I’ve loved this author’s writing – her series The Griffin Mage is one of my all-time favourites and still stands out in my memory – see my review – and Black Dog. So I was delighted when the author contacted me and asked if I would provide an honest review, in return for a copy of the book.
BLURB: Raised a warrior in the harsh winter country, Ryo inGara has always been willing to die for his family and his tribe. When war erupts against the summer country, the prospect of death in battle seems imminent. But when his warleader leaves Ryo as a sacrifice — a tuyo — to die at the hands of their enemies, he faces a fate he never imagined. Ryo’s captor, a lord of the summer country, may be an enemy . . . but far worse enemies are moving, with the current war nothing but the opening moves in a hidden game Ryo barely glimpses, a game in which all his people may be merely pawns. Suddenly Ryo finds his convictions overturned and his loyalties uncertain. Should he support the man who holds him prisoner, the only man who may be able to defeat their greater enemy? And even if he does, can he persuade his people to do the same?
REVIEW: Right from the start of this engrossing story, I was pulled right into the middle of Ryo’s plight. He has been left as a sacrifice in the hopes that their enemy will exact his revenge upon the young warrior, allowing the rest of the warband to escape into the wilds of the forest. So we start with Ryo waiting for his fate and wishing he could take back his angry words to his older brother, who’d made the painful decision to leave him. While also hoping that he doesn’t disgrace himself by buckling in the face of torture and trying to prepare himself for the upcoming encounter. However, in the event, he isn’t remotely ready for who he ends up facing…
This thoughtful, beautifully written fantasy adventure explores a clash of cultures and does a fabulous job of fully unpacking what it actually means to be in the hands of a sorcerer capable of going into your mind and altering your mental landscape, seeding false memories and changing your loyalties. While I’ve seen this form of magic used before – I cannot recall such a clever and thorough examination of the consequences of it. I was completely convinced of the threat and genuinely gripped as the stakes continued to be raised. Neumeier’s pacing and handling of her cast of characters, in addition to her wonderful worldbuilding – something she excels at – held me throughout. Very highly recommended for fans of intelligent, well written fantasy that is genuinely different. 10/10
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.
It was my birthday on Friday – and I was dreading it. While we had arranged to go for a picnic at Borde Hill Garden, near Haywards Heath, I was all too aware we were in the hands of the weather. What I couldn’t do was have my customary family birthday party. So I woke up on Friday morning not feeling all that excited. Yet it turned out to be one of the loveliest birthdays… While it was still very warm, the promised thunderstorms didn’t materialise and Borde Hill Garden is a gem. My daughter had put together a yummy vegan picnic, including the most delicious cake and the pics this week are all from Borde Hill Gardens. We then had our older grandchildren to stay for the weekend – they went home this morning. It was so much fun spending time with them again, and although we couldn’t take them swimming or scootering along the foreshore due to the constant high winds and rain showers on Saturday – we had a hilarious Game of Thrones monopoly game, instead.
On Wednesday, we went to Elmer Beach with the family on one of the sunniest days of the year. Though it was busy, we were able to observe social distancing throughout the afternoon. The boys swam, while little Eliza was engrossed with stones on the beach and afterwards, they were occupied flying a kite in the onshore breeze. So it has been a busy week, socially!
On the writing front, the release of Picky Eaters went very well. Thank you so much to those of you who spread the word – and those of you who bought the book.
Last week I read: Entangled Secrets – Book 3 of the Northern Circle Coven series by Pat Esden Pregnant and alone at twenty-one, Chandler Parrish sought refuge within the Northern Circle coven’s secluded complex. Never revealing the identity of her child’s father, Chandler has raised her now eight-year-old son, Peregrine, in peace, and used her talent as an artist and welder to become a renowned metal sculptor. But her world is shaken to the core when Peregrine shows signs of natural faerie sight—a rare and dangerous gift to see through faerie glamour and disguises that could only have come from his father’s genes. Worse yet, the boy has seen a monstrous faerie creature trailing Lionel Parker, a magic-obsessed journalist determined to expose the witching world.
But the very man who threatens the witches’ anonymity may also be key to healing Chandler’s long broken heart. As dangerous desires and shocking secrets entangle, new faerie threats and demonic foes close in on the coven and High Council. Loyalties will be tested. Fierce magics will be called upon. And Chandler will have to face her past to save all she holds dear: her coven, her child—and perhaps even her own soul. Despite crashing midway into this series, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Chandler proved to be a gutsy, sympathetic protagonist and I loved her fierce protectiveness towards her young son, which nicely nocked up the ongoing tension throughout a fair chunk of the story. Review to follow.
Perilous Hunt – Book 7 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker After failing to catch up with her daughter Jelena so many times, Alisa’s optimism is battered, but her determination has never waned. She, Leonidas, and their eclectic crew are hunting down a Starseer research station in the heart of the Kir Asteroid belt—Jelena’s supposed location. Alisa vows that she will find her daughter if she has to search a million asteroids to do so.
But Jelena and her close friend, Prince Thorian, have attracted the interest of many factions, and the Star Nomad isn’t the only ship on the hunt… Alisa has been searching for her daughter now through six action-packed books – so I wondered whether once again Buroker could deliver the goods such that once again I’d be sucked back into this intriguing world. But she absolutely did. I really enjoyed this penultimate adventure of this series. Review to follow.
TUYO – Book 1 of the Tuyo series by Rachel Neumeier Raised a warrior in the harsh winter country, Ryo inGara has always been willing to die for his family and his tribe. When war erupts against the summer country, the prospect of death in battle seems imminent. But when his warleader leaves Ryo as a sacrifice — a tuyo — to die at the hands of their enemies, he faces a fate he never imagined. The author contacted me and asked if I would be interested in a review copy of TUYO – and I immediately agreed. After all, Neumeier wrote the fabulous Griffin Mage trilogy – one of my all-time favourite reads. I’m so glad I did – this one handles the issue of mind sorcery brilliantly and I inhaled this book, unwilling to put it down. Review to follow.
The Calculating Stars – Book 1 of the Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal On a cold spring night in 1952, a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity, as the last such meteorite did for the dinosaurs. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space, and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process.
Elma York’s experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too.
Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions of society may not stand a chance against her. This one has been enthusiastically recommended by many of my book blogging buddies – and now I’ve had a chance to tuck into it, I understand what the fuss is about. I loved the way the alternate history strand was handled – with care and attention to the details that made this timeline work. Review to follow.
Picky Eaters is Live Today https://twitter.com/AMhairiSimpson/status/1275003664558690309A huge thank you to those of you who spread the word about Picky Eaters’ publication day on Monday – I was thrilled at the response. I’ve chosen Mhairi’s tweet, seeing as she also included her first sketch of Castellan, as she donated the book cover for free…
Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you and yours have a peaceful, healthy week. Take care.
Like so many other folks, I’m a huge Jane Austen fan – and Pride and Prejudice was my go-to comfort read for several decades. So I was delighted to hear about this retelling from the viewpoint of the servants at Longbourn – and so decided to treat myself to the Audible version, narrated by the wonderful Emma Fielding.
BLURB: ‘If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats,’ Sarah thought, ‘she would be more careful not to tramp through muddy fields.’ It is wash-day for the housemaids at Longbourn House, and Sarah’s hands are chapped and raw. Domestic life below stairs, ruled with a tender heart and an iron will by Mrs Hill the housekeeper, is about to be disturbed by the arrival of a new footman, bearing secrets and the scent of the sea.
This started so very well. I loved Sarah, the intelligent and lively young maid-of-all-work, hired from the Poor House when she was only six years old by Mrs Hill, the housekeeper, after her family died of typhus. Now, as a teenager, she finds the drudgery and sheer monotony of the work, chafes her spirit. She longs for some adventure and a break from the routine of never-ending, back-breaking housework in the days when every cleaning product had to be made by hand and hardly any domestic aids to lighten the load existed. Baker depicts life below stairs so very well, and her characterisation of all the servants, Mrs Hill in particular, is nuanced and detailed.
But as the story wore on, I felt the pacing suffered in the face of all the domestic trivia. Baker had clearly done shedloads of historical research on the clothing, the food, the duties of the servants… Unfortunately, she also got very caught up in regaling her readers with far too much of said detail at the overall expense of the narrative, which meant the book dragged in places, which was a real shame.
Unlike some readers, I didn’t have a problem with Baker’s depiction of the Bennet family – of course Elizabeth wouldn’t come across as particularly lively to the servants, or even all that thoughtful. While she was often preoccupied and forgot a detail particularly important to Sarah, it must remembered that was right in the middle of a tumultuous period in her own life. She also never shouted, or threw things at Sarah, pinched or slapped her, which was also often the lot of a domestic servant. I also enjoyed the interlude right away from Longbourn, when we get a ringside seat at the horrors of the Peninsular Campaign during the Napoleonic Wars. It gave us a bit of a break from the constant domestic round and a real insight into the brutality many working-class men endured, once they joined up.
As for the overall plot – I thought the plotline charting Mrs Hill’s story was stunningly successful, from beginning to end, particularly the way in also encompassed poor Mrs Bennet’s life. If the book had chosen to feature Mrs Hill as the main protagonist, this would have been an outstanding read from me. But it wasn’t – Sarah was the main character featured throughout, until nearly at the end of the book, when she simply disappears, only to make a fleeting and highly unsatisfactory reappearance right at the very end.
I couldn’t believe it. I went back and replayed it, in case I missed a bunch of crucial details – but I hadn’t. I had no idea if she was happy with the life she ended up choosing. And that ending plain didn’t make sense, either. No one dared send any letters for fear of being traced – and then… suddenly that didn’t matter anymore! I can’t say more for fear of Spoilers, but I found the ending contrived and unconvincing. What a shame! There was so much that was well done, but I came away disappointed that this book didn’t fulfil its early promise. 6/10
This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring covers depicting WINDOWS. I’ve selected The High Window – Book 3 of the Philip Marlow series by Raymond Chandler.
This Romanian offering was produced by Nemira in April 2011. Because there are so many covers for this book and a lot of them are frankly underwhelming – I’ve only selected those featuring windows. I really like this one, where the artwork is simple, but looks very effective in all sizes. My main grizzle is that while I know the famous author is the selling point, it would be helpful to have the book title sufficiently large and punchy to be able to see it when in thumbnail.
Published in July 1999 by Prószyński i S-ka, this Polish edition could have been strikingly arresting if those figures silhouetted in the window looked remotely lifelike. It’s a shame that the execution is so poor, because it’s a cool idea that could have been eye-catching and made for an effective cover.
This Spanish edition, published by Emecé in 2007, is another very pared back offering. Though I think it is a far better effort than the previous cover, as I really like the simplicity. But my gripe with this one is that I think the quirky, uneven font and perky curtain blowing in the breeze gives off a vibe that this is a humorous novel, rather than a murder mystery, which is a shame, because for me, that’s a dealbreaker. A cover needs to give the reader a sense of the genre and overall tone of the book – and though there is humour in Chandler’s books, it’s dark and sardonic. Certainly not the cute, perky type that comes to mind when seeing this design.
This edition, published in July 2014 by Mustbe Interactive is another indifferent offering. I’m not a huge fan of split images on covers, as they often end up unable to depict either design effectively – as in this example. A truncated block flats is never going to look right and as for the image below the author textbox – well, your guess is as good as mine as to what is going on there…
And finally a cover that really works. Produced as an ebook in July 2019, this edition is clearly using one of the original covers from when the book first came out in 1942. I love the drama with the flying glass and the two horrified faces – that of the falling man and the woman witnessing the whole thing. The large blocky title also underlines the drama – no one is going to mistake this for a perky comedy. This is my favourite, but what about you – which one do you prefer?
The Case of the Missing Servant – Book 1 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall BLURB: The Case of the Missing Servant shows Puri (“Chubby” to his friends) and his wonderfully nicknamed employees (among them, Handbrake, Flush, and Handcream) hired for two investigations. The first is into the background of a man surprisingly willing to wed a woman her father considers unmarriageable, and the second is into the disappearance six months earlier of a servant to a prominent Punjabi lawyer, a young woman known only as Mary.
The Most Private Investigator novels offer a delicious combination of ingenious stories, brilliant writing, sharp wit, and a vivid, unsentimental picture of contemporary India. And from the first to the last page run an affectionate humour and intelligent insights into both the subtleties of Indian culture and the mysteries of human behaviour.
Yes, there is a lot of hype and enthusiasm above, but I think that it’s warranted. I loved this murder mystery adventure. Contemporary India is vividly portrayed as Puri endeavours to deal with a couple of important cases. Though, as far as he is concerned, they are all vital. Imagine a portly, more gregarious version of Sherlock Holmes, with the same dogged determination to solve his cases and the same very high opinion of his own abilities. Though instead of Watson, Puri has a team working for him who are skilled at going undercover, as well as a very interfering mother, who is far better at this type of work than Puri wants to acknowledge. This series is definitely an addition to my reading list – I love the characters and the bustling, energetic world skilfully depicted by Hall. Highly recommended for murder mystery fans looking for something different. 9/10
A Dying Fall – Book 5 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths BLURB: Ruth’s old friend Dan Golding dies in a house fire. But before he died Dan wrote to Ruth telling her that he had made a ground-breaking archaeological discovery. Could this find be linked to his death and who are the sinister neo-Nazi group who were threatening Dan? Ruth makes the trip to Blackpool to investigate, wary of encroaching on DCI Harry Nelson’s home ground. Soon Ruth is embroiled in a mystery that involves the Pendle Witches, King Arthur and – scariest of all – Nelson’s mother.
There are forces at work in the town that that threaten all that Ruth holds dear. But, in the final showdown on Blackpool Pleasure Beach, it is Cathbad who faces the greatest danger of all. This is a well-written entertaining continuation of this police procedural murder mystery series. I loved the progression of the main characters that we have all come to know – particularly Ruth’s ongoing struggle to continue working with a very small child. And it struck me how rarely we see the protagonist coping with the ongoing challenge of holding down a demanding job with having a small child. BUT I was struck by an anomaly… In the last book, Ruth takes a painful decision not to see someone who badly needed her, due to the possible risk to Kate. And yet, despite threatening emails, she is happy to take her off to Blackpool for a combined holiday and investigation? Hm. I have knocked off a point for that inconsistency – but other than that, I loved it. Griffiths is really hitting her stride with this series, I feel. 8/10
The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing – Book 2 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall BLURB: Murder is no laughing matter. Yet a prominent Indian scientist dies in a fit of giggles when a Hindu goddess appears from a mist and plunges a sword into his chest.
The only one laughing now is the main suspect, a powerful guru named Maharaj Swami, who seems to have done away with his most vocal critic. Vish Puri, India’s Most Private Investigator, master of disguise and lover of all things fried and spicy, doesn’t believe the murder is a supernatural occurrence, and proving who really killed Dr. Suresh Jha will require all the detective’s earthly faculties. To get at the truth, he and his team of undercover operatives—Facecream, Tubelight, and Flush—travel from the slum where India’s hereditary magicians must be persuaded to reveal their secrets to the holy city of Haridwar on the Ganges.
I enjoyed the first book so much, I was almost afraid to dive back into the bustling crowded world that Vish Puri inhabits, just in case this book didn’t deliver on the colour, diversity and sheer exuberance of modern Indian society depicted by Hall. Fortunately, I wasn’t disappointed – once again not only did I thorough enjoy the vivid backdrop, there were two wonderful crimes for Puri and his mother to unravel. Up to this point, while the investigations have been well crafted and enjoyable – it is in this book that I was completely gripped by the crimes. Highly recommended for all fans of murder mysteries – especially if you are looking for something different. 9/10
Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.
This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – Scarlet Odyssey – Book 1 of the Scarlet Odyssey series by C.T. Rwizi – release date, 1st July, 2020
#fantasy series #YA
BLURB:Magic is women’s work; war is men’s. But in the coming battle, none of that will matter.
Men do not become mystics. They become warriors. But eighteen-year-old Salo has never been good at conforming to his tribe’s expectations. For as long as he can remember, he has loved books and magic in a culture where such things are considered unmanly. Despite it being sacrilege, Salo has worked on a magical device in secret that will awaken his latent magical powers. And when his village is attacked by a cruel enchantress, Salo knows that it is time to take action.
Salo’s queen is surprisingly accepting of his desire to be a mystic, but she will not allow him to stay in the tribe. Instead, she sends Salo on a quest. The quest will take him thousands of miles north to the Jungle City, the political heart of the continent. There he must gather information on a growing threat to his tribe.
On the way to the city, he is joined by three fellow outcasts: a shunned female warrior, a mysterious nomad, and a deadly assassin. But they’re being hunted by the same enchantress who attacked Salo’s village. She may hold the key to Salo’s awakening—and his redemption.
Someone strongly recommended this one to me, to extent that I’ve got it on pre-order. Though having the memory of a concussed jellyfish, I cannot recall who it was… if you remember our conversation – do please feel free to mention it in the Comments and I’ll namecheck you! I’m really looking forward to tucking into this one and hope I will enjoy it. Have you got this one on your TBR?
I’ve been uploading photos of my garden on my Sunday Posts, which have been getting a lot of positive comments. However, I’m also aware that the small scale of the pics hasn’t really done justice to them. So I’ve decided to choose a selection for every Tuesday and feature them full size.
Lockdown has been a uniquely peculiar time – one which has brought great uncertainty and fear, but also forced us to look at what is directly around us and value its worth so much more. I’ve felt like that about my garden this year – helped by the wonderful weather in Spring, and wanted to share some of the beauty and pleasure with you, too.
I read and thoroughly enjoyed the first book – see my review of First Flyght. So I took the opportunity to dive into the second book to find out what happens next to Vivian.
BLURB: With her ship secure and her old boyfriend back in good graces, Vivian Kawabata only needs one thing to move forward: money. Money, though, is hard to come by when you’re an infamous disgraced heiress. Vivian’s only move is to enlist the help of her matchmaker, Marcelo, and find another wealthy man to add to her relationship network. He not only has to be a master in the bedroom, but he must be a pro with ships, too. Her ship needs a mechanic before they start taking on real clients for Flyght, the lucrative ship-sharing startup…
REVIEW: There is more blurb, but it gets a bit chatty. This book picks up where the first book left off, so if you haven’t yet read First Flyght then go and track it down, because especially at the start of this story, you’ll not necessarily appreciate how high the stakes are if you don’t. I very much like Vivian, who is fundamentally a good person with a keen sense of responsibility. There is plenty going on in this next slice of the adventure, as Vivian struggles to get back the family farm, go after her brother and accrue a relationship network of wealthy men – all at the same time. No wonder she is struggling to sleep…
Pajonas has a smooth writing style and in the middle of all the mayhem, there is a thread of wry humour that manages to keep the story enjoyably entertaining as well as nicely escapist – just what we all need in these increasingly grim times… I like the worldbuilding, which is vivid and well described as Vivian bounces through it – a disaster magnet, as sheer bad luck and circumstance conspire to multiply the ongoing problems she’s been dealing with. I’m hoping, however, that the next book in the series, High Flyght, will bring some sort of resolution to at least one of the issues Vivian is confronting – I am uncomfortable with the idea that she becomes a permanent fall guy throughout this series, as I like her too much.
Overall, though, this was an entertaining, thoroughly enjoyable space opera adventure. While it is marketed as a reverse harem romance – something that made me initially hesitate to read it – I would just add that the romance so far has been of the slow burn variety and not the plot thread powering the narrative. I don’t have a problem with that, but do bear it in mind. 8/10
And here it is! Picky Eaters is now available as an ebook and in print. Click on the cover below or in the sidebar to be linked to your nearest Amazon store.
As lockdown clamped across my life, along with everyone else, I wanted to do something to help. But all I do these days is write… So I dusted off one of my favourite characters, Casta the Grey. He’d got into a real pickle looking after those pesky grandchildren of his, but what happened next? I decided to find out – and that’s how this longer version came into being. It’s funny and quirky and hopefully will take you away from some of the big, scary stuff going on around us for a while. And I am donating all proceeds from Picky Eaters for the duration of its publication to mental health charities.
BLURB: This tale about family life, dragon-style, is escapist fun for adults. All proceeds to go to mental health charities.
Castellan the Black, now better known as Casta the Grey, has led an eventful life, but these days he’s content to live alone in his mountaintop lair, fending off occasional attacks from the food and waiting to die. At least, that’s what he tells himself.
Babysitting his young grandchildren is definitely not on his to do list. Sammy Jo doesn’t care that the world used to cower before Casta’s wrath. She doesn’t want barbecued knight in armour – it’s tinned food – and that’s that. Sadly, her little brother Billy Bob is more inclined to follow her lead than his grandfather’s, and what’s a grumpy old dragon to do with two such intransigent youngsters?
Things go from bad to worse when he wakes up from a nap to find they’ve been hunting for more appealing treats. Organic, free-range lunch was exactly what they needed, according to a very proud Sammy Jo. He’s never seen the food so upset, and now it’s coming up the hill, armed with spears and bows, hell bent on revenge.
Things go from bad to worse when he has to move in with the rest of the family. Whoever said family life was boring hasn’t lived alongside these two pesky lizards. Keeping his grandkids out of trouble might be more of a challenge than this over the mountain warrior can handle.
Hayley of Far too Fond of Books says:I don’t normally read fantasy but this short story is so lovely. The descriptions of the dragons are fab and it reminded me of books I loved when I was a child and made me wonder why I never reach for the genre anymore. 5 stars
Sneak peek… He came to with a sudden awareness that he must have dozed off, which was happening more often these days. Still, no harm done… He stretched and yawned, choosing to ignore the patter of dirt falling from his crusted scales. Only as he started to curl up, ready to turn the nap into a proper mid-morning snooze, did he recall he was supposed to be babysitting his pesky grandchildren. Where’d they got to? Once he located the youngsters huddled in the corner, he decided Billy Bob and Sammy Jo were up to something, so he tip-taloned across the cavern, before whispering, “What are you doing?” in Billy Bob’s ear. The small dragon shot straight into the air with a shrill squeal, while his sister crouched lower over whatever-it-was in the gloom, gobbling it up in a couple of hurried gulps. An irritated wisp of smoke leaked from his nostrils. “And why are you eating between meals?” “’Um unngree…” she mumbled, still chewing. The delicious whiff of a meaty something didn’t improve his temper. “If you’d eaten all your breakfast, you wouldn’t be wanting something, now!” “Sorry, Granddad,” Billy Bob whimpered, his wings drooping submissively. But young Sammy Jo was made of sterner stuff. Her wings remained neatly folded across her back as she announced, “Didn’t like breakfast.” Impudent little piece! Why, when he was a dragonet, if he’d spoken to a lord so insolently, he’d have been walking around with singed scales for a month. Smoke now was trickling steadily from his nostrils, as he growled, “And what does like have to do with anything? Answer that one, miss! There’s sub-Saharan dragons who’d give their wings for a tasty morsel like the one I picked out for you.” “They can have it, then,” Sammy Jo said sulkily. “It tasted funny.” The rank ingratitude! His temper flared, and a gout of flame belched out of his mouth with his roar, “Ahh!” She dodged his fiery blast with ease. “You can’t singe us, Granddad. It’s not allowed.” Sammy Jo stretched her neck in an unmistakeably female way. “If we’ve been bad, we have to sit on the naughty crag and think about what we’ve done wrong and how to make a-mends.” He regarded her with smouldering annoyance. “You sound just like your grandmother.”
This book arrived in the post from my lovely sister-in-law, who took me to Bexhill last year for a writing retreat, while she got on with her thesis on medieval attitudes to depression and depressive illness.
BLURB: A book of hope for uncertain times. Enter the world of Charlie’s four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most important life lessons. The conversations of the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse have been shared thousands of times online, recreated in school art classes, hung on hospital walls and turned into tattoos. In Charlie’s first book, you will find his most-loved illustrations and some new ones too.
This is a solid delight. It is an apparently very simple book. The drawings are apparently very basic – but it takes real skill to turn a dozen or so squiggly lines into a vulnerable-looking little boy, a small mole, an alert little fox and a horse… Hm – that horse. Such a hard creature to draw really well. If I’d any doubts as to Macksey’s real talent as an artist, it is the drawing of the horse – especially when we come to the climax of the book and the drawings stop being squiggly lines and turn into something awesome and magical that brought tears to my eyes…
So we have lovely pictures on each page, but it’s the prose that turns this book from being a winsome little gem into a book with sufficient heft to want it close to me throughout the day, so I can open it when I’m feeling wobbly. The conversations the boy has with the mole, and the horse, in particular, have given me so much comfort with their truth. The one that has stayed with me the most is this quote:
“What is the bravest thing you ever said?” asked the boy. “Help,” said the horse.
There is so much profound truth in those two lines. How often do we reach the end of our tether, completely in despair – simply because we lack the resources to help ourselves and paralysed with fear to ask others for help? I could have saved myself such misery as a young woman if I’d taken on board that life lesson…
There are profound things about the role of cake in our lives, too, that mole shares with us… It took about ten minutes to read the book from cover to cover and in the space of that time I laughed aloud and I wept – I’m finding myself a tad more emotional, these days. But I stand by the fact that any book which can make me do both in such a short timespan is remarkable. There is no preaching or judgement – just kindness, acceptance in a chat between a small boy and his animal companions.
And this book is right by my side for the duration. Very highly recommended for anyone who feels a tad overwhelmed or frightened right now… 10/10