Catch-Up Quickies 16

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 was the plan anyway. Recently, the dreaded C-word virus made its appearance in our house, bringing various other seasonal viral friends to the party, and progress has been slow-to-nonexistent, but I’m still trying.

So, here goes…!

Title:  New York Orphan
Author:  Rosemary J. Kind
Publisher:  Alfie Dog Limited

Blurb:  1853 – From fleeing the Irish Potato Famine, to losing his parents on the ship to New York, seven-year-old Daniel Flynn knows about adversity. As Daniel sings the songs of home to earn pennies for food, pick-pocket Thomas Reilly becomes his ally and friend, until he too is cast out onto the street.

A destitute refugee in a foreign land, Daniel, together with Thomas and his sister Molly, are swept up by the Orphan Train Movement to find better lives with families across America. For Daniel will the dream prove elusive?

How strong are bonds of loyalty when everything is at stake?

Based on real history, the strength of the characters in New York Orphan will move you with their desperate plight to survive. A gripping story of love, loss, betrayal and bonds of kinship.

Review: Very much an Oliver Twist story in parts, New York Orphan actually tells the story of three orphans – the main character, Irish immigrant to America, Daniel, and the siblings who take him in as family once he gets there, only to hit hard times themselves.

The story isn’t easy reading emotionally, as the three children form an immediately close bond, only to be ripped apart via the ‘Orphan Train’ and farmed out to three different future paths. While two of the children manage to land somewhat on their feet, one is less lucky and finds themself trapped in an abusive, exploitative situation which leads them into greater trouble and even darker hardships.

Throughout the children’s struggles, we see their resilience and how their enduring friendships help them to survive what life throws at them, even when they are apart.

There are a couple of unlikely coincidences (in the great Dickens’ tradition!), but overall this is a fascinating glimpse into the historical hardships of an orphan immigrant, and I was rooting for Tom, Molly and Daniel throughout, to survive and succeed against the odds.

Purchase Link: New York Orphan on Amazon

Title:  The Lane Betrayal
Author:  John A. Heldt
Publisher:  Independently Published

Blurb:  From the author of the critically acclaimed Northwest Passage, American Journey, and Carson Chronicles series comes the first book in the Time Box saga.

Virginia physicist Mark Lane has a problem. Weeks after privately creating two time machines, he learns his corporate partner wants to use the portable devices for nefarious purposes. Rather than give him the chance to do so, Mark takes the time boxes and escapes to the relative safety of 1865.

For Mark, wife Mary, and their children, the adventure is a chance to grow. Mary runs a business. Jeremy, 19, and Ashley, 12, befriend escaped slaves. Laura, 22, finds her place as a nurse. Jordan, 25, falls for a beautiful widow. All hope to find peace in the past.

Billionaire Robert Devereaux has other ideas. Shortly after Mark’s betrayal, he sends an assassin to 1865 to retrieve his property and set matters straight.

Filled with romance, suspense, and history, THE LANE BETRAYAL follows a modern American family as it tries to find security and contentment in the final weeks of the Civil War.

Review: Fugitive physicist Mark Lane sweeps up his family and absconds to 1865 with the time travel devices he invented, to avoid them remaining in the wrong hands, but his nefarious business partner, Robert Devereaux, isn’t going to let them get away with HIS investment.

There are some action-packed, tense moments as the family attempt to evade the company manhunt, but the heart of the story is about adjusting to life in the past, and making choices about financial support, friendships, politics and romance.

The one thing I was confused about throughout this novel was that, for a group of people who are attempting to stay off the radar and blend in as unnoticeably as possible, the Lanes could not have failed harder! Every choice they make and action they take seems designed to draw as much attention to themselves as possible, from introducing modern currency, products and medicines into the past, to befriending revolutionaries and the first family and involving themselves in their political causes. I thought they were trying to lay low and avoid changing history?! This is something I would like to see picked up in future instalments, with the reader finding out the future outcomes of their actions in the past.

Other than that apparent inconsistency, I really enjoyed this historical, family-focused sci-fi and was interested to note that in the time period they intend to relocate to at the end of the novel they will have fewer resources, no plan, and a lot of emotional baggage to deal with – things are about to get even trickier for the Lanes.

This is a well-written and thoroughly researched story about life in America in the 1800s, from a modern-day perspective, with the added excitement of assassins pursuing the main characters through time; ideal for those interested in Civil War history and time travel stories.

Purchase Link: The Lane Betrayal on Amazon

Title: Between Starfalls: Book One of Children of the Nexus
Author:  S. Kaeth
Publisher:  Hakea Media

Blurb:  Never leave the path.

It’s sacred law, punishable by exile.

When her son goes missing in the perilous mountains, Kaemada defies the law to search for him. She enlists the help of her hero brother, a priestess berserker, and a fire-wielding friend.

But the law exists for a reason.

When the search party is captured by the mythical Kamalti, they learn that Kaemada’s son was sent to an ancient prison city. But as they battle for freedom, they discover a horrible truth that will change the future of both races forever.

With their world in upheaval, Kaemada must find a way to peace if she’s to save her son—but tensions between the two races are leading to war.

Review: This fantasy novel has incredibly complex world-building that incorporates familiar roles (healer, psion) and animals (pegasi) within a framework of unique races, societal mores and ritualistic beliefs that are not explained in detail, but must be picked up on the fly as the plot unfolds.

The main character is Kaemada – a mother seeking her missing son – and the story follows her and her family-bonded allies as they leave their prescribed path and enter a hidden domain ruled by a different and potentially hostile race.

There is so much conflict in the story that I felt a little overwhelmed, as it felt that Kaemada and co. had enough adversity to fill several books here! There are the Darks, the Fallen, the suspicions facing psions, training struggles, political struggles, Eian’s disappearance, capture, the Kamaltan city’s hardships, guards, kings, slavery, injury, sickness, despair… I felt like I was drowning in hopelessness at times, and couldn’t imagine how the characters were struggling on.

I did find that once the characters were separated and the plot followed their separate trials, the story became much easier to engage with in that respect, and from that point on I was hooked in to the characters and their plights.

And there absolutely HAS to be a Book 2 (there is!) because there is no way the story can end where it does for these heroes, after all they have suffered. There MUST be some form of justice and restitution for the end of this epic story arc!

Purchase Link: Between Starfalls on Amazon

Title:  Living Lightly: Bring Happiness and Calm to Your Everyday
Author:  Dale Curd & Kimberley Alexander
Publisher:  Collins


Living Lightly offers a year’s worth of opportunities to commune, in the deepest and most beautiful sense of that word, with your self and your life. Featuring timeless wisdom, inspiring quotes and simple, practical strategies to help you boost your happiness, Living Lightly invites you to explore how your mind works, understand and express your feelings and be reminded that you are much, much stronger than you realize. Living Lightly is a great way to start or end the day.

Review:  Living Lightly is a book of daily guided meditations, exercises, affirmations and ponderings, all linked to the theme of wellbeing and mental health… so particularly useful in the current stressful climate (applicable to whatever date you read this, no doubt!).

You will find breathing exercises, gratitude and self-care tips about doing things that make you happy and connecting with others/nature/music. There are daily tasks to help with relaxation and creativity, and tips on how to reduce consumerism and use of technology and embrace minimalism.

I will just warn that reading the whole book in one sitting, as I did originally, is a little overwhelming! I have started again, but this time just limiting myself to the few paragraphs/section for each day and I am already finding the going a lot lighter, so this is a dip-in-and-out self-help book rather than a working-solidly-through-it one!

At the end of the book are references to psychological and wellbeing works and resources, which are useful for anyone looking to go a little further or deeper on some of the concepts raised.

I would recommend this book as a resource for anyone looking to make some general improvements to their life and outlook on life, in daily doses.

Purchase Link: Living Lightly on Amazon

Title:  Mike’s Mourners
Author:  Pat Murray
Publisher:  Independently Published

Blurb:  Mike, the seemingly heartless narcissist, may shock you, he may annoy you, he may even make you laugh and in the end he may even make you shed a tear.

A scampish young man from Shrewsbury, England, falls for an older woman. He starts work as a porter at the local hospital, where she is a Ward Sister.

Working close to dying patients and their grieving families, he realises he is somehow turned on by the sadness of widows and other female relatives. Acting on his urges, he jauntily sets out on a bold plan to sleep with one hundred grieving women.

His ‘other’ life must stay a secret from his girlfriend and her family. It is a tall order but he is so charming and able to tackle his project, being subconsciously driven by dark events from his childhood in Shropshire.

Starting with Molly, he feistily ploughs ahead until he meets the widow of a gangster. He quickly realises she is not the same as his other suitors, as she digs up ghastly memories from his past.

Undaunted, he continues on his quest, taking him as far as Seville and as close as his own doorstep.

He knows he will never find lasting love from all the women he meets. Nor does he want to. That is, until he finds someone different. Someone special. But the course of true love is never going to be straightforward for Mike, especially when he realises who she is.

Review:  This is a dark and diverting tale of a (sociopathic? Psychopathic?) man, obsessed with sex, violence and alcohol and preying on the vulnerable to satisfy his venal desires.

Mike, the main character, feeds off the pain of others with no real thought or feeling for anyone or anything outside himself. I would go as far as to say that he makes the lives of everyone he touches a little darker, a little worse for having met him. So, not a likeable main character (not a deal-breaker for me)!

We follow Mike’s increasingly disturbing efforts as he works towards his self-set target of of sleeping with one hundred grieving women. The narrative style of the story is detached – almost summarising the events being described – which neatly reflects Mike’s inner character, but also keeps the reader at arm’s-length from most potential emotional reactions, leaving ‘disgust’. Which makes this one of the few books where I was constantly rooting for the protagonist to fail, and means that the ending was simultaneously satisfying and frustrating (no spoilers!).

A fascinating delve into the world of someone with a skewed moral compass from the ‘norm’, and an unusual read which would suit those who are tired of the typical pleasant protagonists and/or redemptive arcs and are looking for something more relentlessly dark.

Purchase Link: Mike’s Mourners on Amazon

Another mixed bag – from history to time travel and fantasy, then from light non-fiction to very dark fiction. I have always said that I like to read widely and often!

I hope you’re all enjoying whatever you are currently reading (let me know!) and find something you like the look of here. No better time to be curled up inside with a book than in this current windy weather.

Happy reading and stay safe in the storms!


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