Exclusive Pedigree: My life in and out of the Brethren by John L Fear – Review

If I didn’t know better I would think that summer has arrived and all is well with the world. A weekend spent out in the garden, enjoying the warmth of the sunshine, the fragrance of newly bloomed flowers, and the soft buzzing of fluffy bumblebees, can make you forget the nightmares that many people are currently living through.

I always enjoy reading while sitting out in the sun, and this brought me to the end of another book… this one:

Blurb:  John Fear was born into a religious sect known as the Exclusive Brethren. This exclusivesheltered him from the outside world as he grew up, but could not hide him from its influences. A struggle began in his mind that led him to leave the Brethren, along with his young family.

Rather than reacting as many do and totally abandoning any belief system, John remained true to his convictions and continued a strongly religious way of life. Still serving God he worked in many places throughout the world, rubbing shoulders with famous people such as Billy Graham, Mother Teresa and Cliff Richard.

The writing style of this book is dynamic and engaging. John’s personality shines through and he paints an insightful account of his personal life and surrounding historical events. This account is not a sensationalised expose of the Exclusive Brethren. Instead, it follows one man’s life journey and is brought to life through his diary entries and family letters.

This beautifully edited book is more than a memoir. It is a delightful mix of history, social customs, travel and belief. An honest, personal and emotive account of how religion can touch and shape a person’s life – forever.

Rating:  3/5
My thoughts: I took my time over this book and reading it in small chunks was reminiscent of visiting an elderly relative and hearing about moments from their lives. It’s a well written tale of one man’s life, his family, and his beliefs.
While I could see the quality of the book I think it would appeal more to people with their own religious convictions, I think I was expecting more about John’s struggle in and out of the Brethren.
An interesting memoir which I am sure will touch many people.

Book Review – Jonah by Jan Sikes

Do you have a few minutes to spare and fancy a quick read? Well that’s what I did last night and this time it was Jonah by Jan Sikes

JonahBlurb:  Fantasy meets reality when a young man is forced to choose his punishment for crimes committed. Jonah must decide between imprisonment in a concrete box beneath the earth or be exiled to a deserted, barren island. He chooses the island, but nothing can prepare him for the deadly creatures, and poisonous plants at every turn. Then there’s the maddening isolation that drives him to the brink of insanity. There is only one way off this island and it’s more difficult than anything he’s ever imagined. It’s much easier to face mortal danger than the demons within. Will he find redemption, or another unexpected offer?

Rating:  3/5

My thoughts: I loved the idea of this story, a convict exiled to a deserted island, well deserted apart from the vicious creatures which constantly threaten his life.  A strange delivery of books lead Jonah on a journey of self discovery which will ultimately lead him to more discoveries than he could ever have imagined.

While I enjoyed this story, and it was very well written, it also felt a little lacking to me. I think it is such a good concept of a story line that it would have worked much better as a full novel. I would loved to have heard more about the life that lead Jonah to be on that island, and I would have enjoyed seeing his friendship grow more slowly to really convince me of his choices at the end. I would also love to know “what happens next”.

To me this felt more like an early working which would benefit from a lot of fleshing out to fully round it into an amazing tale.

Book Review – The Road to Zoe

The sun is high and bright in the sky, a glorious golden globe shining down from an unspoiled perfect blue sky. Small birds are singing and swooping, almost dancing in the sunshine. And some of the largest bumblebees I have seen are buzzing around, showing off their fluffy striped jumpers as they skip from flower to flower.

If you didn’t know better you would think that all is well with the world. I look forward to a time when that is true 🙂

In the meantime, I find the best use of this beautiful day was to finish reading a wonderful book. This book was The Road to Zoe by Nick Alexander

Blurb: She ran away from the truth, but she can’t run forever.

zoeSeven years after his sister vanished without a trace, Jude is on the road, determined not to return home until he has found her. He wants to reunite his broken family, but more than this he wants to know why Zoe left—what happened when they were kids, on that terrible day when everything fell apart.

They’d been enjoying the funfair—grasping a rare moment of happiness following their parents’ divorce—when after a ride together, Zoe had stopped speaking to her mother’s new partner. Though Mandy believed he was the man she’d waited all her life for, her love for her daughter trumped even that, and soon suspicions of an unthinkable betrayal shattered the family.

So finding Zoe would be just the start. If Jude can find her, then what happens next will depend on the story she’s been carrying with her all these years. Because when families are destroyed by dark secrets, can the wounds ever truly heal?

Rating:  5/5

My thoughts:  Another beautifully crafted story, perfectly illustrating the feelings, fears, and hopes of a family torn apart when 16 year old Zoe disappears.

Nick introduces us to a family in turmoil as young Zoe’s behaviour begins to spiral, seemingly for no reason. But of course there is a reason… if only they can find out what it is.

Told in parallel timelines we also join a grown up Jude and his girlfriend as they travel from town to town determined to track Zoe down and finally find out what drove her from the family home so many years earlier.

The characters are, as always with Nick’s writing, real and relatable and I found myself emotionally invested in Jude’s quest – hoping that he would be successful, and that we would all find the answers he needs. I may have even shed a tear or two as we got to the end.

Another triumph 🙂

 

Book Review – A Candle in the Darkness

In these troubled times sometimes it’s nice to escape – and a good read is the perfect way to help you forget your worries for a while.

Last night I read “A Candle in the Darkness” by Karen Black

CandleBlurb: Is there life after death? Not according to Valerie. Following the accidental death of her husband, Randy, she Valerie was distraught. With her mother-in-law saying repeatedly that Randy was still with her, Valerie’s grief was amplified. Randy, had been the center of her life, and now he was gone. He was not with her. He died and was buried in a casket in the ground.
In spite of severe storm warnings, and against her in-laws’ advice, Valerie set out for Maryland, where she and Randy had been planning to live. It took a tornado, and the words of a stranger to show Valerie exactly how to move on without Randy; or was it with him?

Rating:  3/5

My thoughts: Valerie doesn’t believe in a life after death. When you’re gone you’re gone, and that is what her husband is. Gone. Taking shelter from a tornado in the cellar of a motel Valerie will learn things she never expected.

A well written short, that is easy to read. Unfortunately I felt a little dissatisfied by the time I got to the end. I found the climax of the story predictable, I had assumed this was where it was going very early into the story. I think I could have forgiven that in a longer read, if I had been given time to really grow to know the characters and their lives. A nice story but missing any wow factor.

Book Review – One Dyke Cozy by Rhani D’Chae #RRBC

Happy New Year to everyone out there and welcome to my first review of the year… and this is it:

One Dyke Cozy by Rhani D’Chae

cozyBlurb: People come into our lives for a day, a season, or a reason…
“Shy taught me to fight like a champion, love like a poet, & live like it was my last day on earth.”

One Dyke Cozy touches on the lives of two girls, Gabby and Shy, from their first meeting as children to Shy’s untimely death.

This novel contains profanity and adult situations.

Rating:  4/5

My Thoughts: A short but enjoyable read showing us the friendship between two girls, from the moment they meet at 8 years old, until Shy dies, far too young. The two lead characters are certainly very different but you can see how they bring out the best in each other and Gabby becomes the best woman she can be after she meets the tomboy and confident Shy.  Mr Happy is a third party in the relationship and, despite being an inanimate object, becomes very important to the two girls.

A good book if you a looking for something easy to read, uplifting and enjoyable.

Book Review – Zombie Dawn #RRBC

So the joy that is Nanowrimo is upon us once again and as such there isn’t really the time to indulge in a big read – this is when short stories can fill the bill. Last night I read:

Zombie Dawn by Rhani D’Chae

And this is what I thought…

zombieBlurb:  In the late hours of a warm summer night, the residents of a quiet little street find that things are not so quiet, after all.

Rating: 5/5

My thoughts: For a short read this story certainly packs in a lot of action. In around an hour (for the reader) a nice quiet street turns into a nightmare as one by one residents fall prey to the zombie curse.  I enjoyed how the different characters discovered what was going on – and how each encounter with a zombie is different. A fun read – as long as you enjoy a good zombie tale.

Book Review – The Merest Loss by Steven Neil #RRBC

Well I appear to have another book review ready for you – I guess there are some advantages to this unemployment lark – now if only I could find the motivation to use the time to write as well as read!  But in the meantime let me tell you about:

The Merest Loss by Steven Neil

lossBlurb: When Harriet Howard becomes Louis Napoleon’s mistress and financial backer and appears at his side in Paris in 1848, it is as if she has emerged from nowhere. How did the English daughter of a Norfolk boot-maker meet the future Emperor? Who is the mysterious Nicholas Sly and what is his hold over Harriet? Can Harriet meet her obligations and return to her former life and the man she left behind? What is her involvement with British Government secret services? Can Harriet’s friend, jockey Tom Olliver, help her son Martin solve his own mystery: the identity of his father? The central character is Harriet Howard and the action takes place between 1836 and 1873. The plot centres on Harriet’s relationships with Louis Napoleon and famous Grand National winning jockey, Jem Mason. The backdrop to the action includes significant characters from the age, including Lord Palmerston, Queen Victoria and the Duke of Grafton, as well as Emperor Napoleon III. The worlds of horse racing, hunting and government provide the scope for rural settings to contrast with the city scenes of London and Paris and for racing skulduggery to vie with political chicanery. The Merest Loss is historical fiction with a twist. It’s pacy and exciting with captivating characters and a distinctive narrative voice.

Rating: 5/5

My Thoughts: I was given this book for an honest review and as this is not my normal genre I wasn’t sure if it was something I was going to enjoy. I found the first couple of chapters a little slow as I settled into the era and got to know the characters but before long I was hooked by the story and eagerly devouring each new chapter.

The story is generally split between two themes – Martin Harryet’s search to discover the identity of his father, and also the life of his mother Eliza Harryet and how she became Harriet Howard one time actress and one time mistress to Louis Napoleon.

This is a well crafted tale with believable, sometimes unlikable, characters, secrets and lies, and lost loves. One of the overwhelming feelings this story left me with was a real sympathy for Harriet Howard, a young woman who had dreams and love, and then had them taken from her at the whim of men who had other uses for her.

If, like me, you didn’t think this genre is for you I would suggest you still give the book a try as it is far more than just a period piece and is a brilliant and enjoyable read.  I would certainly happily read more by this author.

Book Review – Open, Shut by Nonnie Jules #RRBC

The sun is shining, the birds are singing and I have hurt my back! So what else is there to do but get out the sun lounger and relax.. and of course, read!

I started this afternoon’s reading with the short story Open, Shut by Nonnie Jules

OpenshutBlurb: Darcy Lynn has a few problems: her sister, Lola, killed by a drunk driver, leaves her with an eerie message right before her death; her parents are atheists; her father drinks a little too much, and her brother, Bud, is just annoying. But, her most pressing issue is that things are mysteriously opening and closing around her and she hasn’t a clue as to why…or how.

In this short “sad but uplifting story with a wonderful message,” as one reader tags it, Author, Nonnie Jules flexes her writing chops once again, by introducing her readers to a normal, everyday family, whose lives are altered, not once, but twice by unexpected and unusual circumstances.

If you came into this story only believing in things seen with your own two eyes, and things heard with your own two ears, you walk away with a new and refreshing added sense…the ability and the courage to change, based on where your heart leads you.

Rating: 4 / 5

My thoughts: For a short story this certainly covers a long time period, despite that it seems to still flow well and the time jumps don’t feel jarring at all. After the loss of the eldest daughter of the family lives are changed forever.  Despite this being a story of a family finding their faith, not being a religious person myself, I also saw it as a family finding each other again after such a traumatic loss. Lola had done what she could to ensure that happened. A quick, easy read, with an uplifting message.

Book Review – Memoir of a Mad Woman #RRBC

It’s time once again for a review of my latest read – this time it is the short novelette Memoir of a Mad Woman by Vashti Quiroz-Vega

MemoirBlurb:  A novelette from the award-winning author of The Fall of Lilith and Son of the Serpent, Vashti Quiroz-Vega.

Who can explain how madness begins?

This is the story of Emma. Reared by a religious fanatic, orphaned at a young age and sent to a mental institution and an orphanage. Molested and betrayed by the people who should be watching over her…

Who can say that madness has no logic?

During a fight, Emma’s best friend punched her in the abdomen. Since then, Emma has believed there’s something damaged inside of her.

Every month… she bleeds.
She tries to fight it all her life, but the pain and the blood return twenty-eight days later… and the cycle begins again.

But Emma, even in her madness, knows how to take care of herself.
She knows how to make things right…

You may not agree…
But, who can reason with insanity?

Read this tragic but fascinating tale and traverse the labyrinthine passages of madness.

Rating:  5/5

My Thoughts:  This is a well written, but often painful, portrayal of the tormented life of a young woman. With a life consisting mainly of abuse and neglect Emma is driven to the fight for survival with horrific consequences.

While this tale contains many difficult moments I was left with the overwhelming feeling that things could have turned out so differently had she been shown some basic human compassion.

Not an easy read but a well crafted story that is certainly worth reading.

Book Review – Bird Box

What a gorgeous sunny Easter weekend we have seen – and there is nothing like sunshine to get me sitting out in the garden reading 🙂

Today I finished Bird Box by Josh Malerman… and this is what I thought

BBoxBlurb:  Josh Malerman’s debut novel BIRD BOX is a terrifying, psychological thriller that is sure to stay with you long after reading.

Most people dismissed the reports on the news. But they became too frequent; they became too real. And soon it was happening to people we knew.

Then the Internet died. The televisions and radios went silent. The phones stopped ringing

And we couldn’t look outside anymore.

Rating: 5/5

My Thoughts: Like many people I first became aware of this story when it was a Netflix film (which I haven’t seen) so I thought it might be worth a read.

It was.

Despite being told through alternating times there was no difficulty in relating to where you are in the story and I think that helped to add to the suspense. When you are in the “present” you can’t help but wonder what happened to some of the characters from the “past”.

The tension builds well throughout the story with the unknown threat forever looming over the characters, unable to view the outside world or step outside without binding your eyes while never knowing for sure what the “creatures” might do, or be able to do.

The ending did leave a little to be desired but I am happy to see that there is a sequel coming later this year so hopefully some unanswered questions will so have their answers.

An enjoyable read.