#Review: Sentinel by Joshua Winning #YALit #Fantasy @JoshWinning

Today I am delighted to present a review for Joshua Winning’s YA fantasy Sentinel. The first instalment in a trilogy, I was immediately sucked and mesmerized by a world that so closely parallels our own. This is one of those books that I started and couldn’t stop until it was finished – so if you love YA, a little paranormal fantasy, a brilliant imagination this one might just be for you!


21503783Title: Sentinel

Author: Joshua Winning 

Publisher: Peridot Press

Publication Date: May 19th, 2014

Genre: Fiction, YA Fiction, Fantasy

Themes: Survival, Family, Paranormal

Features: N/A


My Rating: 4/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

“What is a Sentinel? A guard. A detective. A killer…”

They are the world’s best-kept secret – an underground society whose eternal cause is to protect the world against the dark creatures and evil forces that inhabit the night.

Now Sentinels are being targeted, murdered and turned as the fury of an ancient evil is unleashed once more. And when 15-year-old Nicholas Hallow’s parents are killed in a train crash, the teenager is drawn into a desperate struggle against malevolent powers.

Sentinel is the first book in the Sentinel Trilogy – a world of unconventional heroes, monsters, murder and magic.


My Review

I really, really enjoyed this book. A lot of times I find it hard to get into YA fantasy as it either comes across as childish or it there is simply too much backstory to get into. But, Sentinel really finds the goldilocks medium of just enough of everything to keep it approachable, moving along, and just enough enough detail for everything to make sense while leaving just enough details out to keep you guessing.

I ended up loving Nicholas as a character, as he was mature enough to handle all of the obstacles thrown at him in a reasonable (read no overly stroppy) manner, yet he will filled with just enough angst and self pity to remain relatable despite the more fantastical elements of this book. I would, however, have liked to know a little bit more about his parents, what sentinels really do, and what happened to Sam’s wife. But, seeing as there are two more books to comes and Winning’s slow release style of handing out details I have no doubt that the answers to these questions will surface in the books to come.

With that being said though, Sam was by far my favourite supporting character. Who doesn’t love a plucky old man who can surprise the heck out of you by holding his own… or whipping a rifle out at random moments? It was refreshing to see that his sentimentality never waned despite the gravity of the situations presented, and that he always remained loving and compassionate to those in his care. I truly appreciated that he never stopped believing that he could save his friends, and hope that this theme persists into books two and three.

As a librarian, one of the things that really drew me in is the fact that neither Sentinel or Ruins are particularly long, with both books sitting around 300 pages give or take a few. It’s long enough to tell a full story, but no so long that the girth of the book scares potential readers away. As someone who rarely circulates the bound collection of Tolkien’s work as a single volume, but rushes around circulating the individual instalments of LOTR in quick succession, I know just how important the intimidation factor on the shelf can be for YA readers.

But what I loved the most about this book was the inclusion of History and facts too often considered to be above a teen audience. My heart literally went pitter-patter at the mention of the Grimm brothers and their dictionary, as well as when Perrault’s fairy tales were brought into the fray. The only things missing from those conversations were the Grimm’s Laws for linguistics and the fact that Perrault’s recorded fairy tales were, in fact, edited amalgamations of tales that had been told orally for centuries and were only codified through his publications.

I was left with a good number of questions though, such as how does the Sentinel organization work, what purpose do the ravens have, and who are the Trinity? I also need to know more about Jessica and Isabella as their characters fascinate me, but I am happy with feeling like their mystery was part of the point. Despite a few lurking questions, there wasn’t enough to turn me off the books or even leave me feeling frustrated. Instead, they left me wanting more and eager to dive into the second book – Ruins.

Ultimately, I really liked this book! It’s well written, engaging, and vastly different from the majority of YA lit currently on offer. It has hints of Rowling, Clare, and even a Whedon but still clearly stands on it’s own. Sentinel is a promising start to what is sure to be an outstanding trilogy – it’s action packed, evenly paced, and allows just enough room for character development and battling the forces of evil.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely! I can’t wait to dive into Ruins, or for the third instalment to come out this summer. Take a gamble on this one, lovers of YA, I promise you won’t be disappointed.


Many thanks to Joshua Winning for providing paperback copies of both Sentinel and Ruins in exchange for an honest review. 

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#ARC #Review: Big Nate – Silent But Deadly by Lincoln Pierce #graphicnovel #childrenslit

The kids at my school are absolutely nuts about the Big Nate series, I struggle to keep them on the shelves! Not that this is a bad problem for a library, but seeing as I have about 40 copies amongst 300 students and only two that haven’t been checked out I  figured that I should give one a read and see what all the hype is about.


35924714Title: Big Nate: Silent But Deadly

Author: Lincoln Pierce

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Publication Date: March 20, 2018

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Middle Grade Fiction, Comics, Graphics Novel

Themes: Friendship, Pranks, Humour, Family, School

Features: N/A


My Rating: 4/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

Middle school is a breeding ground for mischief and dreaming big for Big Nate and his pals!

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR!

Everyone’s favorite sixth grader is back for more misadventures, and Big Nate: Silent But Deadly smells like a winner!

Whether he’s showing the ropes to a detention rookie, campaigning for the Student of the Month Award, or writing hilarious movie reviews for The Weekly Bugle, Nate Wright never fails to make his mark at P.S. 38. But middle school’s no bed of roses. In fact, sometimes it just plain stinks. Just ask the Great Nose-ini! Nate’s alter ego with a sense for scents can smell trouble a mile away . . . or at the very next desk. Was that you, Gina?

Join Nate and the gang for nonstop laughs in this latest collection of Big Nate comics!


My Review

Given that my students are absolutely nuts about this series, I think I was expecting to dive into something a little more substantial. But, after reminding myself that this is a series that resonates the most with kids in grades 2-5, I think perhaps my expectations were a little too high. Regardless, I’m glad that I finally dove into one of these as it’s great to see what’s got my kids excited to read.

There’s lots to love about this book, and I have no doubt that it will be a smashing hit like all those in the series that came before it. The artwork is simple and cartoonish, with block colours and high contrast. It’s easy to read with a spacious layout, and the colour blocking is such that even those with colour blindness are not likely to encounter too many issues. All of the panels read left-to-right and not too much action happens in the gutters, which makes this a perfect book where new comics readers can cut their their teeth on the medium and gain essential literacy competencies.

I love too, how the comics are a series of vignettes with some being just one page, while others are more substantial. Sure, there are arguments for a sustained plot, but the smaller episodes mean that this book will appeal to both established and reluctant readers alike. Given the spread of reading abilities within the targeted age groups, it can be difficult to find books that appeal in terms of difficulty and structure level across a broader spectrum and this one absolutely hits the mark.

But I didn’t love everything about this book, and as a result I’m am somewhat saddened by what must be in all the others that came before it. It plays strongly on stereotypes and reinforced some (gender) roles that I find a little concerning. Sure, this is meant to be funny, and yes it’s great to have a prolific series that appeals largely to boys, but some of the messaging is… outdated. Girls can be smart without being angry, can be discussed without being attached to male partner (how does a work of children’s lit fail the Bechtel test?), women can be older without enduring a loveless marriage, boys can settle disputes without resorting to violence, and big words can (and should) be used without encountering derision. My feminist arguments aside, it is the fear of/ need to ridicule intelligence that I find incredibly concerning. To send the message to kids this young that smartness and popularity are opposing forces is unnerving.

With that being said, I know that I am probably going to read a lot more into the messaging than the kids ever will. It’s funny, engaging, and is sure to get a large portion of young readers amped up about diving in. And not all of the messaging in bad! I need to say that after my little rant about – there is a huge focus on creativity, friendship, family, teamwork, and personal growth. So in this I am willing to accept the balance if it gets even the most reluctant readers turning the pages.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely! Despite the misconceptions about the graphic novel format, it introduces incredibly sophisticated words and concepts to it’s readers – often well above the intended grade level. Yet, the subject matter remains enticing and the pages packed with bawdy humour.

Librarians, order in hardcover – this baby will be in high demand!


Many thanks to Lincoln Pierce and Andrews McMeel Publishing for providing an advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

#Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris #HistoricalFiction #WWII

After seeing so many positive reviews for The Tattooist of Auschwitz, I decided that this was one book that I absolutely had to read. After the first few paragraphs I knew that this one was going to be hard to put down, and the result was that I accidentally ended up turning the final page at 2:00 AM… on a school night! If you love exceptional writing and historical fiction, I promise you won’t be disappointed.


35523006Title: The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Author: Heather Morris 

Publisher: Bonnier Publishing Australia

Expected Publication Date: February 1, 2018

Genre: Fiction, YA Fiction, Historical Fiction, Based on a True Story

Themes: WWII, Survival, Holocaust, Concentration Camps, Love, Family

Features: Archival Photographs, Afterward by Gary Sokolov


My Rating: 5/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, two Slovakian Jews who survived Auschwitz and eventually made their home in Australia. In that terrible place, Lale was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival – literally scratching numbers into his fellow victims’ arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust. Lale used the infinitesimal freedom of movement that this position awarded him to exchange jewels and money taken from murdered Jews for food to keep others alive. If he had been caught, he would have been killed; many owed him their survival.

There have been many books about the Holocaust – and there will be many more. What makes this one so memorable is Lale Sokolov’s incredible zest for life. He understood exactly what was in store for him and his fellow prisoners, and he was determined to survive – not just to survive but to leave the camp with his dignity and integrity intact, to live his life to the full. Terrible though this story is, it is also a story of hope and of courage. It is also – almost unbelievably – a love story. Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale – a dandy, a jack-the-lad, a bit of a chancer – it was love at first sight, and he determined not only to survive himself but to ensure that Gita did, too. His story – their story – will make you weep, but you will also find it uplifting. It shows the very best of humanity in the very worst of circumstances.

Like many survivors, Lale and Gita told few people their story after the war. They eventually made their way to Australia, where they raised a son and had a successful life. But when Gita died, Lale felt he could no longer carry the burden of their past alone. He chose to tell his story. Publisher’s Summary


My Review

Poignant and powerful, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is the kind of book that wends itself around your heartstrings and moves you like a marionette. Yet, despite the darkness of the subject matter, and the knowledge that this novel is based on actual events, there is always an element of hope and determination that keeps it from being the kind of read that absolutely destroys you.

Morris does an incredible job of capturing the fleeting nature of both life and happiness in the face of annihilation, the necessity of never losing hope, and the paradox of privilege in captivity. The matter of fact portrayal of life in Auschwitz illustrates the realities of surviving in such a dog-eat-dog environment, without romanticizing the experience. Lale’s fortitude and eternal optimism is perfectly balanced by Gita’s reluctance to hope, and his endless compassion by the inherent viciousness of their captors.

While I went into this knowing that it was a fictionalized account of Lale Sokolov’s memoirs, I was struck by the accuracy and depth of the details therein. Everything from the timeline of the gas vans to construction of the gas chambers and crematoria, Baretski shooting the lights out when drunk to the timing of the various nationalities that were witnessed at intake all aligns seamlessly with the information available. The truth of this story is all the more impactful for those familiar with the events of the Holocaust, as the text is constructed in such a way that you feel these horrors twice – first when you realize what is coming next, and then again when Lale and Gita endure these events as they come to pass.

Despite Lale’s womanizing ways, he was a character that I couldn’t help but love. It is clear that he cares deeply for those around him as he takes immeasurable risks to bring them food and comfort. The food trade, contraband market, and ability to get items in and out of the camp made for a compelling read, especially since these methods were never used for personal benefit. And regardless of the profit garnered from the relationship, the kindness of Victor (and others) was like a beacon in the storm. Knowing that this account was based on memories, it is uplifting to see the kindness of those forced to participate in these terrible acts remembered honestly and fondly.

And that depiction on Dr. Mengele, shut the front door! My skin crawled every times he graced the pages. Yet, we know he was a million times worse in person from survivor accounts and war crimes testimony. There was nothing more uncomfortable than reading Lale’s experiences in Mengele’s laboratory, or Leon’s, except perhaps those moments when the ash from the crematoria is raining down upon the camps and the prisoners are able to identify the people to which those ashes belonged.

Finally, I was incredibly moved by Morris’ notes and Gary Sokolov’s afterward. The presence of these bits of commentary added further weight to the story, and the family photographs of Lale and Gita hit home in providing faces beyond those that I had imagined while reading. I appreciated Lale’s desire to have his story heard by an outsider without baggage, and truly feel that Morris has captured and retold this story with the utmost respect.

Would I recommend this story? A million times yes! This is a story that not only needs to be read, but it’s one that we can not afford to forget. It is moving, emotional, gritty, and most importantly, real.


Many thanks to Heather Morris and Bonnier Publishing Australia for proving an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

#BlogTour #Excerpt #Review: Act II of the Forward to Glory Quartet: Exposition @FTGQuartet @rararesources

Today I have the pleasure of hosting a stop on the blog tour for Brian Paul Bach’s second installation in the Forward to Glory Quartet: Exposition. And as a little icing on the cake I am delighted to showcase not one, but two, excerpts from this epic-noir-satire.  I hope you enjoy the excerpts as much as I enjoyed the book, as this baby is a treasure trove of intertextuality for literature and cinema lovers alike.

Exposition_Banner


Synopsis

Butterbugs is becoming somebody. He has come to Hollywood to act, and as an aspiring performer, so far, he is a survivor. His dream persists… though barely. But something’s coming.

He has had to endure nearly crushing challenges with a tenacity deserving its own kind of award. Perhaps simple luck is all that’s needed. It soon appears, from unexpected quarters. And starting there, his ascent begins.

Butterbugs is about to be exposed – as actor, as talent, as star. A splash like no other will soon inundate Hollywood.

In FORWARD TO GLORY’s guise as a four-part epic-noir-satire, EXPOSITION continues the grand procession commenced in TEMPERING. Proudly episodic, unabashedly sensational, it is a saga geared to a seasoned readership eager to embrace a daring narrative with determination and relish.

As he advances, Butterbugs is gifted with the assistance of many: Vonda – the superstar, who literally picks him off the street; The Angry Black Priest – the super-artist, who, out of tragedy, teaches him wisdom; Sonny Projector – the super-agent, who sees something exceptional in this intriguing unknown; Old Atrocity – the super-technician, whose cinematic expertise perfectly compliments the actor’s unique persona; Cody, Saskia and Justy – women to love, who love him; Pepper and Prairie – whose very existence may be nothing more than shadows on a screen but whose power is projected upon him; and Heatherette – whose reappearance saves his life.

The FORWARD TO GLORY Quartet

  1. Tempering – the Actor’s struggles
  2. Exposition – the Actor’s rise
  3. Apotheosis – the Actor’s climax
  4. Beyond Fin – the Actor’s legend

Amazon UKhttps://www.amazon.co.uk/Forward-Glory-Brian-Paul-Bach/dp/1912262096

Barnes & Noblehttps://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/forward-to-glory-brian-paul-bach/1127211317?ean=9781912262090


Review 

Today I’m going to leave the review itself a little bit on the shorter side because I don’t like having posts that are too long, and I really didn’t want to have to choose between the two excerpts provided! So, I’ll let the excerpts do most of the talking and keep my opinions to a (relative) minimum.

I’ll start off in saying that the book description wasn’t kidding when it stated that the series is intended for seasoned readers, but if you’re willing to engage you’re intertextual brain this book won’t disappoint. I loved the frequent allusions to literary giants like Johnathan Swift, pop culture icons like Beyonce and Brad Pitt, and iconic architecture. And that’s not even touching on the mile a minute references to countless films spanning from Hollywood’s golden era to present day.

I really appreciated the consistent and complete referencing throughout – it’s been a while since I encountered parenthetical in-text citations in my pleasure reading, but I liked it! The academic in me wants the references at the end of each book instead of having to wait for the fourth instalment to cone out, but the reality is that I am jus thrilled to see each and every source cited. I was struck too, by the claim that too few of todays stars lack even a fundamental literacy in cinema and the industry that shaped it. I’m not sure if this statement was meant to be applied to just theatre and cinema, but it certainly resonates.

I’m not going to lie, Exposition can be bit heady, but if you read the satire and not the surface it’s a humorous take on some deep seated issues with a simultaneous walk through cinematic history. Some of the heavy hitting issues include drug use, addiction (even today’s opiod crises), societal and industry pressures, homelessness, sex work, the current American presidency, international relations, racial inequality and even police brutality. Of all Butterbug’s helpers TABP was by far my favourite as he not only speaks with eloquence but he doesn’t pull any punches.

Would I recommend this book? Sure. It’s most definitely an intellectual, if not academic, read but it has a ton to offer. I definitely enjoyed the political commentary more than I connected with Butterbug’s, but that’s mostly because the topics were so broad ranging. Deep, insightful, and undeniably critical this one will make you put your thinking pants on.


Excerpt 1

Butterbugs, the chief protagonist in this four-part saga – of which TEMPERING is the first, and EXHIBITION the second – is a nobody from nowhere, who came to Hollywood to try his chances at acting in films. His initial experiences were dispiriting. But his persistence starts to pay off. Chance encounters provide upward mobility, and soon he is discovered, and the roles begin to come.

In chapter 33, ‘I Vomited Violently’, Butterbugs is on the verge of stardom. However, stresses have pushed him into a crisis with drugs. He is rescued by his girlfriend Cody, who sends him to an eminent doctor in New York for treatment.

NYC: high-rise at 500 Fifth Ave. An upper floor, with great views from a suite that allowed onto both the East and Hudson Rivers in chamfered aspect. It happened to be the office of a doctor of Orthogonal Psychiatry and Tensagenic Medicine (OPTM), who was world-renowned: Dr. Pixie Jasperberry Huapphuapp (BTh, Oxon, PhD UC Berkeley, MD Cantab).

After his third week in super-sized treatment and analysis, the ‘cast’, so to speak, that had protected Butterbugs’ mind and body while healing, was ready to come off.

It was a beautiful, season-less day over Gotham. The atmosphere was savory, the cityscape bright. Like a daystar, a ray of sun caught on a panel of the lantern atop the distant Cities Service Building and shot into the doctor’s office like a laser beam. It lasted for a second only, then was gone. The door upon which it hit, as chance would have it, then opened, and Dr. Huapphuapp came through.

‘Good day, Butterbugs. And a fine day it is! You are clearly rested and ready for us to wrap up our sequence of treatment. All procedures are now complete. I realize that, in its course, we haven’t dealt with some basic topics; sort of ‘background-type things’, you might say. I thought we could just have a pleasant wind-down session as a finale. We can talk about anything. Anything at all. Your questions?’

‘Your name. I’ve never heard one like it before, but I suppose it’s all right.’

‘You’ve a right to ask, as it is unusual. Like ‘Butterbugs’, really. I married Seltzer-Mendel Huapphuapp, of judiciary fame, five years ago, but we are estranged. Intact, I am an O’Kenna, the descendent of Celtic princesses.’

Her words were without guile.

‘Now there’s a thing!’ commented Butterbugs, lacking a similar statement of his own to make. He wasn’t even sure which hemisphere his ancestors hailed from, north, south, east, west, northeast, south-southwest… That is, if he even had any ancestors at all. Perhaps he could claim some Alexandrine conundrum of origins leading back to Hunza, or somewhere. And there was always the planet Saturn to consider… But never mind.

He was struck by her sudden physicality.

‘And you and Cody?’

Here was the opportunity to find out why his case was actually taken up by the really quite amazing Dr. Huapphuapp in particular, and not some other specialist.

‘We roomed together at Smith,’ she added.

Everything made sense now. Now he could truly relax. Now he could be truly emotional.

‘Cody! She saved me! You both did! Me from myself, and the forces swirling about me in such confounding whirligigs! The only way I can possibly thank you is to – well, humbly and quietly say… Thank you.’

‘You’re very welcome, Butterbugs. I like success stories.’

‘Cody’s really something.’

‘She is for a fact. I knew she’d make an important contribution somewhere. And I’m not just talking about saving you!’ Her eyes smiled more than her mouth.

‘Looks like you both did. Important contributions, I mean. Not just saving me, of course.’

‘Indeed,’ she sighed. ‘But on opposite coasts. We rarely get together these days. In fact, why didn’t she fly out with you? It would have been heaven, seeing her again.’

‘She’s got some big stuff at the studio. And her kids…’

‘Are you, um, still dating? Oh, pardon, excuse my bluntness… This isn’t an ‘official’ session, you know… And we’re not in my professional examining rooms, either…’

Butterbugs was somewhat pleased that the doctor now had her own questions, for him. Er, he.

‘Cody and I? Er, Cody and me?’

‘Uh-huh. Yes, that’s right.’

‘Doctor, after what we’ve been through, you can ask anything you want. Why, you and I are practically –’

One of her coppery eyebrows rose.

‘Practically…?’

‘Cody and me, that is; I mean, I love Cody. And Cody loves me. We decided – We’re friends. Friends forever.’

‘I get the picture. I just wanted to know. If you, ah, had a support system and all. Waiting for you, on the Coast.’

‘Oh, yeah. I know now that I can rely on Cody for all the support I’d ever need. And hopefully, I can give some back. She’s so cool. She’s been just… awesomely great. We’re both really busy, you know. Or, she’s really busy. I’m not sure about me, right now.’

‘That’s one of the reasons I asked, Butterbugs.’

‘To make sure I don’t go… wobbly again?’

Abbb-solutely!’

The doctor obviously had a bit of fun saying that word. Not so ‘officially’ sober today.

‘I’m touched by your caring, my Doctor. No, I think that, with you on one coast, and Cody on the other, you two roommates have me covered. Relapse? Impossible. This I know.’

‘In your actor’s soul?’

‘And past it, Dr. Huapphuapp. In my real soul, too!’

‘All the way down?’

Abbb-solutely!’ he mimicked, cheerfully, flatteringly, sincerely.

She knew he spoke absolute truth.

‘Excellent!’

‘It’s as if – All that time, that time before I knew of my condition, that I was sort of, I don’t know, vomiting violently. Inside. A violence of some kind, you know? I didn’t even have any kind of overview. Now I do.’

Dr. Huapphuapp smiled.

‘I’m glad I didn’t disappoint you.’

‘You really helped me.’

‘It was my pleasure, Butterbugs.’

‘Perhaps prevented me. From…’

He drew closer, regarding her. She did the same. Suddenly, breathing grew short. Things changed.


Excerpt 2

Now an established star with a huge following, Butterbugs experiences one triumph after another. In Chapter 62: ‘My Way’, between filming assignments, he is offered a temporary post as COO of a corporation (actually a trophy distraction, while the corrupt owners reorganize). Naive in business matters and unaware of  the deception therein, he agrees. The corporate headquarters happen to be in an inverted skyscraper, extending deep into the ground. An earthquake strikes. Having been seduced by the lavish lifestyle, he is jolted back to his true self as an actor. Butterbugs and Dr. Plerrie, a geologist, make an epic climb out of the wreckage.

The two trekked upwards. They felt a growing confidence that they were actually clearing the danger zone, and already formulating statements for the media, whom they knew lay awaiting. And between them, a bonding friendship automatically grew. Future fireside chats reviewing their adventure, and lectures in seismic breakthroughs were already in the planning stage, first at Butterbugs’ place, then at College’s. For the actor now wanted to immerse himself in the Dry Sciences, and looked forward to the PhD’s diffusion of his earth knowledge. Similar to his companion’s professional approach to today’s event’s outcome, the actor’s mind was awash with new ideas about a return to acting. He was even pondering a College Plerrie biopic, structured via flashbacks punctuated throughout the expository scenes, such as the very disaster they climbed and strived through at this very moment. Needless to say, Butterbugs himself would play ‘That Really Stupid Guy’.

Near the top (and certain relief), College Plerrie mis-stepped on a pile of Private Sex Gym bathmats that had been thrust up in the mad exhale of the crustscraper’s expiration. They covered the moody heights like mediæval shingles on a Prague tower’s turret, and looked solid enough.

‘Well now, oops…!’ the PhD ejaculated, and prepared to correct his ankle-twister with a deft choreographic step sideways.

It was indeed a fateful choice, as, Matterhorn-like, any climbable surface chanced to trick and subvert the untrained alpinist, so that even a Dougal Haston might be confounded into End Times, due to faintedness and sheer disbelief. It was no more than a matter of several millimeters, one way or another. The fact was, the move was not so much a mis-step as it was a hurried decision. But alas, it was on the wrong side.

The mat therefore became a teeter-totter, and the slant being what it was, it served to slough off the weight that was now borne upon it, dispensing the geologist in the undesirable direction of down, down, down.

‘So stupid. Really, so stupid…’ were the words of Plerrie’s analytical reaction to his latest gesture. Scientist that he was, the statement remained intact until it was properly delivered, regardless of the radical direction their speaker had taken.

‘I’m falling,’ was the speaker’s next pronouncement. ‘Yes, I’m falling now.’

Butterbugs looked down, aghast.

‘Oh, my holy, fucking…’

Though the geologist had some of the physique of the great mountaineer Reinhold Meisner, he lacked the skill to do the kind of key somersault necessary to land properly on a three-inch-deep ledge. Unlike Meisner, who’d pulled it off, all was lost, and he fell in ugly sequences on down to the remaining sheets of the Solarium roof.

Down. Way down.

It was over half an hour before Butterbugs was able to arrive at that accursed spot, and he made his way across the static plain to aid and comfort his unfortunate friend.

Indeed, the friend breathed yet! Except for a hideously gashed head, there was no overt sign of injury, but there was no movement either, except for eyelids that opened under pools of tears and lips that chanced to make words.

‘Here I lie! Here it ends as I thought it never would,’ College said in a strained croak. ‘In my quest for work, I answered the call in this morn’s light with sincerity and cheerfulness, and now I add my number to this sad, needless incident’s list of innocents!’

‘My dear fellow…!’ was all Butterbugs could say in reply.

‘Ah… I forgive you, Butterbugs! Oh yes, I do. As surely as my body has been broken by the bars of these here stricken remains, I care not to proceed with any sort of litigation holding you as liable for what has happened to me this day!’

‘College! College! Oh! Oh!’

‘Indeed, in our victory, I was going to, to… on – on bended knee, if you can believe it – humbly and apologetically thank you for the opportunities of this event on this… occasion. This – this – event! To be here, in unimaginable actuality! The flowering of my science! It was you, you, you! However horrendous, my dream was to make something instructive, something remonstrative – a great Precautionary Work to give to the world. As a warning… Oh! Help me! Hold me! I am slipping deeper…!’

Butterbugs’ star continues to rise, further and further – higher than any star ever. The climax is told in FORWARD TO GLORY’s third Act: APOTHEOSIS.

Thus, the themes for each of FORWARD TO GLORY’s four Acts: I. TEMPERING [the Actor’s struggles], followed by II. EXPOSITION [the Actor’s rise], III. APOTHEOSIS [the Actor’s climax], and concluding with IV. BEYOND FIN [the Actor’s legend].


Author Information 

Version 4

About the author: Brian Paul Bach is a writer, artist, filmmaker and photographer; he has worked across the entertainment business, in theatre, music and as an academic. He now lives in central Washington State with his wife, Sandra. His previous works include The Grand Trunk Road From the Front Seat, Calcutta’s Edifice: The Buildings of a Great City, and Busted Boom: The Bummer of Being a Boomer. He writes a regular column for Kolkata On Wheels magazine. The first book in the Forward to Glory quartet, Tempering, was released in March 2017.

Website – https://forwardtogloryquartet.wordpress.com/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/ftgquartet/

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Many thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for organizing this tour, and to Authoright UK and Brian Paul Bach for providing an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

#ARC #Review: Woman at 1,000 Degrees by Hillgrimur Helgason #LiteraryFiction

Hello my fellow book nerds and welcome to my first review of 2018! I thought we’d kick things off with a bang (pun intended!) with the long anticipated English language release of Woman at 1,000 Degrees by Hillgrimur Helgason. I simply couldn’t resist the idea of a plucky old biddy with a laptop and a hand grenade, and I wasn’t disappointed! I laughed, I cried, and I was constantly surprised – this baby earned every bit of it’s 5* review and I can’t recommend it enough.


1000.jpgTitle: Woman at 1,000 Degrees

Author: Hillgrimur Helgason

Publisher: Algonquin Books

Original Publication Date: September 1, 2011

Expected Publication Date: January 9, 2018

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Memoire

Themes: WWII, Survival, Family, Relationships, Aging

Features: N/A


My Rating: 5/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

“I live here alone in a garage, together with a laptop computer and a hand grenade. It’s pretty cozy.”

And . . . she’s off. Eighty-year-old Herra Bjornsson, one of the most original narrators in literary history, takes readers along with her on a dazzling ride of a novel that spans the events and locales of the twentieth century. As she lies alone in that garage in the heart of Reykjavik, waiting to die, Herra reflects–in a voice by turns darkly funny, bawdy, poignant, and always, always smart–on the mishaps, tragedies, and turns of luck that took her from Iceland to Nazi Germany, from the United States to Argentina and back to a post-crash, high-tech, modern Iceland.

Born to a prominent political family, Herra’s childhood begins in the idyllic islands of western Iceland. But when her father makes the foolish decision to cast his lot with a Hitler on the rise, she soon finds herself abandoned and alone in war-torn Europe, relying on only her wits and occasional good fortune to survive.

For Herra is, ultimately, a fierce survivor, a modern woman ahead of her time who is utterly without self-pity despite the horrors she has endured. With death approaching, she remembers the husbands and children she has loved and lost, and tries, for the first time, to control her own fate by defying her family’s wishes and setting a date for her cremation–at a toasty temperature of 1,000 degrees. Each chapter of Herra’s story is a piece of a haunting puzzle that comes together beautifully in the book’s final pages.

Originally published in Icelandic and based on a real person whom author Hallgrímur Helgason encountered by chance, Woman at 1,000 Degrees was a bestseller in Germany, France, and Denmark, and has been compared to “John Irving on speed.” But it is deeply moving as well, the story of a woman swept up by the forces of history. With echoes of All the Light We Cannot Seeand The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, as well as European tours de force such as The Tin Drum, Woman at 1,000 Degrees is, ultimately, original, introducing a fresh new voice to American audiences.

 


My Review

This book was, without question, the best possible way to kick off this year’s reviews. It took me a few days to sit down and write this review because it is a book that defies genre and classification yet, it is meticulously crafted, undeniably outrageous, and so damn thought provoking that it will leave you desperately wanting more. The only way I can describe this book is as a deathbed confessional for one spunky old lady who has a) lived one hell of a life, and b) certainly won’t be leaving this world unless it is on her own terms. But more than anything it is a tale of perseverance and survival in the most trying of conditions. It explores the very fabric of humanity, the limits of one’s spirit, and ultimately, what makes a person.

I loved Herra’s character – she is honest, painfully blunt, defiant, and fiercely independent. I enjoyed the conversational tone of the narration, the train of thought approach, and the flashback style memories. The result was that while we get a good idea of who and what Herra is at the end of her life, we are also presented glimpses into the moments that shaped her. I won’t go into too much detail about these events other than saying that growing up as a teenage girl during WWII without parents or family to protect you is a pretty raw deal – and that I’m happy she at least had her father’s hand grenade. In the end I can only hope that I will go the same way as dear old Herra – on my own terms, in my own time, and with a grenade that have been carried through wars and across continents in my hands. Seriously though, I would have loved to have seen how the funeral homes and bomb squad would sort that predicament out! … Also Bod’s face when he realized that his muscle obsessed pea-brain had been duped by a cancer ridden pensioner in a garage…

In the end I was left with many questions, but all in a good way. I questioned whether Herra actually wrote down the memories that we were presented, or did they disappear with her into the Icelandic tradition of silence? And, if Icelanders didn’t want to listen to whole or even part truths, how much of what we are presented was a complete fabrication. Of course, I know that all of it had to be as this was a work of fiction, but I am still curious as to how many people will listen to what is being said with this book. I think too, that it calls into question not only validity of deathbed confessionals, with all the inaccuracies of memory and the erosive nature of time, but it also offers a gentle reminder that our parents and grandparents have lived experiences that they simply cannot talk about.

Finally, I always have a sense of trepidation when it comes to approaching books that I know are translations, especially when they are highly regarded in their original language. I was doubly hesitant knowing that Woman at 1,000 Degrees was translated from Icelandic as it is a language poetic in a way that traditional English composition simply is not. I am happy to say that in this case these concerns were completely unwarranted. The writing maintains echoes of Sagas, Eddas, and the poetry that has come to embody a nation; it is interwoven with rich cultural allusions; and it encapsulates the ways in both place and time can leave indelible impressions on the soul. The style of this book is nothing like I’ve ever read before – it is rich in imagery, dry in humour, and heartbreaking in the smallest possible ways leaving you absolutely shattered at the end.

Would I recommend this book? Oh hells to the yes! It has set the bar high in terms of 5* reads this year, and I have the feeling that this is one I will be rereading again soon. Sure, the vulgar language and raw approach won’t be for everyone, but I genuinely think that the style and subject matter will appeal to a broad range of aesthetics. I can’t wan’t for it to hit shelves in just a few days time, and I have every intention of shamelessly pushing it on all of my friends.

Take a gamble my book nerds, this is one you won’t regret!

 


Many thanks to Hillgrimur Helgason and Algonquin Books for providing an advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.