Catch-Up Quickies 14

First a quick explanation!

Due to some severe health issues over the last few years, and a lingering chronic condition, my planned review schedule went right out of the window and I have been scrabbling ever since to get it back on track.

In my latest attempt to try to regain some lost ground, I have been scrunching some of my (overdue) reviews together into one or two posts each week: shorter reviews, but still covering all of the points I intended to.

That’s the plan anyway; and so far, so good…!

Title: Where Acorns Landed
Author:  Anne M. Curtis
Publisher:  Cripperty Publishing

Blurb:  For anyone who believes something bubbles in the periphery, be it faeries, angels or ghosts.

Where Acorns Landed is a haunting, contemporary fantasy set in France, Ireland, the Isle of Man, and one or two other places beyond the reach of any atlas.

Lowell has shut himself away from the world, seeing himself as something of a feral, wolf-man hermit abandoned to the deserted wilds of his lounge. His one companion is an old 1940’s radio.

But this is no ordinary radio.

The radio has its own free will, tuning when and where it wants.

Lowell falls under the spell of the only voice the radio tunes to. He would do anything for Nell, the woman behind the voice. Without Nell, he would have nothing.

A gripping, supernatural tale of love, loss, a one-eyed seagull and a stray dog.

A captivating novel full of unexpected twists, escalating tension and claustrophobic obsession.



Review: I can tell you that this is a story about loss, and about learning to live with loss, but other than that basic premise I confess that I struggled to follow the plot here.

I really enjoyed the individual parts of the story: the mythology; the mystery; the paranormal events (the radio, the UNDER); Lowell’s guilt and grief; Brighid’s defiant adherence to logic and normality. I just never felt that these strands ever came together cohesively for me – there was no ‘ah! I get it!’ moment as I read.

It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the avant garde style and structure of the novel, because I did – the writing, plot and characters are all very good! I would have just liked more understanding (on my part) and answers (on the part of the author).

As it is entirely possible that his is a ‘me’ problem, I suggest that anyone looking for a very unique take on a love story threaded and bound with grief and despair, should give this darkly humorous story a try. Perhaps the magic will work better for you!

Purchase Link: Where Acorns Landed on Amazon

Title: Good Riddance
Author:  Elinor Lipman
Publisher:  Lightning Books

Blurb:  Daphne Maritch doesn’t quite know what to make of the heavily annotated high school yearbook she inherits from her mother, who held this relic dear. Too dear. The late June Winter Maritch was the teacher to whom the class of ’68 had dedicated its yearbook, and in turn she went on to attend every reunion, scribbling notes and observations after each one—not always charitably—and noting who overstepped boundaries of many kinds.

In a fit of decluttering (the yearbook did not, Daphne concluded, “spark joy”), she discards it when she moves to a small New York City apartment. But when it’s found in the recycling bin by a busybody neighbor/documentary filmmaker, the yearbook’s mysteries—not to mention her own family’s—take on a whole new urgency, and Daphne finds herself entangled in a series of events both poignant and absurd. 



Review: The idea for this book sounded great, but it just didn’t carry through well. There are plenty of promising plot threads (a documentary, a reunion, a podcast, DNA tests, evil/romantic neighbours and more!) but none of them seemed to really take off: they just putter along pleasantly and then fizzle out as Daphne’s butterfly attention flits elsewhere. It was a little unsatisfying!

There was also the issue of Daphne herself – as a main character, it wasn’t clear whether she actually felt much affection for anyone or anything (career, family, home, hobby, lover) as she maintained a cool, ironic detachment at all times, which made it hard for me to care about any of it either. A loved one breaking up with her results in petty peevishness rather than heartbreak, and she treats losing a job and finding a dad with pretty much equal apathy.

Generally, this was a pleasant, quirky romcom read, but lacked focus or likable characters to keep the reader engaged.

Purchase Link: Good Riddance on Amazon

Title: Chaos Born
Author:  Jamie Brindle
Publisher:  Independently published

Blurb:  Chief Frog 127 is a prime example of his species: a cunning, ruthless sneaker, hell-bent on clawing any advantage possible from a harsh and uncaring Universe. He might not be of high rank in the Space Force of the Glorious Hegemony of the Frogopolis, but by the Swamp God, he is one frog who is going places.

But when he meets the strange alien known as the Prophet, those places turn out to be far weirder and more dangerous than even he could have dreamt possible.

Fighting for his life, battling sly foes on every side, will 127 possibly prevail? And even if he does, can he win the only battle that really matters: the one for his own soul?



Review: Well, first of all, I should have read this book BEFORE Chaos Drive, if I wanted to make my life easier, so I strongly recommend you do that! These stories bend time, space and storylines enough as it is, without the reader adding to their own confusion!

So, we are back in Frogopolis with Chief Frog 127 and the Prophet to find out what happened BEFORE the events in Chaos Drive because of reader error on my part. Chief Frog 127 has a great story arc here as he begins the story as an irredeemably unlikable piece of pond scum, then somehow redeems himself into the most unlikely anti-hero ever, before… not telling you – I don’t want to spoil the fun!

Expect space-frog battles and physics- (and metaphysics-) bending as 127 and his rival, Bullfrog, battle their own psyches and each other in order to win a bit of the Prophet’s power, a ship of their own and a mysterious secret weapon… oh, and honour, if frogs can be said to have any. There are recursions, reversions and repeating patterns throughout, and a very cool cameo from Silverlight and Quince (Diminishing Returns), as frogs.

Which is the whole idea of the Storystream, of course: all are connected and interconnected via the meta-format of stories. Fans of Douglas Adams, Tom Holt or Robert Rankin will enjoy this chaotic, mind- and reality-twisting space(frog) fantasy adventure.

Purchase Link: Chaos Born on Amazon

Title: A Noble’s Path
Author:  I. L. Cruz
Publisher:  Bosky Flame Press

Blurb:  Divided loyalties test Inez Garza.

The infamous incident at the Academy of Natural Studies has forced her to work for the King’s Men while continuing to serve the hidden market.

Supporting Birthright furthers the cause of Magical Return, but the cost may be the fall of the royal house and losing Zavier forever.

And the strongest pull of all is her growing and erratic magic, which demands everything and offers only destruction in return.

Inez must decide where her loyalties lie—saving Canto or saving herself.



Review: This is the sequel to A Smuggler’s Path and picks up the story where we left off before.

This time smuggler/noble Inez is kept pretty busy, as she has to solve some break-ins and find out who is stealing sheep, find the traitor in the Hidden Market, serve her community service with the King’s Men, resist the magic conch shells, keep her magic hidden from everyone and deal with Zavier’s feelings for her along with her mother’s fears for her safety. Phew! To some extent she actually makes more problems for herself here, as she doggedly refuses all help, rejects those she likes and resists who she is. Never one to take the easy path, whatever her title!

I really love the clever way that classic nursery rhymes are linked through the story line and characters – Rex Cole, Beau and her sheep, all the King’s Men – and how the story takes the familiar Cinderella story and twists it into a new shape.

This series offers a really good mixture of adventure, mystery, fantasy and romance for teens and adults alike, and I absolutely need to know what will happen next on Inez’s ‘Enchanted Path’.

Purchase Link: A Noble’s Path on Amazon

Title: Taming the Shopping Bug
Author:  Marti McGinnis
Publisher:  DogTrot Press

Blurb:  How I learned to see through my knee-jerk impulse buying and invented a more meaningful shopping experience.

FROM THE AUTHOR:

Hello!

I’m not a huge fan of the New Year’s resolution, but I decided to try a year of minimal shopping on January 1, 2019. I’m not a shopaholic or hoarder, but like so many people, I did some purely recreational shopping now and then. I wondered how and why I got started with shopping as a form of entertainment.

I spent the next 365 days discovering triggers and impulses the ubiquitous advertisements of my midwestern upbringing and U.S. post war consumer culture had trained me to respond to by experiencing a clear sense of lack then filling those holes with stuff.

I was determined to shine a light on my own habits by researching what experts have determined about my, actually fairly conventional, purchasing patterns. Proclivities present throughout large segments of the globe’s relatively affluent populations.

Some readers may find the idea of recreational shopping a fantasy at the moment. But even when money is tight, but maybe even especially then, it is smart to shop wisely and ask questions about habits that consume your resources.

I have sketched up the year’s findings, setbacks, and challenges in the book. It’s all in a somewhat rough, hand drawn cartoony form.

I present myself in all my inglorious folly here so you don’t have to, at least not publicly like this!

Marti



Review: In this short, cartoon-style book, Marti McGinnis faithfully documents her decision to minimise her own consumerism for a year and how it worked out for her.

Many of the ideas here are familiar – making do with less; what sparks joy – and some are revisited in the course of the yearlong experiment, but the format is new and accessible, and rather than simply offering the usual self-help tips, the author offers her personal thoughts and anecdotes along with the philosophical and psychological musings.

I did get rather frustrated as I progressed through the book, as there are so many exemptions and loopholes to her original No Shopping rules! The author acknowledges this and justifies her decisions, and it really doesn’t matter, as obviously everyone would (and should) set their own rules for such things. Plus, she is honest about the various pitfalls and difficulties. However, in a book that revolves entirely around the precepts of minimalist shopping, the number of ‘loophole’ exemptions did begin to feel a little bit cheaty!

Still, this is a handy little peek into a simpler, less stressful (and costly!) way of living, that did make me reconsider my own spending habits after reading. One for the Marie Kondo fans out there!

Purchase Link: Taming the Shopping Bug on Amazon

My first reviews of 2022, and each book completely different from the others.

I hope you find something you like the look of – come back and let me know in the comments.

Happy New Year and Happy Reading!

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