5-Star Reads: No More Mulberries and Atonement, Tennessee

My writing break has freed up some precious time for reading, and I have two more reviews to share. These books are quite different. I hope you give one or both a try. 😀

Click on Cover for Global  Amazon Link

No More Mulberries

by Mary Smith

My Review: Where do I even start with all the things I loved about this book? The story is about Miriam, a Scottish midwife who first fell deeply in love with an Afghan and then with his country. It’s a story about love and loss, fear and courage, and the strength of family and the human spirit.

In many ways, this story could be told anywhere in the world as individuals, couples, and families aren’t that different from each other no matter where we find them. Miriam’s story and her emotional struggles are deeply relatable. Her search for self, her struggle to balance her various roles, to fill expectations and have her expectations filled, and her commitment to her family and community could be anyone’s story.

But Miriam’s tale doesn’t take place anywhere in the world. It unfolds in 1995 Afghanistan. The book portrays a multi-dimensional country with remote villages that haven’t changed in hundreds of years to more modern communities with a forward-leaning vision of the future. And though it’s clear in the story that love is love, family is family, and people are people, the narrative reveals the stark differences in the lives of those people marked by isolation and all it entails, and those who have high hopes for education, healthcare, and their country. Miriam’s story is deftly intertwined with the story of a country and its people, and I loved it all.

Smith’s years in Afghanistan give the read it’s undeniable authenticity, and her skill as a storyteller shines. She doles out the backstory details in small doses. They’re little gems that slowly illuminate the present story and build understanding while increasing tension and a desire for resolution. Settings are well described, the pace is steady, and characterization is flawless. I stayed up late and lost some sleep over this one.

One beautiful book that I highly recommend.

Click on Cover for Global Amazon Link

Atonement, Tennessee

by Teagan Geneviene

My Review: Esmeralda is a new arrival in the town of Atonement. She’s purchased an old estate that comes with its own cemetery and some interesting trespassers – a marvelous gang of gal-pals, an irresistible florist/handyman, and a mysterious, handsome neighbor. The magic starts off almost immediately while “Ralda” waits for the moving van and starts settling into her new life.

The tale is full of whimsy as ancient magic threads through the home and cemetery. Ralda is curious but not particularly fearful, and I enjoyed her level-headed, low key approach to the strange noises and events happening around her. The story is told mainly from her point of view. The exception is Lilith, her cat, who witnesses some of the magic but isn’t able to fill her owner in on the details.

For me, the best part of the book was the characters. If you enjoy strong female characters and genuine friendships, you won’t be disappointed. Ralda has a wry sense of humor and authentic voice. Geneviene does a great job with her internal dialog and with character interactions as a whole. The gal-pals are a delight, well-rounded individuals with a nice balance of wit and sensitivity.

Alongside the unfolding mysteries that inhabit the property, a second plotline centers on a darker “real”-life theme, which wraps up cleanly in the end. The main plot around the home’s magic and Ralda’s role in the mystery leaves a few loose ends and questions that might lend themselves toward a sequel. The minor danglers did not impact my delight in the overall story.

A light and magical read for all ages.

I’ll be taking a short break (offline) to head north and visit family.
Have a great week. ❤

Mask – #Writephoto

The dreamer’s room faded. Stars pricked holes in the velvet darkness as a crescent moon sailed over the restless sea, a bat with silver wings. Tucked between the shore’s boulders, twigs of cedar snapped in the nightfire, scenting the salted air with smoke. The plaintive calls of dragons whispered across the waves.

The crone peered at her latest visitor through slit eyes. Unafraid, the dreamer stood before her circle of flames, silent and sound as the distant mountains of home.

At the fire’s edge, the old woman sat atop her weathered stone, swaying, rocking, singing to herself, chanting words from ancient mouths, words lost, though their power she retained. The fire cracked and cackled, shaking fingers, sending sparks curling, singing, reeling into unsteady darkness. Soon the sea-rains would gray them, rise over cowled peaks and fall with the wind, heavy cloaks of snow coating her magic in ice. Her runes called, choose, choose, the time has come to choose.

The World spun faster, drawing the sky down, the earth up, bidding the waters to eddy and ripple in overlapping circles of light, bringing the forest to sing low and hum, smelling of leaf and loam. Expectation swelled with the tide and clawed at the sand, beckoned her to choose. From the embers’ bright edge, she drew a rune and studied the markings. The sea stilled, and she read the stone:

A call from the sliver moon and realm of imaginings. A strange Way gapes open, make ready for new beginnings. Resolve old myths to seed the soil for deliverance. Ah, the World transforms; emerge from the chrysalis, casting off false faces and old forms of knowing. Prepare for release from time-worn forces. Surrender and soar to the revealing of the World.

***

Thanks to Sue Vincent for another inspiring Thursday #Writephoto prompt.

Guest Author Friday – Diana Wallace Peach and Kari’s Reckoning

Debby Gies over at D. G. Kaye Writer was kind enough to feature “yours truly” over at her place. Debby is a proficient blogger and her site is full of interviews, reviews, wonderful tips on writing and blogging, and shared articles of interest. If you enjoy memoirs, her books win high praise – I’ve given her a few 5-star reviews myself! 

She also puts together a wonderful feature, and I’m delighted to be hanging out at her kitchen table with a big cup of coffee. If you can spare a moment, stop by for a visit and say hi! On to the interview:

Who Has a New Book?

I’m thrilled to welcome today’s featured author, friend and guest, Diana Wallace Peach. Diana is a dynamo author who writes and produces books at lightning speed these days. She has disciplined herself well with the time she commits to her writing, yet manages to make time to blog about all things writing on her blog Myths of the Mirror.

Today we’re going to get to know Diana and learn about what inspires her writing, and I’m going to be asking her about the ‘book writing break’ she is threatening to take, to find out if that can actually happen… (Continue to Debby’s site).

 

Influence

One of the rare joys of writing is receiving feedback that one of your books got someone thinking. I’ve been lucky to hear a few of those comments over the years, and I remember and cherish each one. Erik Tyler is a frequent visitor to this old blog, and he also beta read the whole Rose Shield series for me (my hero!). Well, I guess I got him thinking and he actually wrote a post about the magical (and not so magical) power of “influence.”

On to Erik’s post:

During my six or so years of blogging, I’ve met some stellar people online. One of those people is Diana Peach, a fellow blogger and prolific novel writer in the fantasy genre.

Just last week, Diana released Catling’s Bane: Book I of her four-book series known collectively as The Rose Shield. And — lucky me — I got to be a beta reader for the entire thing, the final installment of which I’m currently reading.

Catling's Bane: Book I of The Rose Shield series by D. Wallace Peach

If you’re a true lover of fantasy, do yourself a favor, read my Amazon review, get yourself a copy of this book — and prepare to lose some sleep over it. In short, I’ve read hundreds and hundreds of books in this genre and this series makes my top five of all time. (She will, no doubt, decry my high praise as “stuff and nonsense,” but it’s true nonetheless.)

Now, my site isn’t a book review site. And Diana has no idea I’m writing this (surprise, Diana!). But I’m telling you, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this Rose Shield series. And so, I’ve decided to go with the flow and incorporate some of those thoughts into this week’s blog post, in a way that I trust will be consistent with who I am and what this blog is about.

If you’ve read even a few pages of my book, The Best Advice So Far, or more than two blog posts here, the theme that runs through everything I write should be apparent: “You always have a choice.”

Building upon this foundation, I’ve also proposed such notions as these:

No one can make you happy.

No one can make you mad (or jealous or insecure or a host of other negatives).

And while compliance can be forced, we cannot make others respect us.

Nor can we make another person love us.

But … what if we could?

What if it were possible to soothe another’s anger, suppress their violence or calm their anxiety, all by force of our will?

What if we did hold the power to irresistibly compel the others around us to respect us? Desire us? Permit us? Love us?

What if we could inflict unspeakable pain or induce euphoric pleasure with a thought, heal with a touch — or, with the same touch, end a life?

Really think about that what-if for a moment. What would you do differently if imbued with such power? Who would you influence — and how? In your secret heart, what would be your biggest temptation?

(Continue Reading: Influence)

 

 

Kari’s Reckoning

She abandoned the view and walked, arm outstretched, slender fingertips leaving invisible ribbons where they glided across the smooth surface.

The unseamed gray of the floor, the cool walls, and flat ceiling held no memories of those who’d trod the halls before. They demanded no care, no cleaning, no mending, or maintenance. How long would the alien cities last unchanged, impervious to the passage of time? Another three hundred years? A millennium? Lives came and went, washing from the tiers’ petals like rainwater to the porous, wet world below. Was her life within these walls any more important, other than being hers?

Perhaps, only a world of wrinkles and grooves could capture the fragmented stories of wounded souls, hold them tight in the ashes and rubble. One required pitted stone and cracked wood, ragged bark and churned soil to heal a heart’s broken flesh. Her lover and daughter lived in that foreign world.

Her skin matched these walls, smooth and serene. Yet, the emptiness of her expression, the monotony of her smile hid a secret fire within her that would one day flare and burst forth in a conflagration of pent up desperation.

***

The final book of the Rose Shield Tetralogy is live.

Thanks to all for your kind comments and support along the way.

Start at the beginning with Catling’s Bane, Book 1 – Global Link

The Rose Shield – Kari’s Reckoning

Catling’s Bane, the first book in The Rose Shield tetralogy is nearing the finish line, and unless some unforeseen computer meltdown halts all progress, it should be out… next week!

The rest of the books are slogging their way through my list of double-checks including Book 4: Kari’s Reckoning. Below is a little snippet. I took out the important names – so no hints (and a few extra pronouns). Stay tuned.

Kari’s Reckoning

He carved woads into his own skin, scored his cheeks and hairline, sliced grooves into his chest and arms. He notched his ears and slashed his shoulders and thighs. Blood ran down his legs and arms, dripped from his chin and fingers. He flayed Guardian’s dagger from his forearm and would have found another place to carve if Lian hadn’t ripped his knife from his hands and flung it into the forest.

The Farlander heaved him up and carried him to the pond. The water glowed and whirled, rich with luminescence. He staggered into the freezing fluidity and lay down, sinking beneath the surface. The light retracted and surged back, clung to his skin, and burrowed into his flesh. His wounds burned. Luminescence swirled with his blood, entered his veins, and lit him like a brand. He rose for a breath and sank again, eyes open, his vision filled with divine brightness.

The world spoke to him, not with words but emotion, an ancient message extending back through eternal time. His blood leached out, blending with the planet’s soul, every fiber connected across the land and water and air, the living and dead. The world drew on his life, tasted its richness, and integrated him into the pattern. Life surged around him and exploded into him, unstoppable and larger than he and those he lost, all of them forever part of the whole. The sensation was love, but not the feeling of love. All the emotions, fear and sadness, joy and pleasure, anger, and passion blended into the rich and poignant elixir of life.

He gasped for breath and floated, his irises reflecting the three moons and a night drowned in stars. The fire in his veins abated and the sting in his wounds faded. The owl called its lonely song. He closed his eyes and rested in the cold light.

Next Week!

The Rose Shield – Vianne

vianne

The Rose Shield is my WIP targeted for release in March-ish.

You’ve met Raker, the man who hears voices in the fog
Catling, a six-year-old with a rose birthmark around her eye
Whitt, the boy battling crajeks in the swamp
Gannon, captive in the belly of the Wandering Swan

What of Vianne, an Influencer capable to manipulating love and fear, pain and pleasure, life and death with a mere thought? Is she a villain or hero?

Vianne

When Vianne returned to his cell, her face wore a frown of reluctance, green eyes heavy with regret. The weariness in her countenance added years. The ivory clothes, flawless skin, and silver in her cinnamon hair deceived the eye. Upon first glance, she appeared innocent, gentle and graceful, her voice touched with kindness. Yet, the set of her jaw told him he’d find no quarter with her. She planned to torture him.

The latch clicked as the guards locked her in, and she assumed her seat by his cot. “I’ve returned for the truth, Gannon, and I have little time. Tell me how you blocked Qeyon’s influence. He has assured me, beyond question, of your gui…power.”

“You were about to say ‘guilt.’” He caught her eyes as her back stiffened. “Do you execute the guilty?”

The woman sighed. “Only if your pigheadedness forces my hand.”

“Torture away,” he said, turning his face to the wall and shutting his mouth. Fear wormed into his consciousness, the muscles and sinews of his body contracting.

Rising from her chair, she strode to the door and knocked. Two guards entered, carrying a strip of cloth with a bulky knot in the middle. Gannon clenched his teeth as the guards descended on him. One held his head while the other tried to force the gag into his mouth. A sharp blast of pain ripped through his chest, and he gasped. The guard crammed the balled knot into his mouth. He cried out as they twisted his head and secured the cloth. Glaring at the woman, he shouted, his oaths muffled by the gag.

The guards rose and stood by the door. “Anything else, Vianne-Ava?”

“Ignore us,” she replied. They nodded and left.

Vianne strode to the foot of his cot, her voice soft. “Block me.”

He shook his head, steeling himself. Pain flared as an invisible vise closed on his chest. His hands wrenched against his restraints as he squeezed his eyes shut and bit on the gag. The agony expanded, thrusting spears of steel into his arms and legs. As quickly, she released him, and his breath shuddered from his lungs.

“It’s going to get worse, Gannon,” she said. “Block me.”

The pressure returned, the sensation mounting. He screamed into the gag, writhed against the pain of his cracking ribs, his heart exploding in his chest. Torment scoured his veins, shooting into his joints. “Aaah. Naah. Aaaah.” He heard his own muffled bawling.

“Block me!” Vianne demanded.

“Aaaah cahn’t. Aaaah,” he howled. His head pounded, nerves sparking, skin on fire. Needled daggers ground into this bones. “Naaah. Cahn’t.”

“Block me!” she shouted.

She flayed the skin from his body. His joints twisted, bones crushed. Fear exploded in his head, smashing into the fragile barriers of sanity, incinerating the shredded remains of any resistance. The woman’s commands barked, unintelligible. All he could do was scream.

Then the pain vanished.

He panted, shaking, the muscles in his body rigid. The memory of pain bathed him in sweat, quaking through him like a virulent fever. He gulped air, body heaving and trembling.

“You couldn’t block me,” she said, her voice bewildered.

He shook his head, eyes closed. The terrible fear subsided. “Sick,” he mumbled through the gag. He heard the rustle of her jacket and felt her fingers worry the knot behind his head. When it fell away, he vomited on his shoulder and hair. He dropped his head back and groaned, uncaring.

“You couldn’t block me,” she repeated. “No one could endure… It’s not you.”

Gannon shook his head. “No.”

“But you know who it is.” She grimaced at the miasma of smells permeating the small room. “Don’t make me do that again, Gannon. Don’t force me. You must realize I haven’t a choice.”

“Who’s your master?” he asked, turning to read her face.

“The realm.” She paced between the dim walls. “You must have an inkling of how this power might be wielded in the wrong hands. Or why else would you resist me.” She pivoted on her heel to face him. “Yet, in the right hands, it can cut through subversive agendas. It might prevent influence from being used to usurp authority, incite war, and harm the future of Ellegeance.”

“I thought the influencers’ oath was to the realm.”

“It is.” She paused to study him. “Yet, we are human beings and subject to temptation after all.”

“You could just let me go,” he whispered. “It’s over anyway.”

“Tell me who it is, and I swear to you that I’ll spare your life.”

“No, you won’t. I know too much.”

“I want the name.” She resumed her pacing and then halted. “It’s the girl, isn’t it? Qeyon said she was with you in the alley.”

When he didn’t answer, ripples of pain danced behind his eyes. His stomach knotted and fear engulfed him, whether his own or influenced, he couldn’t say and it scarcely mattered. She knew. “Yes.”

She sat beside him, green eyes eager. Her hand touched his wrist, and his body began to warm and relax. The lingering pain of his previous injuries eased, replaced with sensations of physical pleasure and relief. An awareness of gratitude for his torturer tickled his thoughts. It was subtle and would have been imperceptible if it hadn’t felt so illogical.

Vianne leaned toward him. “That little girl is in grave danger, Gannon. You understand, don’t you? Algar’s no fool, and from what Qeyon said, she made a spectacle of herself in the market. I can protect her, here in Ava-Grea. You must tell me who she is and where to find her before she and everyone she knows is dead.”

Due out in Marchish