RECENT REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS
- Peacemaker, The
Janet Dean Knight
A highly accomplished piece of writing, and a social document
From the design of its cover, you might expect The Peacemaker by Janet Dean Knight to be a nostalgic memoir. It’s not, it’s unequivocally historical fiction, with big characters and big action. It’s voyage and return, and it’s taming the monster. The setting is big as well; ‘…this wonderful sweep of brown moor patched with the very last of the purple heather...’
It’s 1938, and following the premature death of her mother, eighteen-year old Violet Lowther travels from her working-class home in industrial Barnsfield to rural Thorndale, the original home of her family. She’s met some family members at the funeral and needs to find out more. The atmosphere is claustrophobic, something is very wrong. It’s not only grief, nor the insecurity passed on to her by guilt-ridden Ellis, her miner father, ‘silent, moody, and downright miserable’ – that’s when he’s not full of alcohol and reaching for his belt to give Violet and twin sister Daisy a walloping. It’s much more than that; there’s superstition, there’s fear – ‘fear and love felt to him just the same’ – it’s almost as if there’s some curse on the family, and Violet finds herself falling into a well of secrets, well-guarded, deep, dark and violent.
The endorsements on the cover of ‘deft handling…beautiful observation’, and ‘bringing the past into focus’ are understatements. The reader might be forgiven for thinking that the author must have had a previous career as a detective, a forensic scientist – or at the very least a general practitioner, not a detail is omitted. It’s social realism, not just down to the last ‘battered tea-strainer, knitted cosy, rattling cups…hands smudged with newsprint…’ or ‘…damp hands, those of a woman perpetually washing other people’s clothes…’ but down to the last rape in a urine-filled yard, the last miscarriage, the last infant mortality, the last arterial bleed on the Somme battlefield. This isn’t just a novel, it’s a social document. It’s Flaubert!
Dean Knight’s writing style is both fast and slow-burn. There’s a lot of emotion on the page, and I didn’t at first feel that I was sharing in the tears being shed and tea poured - both in large quantities. While Violet becomes party to shocking confidences of retired schoolteacher Nell Arrowsmith, what was nagging away at me was rising indignance in the myth that working-class folk were – historically-speaking - immoral because they were always having children out of wedlock. Whereas as events in the story reveal - not unlike Marx’s definition of exploitation - not only could they not afford somewhere to live, some of them couldn’t even afford a marriage licence. And here comes the ‘slow-burn’ bit of Dean Knight’s writing technique - which incidentally produces an effect rather like one might have experienced when being hit while in the school playground, but not actually crying until one got home. A small selection of other practitioners of this delayed action ‘intravenous’ writing style might be; Maggie O’Farrell, Donna Tartt, and Graham Greene.
I call it intravenous because one of my ‘musts’ in a fictional reading experience is the need to reach for a dictionary, which during The Peacemaker - as with the above-mentioned writers - I never had to. Instead, I had to put my ‘must’ on the back burner, but I needn’t have worried because Dean Knight is cleverer than that. Violet, Ellis – even the relatively well-educated Nell Arrowsmith have little capacity for stretching their vocabularies. So, this skilful poet author uses ‘usual’ words but in ‘unusual’ ways; ‘…Driven by a sense of doom beyond her distress...’ and, ‘…time had stretched beyond what it ought to…’ and in subtly unusual orders ‘…Her grief had thickened and set on her stomach like a sour indigestible porridge…’
I finished reading The Peacemaker with the feeling that rather like Phil Spector created what became known as the Wall of Sound, Janet Dean Knight has revealed a wall of emotion in which there seem to be neither doors nor windows. A world wall, behind which there are two human types; i) men who go forth to – and are made to - butcher each other, and correspondingly ii) women who are forced to fight a rear guard against rape, the need for abortion, and miscarriage. Eighty years on, and are things really any better? Should Mindfulness courses be mandatory for all men in the 21st century?
The novel is by no means devoid of hope, the author goes on to develop Ellis’s character, revealing not only trace elements of intuition, but a startling sixth sense for interpreting the emotions of others when, in curious flashback he secrets himself onto a bench outside Granny Hannah’s house where he eavesdrops on high drama. But in the end, I found myself asking the question, ‘when to delve, and when not to delve?’ I felt that - as in contemporaneous Europe – peace in the family had not been made, nor was it going to be.
It leaves me hoping for another volume, if I can brace myself for it that is!
~ Brooke Fieldhouse, Author of The Gilded Ones
- Peacemaker, The
Janet Dean Knight
The Peacemaker is a skillfully crafted historical novel, set in the North of England. The story centres on Violet, a young woman through whose vivacious, curious gaze, the reader takes a fascinating journey through family life, loves, lies and secrets.
On one level, Janet Dean Knight expertly evokes the essence of the North York Moors, its villages, and communities, as each struggles to navigate the aftermath of the First World War. On another level, Violet’s journey reflects the journeys upon which women still embark, nearly one hundred years later.
The Peacemaker is much more than a historical novel; more an epic and very personal journey, in which readers will share. Violet is a character you won’t forget and Janet Dean Knight is a writer you shouldn’t forget.
An enthralling and enjoyable read to be experienced on multiple levels.
~ Clara Challoner Walker, Author of A Tapestry of Vice and Virtue
- Healing Plants of the Celtic Druids
Angela Paine’s new book Healing Plants of the Celtic Druids stands out as a marvelous combination of modern herbal reference and Celtic/Druidic history. Paine offers plentiful background about the Druids and ancient Celtic society so the reader can better understand their herbal practices in the context of Celtic spirituality (healing is sacred) and the extensive trade networks of the ancient world that brought Mediterranean herbs up to Britain. Paine offers an in-depth look at 27 different herbs, including those native to Britain, some that were imported by the Romans, and a few of the poisonous ones that also have medicinal properties. Paine gives each plant its own chapter for a comprehensive look at its history, botanical properties, methods of growing and harvesting, medical research, and practical uses. Throughout, Paine includes personal anecdotes and comments that make for interesting reading – this is not a dry, encyclopedic work. The extensive bibliography, arranged by chapter, is indispensable for further information on subjects ranging from Celtic history to pharmacologic research. Paine has turned out a valuable work that will be of interest to herbalists, historians, and those who follow Celtic and Druidic spiritual paths. ~ Laura Perry, M.S., N.D., author of The Wiccan Wellness Book and Ariadne’s Thread.
- Being a Supervisor 1.0
Joseph F Duffy, LLD
A great read. Awesome handbook for new supervisors. Loved the open door policy and the “mingling” with the troops. Keeps everyone involved with a shared purpose. Very practical to implement. ~ Michale Cummings , Amazon Books
- Emma Oliver and the Song of Creation
Susan Elizabeth Hale
I sing to my plants (I don't currently have a tree to sing to, sadly.) I also have spent more years than I care to count, encouraging children to sing. Sad how many think that it they don't sound like the singer on the radio they shouldn't sing. I really had to work at getting these young kids to open their mouths and sing with joy. So, yes, I could strongly relate to this book and it's author! Kudos to you Susan Hale! This was a wonderful story! I believe singing keeps the planet's spirit alive! Believe it or not, I think this book is good for all ages. Great fantasy book with even greater message! ~ Catherine Hankins, NetGalley
- Ghost Boy
Ben Conover, the protagonist of "Ghost Boy," is an average preteen boy in most ways. The seventh-grader plays sports, loves nature, is nervous around girls, and is very insecure about his looks. But he differs from his peers in a very fundamental way: He sees and communicates with ghosts. And while Ben usually manages his power with maturity and a naïve wisdom, his father and his peers struggle to accept his gift, which they believe contradicts common sense and violates societal norms. As a result, Ben faces ostracism from his peers and is taunted with the moniker “Ghost Boy.” In addition to being shunned for his openness about his gift, he suffers trials that the average preteen is heartachingly familiar with, such as violent bullying (including an encounter with the dreaded “mean girl,” but with a twist), peer pressure and the overall teen stress of trying to “fit in.”
The new book by Cal State Bakersfield religion professor Stafford Betty also takes on some weighty issues that differ from typical young adult fiction. Ben comes face to face with death (which might indicate why he is both blessed and cursed with his gift) and rejection by his emotionally unavailable father, Sam. Sam’s attempts to conform his son to conventional norms is disturbing and foolishly misguided. As a result, Ben steps into the parental role throughout the novel as he gently leads his father to accept and understand his gift, or at least to keep an open mind. Ben’s mother, Maria, embraces her son’s second sight, and this leads to conflict between his parents. Betty does not shy away from difficult subjects, which could resonate with young readers who might be struggling with similar situations.
Young readers will be charmed by Ben’s special friend Abby. Abby appears to be the same age as Ben, but she is a spirit with otherworldly maturity. Abby has a knack of appearing when Ben needs her guidance most and is not shy about leading Ben toward a morally righteous path. Ben’s pure and innocent love for Abby is heartwarming, and the love between them serves as one of the book's greatest strengths. The true identity of ghostly Abby is a secret well-kept until the very end and is sure to both shock and enchant readers.
Unfortunately, the spirit world that Ben encounters is also filled with spirits that are not always friendly and willing to help. Hence, Ben faces the difficult task of battling what Ben’s Jewish family friend Gretl refers to as “dybbuks” (or what Buddhists refer to as a “hungry ghosts”). Dybbuks are malcontented spirits who attach themselves to the vulnerable among us in order to control their will, and Ben finds himself tasked with the burden of trying to free the living from the grip of these restless souls. As the novel unfolds, the reader is exposed to the idea that the spirit world is as rich and complex as our world.
Stafford Betty, father of five children, knows how to provide young teens a story filled with adventure, love and emotional depth. His decision to set most of the novel’s 16 chapters in Bakersfield is sure to delight local readers to a treat of familiar sights and sounds.
Fans of S.E Hinton’s "The Outsiders" will find themselves intrigued by both "Ghost Boy" and Ben Conover. Both novels deal with weighty issues head on, and the thoughtful and introspective Ben is in many ways the fictional twin to Hinton’s Ponyboy Curtis. ~ Jenny Andreotti, Newspaper The Bakersfield Californian
- Feral Chickens
Ok, I admit it, it was the title that drew me to this book. Followed swiftly by the blurb. It definitely set my "bonkers" alert off, and anyone who knows me, knows that I do love a bit of bonkers in my reading!
It was also a bit of a sign when, just after I started this book, one of my Facebook friends said in her status that she was fed up cleaning wild turkey poop off her property! I really was meant to read this book.
So, Ingrid comes into am inheritance which enables her to up sticks and move to the beautiful, idyllic Kauai. Obviously it soon transpired that she really hasn't done her homework about her new paradise as she finds it overrun by chickens. Somewhat ruining things for her. So, she wages war on the feral beasts, making it her mission to rid the island of them. Well, when she isn't living it up partying with her friends or working her great job for her horrible boss. Add into the mix a new resort that she debates investing in and some rather interesting interaction with locals in a bar and you got yourself a rip roaring scream of a book that definitely hit my funny bone!
This might not be a literary great in terms of content or execution but, you know what, it ticked every box for me as a read along the way and left me satisfied at the end. Some of the scenes had me holding my sides, almost crying with laughter. Others had me really sympathising with Ingrid as she suffered at the hands of her nasty boss. And I haven't even mentioned the mongooses yet! I had visions of cane toads in Australia in mind as I was reading about that solution to her problem. And the guillotine, an engineering masterpiece for sure. But fear I may say too much if I detail everything I loved about this book. The rest is yours to discover at your own pace. Suffice to say, it's bonkers and deliciously over the top in places and I blooming loved it! So much so that I am desperate to squeeze the author's other book into my already bulgingTBR. ~ Kath Brinck , GoodReads
- Ghost Boy
It was a great pre-teen coming of age book. It dealt with many issues and ways to solve them. I will buy this for my preteen to read!! ~ Nichole Sellers, NetGalley
- Feral Chickens
Well this book really fits into the category of everything I hate about books with an MPG of humour. BUT it so works I was hooked from the outset, the characterisation is fabulous. Ingrid is beleaguered day in, day out by feral chickens who don't appreciate her need for peace to think, make lists and generally make the most of Island life. The book follows her attempts to solve the problem whilst also settling into her new home and enjoying her new friends. I can't really do this book justice but it is one that has really caught my imagination and i shall look out for more by this author ~ Marie Riley, GoodReads
- When Journalism was a Thing
Growing up in a journalist’s home and having been a journalist myself, I was keen to read When Journalism was a Thing. As a profession, journalism used to be a powerful, positive force, one many young people aspired to pursue, especially after The Washington Post broke the Watergate scandal and helped to depose a President.
The advent and explosive growth of digital, however, relegated print to a red-haired stepchild position or worse ... changing the face of journalism forever. And the evolution from a truth-seeking entity to a biased ratings-driven hack has destroyed the profession’s credibility, claims author Alexandra Kitty.
Kitty, who has published three books, including Don’t Believe It!: How Lies Become News, and Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism, explains the forces that led to the death of “old journalism” while offering a model for a new version she believes can be noble again. She says, “It will take humility, honesty, idealism, and most of all, bravery to make the bold revolutionary changes ... where the battle for truth [not ratings] counts the most.” Highly recommended! ~ Literary Soiree, NetGalley
- Anne of Cleves
As a teacher, I look for books like this to add to my classroom library. I think my students will really enjoy this, especially my girls who like reading about women in history. Granted, Anne may not be the strongest figure for them to read about, but she will give them another view of Tudor England. Although she will show them an example of a woman in history doing whatever it took to survive. I strongly recommend that Tudor history lovers pick up this one. ~ Serena Stone, Serena Stone's LiveJournal
- Feral Chickens
Ingrid has moved from the Midwest to Hawaii and hates the chickens that run free through the island. She comes up with a plan to eliminate all the feral chickens of Kauai that involves smuggling mongooses. I really enjoyed this. It was amusing and definitely made me laugh. Even the kind of horrible parts (the multi-chicken guillotine and the whole kayak/mongoose debacle) were funny. I liked Ingrid and her attitude. Overall a dark-ish comedy with some kind of outrageous moments that I liked a lot. 4.5 stars, rounding to 5. ~ Annie Bruno, NetGalley
- Entangled Lives
A fascinating book, told from two viewpoints - that of an American journalist and that of a reluctant jihadist who is drawn into the Afghan conflict. The book details the appalling circumstances of the young boy who is abandoned and ends up in a madrassah, which sets him on the path to fighting for the Taliban despite all his efforts to avoid it. The paths of the two protagonists are, as the title says, 'entangled' throughout the story.
Despite the rather abrupt ending, this book is definitely worth reading.
~ Katharine Lang , NetGalley
- Being a Supervisor 1.0
Joseph F Duffy, LLD
A good primer for someone brand new to a management or leadership role. Good, practicable ideas to try. ~ Alexis Waide, NetGalley
- Hospital High
Coco had me captivated throughout. I sympathised with her, longed for her to get better, and at one point where I had lost my own voice, totally felt her pain. A good read but somewhat wordy! ~ Rikkie Louise, NetGalley
- You Are Not Your Thoughts
Thoughts are things and we must be careful with them. Desiring to be proficient in mindset mastery, I have been scouring the bookstores for texts on the very topic of thoughts and mindfulness. Enter Frances!
With detailed advice, tips, and instructions, this little book gave me the information I have been searching for.
Highly recommend for readers who enjoyed The Power of the Subconscious Mind by Joseph Murphy and The Game of Life by Florence Scovel Shinn. ~ Erica Watkins, NetGalley
- First Lady Escapes, The
“Exactly what I need to get through the horrors of our current state of affairs. I constantly catch myself cracking up while reading chapters aloud to others.” ~ Woosterlad , Disheartened Liberal from the Bay Area
Mary Victoria Johnson
This was one of the greatest books I've read all year long. Penny and her friends that she grew up with in the house under the care of Beutrix, and The Master was a plot that I could not put down. I read this book in a few hours today. I didn't even want to stop for restroom breaks!! The challenge put upon Penny and the others was a wonderfully imaginative storyline. Fantasy to the fullest! I don't want to give the story away for anyone who should want to read it but I must say the ending was a twist I did not expect. I can't wait to read the next book in this series!! Great Read.... ~ Erin Ballinger, NetGalley
- Ghost Boy
I must confess that I am not a fan of poltergeist stories and the subject didn’t speak to me at first (probably this is why I was never in the mood for this particular book). But then, I searched for the author and found out that he has a Ph.D. in theology from Fordham University, and is a world expert on the afterlife and paranormal studies and made me reconsider my desire of reading his novel.
The book presents the story of Ben Conver, a twelve-year-old boy, who has a unique gift: he can see and talk to spirits. His best friend is Abby, who is a ghost, who protects him and who turns out be a very important person in his life.
Despite seeing things that normal people can’t, Ben is a very normal child. He goes to school, gets bullied by other kids and seeks continuously to please his father who doesn’t believe in the ghost stories he hears and decides that Ben should be medicated. However, he starts to have second thoughts after some events in which the ghosts who talk to his son reveal some secrets that Ben couldn’t have know.
~ Elia Mihuta, https://readingbadger.club/2018/08/13/ghost-boy/
- Pagan Portals - Gwyn ap Nudd
Pagan Portals: Gwyn ap Nudd by Danu Forest takes an in-depth look at one of the more mysterious of the Welsh Celt deities. There are five chapters, focusing on different aspects to Gwyn, as a seasonal deity, a guardian of the land, and a psychopomp figure. Chapter One briefly introduces Gwyn ap Nudd and contains two guided meditation practises. Chapter Two discusses Annwfn, and elements of faery. There are three meditations in this section. Chapter Three connects legends of Gwyn with ancient star-lore and has a but a single meditation. Chapter Four looks at the stories of the Mabinogion, in regards to Gwyn, and has four meditations, including one to meet Gwyn’s seasonal counterpart of Gwythyr. The last chapter discusses Gwyn’s role as a Lord of the Underworld, and master of the Wild Hunt. There are five exercises in this chapter.
I quite enjoyed this excursion into Welsh lore. Before this, Gwyn was not well-known to me. Arawn, yes, and I had long come to regard Arawn and Gwyn to be different, in terms of working with deity. I worked with Arawn extensively for some time, doing daily meditation/ shamanic journeywork. I did several of the exercises in the book, modifying them to fit my existing style. I hope to revisit them all during a time when I can invest my full attention and devotion. There seemed to be a good balance between the spiritual and historical threads. I particularly enjoyed the discussion of the Mabinogion stories. This is perfect for any looking to increase their repertoire of Welsh lore, or those specifically interested in building a relationship with this most enigmatic deity.
~ J. Aislynn d'Merricksson , Port Jericho