,”
Said the fause nurse to him.
“O where is your lady?”
Said Lambert Linkin.
30 “She’s in her bouir sleepin’,”
Said the fause nurse to him.
“How can we get at her?”
Said Lambert Linkin.
“Stab the babe to the heart
35 Wi’ a silver bo’kin.”
“That wud be a pity,”
Said Lambert Linkin.
“Nae pity, nae pity,”
Said the fause nurse to him.
40 Belinkin he rocked,
And the fause nurse she sang,
Till a’ the tores o’ the cradle
Wi’ the red blude down ran.
“O still my babe, nurice,
45 O still him wi’ the knife.”
“He’ll no be still, lady,
Tho’ I lay down my life.”
“O still my babe, nurice,
O still him wi’ the kame.”
50 “He’ll no be still, lady,
Till his daddy come hame.”
“O still my babe, nurice,
O still him wi’ the bell.”
“He’ll no be still, lady,
55 Till ye come down yoursell.”
“It’s how can I come doun,
This cauld frosty nicht,
Without e’er a coal
Or a clear candle licht?”
60 “There’s twa smocks in your coffer,
As white as a swan;
Put ane o’ them about you,
It will shew you licht doun.”
She took ane o’ them about her,
65 And came tripping doun;
But as soon as she viewed,
Belinkin was in.
“Gude morrow, gude morrow,”
Said Lambert Linkin.
70 “Gude morrow to yoursell, sir,”
Said the lady to him.
“O save my life, Belinkin,
Till my husband come back,
And I’ll gie ye as much red gold
75 As ye’ll haud in your hat.”
“I’ll not save your life, lady,
Till your husband come back,
Tho’ you wud gie me as much red gold
As I could haud in a sack.
80 “Will I kill her?” quo’ Belinkin,
“Will I kill her, or let her be?”
“You may kill her,” said the fause nurse,
“She was ne’er gude to me;
And ye’ll be laird o’ the Castle,
85 And I’ll be ladye.”
Then he cut aff her head
Fra her lily breast bane,
And he hung ‘t up in the kitchen,
It made a’ the ha’ shine.
90 The lord sat in England A-drinking the wine:
“I wish a’ may be weel
Wi’ my lady at hame;
For the rings o’ my fingers
95 They’re now burst in twain!”
He saddled his horse,
And he came riding doun;
But as soon as he viewed,
Belinkin was in.
100 He hadna weel stepped
Twa steps up the stair,
Till he saw his pretty young son
Lying dead on the floor.
He hadna weel stepped
105 Other twa up the stair,
Till he saw his pretty lady
Lying dead in despair.
He hanged Belinkin
Out over the gate;
110 And he burnt the fause nurice,
Being under the grate.

Tores. The projections or knobs at the corners of old-fashioned cradles, and the ornamented balls commonly found surmounting the backs of old chairs. Motherwell.


 

 Sites of interest:

 

Marsden, John: Tomorrow, When the War Began (Tomorrow I) (1993)

tomorrow_when_the_war_began_poster

The Tomorrow series consists of seven books that should be read in order. The first book of the series is Tomorrow, When the War Began.

In the series we meet a group of young people who have gone camping to celebrate their last summer together. They are:

  • Ellie Linton: Our narrator. Ellie was born and raised on a cattle and sheep farm not far from the edge of the country town of Wirrawee.
  • Corrie Mackenzie: Ellie’s best friend.
  • Homer Yannos: Ellie’s neighbour and close friend.
  • Fiona Maxwell: Fi is more brains than brawn.
  • Lee Takkam: Lee is also more brains than brawn.
  • Robyn Mathers: The pacifist of the group.
  • Kevin Holmes: Corrie’s boyfriend.
  • Chris Lang: An introverted, but well liked boy.

All eight of them are regular teenagers getting ready to enter the world of adults. They are all filled with constructive and less constructive qualities and I can see why so many would identify with them. At the beginning of Tomorrow, When the War Began the gang feel so young to an old person like myself, but that does not last. They certainly retain their youthful optimism but gain some of our adult cynicism. I think another thing that might appeal to readers is John Marsden’s willingness to address difficult topics. One of these is death. Unfortunately death is one of the consequences of resistance in war and so it will be for this gang. And, finally, There is plenty of romance and action, both kept well within the young adult literature boundaries. The writing certainly kept me going and Marsden raised some interesting questions along the way.

In Tomorrow, When the War Began a group of friends (in their last year before college) go camping together. They’re all exited and have a wonderful week together. On their way back they find their homes empty of people and their animals suffering from neglect. It turns out all of their families have been collected at the showground by a foreign power trying to take Australia over. The teens have to decide whether to fight or surrender.


  • ISBN: 9781742612683
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Published: 2012-12-01
  • Subject: Children’s: General Fiction
  • Imprint: Pan Australia
  • Pages: 304 page/s

  • Winner, Australian Multicultural Children’s Book Award 1994
  • Winner, Fanfare Horn Book Best Book 1996
  • Winner, Children’s Yearly Best-Ever Reads (CYBER) Best Book for Older Readers 2000, 2001, 2002
  • Winner, KOALA (Kids Own Australian Literature Awards) 1995
  • Winner, YABBA (Young Australian Best Book Award) 1995
  • Winner, WAYRBA (West Australian Young Readers’ Books Award) 1995
  • Winner, BILBY Awards (Books I Love Best Yearly) 1998
  • Winner, New South Wales Talking Book Award
  • Nominated, South Carolina Book Award 1998

2010: Film-adaptation released based on Tomorrow, When the War Began. Australian adventure movie written and directed by Stuart Beattie.

 

Oliveira, Robin: My Name is Mary Sutter (2010)

My name is Mary Sutter - Robin Oliveira

Even though the story is placed at the time of the Civil War in the US, I imagine Robin Oliveira’s own background as a nurse helped in describing some of the work and attitudes we read about in her novel My Name is Mary Sutter. At this time being a physician and a woman was practically unheard of. Physicians were trained through apprenticeships, and for a man to take in a woman as a student would mean overcoming prejudices. Professionally schooled nurses were also a thing unheard of. Apprenticeships were the way to go if a woman wanted to become a mid-wife or assistant to a physician.

All of this haphazard training of either physicians and nurses left both professions with vast differences in the abilities of the people who had finished their training. Some nurses and doctors made matters worse for their patients while others were miraculous healers.

Mary Sutter’s mother was a mid-wife and Mary had gone along with her on her many trips into the child-bearing population. What Mary learned about herself during those trips was that she would love to become a surgeon and thereby save people who otherwise did not get visited by a physician in time. Due to the above apprentice-shipping she was refused this opportunity and also refused admittance into medical school.

Mary Sutter was nothing if not determined in eventually reaching her goal. The US Civil War presented her with one such path. Washington was desperate for help on the battlefield and many women felt called to duty. Mary Sutter happened to be one of them. Her experience seems representative of the others I have read of. As such Sutter’s experience seems to correspond with the experiences my nurse friends tell me of today. Arrogant doctors, incompetent doctors, miracle doctors and patients who span the gamut from assholes to angels. As a someone who has been a patient I have met nurses of all kinds but mainly wonderful ones. Most of my nurse friends feel a “call” to serve and this is their way of serving others. Amazing people!

War is a gory and horrifyingly brutal affair. Not one gram of glory is present anywhere on the battlefield. But what a school for aspiring doctors and nurses. One doctor Mary Sutter had to work with had to care for more than 100 men. She helped with operations and learned how to treat stitch wounds. Eventually she managed to be sent to the front and learned how to amputate and live with the gore of poor medical hygiene.

I liked her character. Mary was a goal-oriented woman who worked extremely hard to achieve her dreams and she was certainly a woman that I could have looked up to. Inserting extraneous yet historical characters did not work well for me. It was Mary I wanted more of. But my wishes are irrelevant to an author’s work and it isn’t even a complaint just an observation.


Reviews:


Winner of the 2011 Michael Shaara Prize for Excellence in Civil War Fiction


Civil War-Era Women Physicians

Invisible Women Now In Clear Focus

Mary Edwards Walker

Nursing During the US Civil War: A Movement Toward the Professionalization of Nursing

Springing to the Cause

Ells, Philip: The People’s Lawyer (2000) / Where the Hell is Tuvalu? (2006)

Where the Hell is Tuvalu - Philip Ells

The version I read was the original title The People’s Lawyer. I guess the title was changed to be more relevant to the place??

Autobiographies are such odd creatures. Truthfulness and memory seem to become victims to them. Not so in the case of Philip Ells.

Quite sensibly, Ells seems to have kept more or less up-to-date journals while staying on the Tuvalu Islands as a volunteer attorney. His veracity is such that one of the two official sites for the Tuvalu Islands has a link to his story.

As a new lawyer to the islands, Ells views his experiences differently from the manner he sees them by the time he leaves the place. Two years is just enough time for the culture to begin settling into your bones and possibly long enough for the locals to begin trusting you. This all-encompassing statement is made solely based on my own experiences of moving around a lot until I turned 29. Toward the end of his stay the women of Tuvalu had begun trusting Ells enough to let on about their own doubts about the fairness of the way women were treated. Until then, it was just something they seemed to accept as a way of life.

Seemingly idyllic, the Tuvalu islands are too small for life to be anything but a challenge. A population that was 9561 in 2002 grew to 11636 by 2005. I do not know what the numbers were when Ells was there from 1994-1996, but I imagine they were somewhat lower than the 2002 census shows. Some of the places he describes in his autobiography are now being built over with houses on stilts (borrowing holes used for waste). Ells himself touches upon the challenges of living in such an enclosed ecosystem and the conflicts between Western and Traditional ways of dealing with problems that occur.

While The People’s Lawyer / Where the Hell is Tuvalu? deals with serious issues, it is by no means a downer. In fact, I found it delightfully British. There is something wonderful about a people who manage to make fun of their own mistakes in such a dry manner that I am left giggling. Being bossed around by his “secretary”, discovering rats in his loo, suffering from the traditional bout of diarrhea and having practical jokes played on him by locals and other volunteers are just some of the hilarious experiences (for me as a reader anyways) that we get to share.

What Ells is left with when he leaves Tuvalu is an appreciation for the difference between who he was when he arrived and who he had become during his time on the islands along with a love of the people and the land.


Reviews:


Where the Hell is Tuvalu? on Amazon UK


Islands of Tuvalu

Tuvalu profile

Travel to Tuvalu

UN climate change funds not reaching Pacific island nations

 

 

Use public libraries

%d bloggers like this: