In Twelve Months of a Soviet Childhood: Short Stories, Julia Gousseva has written twelve captivating tales that capture a slice of life in the now-defunct Soviet Union. She begins with winter, the dreariest, yet the most colorful month in Moscow, with its New Year’s parties and colorful New Year trees. She then takes us, month by month, on a journey that she calls fictional, but must be in large part autobiographical. We see things through the eyes of a child, unvarnished and without adult filtering.
A captivating collection of tales, as I said; but, the book has some near-fatal flaws. First, the sans serif text is a bit on the difficult side to read. But, the ragged and inconsistent indentation of paragraphs is by far the most distracting. This is a potentially great collection of short fiction that could reach that greatness with a bit of judicious editing.
I’d love to give it four or five stars, but alas, the formatting flaws drop it down to really two and a half.
Aron Joice’s The Rising: The Lost Children of Managrail, Book One, is a fantasy that is chock full of adventure. When the twins, Lila and Simian of Managrail, fall from the heights upon which their city is located, and find themselves lost in the forest inhabited by the night-prowling, flesh-eating Fergay, they set in motion an epic struggle between and among powerful forces that threaten to overwhelm them and destroy their way of life.
The impetuous Lila becomes central to all that transpires, despite her more mature brother’s every efforts. They are soon joined by Medack and Cayda, who are hunting the marauders who destroyed their village of Dirth and slaughtered all their kith and kin.
The action in The Rising is non-stop, with a combination of sword and sorcery that is sure to please fans of the genre. Despite some excellent writing, the story is somewhat marred by the introduction of too many characters without ample description of their origins or motives. A good story would rise to greatness if the reader had a better understanding of the interrelations of the various factions as they move inexorably to a showdown after Managrail is destroyed by the Fergay.
While I found the book enjoyable, I’m giving it only three stars because of this. Joice is an excellent craftsman when it comes to dialogue, but needs to give more background to help one navigate through the intricacies of her tale.
Love You More Than You Know: Mothers’ Stories About Sending Their Sons and Daughters to War, edited by Janie Reinart and Mary Anne Mayer, is a collection of true stories that bear witness to the angst borne by mothers awaiting the safe return of their children from war. This book grew out of the two authors’ personal experiences when they began writing their stories and speaking at meetings with other mothers undergoing similar experiences, as a way to help them make sense of their emotions and fears.
This is not a book by professional authors; these stories are written by mothers who have sons or daughters who have put on their country’s uniform and taken an oath to willingly go into harm’s way for that country. Despite not being professionals, however, they are stories that could only have been written by the mothers themselves; they will touch you in ways that smooth prose written by a professional writer never could. They are stories of loss, grief, hope, and love; written from the heart.
This is a five-star book that is ‘must’ reading for anyone who wants to understand the true depth of a mother’s love. It will also help renew the reader’s faith in our culture, society, and nation. While the mainstream news media bombards us with stories of cynicism and selfishness, here you will see that we still have people among us who understand the meaning of service and sacrifice.
In Melynda Price’s Shades of Darkness, Redemption Series: Book Two, we pick up on the continuing saga of Olivia, a mortal with the ‘sight.’ Olivia has the rare ability to ‘see’ the dark angels, and thus expose them to mankind, and for this, they are determined to destroy her. She has been guarded since birth by Liam, a Ronnin warrior commissioned to be her guardian angel. Liam’s problem, though, is that he has fallen in love with her, thus threatening his very angelic status.
As Olivia, now a fully grown woman, is about to wed, Liam learns of yet another attempt by the Dark Court to kill her, and he again risks the displeasure of his own superiors in order to save her.
A fascinating blend of theology and mysticism, love and betrayal, Price takes us into the minds and hearts of the characters in a deft way. Although some of the prose and dialogue tends toward the stilted, the reader is nonetheless made to care, and care deeply, about the fate of the protagonists.
A surprise ending, though, lifts this tale above the mundane mortal meets angel story. Language and scenes of violence make it a book not for the squeamish.
Daniel Kelley has written, in A Wind Doth Blow, a romance story with a different take, and one that will keep you turning the pages until the very end. The protagonist is an artist with what has to be called an obsession with his oboe-playing neighbor that quickly begins to consume his every waking moment, and causes him to doubt himself as a person. A fully fledged, well-rounded character, you find yourself pulled into his existence, cheering him on to take the plunge and declare his affections for the enigmatic Elise. I won’t spoil the ending for those who have yet to read this masterpiece, but trust me, it will leave you gasping for more.
A Wind Doth Blow is available for Kindle at http://www.amazon.com/A-Wind-Doth-Blow-ebook/dp/B00AC8B6F8/