Nightmares of Caitlin Lockyer (Nightmares, #1) by Demelza Carlton

This review is a part of a reviews only book tour hosted by Irresistible Reads Book Tours. Visit the Tour Page for more reviews!

This is not my usual kind of read: but it was a good getaway from the routine. Nightmares of Caitlin Lockyer is an odd story, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s very unique. I would probably have liked it a lot more at thirteen, but I’m glad I read the book anyway.

About the book:  There are real monsters out there. The worst part is that
they’re human.
“Nathan Miller.”
“What happened?
“I was shot.”
“Her name?”
“Caitlin Lockyer.”
“What happened to her?”
“Looks like someone tried to kill her.”
Nathan found a girl lying on a beach covered in blood.
Saving her life was just the start. Now he’s the prime suspect and he has to
find out who’s really responsible. Both of their lives depend on it.
Who hurt her?
Why was he shot?
 What did he promise?
Why doesn’t his story add up?
 Who was the dead man
on the beach?
What will she remember when she wakes up?

My thoughts: The first page throws you right into the very middle of the action. A man wakes up in a hospital asking after a girl, Caitlin. The story unravels slowly and you learn in the first fifth of the book that Nathan Miller has rescued the girl, after she had been repeatedly raped and dumped on a beach, where he happened to be. Even as you discover this, you know there are things Nathan isn’t telling. There are references to conversations about protecting Caitlin and finding the bad guys. For the longest while, it is difficult to judge Nathan, to guess if he actually is a good guy. Meanwhile, Caitlin Lockyer has been through too much, has dropped into unconsciousness and is riddled by vivid nightmares; which we get glimpses of in alternating chapters.

I don’t want to say how the story progresses after Caitlin wakes, far be it from me to spoil the book for you. But there’s one thing that I really love: the story keeps you guessing and it turns out that your guesses are invariably wrong. It’s intriguing and the suspense keeps you on the edge of your seat. The characters are fully fleshed out, hardly black and white; though the dialogue sometimes lacks ease. One thing which wholly lacks credibility is the slack hospital they’re in, but you just have to go with it. While not the perfect book, it is a lovely, emotional, even romantic break from reality. It certainly makes you appreciate your reality a lot more than you usually tend to. Mostly, Nightmares of Caitlin Lockyer deals with a not-so-delicate, kind-of-disturbing topic with surprising subtlety.

The book does leave you with questions, which I have to admit is an annoying tactic to get people to read the sequel: The Necessary Evil of Nathan Miller. However, in spite of myself, I do want to read it! I am very curious to know the story from Caitlin’s point of view and I have a feeling I will enjoy it. Why don’t you to see for yourself? You can buy Nightmares of Caitlin Lockyer by Demelza Carlon here on Amazon.

Rating: 3/5

About the author: Demelza Carlton has always loved the ocean, but on her first
snorkelling trip she found she was afraid of fish.

She has since swum with sea lions, sharks and sea cucumbers
and stood on spray drenched cliffs over a seething sea as a seven-metre
cyclonic swell surged in, shattering a shipwreck below.
Sensationalist spin? Hardly. She takes a camera with her to
photograph such things to share later. She asserts that sharks are camera shy.
Demelza now lives in Perth, Western Australia, the shark
attack capital of the world.
The Ocean’s Gift series was her first foray into fiction,
followed by her Nightmares trilogy.

Erebos by Ursula Poznanski

“I withdraw my consent from reality. I deny it my
assistance. I dedicate myself to the temptations of escapism, and throw myself
wholeheartedly into the endlessness of unreality.”

Ursula Poznanski is an Austrian author, who mainly writes children’s books. Erebos is a young-adult science fiction thriller set in London. It is about a computer role-play game that is more than just a game! The book is translated into English by Judith Pattinson.

The kids in sixteen year old Nick’s school are all into some sort of game, passing DVDs around in secret and he is desperate to find out what it is. When he finally gets the white square package from Brynne, he is intrigued by its rules. Always play alone, never talk about the game, and never tell anyone your player name. Erebos is a multi-player computer game and Nick’s character is a dark elf called Sarius. The characters have to fight battles and earn points and find wish crystals and all that sort of gamey stuff I understand little about; the ultimate goal of every character is to reach the Inner Circle of five champions who will fight the final battle against Ortolan, the enemy. But Erebos is no ordinary game. It is complex and intelligent and leaks suspiciously into reality; the players are assigned tasks that they need to carry out in real life, the game can tell when they’re lying. No one can cheat the game nor hack into it or try to modify it. Most importantly, the game is manipulative; and the few kids who refuse to play have to pay the price. When Nick is sent on a deadly assignment, he has to choose between fantasy and reality. 
The book is as engaging as the game. I read it in one happy sitting. The descriptions of the game are delightfully vivid. When Nick is playing the game, Sarius takes over the narration and we can easily put ourselves in his shoes! The game draws from Greek mythology and that makes the imagery all the more intriguing. For the longest time, Erebos sounded a lot to me like Cetebos; but of course, that has nothing to do with it. Erebos is the God of Darkness and makes a wonderful name for this dark game. The game isn’t so much scary as wicked and it seems to relish the havoc it creates in the schools, the people who are kicked out show signs of withdrawal, becoming mysteriously weak and ill; those who don’t participate are goaded by the game and its players to join in the fun, or threatened if they still refuse!

When Nick joins his once-best-now-estranged friends to defeat the game, we meet the lovable Viktor, the twenty something gaming expert, who, in the face of bad news, looks like a troubled teddy bear. The romance between Nick and Emily is just gooey enough to not be overdone. And the ending is at once happy, sad and well plotted. I have to say, though, the stereotypes are annoying: the oriental boy, the fat anti-social girl and the shrill girly-girl to name a few. But you’d be crazy not to expect that from school kids and the fact is, when at the end, the authors reveals who each game character was in real life, she does shatter quite a few of the cliches!

Like I said, for a young-adult novel, this is pretty enjoyable. The translation is somewhat clumsy, I have to say, no one talks like that (do they? in London?) and there are some German words and phrases that are oddly out of place in that setting. That being said, though, I like Poznanski’s writing and am eager to try her adult (I think?) mystery Fünf, which unfortunately is yet to be translated. I would never have read this book had it not been for The German Literature Month. The light and entertaining story was a nice interruption to the the literary writings I usually read this time of the year.

The Thing in the Forest by A.S. Byatt

Little Black Book of Stories tells five tales, which blend the ordinary with the absurd. The collection opens with a perfectly intriguing story, about the blurred edges of reality, called The Thing in the Forest.

It is the story of two girls, Penny and Primrose. It is set during the WWII, when children are evacuated from London to the country. The girls, who have nothing in common, other than this shared exclusion from the world, meet on the train and deciding to stick together, become friends.

At the estate, when the children are free to do as they please, Penny and Primrose decide to explore the forest. In it, they see, or think they see, a thing. A huge slimy worm-like creature right out of a nightmare. It doesn’t harm them and they never speak of it again. But this sudden exposure to the uncanny, the evil changes the girls forever. Each finds her own way to deal with the loss of childhood innocence till their paths cross again, and the women meet in the very forest years later.

“They remembered the thing they had seen in the forest in the way you remember those very few dreams – almost all nightmares – which have the quality of life itself, not of fantasm, or shifting provisional scene-set. (Though what are dreams if not life itself?) In the memory, as in such a dream, they felt, I cannot get out, this is a real thing in a real place.”

“I think, I think there are things that are real – more real than we are – but mostly we don’t cross their paths, or they don’t cross ours. Maybe at very bad times we get into their world, or notice what they are doing in ours.”

Ever since I read Elementals: Stories of Fire and Ice, I’ve been in awe of A.S. Byatt’s wordsmithery. Even in this story, she paints vivid pictures with her prose. Her writing prods each of our senses. She has a way with colours, describing darkness as nothing but the colour of ink and elephant; contrasting the golden and darkly shadowed light in the woods with the light in city terraces, and naming toadstools, some scarlet, some ghostly-pale and some a dead-flesh purple. With a delightfully rich imagination, Byatt describes feelings that run over our skin, pricking and twitching; primroses that smell of thin, clear, spring honey without the buzz of summer; and Penny, in the woods, hearing a tremulous shiver in the darkness, and her own heartbeat in the thickening brown air. But the vivid detailing is, appropriately, only part of the charm.

Like in Ragnarok, in this story, Byatt portrays children just as they are: naughty and innocent, with more understanding than any adult could fathom, imaginative, curious and daring and having their own personal reality. The story weaves together themes of war, innocence, dreams, faith, dealing with loss, grief and finding our place in the world. It’s a coming-of-age story; slightly too abstract, perhaps, to appeal to all; but worth reading.

Byatt’s works are categorized as fantasy, but seem to me to be a genre-defying combination of magic realism, naturalism and gothic horror. The Thing in the Forest and two other stories from the collection, The Stone Woman and The Pink Ribbon, have a blatantly mythic, supernatural element. The Stone Woman is a bit too vague for my taste, but will be adored by geology and Icelandic mythology enthusiasts. The Pink Ribbon is about a man who is haunted by a sort of memory of his wife, who now has Alzheimer’s. The other two stories, Body Art and Raw Material, not fantasy nor horror, portray the tragic mundane of our lives with overwhelming honestly. Together, the five stories form another great read by (and, possibly, a nice introduction to) my favourite short story writer.

Reviewed for Peril of the Short Story – the R.I.P. Challenge.

Joyland by Stephen King

Summary: Saying Joyland by Stephen King is a mix of a horror story and a crime novel wouldn’t be quite right: it’s the kind of book that you couldn’t squeeze into one genre. It is about twenty-one year old, mopey, just-broken-up-with-his-first-love Devin Jones who does a summer job at an amusement park, Joyland (where they sell fun.) On his first day, two mysterious things happen. One: Madame Fortuna, the resident fortune teller and an apparent psychic, predicts that Devin would meet two important children during his work at Joyland, one of them with the Sight. Two: Devin hears of the ghost that haunts the park’s only dark ride, Horror House. A little sleuthing leads him to the tragic murder of Linda Gray, by a man who slit her throat and dumped her in the darkest part of the amusement ride; the murderer was never caught. Intrigued by the stories, slightly suicidal after his break-up, Devin finds himself turning his summer stint at Joyland into a full time job. And that is when he meets Annie Ross and her ten-year-old, Mike, who knows he is going to die, just the way he somehow knows so many other things.
My thoughts: This book was so sweet. It reminded me of how 11.22.63 made me feel at the end and if you’ve read it, you’ll know what I mean. It was deeply moving. Joyland was another one of those reads that show that Stephen King writes more than ‘scary stories’. This was not another book of gory monsters written for those with the emotional range of a teaspoon (know who said that? give yourself a pat on the back!) Nor just another whodunit where the story ends fair and happy when the smart detective figures out who the killer is.

The book was written in a nostalgic tone, as Devin, now old described the most memorable times of his youth. It was almost ruefully funny at times and sad and scary, at others. I adored Mike, the little crippled boy so full of hope. In a way, he might have reminded me of Danny Torrance (so many other Goodreads reviewers say the same thing) for his ability, but somehow he left a much greater impression on me. I liked the people of Joyland, all strange, hilarious and thoroughly lovable; from Fortuna to the owner, the cute old man Bradley Easterbrook. Not to mention, Tom Kennedy and Erin Cook; the young promises and friendships were wonderfully dealt with. Throughout, I could visualize Joyland and its carny lingo, its employees taking turns at ‘wearing the fur’ and being Happy Howie, the German shepherd mascot, the spooky lore and the large Ferris wheel, Carolina Spin, which made you feel like you were flying. The mystery itself was noirish and played out roughly: the ‘answer’ which ought to satisfy you, just left me drained.

Mostly, Joyland by Stephen King was a gritty, brutally honest coming-of-age novel. Read it as a book about growing up and tackling life as it comes, and you might love it.

I read this because I finally found it, yay. But also maybe for the R.I.P. Challenge. I’m just biding time now till my copy of Dr. Sleep arrives.

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

A little more than a year ago, I read this review of The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson on Vishy’s Blog. The review made it sound like the most fascinating book and if not anything else, it is certainly that.

It is difficult to write a summary for a book that winds so many stories together, but I’ll try. The book opens with the life-altering car crash of our narrator, once a hardcore porn-star and a junkie. He survives, but his body is almost irreparably burnt. While recovering in the burn ward of a hospital, alone and grotesque, the pain drives him to a point where the only relief is the idea of suicide. With the same suddenness with which the narrator describes his accident, he introduces us to the character central to his story: Marianne Engel, a beautiful apparent schizophrenic, a sculptress of gargoyles, who believes not only that she is seven hundred years old but that she’s our narrator’s true love. She insists that they were lovers in medieval Germany; he, a badly burnt mercenary; and she, a nun, who nursed him back to health. Tacky as it may sound, with little to do but suffer the extensive treatment for his injury, our narrator immerses himself into the tales of love and God that the strange Marianne tells him; intrigued by the accuracy and consistency of her delusions. Under the care of his physiotherapist, the cheerful Sayuri, and his doctor Nan Edwards, with the help of an unlikely friend, a shrink, and the increasingly mysterious Marianne Engel, our narrator’s condition slowly improves. When he is released from the hospital, the narrator moves in with Marianne, and realizes for the first time the true extent of her mania.

“If a man says that God is wise, the man is lying because
anything that is wise can become wiser. Anything that a man might say about God
is incorrect, even calling Him by the name of God. The best a man can do is to remain silent, because any time
he prates on about God, he is committing the sin of lying. The true master
knows that if he had a God he could understand, he would never hold Him to be

Now let me just say I like the book. Looking back on the 200-something pages, I can say with certainty that I’m glad I read them. You’ll find many reviews on Amazon, Goodreads or your favourite book-lovers’ haunt that describe just how charming, intelligently crafted, poetic, hauntingly beautiful the book is. I am intrigued by Davidson’s imagination. The historical life of Marianne, growing up as a scribe in the famed monastery of Engelthal, is a wonderful blend of languages, art and literature. The culinary delights that she prepares for the narrator in the present day are appropriately delightful. The tales Marianne narrates, of everyone from Vikings to proper Victorian ladies, are an added charm. As I said, I like the book; but I don’t quite love it. Though it had everything it needed to be properly splendid, the book just never fully held my attention.
I get the appeal for the book. The setting, the eerie writing, the mysticism, the switching timelines are reminiscent of writers like Patrick Sueskind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, A. S. Byatt. The narrator’s oddly modern cynicism and abrupt sense of humour, the way the narrator talks, reminds me, for some reason, of China Mieville, though the content of this book rarely resembles his. The writing style, however, seems far too forced, like the author is mimicking his favourite writers; almost like a child who reads Enid Blyton writing about mean, horrid grown-ups and children who say things like, “Goodness me!” Apart from the stories Marianne tells, which are truly nice, there is little story-telling; only disconnected scenes strung together to form a brittle ‘plot’. Few ‘chapters’, if they could be called that, are longer than a page. The theme of the book is, as is to be expected, redemption. But the part where the message of the book becomes most evident is rushed. Dante’s Inferno, the circles of Hell are woven into the story, but even that story line remains, though imperceptibly, rough at the edges. While the author spends a long time working out an intricate history for all characters, their minds are superficial at best. The sudden change in the narrator and his view of the world, his abrupt lack of skepticism, the complete wiping away of the effects of his past, though brought on by a doubtlessly tragic incident, are sketchy at best. Marianne, who has so much potential, comes dangerously close to becoming an empty silhouette of a character; just a stereotype. Sayuri is an interesting character, her story adds a welcomed dash of bubbling humanity to the book, but even the ending the author presents her seems little more than a tying up of loose ends. The doctor is another stereotype I’d rather not dwell on. My favourite character is Jack Meredith, ’nuff said.
Despite the lengthy criticism, I do think the book is worth reading. It is certainly rather unique. It’s not long, and though it sometimes loses momentum, if you like history, magical realism, dark fantasy, mythology, art, specifically grotesques, give The Gargoyle a chance.

I think the book fits The Historical Fiction Challenge better than it does the R.I.P. Challenge, though the latter is the one I originally read it ‘for’. 

The Dark by James Herbert

Honestly, I didn’t know James Herbert was renowned for horror, when I bought The Dark at this book sale at a ridiculously small price. I’ve read quite a few horror books, but only a few by each author; except, of course, Stephen King: but I couldn’t help that, he’s written too many books. I’ve begun, overtime, to associate horror with Stephen King. But I’ve gotten used to his style of writing. This was a good change; a little more raw, absurd, wild; a less focused on individual characters. It wasn’t like the books or movies that you’d consider to be stereotypes of the genre. It did not have the usual formulaic plot characteristic of the horror-chiller genre: strange huge house; new residents, initially skeptics; a child, woman from the family becomes a sort of medium, seances and exorcism reveal that someone had died there in some sort of excruciatingly brutal and unjust manner.  The book reminded me of Peter Straub’s Ghost Story for having a similar villain, it had the cult-ish vibe of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (Lovecraft) and it was much like a 28 Days Later, society-breaks-down adventure!
Summary: The book opens with Chris Bishop, a ghost-hunter hired by the estate agents, entering an old house, Beechwood, to find thirty one mangled corpses. In the house and especially in the cellar, the black darkness seems like a force of its own. Terrified of the increasingly cold, uneasy atmosphere, Bishop runs away from the house. A while later, he is found on the street, unconscious and with no memory of what he witnessed and how he got out. Almost a year (I think?) after the Beechwood mass suicide incident, Bishop is approached by Jessica Kuleck and father, parapsychic Jacob Kulek to investigate three seemingly unrelated murders in one night that happened on the same road, Willow Road, as Beechwood house. Along with Edith Metlock, who is a medium and the father and daughter, with the reluctant permission of the house owner, Bishop, our cynical ghost-chaser, sets off to Beechwood to conduct an investigation. Following a perverse, gory vision Bishop has and an attack by a crazed woman, Beechwood is set to be torn down. But when it is demolished, the dark that was once contained in the house is released, as a powerful and seductive evil energy possesses the world, manipulating its victims to insanity.
The Dark is your classic fight between good and evil, light and dark offered with a twist. It brings up the question of what evil really is and whether it is a part of our minds or a stage in our lives. It also goes beyond a usual good trumps evil ending and concludes in a most amazing, though not entirely unexpected, fashion. The explanation behind the malevolent force that enters people’s minds at night, that they call the Dark, was intriguing and unique. The science meets parapsychology aspect of the book was fascinating and well constructed. A recurring theme in The Dark is that the paranormal is quite normal; we just haven’t understood it yet: it continues, predictably, with a wink and a, “but some of us might have already understood it”, but that’s getting into details that I don’t want to spoil for you.
I loved the book for the ideas and the theme. What I do feel is, the book could have been condensed. There was too much mayhem for the sake of describing mayhem. Some of it I got, but most of it was written with a disturbing relish, making me wonder, which side the author really was on. Limbs being torn off, throats being sliced open, people being raped, throttled to death, poured gasoline on and set to fire: there was too much crude and unnecessarily detailed violence for my taste. You know how King starts Under the Dome introducing us to a woman who dies within a couple of minutes, anyway and plays no part in the rest of the book? Just to shock us? This happens more times that you could count in The Dark. I suppose I got to know the people and understand the terrific evil inside them, even when it was just a spark of darkness; but mostly, it just disgusted me. The book could have been a hundred pages shorter (mine is four hundred and fifty pages long.) and would have still been a harrowing but fascinating journey. Also, though Bishop is shown to grow as a character, becoming considerably more open-minded over the course of the book, I found it a bit annoying that he (the writer) still referred to Edith as ‘the medium’ till the very end. 
The writing is by no means literary or verbose, it is almost a little dated, but it’s immensely engaging. I read the book in one day and I do see myself reading more books by James Herbert. You should give this a try, if you aren’t weak minded or easily bothered by gore.
The Readers Imbibing Peril Challenge is back, I think this is my third year participating. The Dark is my first book for R.I.P. VIII and there are many more to come!

Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra

You know how you read this enormous book and when you’re finally done, you still don’t want to put it down? I went back and re-read my favourite parts, savouring them just as much, all over again. Very few books have that effect on me.

Set in the criminal underworld of Mumbai, the book is the story of the intertwining lives of Marathi gangster, later dubbed the ‘Hindu don’, Ganesh Gaitonde and Sikh inspector Sartaj Singh. The book opens with Sartaj Singh, who has only ever heard of Gaitonde and the G-Company getting an anonymous tip-off of Gaitonde’s current location. On reaching there, Singh finds Gaitonde in an inaccessible bunker. After a quick chat, as Sartaj tries to get inside, Ganesh Gaitonde kills himself. Inside the bunker, the police find, along with the dead man, a woman, also shot. The investigation that follows is led by Sartaj Singh, who has to report to a mysteriously large national-international agency. The narrative is divided into the current investigation, led by Singh and the gangster-spy Gaitonde telling his own story. It’s not just the story of these two men, that the writer provides, but a full and intricate world, with stories and back-stories for a every character and a unique voice for most. In various inset chapters, the writer develops stories for seemingly minor characters; making me look at them not as characters but as people. Which makes me say: Sacred Games not just a book, it is so much more. There are a few things that I realized could have been better: the fact that there wasn’t a glossary present (but, I mean, really, how hard is it to figure out slang!), not to mention, the sheer size of the book (800 pages and counting.) The cheesy “the game always wins” tagline on the back cover didn’t help. Things could have been edited out, of course, some of the insets didn’t add up to much, but almost like with a Stephen King book, though I had to slog through the dull parts a bit, I barely recall having done so in the end. It just doesn’t matter!

Here’s what I liked. The book is honest. It gives a real, no-holds-barred picture of India, dirty slums and corruption included. But it does so with the eye of an insider; with Katekar complaining about the population, the police letting a few crimes go to catch a few bigger criminals, the successful bribing of all the cops, the squatters, the beggars expertly targeting the helpless foreigners, the addiction with Bollywood fame and the garbled Hindi-Marathi-English of Mumbai, not to mention, Gaitonde killing people with an unsettling ease. It has a lot of violence, swearing, all made realistic by putting them into a historical contest. It has the offensive religious debates and discrimination characteristic of the country. It has as much social criticism as the ever-so-famous, Booker winning White Tiger, except it rings true. My problem with White Tiger is this: it is impossible to imagine a man who’s part of the system look at it from such a strikingly objective view. In Sacred Games, the social critique hits you even harder as the characters are more convincing. The book makes you think of Mumbai as a living being with a disease, instead of providing you with the text-book knowledge of the rift between the rich and the poor and other problems faced by the country.

It is a good picture of India, for whoever’s interested. Not only because it shows the evil, the kind that can make you tremendously queasy; but because it shows you the truly good things about India. It captures the spirit of the place; I could imagine myself strolling through the city with all the descriptions of people humming old Kishore Kumar-Dev Anand songs, car-radios blaring, the fashion, the typical Mumbai chai and food, and the descriptions of the sea-side. I have noticed many Indian authors using native words in italics, carefully explained by footnotes, most likely to create an exotic atmosphere. What I loved with Sacred Games is that the author has incorporated the typical English words and phrases you’d regularly hear here: people casually deflecting thank yous with a “Mention not.”, declaring a movie too ‘filmi’, describing someone as wearing a ‘checked shirt’ and the moderately fancy restaurants having ‘rexine sofas’. There’s a lot of Hindi swearing, though, but I don’t see how the book could have done without that, a bunch of Mumbai gangsters saying ‘bastard’ won’t quite have the same effect.

Ultimately the book is a Bollywood movie, a good one, anyway, which is something I never thought I’d use as a compliment; in that, it’s classic and just stereotypical enough to work really well. It makes a point, and gives you an at once funny, thrilling, touching time. If you expect a book with a clean linear plot, with a start, a middle and an end; this book, not being very organized, may disappoint you. Read the book expressly to be entertained, shocked and surprised and I’m sure, you will be.

The First Bird: Episode 1 by Greig Beck

One word: Awesome. For a sort of modern version of The Lost World, this book is pretty creative. 

Somewhere in the deep jungles of Brazil, a social anthropologist discovers something extraordinary. The fame-hungry scientist brings back to LA a live specimen of an Archaeopteryx (the eponymous first bird) and with it, a deadly infection that flays its victims alive. So, while the disease spreads, a team of experts sets out to Gran Chaco to find a cure; a team which includes Professor Matt Kearns, an expert in archaeology, old languages and more out of necessity than choice, adventure. While the plot is kind of formulaic, the world created is entirely original.

As with Black Mountain, the thing that really makes this book work is the pace. The plot speeds on and before you even realize it, you’re completely hooked. And for someone who manages to keep things moving so quickly, the authors gives a lot of attention to details. Very few authors can describe an intense action packed scene in such a way that you can picture every single move, as if in slow motion. The vivid descriptions make the scenes come to life, making all the bad things ten times more horrific. There are few information dumps, but since this is a thin book (and only the first part in a series), I had to wish there were. Episode 1 is almost just a teaser and ends with that pesky cliffhanger. I can’t wait to read the second part.

The team is made up of quite a variety of characters, with rather obvious good and bads, so you’re bound to find someone to relate to. There’s swift, funny dialogue and very cool inputs from the entomologist and the linguist. The native legends, and customs, described mostly by Moema, the local guide of sorts make the whole book very interesting and very real. It also gives you the vaguest idea of what’s about to come and how deep the author’s capable of digging into a topic. Which is the thing I loved the most: while it’s just a novella, it’s massive in scope.

There is still time to read Episode 1 of The First Bird before Episode 2 comes out in July, followed by the final episode in August. If you like action, adventure, history, fantasy and thrillers, this is an author you don’t want to miss.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review from the publisher.

Black Mountain by Greig Beck

He looked up at the black hole. He didn’t see it as a cave mouth anymore; instead, he thought of it as a doorway. And something had come out of that doorway that should have been extinct. A ripple of nausea ran through his gut as he remembered another cave from his past. It wasn’t true that deep caves were always dead and sterile places. Some caves were very much alive, and held secrets that were horrifying and deadly.

Summary: Alex Hunter, code
named Arcadian, wakes up with no knowledge of who he is, in the care of a
woman he doesn’t recognise, in a country not his own. But there is a calling
deep within him, to return home to Black Mountain.
Formed a billion
years ago, the Appalachian’s Black Mountain hosts a terrible legend.
Only one elder remains to guard its long-forgotten, deadly secret and
there is a fear that there is evil lurking again. Some hikers have gone
missing, and the rescue team sent to search for them has not returned.
Meanwhile, in nearby Ashville, Professor Matt Kearns is drawn into the
mystery of an ancient artefact recovered from the mountainside, and an image
too grotesque to be real.
A survivor is then
found half-alive, covered in blood – blood revealed to be not quite human.
Alex must confront
an age-old enemy of man and discover the truth about his past,
and confront the horror that stalks the frozen mountain, and also the one
haunting his very soul.

My thoughts: This book is awesome, fantastic, mind-blowing and many other superlatives. The author has taken one of the most popular legends – that of Bigfoot – and given it a brilliant twist, turning what could have been a very typical story into something endlessly interesting. My first thought when I started reading was: It’s story about Sasquatch being real – what’s not to like? I soon began to realize that it was a lot more than just that. It is at times hard to follow a book when there are too many sub-plots, too many things going on all at once. But in Black Mountain, the author manages to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout. Every little strand of story is just as engaging and the build-up is amazing. I could anticipate a big finish and it did arrive with a bang!

I have always been a fan of multiple points of view, and the author has pulled them off perfectly. I loved the fact that the book also offers little bits from the creature’s point of view. The dialogue had a good flow to it and as the book progressed, I really started to care about the characters, which enhanced my reading experience even further. Not to mention, all the action. Saying that the book is action-packed would be an understatement. The author gives a move for move, blow for blow description of every fight, every interaction. I could visualize the scenes in the book perfectly and it was exciting to read. I am sure this book would make a great movie.

The book is fast paced, but not too fast either; just fast enough. This isn’t just another run-of-the-miller thriller. Black Mountain, and I believe the entire series, has a lot to offer. There are touching, bittersweet moments when Alex struggles after his past, there are times which are funny, quirky and romantic and then there are moments of bone chilling terror.

There are many characters in the book, so for someone who hasn’t read the entire series, it may be slightly confusing. Having read Arcadian Genesis, I was acquainted with the main characters and their story-lines, but there are things that I would probably understand better after reading the other books in the series. While it’s not a perfect standalone, I would still recommend the book to people who haven’t read rest of the series; better yet, I recommend you to read the whole series – trust me, it’s worth it. Grab your copies right here!

Connections by Mary Lou Gediman

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Summary: Pontiac Parker is a bit of an eccentric. He is also
extremely dedicated to his cultural and spiritual heritage. Pontiac’s extraordinary fixation with the number seven may
seem peculiar to the insensible onlooker. To him, thought, it’s as
natural as any one of his other beliefs. He doesn’t know how or when his
complex seven obsessions started, but, as the story unfolds, he will slowly and
surely find out.

On his wedding day a note with a feather attached to it and
a series of numbers written on it is left taped to his front porch, clues for
him and his new bride to decipher. These are soon followed by more clues, more
notes, and more elusive numbers to figure out. What does it all mean? Neither
he nor his new bride knows what to make of it all. They soon discover that they
cannot ignore the notes and the clues because the fate of many lives ultimately
hangs in the balance. But, in order for him to save these people’s lives and
also the lives of many generations to come, he must first face the most
debilitating and dangerous challenge he has ever encountered. And it is a challenge
that shakes the very core of his Native American belief system.
The risks are great and the rewards are many, but for whom? And in the end,
what underlying force will ultimately prevail – altruism or greed?

My thoughts: It is very hard to write about this book. I want to love it but I can’t and here’s why.
The plot of this book is intricate and naturally, very well thought out. The fact that the writer has conducted a lot of research and built an engaging story around it is evident. Everything, right from the title to the illness, fits together like pieces of a fabulous puzzle. Connections is what the book is all about, bonds and family ties and the fact that sometimes all we can do is help. I love the way the writer has integrated a message in every part of the book and the story and what the characters have to face do leave a lasting impression on the reader.
And still, something is missing. I found the book a bit dull. It took me a long time to want to read further. I had to trudge on through the first few chapters, searching for the action that came too late. The characters are introduced in excruciating detail way too soon. The author tried to be amusing as she spent the entire first chapter describing the eccentric Pontiac, but the humour was lost on me. I thought the characters were a bit too specific and because I couldn’t relate to most of their typical traits, they bordered on seeming boring. At times, they even seemed inconsistent and even though I discovered many things about Pontiac and Maggie throughout the story, there didn’t seem to be a real character arc.

So the question I keep coming back to is whether I can love a book for the story, when I didn’t particularly like the characters. That is something you should find out for yourself! If you like thrillers, with mysterious pasts and codes and relationships and such, this is the book for you. Grab your copy right here!