Blog Tour: Rush of Shadows by Catherine Bell (Review)

ros

I’m delighted to host a tour stop today for Catherine Bell’s Rush of Shadows, depicting the conflict between settlers and natives in 1800’s Calfornia. It was a rollercoaster of a read!

arc3
Title: Rush of Shadows
Author: Catherine Bell
Series: n/a
Publication date: October 15th 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction; Literary Fiction
Purchase from: Amazon

Synopsis
When American pioneers set their hearts on a California valley where Indians had been living for thousands of years, a period of uneasy appraisal emerged, followed by conflict and soon enough by genocide. The epic greed and violence of the 1850′s and 60′s has been brushed aside by history, conveniently forgotten in the pride of conquest. Willful ignorance and cruelty, terror and desperation were common in that time, but there were moments too of nobility and compassion, ingenuity and forgiveness, qualities which might have prevailed if certain things had been different. Rush of Shadows brings to life two freethinking women, Mellie, a white, and Bahe, an Indian, who enact the clash of their cultures, endure, and come to an unlikely understanding.

My Review

I’ve always had a weird fascination with this period of history, despite not actually knowing much about it (shamefully). I remember a book my dad had when I was growing up which was essentially just photos of Native American Indians going about their lives, and I thought it was beautiful and magical.

So when I came across this book and was asked to be part of the blog tour, I was delighted. And, I still am!

Rush of Shadows is about Mellie and Law, a recently married couple who become some of the very first settlers in an area of California, an area inhabited by Indians.

Mellie is sweet-hearted yet extremely strong-willed, with a degree of irreverence about her. You get the feeling from the start that she’s not entirely happy about her lot in life, and has reservations about her husband, Law, but she goes along with his plans regardless.

When they arrive at the place Law has his mind set on, he is concerned with building their home and finding sustainable work, leaving Mellie feeling isolated and alone. This is when she meets Bahé. Bahé, as Mellie names her, is the opposite of Mellie, yet somehow they are similar in many ways too.

To Law’s dismay, Mellie finds herself seeking Bahé out more and more. But as time goes on and more settlers arrive bringing with them their ignorance and fear of the Indians it gets increasingly harder for Mellie and Bahé’s friendship to develop.

This book was such a rollercoaster. On one hand, I loved the way the Indian’s were portrayed, in that the way they lived was such a mystery to the settlers it made them seem so spiritual and almost magical, but on the other hand, the way the settlers saw them and feared them made me so angry.

I liked that Mellie had her own mind and stood up to her husband on occasion (and that he enjoyed it!), but she also let the influence of others impact on her relationship with Bahé and her family.

There is massive scope in this novel. We start at the very beginnings of settlement, when there were only two houses in the region, to the development of a town and a government. I found this really interesting and enjoyed the contrast of this story to that of Bahé’s who learns a lot from Mellie but will never fully understand her or their ways – which I guess works both ways.

Bahé and her family’s lives are in danger from the settlers. Everything that was once theirs – nature, wildlife, freedom, is slowly taken away from them to the point that they begin to starve, and their traditions are basically damned, but she never blames Mellie, or lashes out – such is her spirit.

I found Rush of Shadows dramatic, emotional and infuriating – but all in a good way. Catherine Bell did such a great job of juggling multiple narratives, something which I often dislike in books. I thought it was written really beautifully and the amount of research she did comes across in every single line (you should see the list of sources)! It is definitely one of those books that gives you food for thought, as the themes here are universal and can be applied to any era.

unicorn rating 4

Meet the Author

DSC_0974Catherine Bell grew up in a New England family with a sense of its past as distinguished and its culture superior, as chronicled in many of her short stories.

An early reader, she found in fiction that penetrating experience of other people’s lives that opens a wider world. The Winsor School, Harvard, and Stanford prepared her to recognize good writing and thinking. She credits work as a gardener, cook, cashier, waitress, and schoolbus driver with teaching her how to live in that wider world.

She has also worked as a secretary, freelance writer, and therapist, served as a teacher in the Peace Corps, and taught in inner city schools. She has lived in Paris, Brasilia, Nova Scotia, Northern California, and Washington, D.C. Culture clashes, even within families, are often subjects of her fiction. She has published stories in a number of journals, including Midway Journal, Coal City Review, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Sixfold, Solstice, and South Carolina Review. Her story “Among the Missing” won The Northern Virginia Review’s 2014 Prose Award.

She researched and wrote Rush of Shadows, her first novel, over a period of twenty years after she married a fourth-generation Californian and fell in love with his home territory, the Coast Range. The bright sunburned hills, dark firs, clear shallow streams, and twisted oaks were splendid, but the old barns and wooden churches and redwood train station didn’t seem old enough. Where was the long past? Where were the Indians? There was only the shadow of a story passed down by her husband’s grandmother late in life. Born in 1869, she grew up playing with Indian children whose parents worked on the ranch her father managed. One day the Army came to remove the Indians and march them to the reservation, and that was that. She was four years old, and she never forgot.

Bell lives with her husband in Washington, D.C. and visits children and grandchildren in California and Australia. As a teacher at Washington International School, she loves reading great books with teenagers.

Links:
Check out the rest of the tour schedule here: JKS Communications
Add Rush of Shadows on Goodreads
Available from Amazon

Many Thanks to Catherine Bell and JKS Communications!

Rereads Challenge Review: Northern Lights (The Golden Compass) by Phillip Pullman

REREAD

north

When Lyra’s friend Roger disappears, she and her dæmon, Pantalaimon, determine to find him.

The ensuing quest leads them to the bleak splendour of the North, where armoured bears rule the ice and witch-queens fly through the frozen skies – and where a team of scientists is conducting experiments too horrible to be spoken about.

Lyra overcomes these strange terrors, only to find something yet more perilous waiting for her – something with consequences which may even reach beyond the Northern Lights…

I’ve always thought of Northern Lights as one of my childhood favorites even though I had only read it twice. The last time was probably when I was about 16 – almost 15 years ago (EEEEEK) – so it was long due a reread. Added to that, I went off on an adventure of my own in the hope of seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland, so I thought it would be the perfect book to get me excited about it.

Unfortunately, the beginning of the book felt more like a chore this time round. It’s funny how you always remember the good parts (Lovely Lyra, the badassness of Iorek Byronison, the magical descriptions of the arctic and the Aurora) but forget the bad parts (the slow pace and drawn-out plot).

But thankfully, my disappointment didn’t last too long. I’m pretty sure the reason I fell in love with this book when I was younger wasn’t just the fantasy, magical elements of it, but Lyra herself. She’s such a great protagonist. She’s inherently good and powerful but she doesn’t know it. She has no idea of her potential but runs on the simple instinct to do what’s right and to help the best she can. In the beginning her only motivation is to save Roger and a longing to explore the north, but little did she know where it would lead her.

I probably missed a some of the underlying themes in this series the first time round. It’s infamous for being anti-religious (or at least void of Christianity) much like the Narnia books are infamous for their not-so-subtle Christian themes, but that wasn’t what was new to me this time around. I’d somehow missed the onslaught political and racial commentary.

Also, it’s totally Steampunk, right?

All that aside, by the middle of this, I was hooked again, I stopped peeling back the layers and just enjoyed the story of a plucky girl and her daemon (oh how I wanted my own daemon growing up – OK I still do!) on a thrilling adventure to the arctic to save her best friend and find out the truth about the family that disowned her.

And it’s dark, really dark – with the human experiments, kidnappings and gory deaths…

And as he said that, the Aurora flickered and dimmed, like an anbaric bulb at the end of its life, and then went out altogether. In the gloom, though, Lyra sensed the presence of the Dust, for the air seemed to be full of dark intentions, like the forms of thoughts not yet formed”

Perfect!

I’m so glad I can still call it a favourite.

unicorn rating 4

Disclosure?: Nope, I own it.
Title: Northern Lights (His Dark Materials #1)
Author: Phillip Pullman
Details: Paperback, 399 pages
Publication Date: October 23rd 1998 by Scholastic Point (first published 1995)
My Rating: 4/5

Virtual Book Tour (& Review): Invoking Nonna by Sage Adderley

I’m delighted to host one of the first stops on Sage’s tour for her brilliant YA book Invoking Nonna!

invoking
Title: Invoking Nonna
Author: Sage Adderley
Series: Triple Goddess Series (Book 1)
Genre: YA, Paranormal
Paperback: 186 pages
Publisher: Sweet Candy Press; 1ST edition (December 20, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0989709825
ISBN-13: 978-0989709828

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Maggie Sloan is a free-spirited teenager growing up in rural Georgia. Unlike her peers, Maggie is a witch and so is her mother. In addition to normal teenager rites of passage, she must learn about her family lineage and witchcraft. Her mother, Laura, keeps a tight lid on their family secrets – like the mysterious life and death of her grandmother who passed away before Maggie was born.

Practicing the craft will test solid friendships and introduce Maggie to new realms. While seeking the truth about herself and her family, Maggie is faced with danger from churchgoing classmates who will stop at nothing to make sure she is found out. Laura and Maggie strengthen their bond through witchcraft and work together to overcome their enemies. Are their magical gifts enough to keep them safe?

Book Trailer:

 

My Review:

It’s been a while since I’ve read a good ‘Witch’ book and Invoking Nonna didn’t disappoint. I was seriously hooked from the beginning as protagonist Maggie starts to tell us about how she discovered witchcraft via her secretive mum, Laura.

It’s clear from the off that the star of this show is going to be Adderley’s characterisation skills. Take maggie’s frenemy, Gillian for example:

She had thin brown hair that hung around her face. Sadly, she battled with acne and would try to cover the many bumps on her face with make-up, way too much make-up. Every time I got near her mug, I would envision someone scraping off a layer or two of her foundation with their fingernail,’

…Eugh, we all knew a Gillian in high school, right?

I was a little worried when I realised that Invoking Nonna had two of my book turn-offs – multiple narrative, and a jumping timeline, but it actually really worked. I liked that we learned about Maggie’s family in the past, it created an even richer foundation for her.

I found this book so easy to read, the pages just flew by. In essence, it’s part family saga, high school drama, and a great coming of age tale.

And how refreshing to have a YA book which actually centers around a girl’s relationship with her mother, and how the unlikeliest of things can bring them together.

unicorn rating 4

Meet the Author:

invoking2
Sage Adderley is a single (and very busy) mom of three humans and one cat. She is passionate about kindness, coffee, mental health, fat activism, and the DIY lifestyle. Sage is the owner of Sweet Candy Distro & Press, Sage’s Blog Tours, and writes the zines Tattooed Memoirs and Marked For Life. She is also the creator of FAT-TASTIC! Sage currently resides in the magical land of Olympia, Wa.

You can stalk Sage here:
Website
Goodreads
Facebook
Twitter

Buy Invoking Nonna:
From Amazon
From Etsy (print & digital available)

Favourites Friday #18 :The Magician’s Nephew by C. S Lewis

Today is the 50th anniversary of the death of C.S Lewis so what better day to do a Narnia FF post. I’ve loved the Narnia books ever since I saw the BBC’s adaptation of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (yes I saw it before I read the books cut me some slack, I was like 8!) and immediately begged for the books.

As much as I love The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, it’s always between The Magician’s Nephew and The Horse and His Boy for my ultimate favourite.

For the purpose of this post, I’m going to go for The Magician’s Nephew simply because you get to see the creation of Narnia itself.

The Magician’s Nephew was actually the 6th book in the series that Lewis wrote but was a prequel to the rest. In modern editions, the books are sequenced according to Narnian History and so The Magician’s Nephew is usually listed as book one.

narnia I’ll always remember the first time I read this; I was amazed by the Wood Between Worlds. It’s quite a bit darker than some of the other books (Uncle Andrew is proper sinister), and the idea of being able to visit different worlds – some nicer than others – by going through the different puddles is pretty awesome. Also, watch out for “Queen” Jadis. You aint no Queen of Narnia!

Synopsis:
When Digory and Polly are tricked by Digory’s peculiar Uncle Andrew into becoming part of an experiment, they set off on the adventure of a lifetime. What happens to the children when they touch Uncle Andrew’s magic rings is far beyond anything even the old magician could have imagined.
Hurtled into the Wood between the Worlds, the children soon find that they can enter many worlds through the mysterious pools there. In one world they encounter the evil Queen Jadis, who wreaks havoc in the streets of London when she is accidentally brought back with them. When they finally manage to pull her out of London, unintentionally taking along Uncle Andrew and a coachman with his horse, they find themselves in what will come to be known as the land of Narnia.

Sinners & Shadowmen: When Stars Die by Amber Skye Forbes

WhenStarsDie

Amelia Gareth’s brother is a witch and the only way to save her family from the taint in his blood is to become a professed nun at Cathedral Reims in the snowy city of Malva. However, in order to become professed, she must endure trials that all nuns must face.

Surviving these trials is not easy, especially for Amelia, who is being stalked by shadowy beings only she can see. They’re searching for people they can physically touch, because only those they can touch can see them. Amelia soon learns why she is being stalked when she accidentally harms her best friend with fire during the third trial. Fire is a witch’s signature. The shadows are after witches.

Now Amelia must decide what to do: should she continue on her path to profession knowing there is no redemption, or should she give up on her dream and turn away from Cathedral Reims in order to stop the shadows who plan to destroy everything she loves?

I have been following Amber Skye Forbes’ blog for a short while but I hadn’t read much about the actual plot of her forthcoming debut When Stars Die. What I did know is that Amber’s all into ballet and stuff, the title sounds magical and the cover is pretty so when the opportunity came up to get an advanced copy to review I was thrilled and as soon as I started reading I knew instantly that this book was absolutely nothing like I was expecting.

From the very beginning it’s clear that this isn’t going to be a happy, soppy love story. Amber created a dark, mysterious and ominous atmosphere right from the get-go and I was entranced. Amelia is at Cathedral Reims -such a great name- where she is undergoing trials to prove that she deserves to be, and can handle the life of a nun. Straight away I was glued, the main leaders or teachers (whatever you’d like to call them) Mother Aureilia and Theosodore came across as incredibly sinister and cold, and the trials themselves were a lot nastier and darker than I would have first imagined.

And then, as you’d imagine, the plot thickens!

I loved the idea of the Shadowmen prowling around Cathedral Reims looking for witches and when Colette bursts into flames I had surprised cat face for at least 5 seconds. We soon come to realise that this world is nothing like ours.

People are born witches as a punishment to parents who have sinned, so basically there’s a whole lot of witches! And when witches die they become Shadowmen, and the whole thing is driven by the evil, manipulative God Deus. Now, I’m not religious but I am fascinated by it and I thought the ideas and themes here were really interesting. I can honestly say that I’ve never read anything quite like this, which is something you don’t get to say very often.

That being said, there were a lot of things that hindered my enjoyment as the book went on. When Stars Die is set in the 1800s but it’s written in a modern style. I’m not usually a stickler for things like that but I frequently found words and phrases that I couldn’t help but go ‘surely that wouldn’t have been said in the 1800s?’ It distracted me a little.

I also felt the dialogue let it down slightly as it didn’t seem very natural to me and I wished I liked Amelia more as a protagonist. She didn’t really do anything wrong but I felt I couldn’t warm to her because other than being there to save her brother’s soul I wasn’t convinced by any of the motivations for her actions. I never really got to know her as a person.

I wouldn’t classify this as a paranormal romance, as it was a pretty bad romance but the setting and Amber’s descriptions of the world she has created here were really what made this book for me. That and the genius idea to use first person – present tense really made it stand out. It was a unique read and the Epilogue has certainly intrigued me enough to look forward to the sequel.

Details: E-book, 267 Pages. Released 22nd October 2013 by AEC Stellar Publishing
Unicorn Rating: 3 out of 5 (if I could chop one in half to make it 3.5 I would, but I can’t chop up a unicorn)
Is it a keeper? Yes
If you liked this try: I don’t know why but Gormenghast was the first thing that came to mind. So I’m going with it.

Top Ten Tuesday #3: Books That Should Be Taught in Schools

toptentuesday
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish (Click the image to visit them). This week the theme is Top Ten Books that I think should be taught in schools.

Here are some of the books I think should be taught in schools and some of the themes they explore which made me pick them.

1. The Chronicles of Narnia: Faith/Hope/Good vs Evil/Responsibility
2. His Dark Materials: Questioning Religion/Introduces Fantasy in a ‘Real’ Way/Physics/Loyalty/Love
3. Speak: Sexual Abuse/Bullying/Everyone Has a Voice that Deserves to be Heard/Overcoming the Impossible
4. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time: Autism/Humanity/Understanding Emotion
5. Peter Pan: Imagination/Independence/Love/Family Values
6. Will Grayson Will Grayson: LGBT/Acceptance/Friendship
7. Mudbound: Prejudice/Racism/Social Justice/Love
8. Stormbreaker: Makes boys want to read – that is reason enough!
9. Look into my Eyes: Girls Can be Spies Too – that is reason enough!
10. Noughts and Crosses: Prejudice & Racism in an Alternative Society/Dystopian Elements/Star-Crossed Lovers

Also, how about we read The Book Thief instead of Anne Franks’ Diary…no???

Favourites Friday #3: Why I love James Frey, controversy be damned!

85317483553010198117
Click to view on Goodreads.

I love James Frey. I love what he says and how he says it. There, I said it.

I thought I’d go for something a bit different for this week’s FF. It’s definitely not YA, or Paranormal, or Fantasy! But here are some of the reasons why James Frey is one of my favourite authors.

At the age of 23, James Frey woke up on a plane to find his front teeth knocked out and his nose broken. He had no idea where the plane was headed nor any recollection of the past two weeks. An alcoholic for ten years and a crack addict for three, he checked into a treatment facility shortly after landing.
-A Million Little Pieces (Goodreads synopsis)

I didn’t know anything about A Million Little Pieces before I picked it up. I didn’t know it had been marketed as a memoir rather than fiction so I totally missed the whole hype and scandal because I never thought it was anything other than fiction; Fiction that I fell in love with instantly. There’s something about Frey’s streamofconsciousness style that I just can’t get enough of. It’s simple and fierce yet really beautiful in some way. The idea that someone who is beyond broken is doing everything he can to stay alive, and still manages to find beauty in the world and some kind of hope and faith is what really beguiled me. This book is also completely and utterly heartbreaking. You’ve been warned.

I felt exactly the same about follow-up My Friend Leonard too. ‘A heartrending story of a friendship between a newly-sober James and the charismatic, high-living mobster he met in rehab, Leonard. I haven’t reread it as many times as AMLP but it’s still up there in my favourites list.

Then, when Bright Shiny Morning came out I bought the huge hardback edition and was so excited to read it, but it was such a let down. Sad Panda. I was so disappointed that I didn’t even finish it, (I should really give it another go though) so I didn’t know what to expect when I heard his next book was titled The Final Testament of the Holy Bible.

As I was waiting for the book to be released everything went a bit crazy.

He’s been called a liar. A cheat. A con man. He’s been called a saviour. A revolutionary. A genius. He’s been sued by readers. Dropped by publishers because of his controversies. Berated by TV talk-show hosts and condemned by the media. He’s been exiled from America, and driven into hiding. He’s also a bestselling phenomenon.

I have no doubt that the above quote (which is used on Goodreads as the start of The Final Testament synopsis) was just another promotional tool to create this ‘character’ of James Frey. But for a few weeks everywhere I turned, Frey was being called the most hated writer in America, which just made me want to love the book even more. And I did.

What would you do if you discovered the Messiah were alive today? Living in New York. Sleeping with men. Impregnating young women. Euthanizing the dying, and healing the sick. Defying the government, and condemning the holy. What would you do if you met him? And he changed your life. Would you believe? Would you? This is The Final Testament of the Holy Bible.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand why this book created such controversy. Having a protagonist who many perceive to be Jesus reborn who insists that he’s just a man and that religion does nothing but spurn hate and will be the ultimate undoing of the world will do that. He also sleeps with almost everyone he encounters, not forgetting the men…shock horror! But seriously, come on. James Frey is a writer. It’s fiction. If you don’t like the subject matter don’t read it, but leave the poor man alone.

The Final Testament has its flaws. It gets pretty ridiculous and it repeats itself a tad (love is all that matters, yadayadayada), but I felt the same way reading this as I did AMLP- It just spoke to me. I get what he’s trying to say and I like it.

‘I had spent my life worshipping death, fearing it, obsessing over it, and living my life according to what a book says will happen when it comes…I came to understand that it’s no way to live, and that living is all we have and all we will ever have, and that is not to be wasted. That love is life. That life isn’t worth living without love. And that the Catholic Church, filled with celibate men who have no experience with it, has no right telling other people how to love or who to love or what kind of love is right or wrong.’

True Dat.