Perfume River by Robert Olen Butler



Robert Olen Butler has published sixteen novels—The Alleys of Eden, Sun Dogs, Countrymen of Bones, On Distant Ground, Wabash, The Deuce, They Whisper, The Deep Green Sea, Mr. Spaceman, Fair Warning, Hell, A Small Hotel, The Hot Country, The Star of Istanbul, The Empire of Night, Perfume River—and six volumes of short fiction—Tabloid Dreams, Had a Good Time, Severance, Intercourse, Weegee Stories, and A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, which won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Butler has published a volume of his lectures on the creative process, From Where You Dream, edited with an introduction by Janet Burroway.

In 2013 he became the seventeenth recipient of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Literature. He also won the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. He has twice won a National Magazine Award in Fiction and has received two Pushcart Prizes. He has also received both a Guggenheim Fellowship in fiction and a National Endowment for the Arts grant. His stories have appeared widely in such publications as The New Yorker, Esquire, Harper’s, The Atlantic Monthly, GQ, Zoetrope, The Paris Review, Granta, The Hudson Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, and The Sewanee Review. They have been chosen for inclusion in four annual editions of The Best American Short Stories, eight annual editions of New Stories from the South, several other major annual anthologies, and numerous college literature textbooks from such publishers as Simon & Schuster, Norton, Viking, Little Brown & Co., Houghton Mifflin, Oxford University Press, Prentice Hall, and Bedford/St.Martin and most recently in The New Granta Book of the American Short Story, edited by Richard Ford.

His works have been translated into twenty-one languages, including Vietnamese, Thai, Korean, Polish, Japanese, Serbian, Farsi, Czech, Estonian, Greek, and most recently Chinese. He was also a charter recipient of the Tu Do Chinh Kien Award given by the Vietnam Veterans of America for “outstanding contributions to American culture by a Vietnam veteran.” Over the past two decades he has lectured in universities, appeared at conferences, and met with writers groups in 17 countries as a literary envoy for the U. S. State Department.

He is a Francis Eppes Distinguished Professor holding the Michael Shaara Chair in Creative Writing at Florida State University. Under the auspices of the FSU website, in the fall of 2001, he did something no other writer has ever done, before or since: he revealed his writing process in full, in real time, in a webcast that observed him in seventeen two-hour sessions write a literary short story from its first inspiration to its final polished form. He also gave a running commentary on his artistic choices and spent a half-hour in each episode answering the emailed questions of his live viewers. The whole series, under the title “Inside Creative Writing” is a very popular on YouTube, with its first two-hour episode passing 125,000 in the spring of 2016.

For more than a decade he was hired to write feature-length screenplays for New Regency, Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Disney, Universal Pictures, Baldwin Entertainment Group (for Robert Redford), and two teleplays for HBO. Typical of Hollywood, none of these movies ever made it to the screen.

Reflecting his early training as an actor, he has also recorded the audio books for four of his works—A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, Hell, A Small Hotel and Perfume River. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate degree from the State University of New York system. He lives in Florida, with his wife, the poet Kelly Lee Butler.


From one of America’s most important writers, Perfume River is an exquisite novel that examines family ties and the legacy of the Vietnam War through the portrait of a single North Florida family.

Robert Quinlan is a seventy-year-old historian, teaching at Florida State University, where his wife Darla is also tenured. Their marriage, forged in the fervor of anti-Vietnam-war protests, now bears the fractures of time, both personal and historical, with the couple trapped in an existence of morning coffee and solitary jogging and separate offices. For Robert and Darla, the cracks remain under the surface, whereas the divisions in Robert’s own family are more apparent: he has almost no relationship with his brother Jimmy, who became estranged from the family as the Vietnam War intensified. Robert and Jimmy’s father, a veteran of WWII, is coming to the end of his life, and aftershocks of war ripple across their lives once again, when Jimmy refuses to appear at his father’s bedside. And an unstable homeless man whom Robert at first takes to be a fellow Vietnam veteran turns out to have a deep impact not just on Robert, but on his entire family.


Let me start by saying that this is a very complex and meaningful read that explores a multitude of weighty themes that need a special skill to woven and Butler has done so marvellously. For a numerous time I am falling in love with the fluidity of language that the author possesses; his prose touches the right chord every time and they managing of time-shifts is handled with such easy that it exceeds perfection.

Elegant and strong it is a search for truth rather than for redemption or reconciliation. It is a novel of greatness as it spans over half a century to explore the lives of the Quinlan’s under the shadow of the Vietnam war. Through this exploration, Butler raises the postulates of human existence to question them one more time. What is right, and what wrong; how to maintain courage in the face of danger and most importantly how to live with the decisions you make? A worthy story, well told that will move most readers, especially those who grew up in the Vietnam war era. It is above all a read that will challenge your perception of war, how a family can divide over it, one going to war, the other escaping to Canada; and how all changes for ever.

I cannot fully relate to the subject matter as I am a kid of the 90s, but i can assure you it resonates on a very deep and personal level for everyone who attempts to read it. There is a feeling of oppression & suppression throughout this novel. We are invited into this world to disentangle threads – in our own mind. At least that’s what I keep doing. It teleported me into a state of mind that very few books have managed to successfully throw me in. I am still recovering… Maybe on a later date in time I will have some more to say, but for now I will let it sink into the soil of my soul to water it with kindness and thoughts.5FOXGIVEN


Runemarks (Runemarks #1) by Joanne Harris




Joanne Harris is an Anglo-French author, whose books include fourteen novels, two cookbooks and many short stories. Her work is extremely diverse, covering aspects of magic realism, suspense, historical fiction, mythology and fantasy. She has also written a DR WHO novella for the BBC, has scripted guest episodes for the game ZOMBIES, RUN!, and is currently engaged in a number of musical theatre projects as well as developing an original drama for television.
In 2000, her 1999 novel CHOCOLAT was adapted to the screen, starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. She is an honorary Fellow of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, and in 2013 was awarded an MBE by the Queen.
Her hobbies are listed in Who’s Who as ‘mooching, lounging, strutting, strumming, priest-baiting and quiet subversion’. She also spends too much time on Twitter; plays flute and bass guitar in a band first formed when she was 16; and works from a shed in her garden at her home in Yorkshire.


It’s been five hundred years since the end of the world and society has rebuilt itself anew. The old Norse gods are no longer revered. Their tales have been banned. Magic is outlawed, and a new religion – the Order – has taken its place.

In a remote valley in the north, fourteen-year-old Maddy Smith is shunned for the ruinmark on her hand – a sign associated with the Bad Old Days. But what the villagers don’t know is that Maddy has skills. According to One-Eye, the secretive Outlander who is Maddy’s only real friend, her ruinmark – or runemark, as he calls it – is a sign of Chaos blood, magical powers and gods know what else…

Now, as the Order moves further north, threatening all the Worlds with conquest and Cleansing, Maddy must finally learn the truth to some unanswered questions about herself, her parentage, and her powers.


Joanne Harris… well, it was a love at first word with her and has been so ever since. I have NEVER read a book by her and felt disappointment, regret or mixed feelings. She is a unique human being that has been blessed with the magic of writing and brings joy to the world with ther storytelling.

This is Joanne Harris’s first novel for young adults. Its the story of maddy Smith a fourteen year old girl who lives in the distant future in a world entirely different to ours. Maddie is born with a mysterious rune mark on her hand which in her world is considered a very bad omen.

The novel which is quite long for a childrens novel relates Maddie’s adventures as she crosses over into the different worlds. On her journey she encounters many colourful characters including norse gods. No-one is quite who they appear to be and who actually can Maddie really trust! There are lots of twists along the way. Joanne Harris in this book demonstates her ability as a storyteller. Although I did feel that she did not explore the character of Maddy strongly enough that said a very readable story. I also would have wished for Loki’s character to be a bit more… Well, Nordic… Ever since I read Lachlan’s Wolfsangel I have been spoiled by the way he portrays Loki, and so far every other portrayal falls flat for me. I just cannot live with the idea of another Loki, who is to be different to that, which is of course absolute non-sense, for Loki is a shapeshifter above all. But alas, I am a humble human.

On the bright side Joanne Harris’ writing style is as strong as ever and it is easy to get involved in the magical world she creates. It is all very tongue-in-cheek with humour that owes a lot to the influence of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. It is easy to read and enjoyable as ever. But I find it a bit less influencial than her other works. Nothing can beat the Five Quaters of the Orange or Chocolate for me. It is still very good, although a tiny bit inferior the rest of her novels.

It is again a crossover book that any age group with a penchant for fantasy and magic will thoroughly enjoy. This is a re-release of the original book which was published in 2007 but this version has an epic, artistic and mythology based landscape on the cover which is absolutely stunning (it is also hardback which is a bonus). I am a huge fan of Joanne Harris so thank you to Gollancz for providing me a copy of the book to devour almost immediately.



Defender (The Voices #1) by G.X. Todd



G. X. Todd lives and works in the West Midlands. After completing a history degree at the University of Birmingham in 2002, she started working for public libraries where she now drives the 35ft library van around the Black Country. In addition to holding a HGV licence, she enjoys spending sunny afternoons riding motorbikes.

When not scaring other road users, she can generally be found writing or building LEGO sets.


‘On the cusp of sleep, have we not all heard a voice call out our name?’

Defender by G X Todd is an imaginative thriller that draws on influences from Stephen King, Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman to create a new world – where the biggest threat mankind faces is from the voices inside your own head. If you loved The Stand, you’ll love Defender, the first in a four-part series.

In a world where long drinks are in short supply, a stranger listens to the voice in his head telling him to buy a lemonade from the girl sitting on a dusty road.

The moment locks them together.

Here and now it’s dangerous to listen to your inner voice. Those who do, keep it quiet.

These voices have purpose.

And when Pilgrim meets Lacey, there is a reason. He just doesn’t know it yet.

Defender pulls you on a wild ride to a place where the voices in your head will save or slaughter you.


I was drawn to the novel by the synopsis, it promised to be not an average read, especially having in mind the comparisons with names like King, Barker and Gaiman. I was even being ready to disregard the mediocre cover that gave me the “Meh” vibe just because I was sure Todd had something to bring to the table.

I felt that the whole concept of hearing voices in your head could be developed very interesting almost sending the novel on the verge of postapocalyptic sci-fi, but then it lacked the span and the aim of such read.  Now I don’t want to be harsh, but there is one thing that makes the authors mentioned above stand out and that is their unique voice, characters and above all setting… In Defender it all felt typical… if not predictable. G X Todd is a good writer, she has all the tools and wording, I like her over-all voice, but  I think she got lost somewhere in the middle of the book.

There were a lot of strong points in the novel: for instance the relationship between Pilgrim and Lacey was brilliantly developed! The connection is very real like, very detailed in its presentation. I loved it, but there are other aspects of the novel that put me off.

Often I felt that I was reading a comics, rather than a novel. Not that the narration was scarce or not wordy enough, but the plot read as an almost random sequence of events that the characters undergo without anything to come out of it. I don’t know how to explain it but to call it an aimless conquest?! And also, I was lead to believe that the world was almost devoid of humans… in the same time Pilgrim and Lacey met a whole lot of characters, which I found confusing and pointless, because these encounters didn’t help us learn more about the characters or their mission. Todd might have just cut them all for-all-that-matters.

I know that for a first instalment in a trilogy Defender is just supposed to set the base for the whole narration but failed to grab my attention. I struggled to remember even parts of it, what is left to continue reading further in the series. Personally, what I look for in a book is urgency and that “AHA” feeling that will leave you hungry for more… Defender disappointed me in that sense. Maybe I was expecting more grandeur and more literature out of it; maybe I set my expectations too high, but end line is it wasn’t vivid enough.


Posted in BOOK REVIEWS, Uncategorized

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney



Kathleen Rooney is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, a publisher of literary work in hybrid genres, and a founding member of Poems While You Wait, a team of poets and their typewriters who compose commissioned poetry on demand. She teaches English and Creative Writing at DePaul University and is the author of eight books of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction, including the novel O, Democracy! (Fifth Star Press, 2014) and the novel in poems Robinson Alone (Gold Wake Press, 2012). With Eric Plattner, she is the co-editor of René Magritte: Selected Writings (University of Minnesota Press, 2016 and Alma Books, 2016). A winner of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship from Poetry magazine, her reviews and criticism have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times Magazine, The Rumpus, The Nation the Poetry Foundation website and elsewhere. She lives in Chicago with her spouse, the writer Martin Seay, and her second novel, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in January of 2017.


Fall 2016 Library Journal Editors’ Pick

It’s the last day of 1984, and 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish is about to take a walk.

As she traverses a grittier Manhattan, a city anxious after an attack by a still-at-large subway vigilante, she encounters bartenders, bodega clerks, chauffeurs, security guards, bohemians, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be—in surprising moments of generosity and grace. While she strolls, Lillian recalls a long and eventful life that included a brief reign as the highest-paid advertising woman in America—a career cut short by marriage, motherhood, divorce, and a breakdown.

A love letter to city life—however shiny or sleazy—Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney paints a portrait of a remarkable woman across the canvas of a changing America: from the Jazz Age to the onset of the AIDS epidemic; the Great Depression to the birth of hip-hop.


The cover was the first thing that attracted me to this novel. Not only was it sophisticated and subtle, but it promised to bring something more to the table. I loved the simplicity of it, palette and most of all the faceless woman with the red lipstick… It felt like a read about an iconic woman who will engage and move me.

Little did I know that the description stated exactly that. Lilian Boxfish Takes a Walk is a profoundly deep and ground shaking read. It is partially based on the life of Margaret Fishback, the highest paid female poet and advertising copywriter of the 1930’s who actually worked for R. H. Macy’s. I wouldn’t put it in the biography section, thou, because it greatly influenced by fiction and full of wisdom that can only be transported on paper through imagination.

The main character/protagonist is Lilian Boxfish, a woman I bonded with so easily that I was caught by surprise. She was a strong, independent career woman, but what is more is she remained true to her ways and beliefs even at age 86, when she the pain plot line actually revolves. I enjoyed her flow of thought and her moments of sassyness; but most of all I find interest in the interconnections she builds between the stories random strangers tell her on her way dinner and events that happened in her own life.

I have old parents, you know, my Dad is 70, and he was a grand man himself…The way he tells stories is more or less identical, so I want to loudly applause Mrs Rooney doing an excellent job in conveying this lifelike ability to her character. While reading I couldn’t shake this Canturbuty tales feeling that smiled at me in-between the lines of the novel. I was a companion to this wonderful, respectful and full of life true lady, on her pilgrimage to memory and youth. I wish there more fictional examples for this rank nowadays, it would be way easier for young girls to pick idols and model themselves as self-respecting individuals, who know their own true value and drive.

I admit finding some similarities between the two of us, especially when it comes to life philosophy: “things are the way they are”. Criminals and muggers in the city? So be it! Didn’t stop Lillian from walking! Mrs Boxfish takes life as it comes, and embraces it fully. If I allow my self to quote another full of wisdom favourite of mine:

“Newt Scamander : “My philosophy is that worrying means you suffer twice.””
― J.K. Rowling, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay

Lastly, I think it is in order to say that this book is for all people, I would never risk restrict it to women, because the men out there will benefit greatly from reading it. It is an easy 5 star for me. I wish I could forget it completely, so can experience reading it for the first time again.5FOXGIVEN


Dreamworks Trolls – A Movie Review



DreamWorks Animation Studios should be a case-study examination on the rise and fall of a once proud company. Producing their first film back in 1998 with Antz, DreamWorks slowly became a force to reckon with a string of successful features, including Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, and How to Train Your Dragon. At its height, the studio was at the top of its game, being one of the top tier animation studios out there, jostling for the #1 position with upcoming rival studio Pixar Animation studios. Unfortunately, the company has faced hard times (changes over distribution and company ownership), cutting jobs within and producing two movies a year instead of three. Even with popular recent hits like How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Kung Fu Panda 3, their animated the feature films themselves have become less-than desirable, with mediocre hits like Turbo, Home, and Rise of the Guardians, which either faced poor reviews by fans / critics or underperformed in box office projections. And now, with Disney back on the scene (producing more favorable hits) as well other animated studios, it seems DreamWorks the “old dinosaur” of animated world. With the success of their first 2016 film (Kung Fu Panda 3), DreamWorks now prepares (hopes) for another hit with their new movie Trolls. Does this latest cartoon endeavor find its charm and box office success or its another misfire from DreamWorks?


Trolls is a 2016 American 3D computer-animated musical adventure romantic comedy film based on the Troll dolls created by Thomas Dam. The film was directed by Mike Mitchell and co-directed by Walt Dohrn,written by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger and based on a story by Erica Rivinoja. The film features the voices of Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Russell Brand, James Corden and Gwen Stefani. The film revolves around two trolls on a quest to save their village from destruction by the Bergen, creatures who eat trolls.

Produced as the 33rd animated feature film by DreamWorks Animation, the film premiered on October 8, 2016, at the BFI London Film Festival and was theatrically released in the United States on November 4, 2016, by 20th Century Fox.The film received generally positive reviews from critics and has grossed $338 million worldwide against its $125 million budget.

DreamWorks announced plans for a film based on the Troll toyline as early as 2010. This version was to be written by Adam Wilson and his wife MelanieBy 2012, Chloë Grace Moretz had already been cast in the female lead role and Jason Schwartzman was reported to have been offered the male lead. In September 2012, 20th Century Fox and DreamWorks Animation announced that the film with the working title Trolls would be released on June 5, 2015, with Anand Tucker set to direct the film, written by Wallace Wolodarsky and Maya Forbes.

By April 2013, DreamWorks Animation had acquired the intellectual property for the Trolls franchise from the Dam Family and Dam Things. Having “big plans for the franchise,” DreamWorks Animation became the exclusive worldwide licensor of the merchandise rights, except for Scandinavia, where Dam Things remains the licensor. In May 2013, the film was pushed back for a year to November 4, 2016. The same month, DreamWorks Animation announced that Mike Mitchell and Erica Rivinoja has been hired as a director and screenplay writer to “reimagine” the film as a musical comedy, which will present the origin of the Trolls’ colorful hair.On June 16, 2014, Anna Kendrick joined the cast to voice Poppy, a princess.On September 15, 2015, reported that Justin Timberlake will voice a character named Branch.Timberlake previously worked with DreamWorks Animation as the voice of Arthur “Artie” Pendragon in Shrek the Third in 2007. The full cast announced their respective roles via announcements on Twitter on January 6, 2016.



Now that is a new thing for me, so be gentle in your judgement, I have never reviewd a movie before, what’s left for an animation, but I promise to be brave and speak my mind as clearly as possible. Trolls provides the right mixture of approachable material as well as animated silliness. It is intended for kids after all, so that is to be expected.

Speaking of silly, the film’s humor is more gear towards the young crowd (as is the entire film). Thus, most kids will find the movie funny as some adults might even give a good chuckle here and there. For the most part, the film, much like the Trolls themselves, the film is light and colorful. The animation style is also interesting and pleasing to the eye. Colors are extremely bright and vibrant and the film as interesting style of animation that has a more “felt” (the fabric material) in its presentation, which definitely makes the film standout against the classic CG animated nowadays. The actual design of a lot of the film’s characters are quite interesting as well as creative from the small, plucky Trolls to the big monstrous but still kid friendly Bergens and every other creature in between. It echoed animated series from the 80s such as Le Fruittis and The Glo Friends.

I was particularly happy about the soundtrack choices made, they were all gold favouites from my years of growing up. That part was executed brilliantly.The songs are quite catchy, a combination of original songs and popular (or at least recognizable) hits from music’s history past. Some might argue that the film uses too much songs, but I personally didn’t mind as it added the overall enjoyment of the feature.

What I didn’t enjoy was the plot line. The overall story was enjoyable, but some crucial moments that could have been cliff-hangers were overdone in a sloppy manner which robbed my excitement. By saying this I really hardly try to keep in mind that complicated plotlines are not made for age 5-10, but still I feel that compared to Dreamworks’older movies this was a downfall.  The messafe of the movie is not complex or sophisticated like Finding Dory or Zootopia, Trolls centers around the ideas of finding your own personal happiness, overcoming hardships to accomplish goals, and (of course) the always universal one of “being yourself”. Like said, while these are important moral / lessons to learn, Trolls doesn’t go beyond its surface level to present these messages (nothing deep like Inside Out), but, given the movie’s overall lightheartedness, its effective in its deliver to its youthful viewers, elevating the film’s final product.

Overall I mark it as an easy to watch, not-get-you-too-occupied movie for a laidback passtime.



The White City: A Novel by Karolina Ramqvist, Saskia Vogel



Karolina Ramqvist is a Swedish journalist and writer.

Ramqvist has been the chief editor of the magazine Arena and critic for Dagens Nyheter. She became widely known when she published a private letter from Ulf Lundell in the anthology Fittstim. She has also appeared in the magazine Bang. Ramqvist is married to journalist Fredrik Virtanen.

Karolina Ramqvist is the granddaughter of the Svedberg.


Karolina Ramqvist has been hailed as “one of Sweden’s truly interesting young writers” (Dagens Nyheter) with “a great talent for creating imagery and building atmosphere” (Dagbladet) and she’s a powerful literary voice on contemporary issues of sexuality, commercialization, isolation, and belonging. An immediate bestseller upon publication, The White City is an arresting and intimate novel of betrayal and empowerment from a bold, fearless writer.

Karin knew what she was getting herself into when she fell for John, the high-flying criminal and love of her life. But she never imagined things would turn out like this: John is now gone and the coke-filled parties, seemingly endless flow of money, and high social status she previously enjoyed have been replaced by cut telephone lines, cut heat, and cut cash. All that remains of Karin’s former life is the big house he bought for her—and his daughter, the child Karin once swore she would never bring into their dangerous world. Now Karin is alone with baby Dream, and the old promise of “the family” has proved alarmingly empty. With the authorities zeroing in on organised crime, John’s shady legacy is catching up with her, and the house is about to be seized. Over the course of a few nerve-wracking days, Karin is forced to take drastic measures in order to claim what she considers rightfully hers.

A slow-burning psychological thriller with a sophisticated, dreamlike atmosphere, The White City is both the portrayal of one woman’s struggle to pull herself up from the paralysing depths of despair, and an unflinching examination of what it means to lose control—over your body, your life, and your fate.

I  do believe that at least at one point in her life a woman is both fascinated and petrified by the idea of having a baby. Until four years ago, I was almost certain in my own plan: once I hit 30 I will adopt one and that will be all… I will adopt. Things have changed  now and I still want to adopt, but that is not my only option.
Therefore, this novel captivated my interested from the very description. I was reading away, the recounting in minute detail of a day centered on feeding her daughter, taking a shower, changing diapers, and napping should have been dull as dishwater, but was so rich in mood and detail, so brilliantly written, that I was captured. The pages flew by, there’s a constant tension, a creeping unease. A very strong read that moves the deepest core of the human soul.
This novel is utterly unputdownable. You can’t help but read on, wondering how Karin is going to turn this around and figure out a way for her and her daughter to survive. Gritty and real.4FOXGIVEN

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden



Born in Austin, Texas, Katherine Arden spent a year of high school in Rennes, France. Following her acceptance to Middlebury College in Vermont, she deferred enrollment for a year in order to live and study in Moscow. At Middlebury, she specialized in French and Russian literature. After receiving her BA, she moved to Maui, Hawaii, working every kind of odd job imaginable, from grant writing and making crêpes to guiding horse trips. Currently she lives in Vermont, but really, you never know.


A magical debut novel for readers of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and Neil Gaiman’s myth-rich fantasies, The Bear and the Nightingale spins an irresistible spell as it announces the arrival of a singular talent with a gorgeous voice.

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.


The writing is lush and glorious. The story is hypnotic. The characters are complex and compelling, from the young heroine to the (evil or misguided?) “holy man” and demons. The author flawlessly blends the harsh reality of life in 14th Century Russia with folklore and fantasy. There’s even a wicked stepmother, but she’s a woman with internal demons of her own, unlike Vasya, the young, free-spirited heroine. Vasya, like her new stepmother, sees demons and spirits, but Vasya seeks to know them, to understand them, not deny them. Some of them, in turn, help her, and Vasya will need help. She must fight for her freedom and her life – her stepmother and the villagers believe she is a witch – while she alone sees the evil encroaching closer and closer to the heart of the village. It is as if an epic battle between good and evil will take place in their small village in the very cold, very far north. This young, small heroine is to others just a girl who, like all girls, must be married off or sent to a convent, giving her a choice of one cage or another, while she knows she must stay – for now — and protect her family as best she can.

This is a wonderful book, hard to put down. The pages almost turn themselves. The descriptions of nature, especially, are so sumptuous, I wish I could quote some here. Better to read the book and find them in context.

Honest to God, it was like reading LOTR all over again. I am in frenzy about this lovely read. I have always been fascinated with Russia’s folklore and nature and this novel brought so much more to the table than I expected. It will be loved both be adults and children.

The Bear and the Nightingale has been suggested to fans of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, and Deathless by Catherynne Valente. I was happily smitten by the book and would recommend it to both a Young Adult and Adult reading audience. If you’re fond of retellings and folklore mixed with historical fiction, you might enjoy this book as much as I did.



A Little Book for New Philosophers Paul Copan



Paul Copan (born September 26, 1962) is a Christian theologian, analytic philosopher, apologist, and author. He is currently a professor at the Palm Beach Atlantic University and holds the endowed Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics. He has written and edited over 25 books in the area of philosophy of religion, apologetics, theology, science & religion, and the historicity of Jesus Christ. He has contributed many articles to professional journals and has written many essays for edited books. For six years he served as the president of the Evangelical Philosophical Society.

From 1980-1984, he attended Columbia International University and earned a B.A. degree in biblical studies. Copan attended Trinity International University, where he received his M.A. in philosophy of religion, as well as his M.Div. At Trinity International. Copan received the Prof. C.B. Bjuge Award for a thesis that “evidences creative scholarship in the field of Biblical and Systematic Theology.”

In May 2000, Copan received his Ph.D. in philosophy of religion from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His dissertation topic was “The Moral Dimensions of Michael Martin’s Atheology: A Critical Assessment.


What’s the point of studying philosophy when we have theology? Is philosophy anything more than a preparation for apologetics?

Often called “theology’s handmaid,” philosophy has sometimes suffered from an inferiority complex in the church. Many Christians see little point in it at all. But as Paul Copan contends, it is possible to affirm theology’s preeminence without diminishing the value and contribution of philosophy.

In A Little Book for New Philosophers, Copan offers a concise introduction to the study of philosophy. Aimed at newcomers, this brief overview is both a survey of philosophy’s basic aims and categories and an apology for its proper function in the life of the Christian. “By God’s grace,” Copan writes, “philosophy can enhance our understanding and worship of God . . . and assist us in defending the coherence of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”


This is the first time I come across Copan’s writing, therefore I humbly state that I am a complete novice in theological criticism. I picked up the book on the advise of my boyfriend who studies theology and is very knowledgeable on the topic. He said I quote: “In order to understand were my patience and tolerance come from you need to understand who I think.”

Mind you  a man’s mind is a complete mystery to the mere mortal women out there, yours truly included, so I was definitely intrigued to learn more about  the opposite gender.

In short, the book is a beginners guide to philosophy, most of the information that I found in it I was vaguely roughly familiar with, what I loved about it, though, was the smooth language, the easy with which Copen gently introduces you to theory, terminology and basic tools to approach the topic.

I always tend to admire such talent and skill, for I am, sadly, I very poor teacher and my explaining skills are, well, let’s call them non-existent for lack of a more drastic word. After reading this small, but in the same time very grand book, I understand why my boyfriend suggested I should start with it. You see Copen, he focuses on philosophically inclined Christians who are fearful or cynical about philosophy. He contends that philosophy done right can benefit our understanding and worship of God. And after a brief discussion with my friends who are believer( unlike me) I believe it is save to say that I have gained knowledge at a new level of perceiving religion and belief in general.

I will be completely honest here, I tend to dismiss most of the fanatic believers with a gesture of mere tolerance, for they have made their choice and they do have their reasoning behind it. I never agreed, thou, that one should  be devoted to an entity, because at the end of the day, after I have met numerous bad Christians ( here I mean, people who hide behind the safety of their religion, while not taking responsibility for their actions), I have concluded that as and atheist I am a better person, than they will ever be.

Copen, managed to help me see the other side. His book is targeting the intelligent Christians, who have a deep understanding of God and how the whole belief shenanigans work. This book forced me to put aside my skepticism and open my eyes to perceive another cast of believers, who indeed are people more attuned with the way religion fits in reality. I found that extremely refreshing.



The Girl in the Garden by Melanie Wallace



Melanie Wallace was born and raised in Manchester, New Hampshire, and now lives with her husband in Myloi, an agrarian village below the Ohi mountain range in Greece, and in Paris.

Wallace’s novel “The Housekeeper” was longlisted for the 2007 Orange Prize.


An unforgettable novel about a young woman and her infant son, abandoned at a seaside motel in New England, and the secrets of the townspeople who provide them with shelter.

When June arrives on the coast of New England, baby in arms, an untrustworthy man by her side, Mabel—who rents them a cabin—senses trouble. A few days later, the girl and her child are abandoned.  June is soon placed with Mabel’s friend, Iris, in town, and her life becomes entwined with a number of locals who have known one another for decades: a wealthy recluse with a tragic past; a widow in mourning; a forsaken daughter returning for the first time in years, with a stranger in tow; a lawyer, whose longings he can never reveal; and a kindly World War II veteran who serves as the town’s sage. Surrounded by the personal histories and secrets of others, June finds the way forward for herself and her son amid revelations of the others’ pasts, including loves—and crimes—from years ago.

In vivid, nuanced prose, Melanie Wallace—“a writer with a tender regard for the marginal, the missing and the lost”*—explores the time-tested bonds of a small community, the healing power of friendship and love, and whether the wrongs of the past can ever be made right.  * Hilary Mantel


What’s better than a cosy nook, a good book and a cup of cocoa when outside the snowing is silently covering the world and changing the destiny of all of us? I am so lucky to have read this wonderful novel at the very beginning of 2017… And it is so close to its publishing date that I am enthralled for you guys to be able to read it.

It is for sure one of the best reads I have had recently, furthermore, it marks 2017 as one of the best years to come in my adult reading life! I barely can wait for the next jewel to appear magically in my hands.

Mrs Wallace has the skills of magic and the tongue of a storyteller! I am forever grateful for the joy she brought to my heart with her poetical writing. Every word, every phrase, every sentence is a block of spicy chocolate melting  in your mouth… better yet: you know the effect of a good old glass of scotch after a hard day of work at the very end of the week… This is what this book is all about. It not only soothes your nerves, but also leaves your whole being lingering with nostalgia and a sense of beautiful sadness.

In short the novel tells a number of stories of heartbroken characters, each carrying burdens of their own. I love to read about damaged people, who find the strength in them to lift themselves up, because life is more-often-than-not a hard travel, and sometimes when I indulge in a novel like this one, I find it easier to continue the fight.

It was such a profound read… I closed it gently, put it on the ground, and stared at it for a couple of minutes… I am still struggling to find the words to best describe it. Unique is one of them… Poetic – another… Strong is the third that comes to mind, but D**n it I did not expect to be that much influenced by it.

So go ahead guys and give it a go, you’ll not regret it!



The House of Birds by Morgan McCarthy




Morgan McCarthy was born in Berkshire, UK, where she still lives. She has worked in a supermarket, a small independent bookstore, and, most recently, as a media analyst.


Morgan McCarthy’s THE HOUSE OF BIRDS is a beautiful and bewitching story of love, war and second chances that will be adored by readers of Kate Morton, Louisa Young and Virginia Baily.

Oliver has spent years trying to convince himself that he’s suited to a life of money making in the city, and that he doesn’t miss a childhood spent in pursuit of mystery, when he cycled around the cobbled lanes of Oxford, exploring its most intriguing corners.

When his girlfriend Kate inherits a derelict house – and a fierce family feud – she’s determined to strip it, sell it and move on. For Oliver though, the house has an allure, and amongst the shelves of discarded, leather bound and gilded volumes, he discovers one that conceals a hidden diary from the 1920s.

So begins a quest: to discover the identity of the author, Sophia Louis. It is a portrait of war and marriage, isolation and longing and a story that will shape the future of the abandoned house – and of Oliver – forever.


The House of Birds is a beautifully written book with one of the most spectacular covers I’ve seen in a long time.  I am a sucker for a pretty cover, but this one really does catch your eye and dares you to ignore it’s alluring charm. It is a bit nostalgic and it perfectly fits to the mood of the novel.

Morgan McCarthy weaves together tales from the past and present so eloquently,  the stories flow well together so that the reader is experiencing the mystery that Oliver is searching for the answers to but also the memories attached to the items within the old house and how they relate to Sophia Louis.

Oliver’s search is captivating reading, the memories he unearths add a richness to both the past and the present.  The interwoven narration from Sophia gives a wonderful insight in to her character, the oppressive societal struggles for women in this time and several emotive topics are written with care and sympathy where necessary, but also detailed to show that McCarthy has done her research to ensure authenticity.   Each character in this has their own appealing qualities (or unappealing as the case may be), they are are carefully and thoughtfully constructed.

The vivid descriptions in this book are spectacular, the detail given about the house means that the reader is more than able to envision the setting clearly.  There is great care given to the description of people also, the description of a young Kate when Oliver sees her cycling on her way home from school conjures a crystal clear image of the young girl, with hair so perfect on her white bike, and the small detail of her catching his eye ‘like a unicorn’ gives the reader a small insight into the flowing prose awaiting them later in the book.

McCarthy’s writing is a delight to read, so natural and expressive which truly makes this a delight to read.