Welcome to the round up of my reviews during October and a very enjoyable reading month.
My review for The Girl Who Taught Herself to Fly October 1st 2022
The author has already published two memoirs about her extraordinary global career in medicine and humanitarian work – Lest We Forget: A Doctor’s Experience with Life and Death During the Ebola Outbreak and Into Africa, Out of Academia: A Doctor’s Memoir
Kwan Kew Lai’s family asked her to write about her upbringing, family and life in Malaya just after the Japanese occupation, and the challenges she faced in obtaining an education at a time when a girl was destined to devote her life to her family, marry young and to bear many children.
Prepare to be amazed, inspired and humbled by this story.
You may have read news articles, books and even seen dramatized accounts of life in Malaya during and after the Japanese occupation, and during the events leading to the nation achieving independence.
But I doubt that you have read such a detailed account of how life really was for those enduring the occupation and the aftermath. Particularly the author’s ancestors, the Hakka and Nanyan Chinese who migrated to Malaya during the nineteenth century.
Growing up in this multicultural society the class system did not favour migrants, including the Tamil Indians in the 1950s. This extended to the education that their children received, and it was a major step forward when primary school was made mandatory and Kwan Kew Lai was enrolled by her mother known by the children as Ah Yee.
The author shares in great detail the daily challenge for Ah Yee to put even the most simple of meals on the table, often going without herself to ensure her husband and family had food. There was also the strain on both her mother and the family of the yearly addition of another baby in the hopes of more sons to continue her father’s bloodline, and the many moves as the family lost both financial support and homes. Her father, 25 years older than her mother, continued to work passed retirement with his own business to provide for his family, but it was a constant struggle to make enough to keep a roof over their heads.
The fortitude of her mother Ah Yee, with 12 children, two boys and ten girls who she devoted her life and every ounce of her being to nurture was inspiring and humbling.
There are moments when you are brought to tears such as when the newest daughter is taken from her mother’s arms without her consent and given to relatives who could not have children of their own. When the author’s father falls prey to scammers that rob the family of their only income. When each move takes the family further down the road to extreme poverty.
Kwan Kew Lai and her siblings had to fight every step of the way to obtain even the basics and yet they thrived and achieved, with an older brother and sister becoming health professionals. This certainly made a difference to the family’s income, but it also paved the way for Kew’s move into secondary school and supported her own ambitions to attend college.
This involved fighting not just the system, but also the expectations within her culture. Undeterred she faced up to both and pursued her dream working day and night to achieve the grades required to apply to colleges in the United States. The reward for these years of determination and hard work was a full scholarship to Wellesley College paving the way for her to become a doctor.
I am awed and inspired by Kwan Kew Lai’s life as I am sure those reading the memoir will be too. ‘Against all the odds’ certainly applies to this remarkable story and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
My review for Song of the Sea Goddess October 6th 2022
A wonderful magical tale that is a fusion of ancient myths and the modern world.
The author has created a world where both these elements can exist together embodied in the delightful characters who share their story with us. They each are on their own paths with differing ambitions and hopes for the future and some escaping the scars of the past.
Despite this sleepy fishing village appearing to be a haven for those who find themselves living there, it becomes the epicentre for an act of revenge from the depths of the sea in response to the greed and destruction of man. The environment is under attack as are those mythical beings who live in within its shadows.
Where has the golden treasure tainted by dark magic come from? As those who touch it will discover, its hold on humans and creatures who cross its path is compelling and addictive, resulting in actions that become increasingly dangerous as the story races to the explosive climax.
The Sea Goddess is on a mission to restore the natural order of the land, and to retrieve the coins that do not belong in the earthly realm. She is also prepared to take drastic action to right the devastating impact of this assault on the land before it is too late, putting the lives of Sam, the mystical Sasha, the Professor, Jannie and Dawid at great risk as they seek to solve the mysteries unfolding around them.
There some lovely humour threading its way through the story as we meet the other inhabitants of the village. I loved the two aunties Rose and Grace with their homespun wisdom and approach to life. The colourful Albertina who captures the heart of all she enounters as she attempts to fulfil her ambitions in life. The myterious and gentle Abdu who has a secret that will astonish all who know him and the little monkey Toti who will play a pivatol role in the adventure as it unfolds.
A wonderful fantasy adventure that I can highly recommend and I am looking forward to reading Spirit of the Shell Man soon.
My review for A Voice in the Silence 8th October 2022
This is a brilliantly crafted mystery thriller with intriguing paranormal and other unworldly elements that will delight and keep you on the edge of your seat.
It was great to be introduced to more mature lead actors in this fast paced story as Drea comes to terms with her loss and struggles with the detachment from both family and old friends. Isolated and unsure of the future she welcomes three stray animals in from the cold. Their origins are cloaked in mystery, and as she discovers more about their previous lives, she becomes emotionally and physically drawn into their battle for survival.
The author has created wonderful characters, both human and otherwise, as well as chilling and atmospheric scenes, as the drama plays out in the snow covered landscape. There is danger as a serial killer targets women in the area and other unseen forces seek to harm her fur family. There are heart-stopping moments as the threats move ever closer despite the best efforts of an old and trusted friend of the family and a ghostly presence who brings chilling warnings.
I really admired Brea for her determination not to buckle under the threat and to make a stand against those who wish her and those she loves harm. It was also wonderful to share in her growing and intriguing relationship with the dog, cat and rat who have sought sanctuary with her, and how even when it seems all love is lost, a romantic spark brings hope for the future.
The story races towards a live or die climax as all the elements from this world and beyond come together in the battle for survival.
Emotionally engaging and exciting this was a wonderful cross genre read that I can highly recommend.
Here is my review for Saddled Hearts 15th October 2022
Having enjoyed the other books in this series I was delighted to be asked to review an advance copy of Saddled Hearts. I knew I could expect to be swept away in to a well crafted and exciting adventure.
Central to this series is a powerful rune that is passed from the lead characters to someone else who is in need of some kind of resolution and healing of past events in their lives.
In Saddled Hearts, that resolution is much needed for Colt Layne whose mission in life to protect the legacy of his grandfather who brought him up. His life is filled with his rescue horses and music but finding the love of his life was not in his plans and he assumed it never would be. Despite his amazing upbringing by his grandfather, there is tragedy and rejection that he has never fully come to terms with until a series of events threaten all that he has in the present.
He didn’t count on meeting the force that is Sage Coventry whose gifts enable him to delve into the past and confront both the events and emotional turmoil they left in their wake. Their slowly building passion for each other, despite Sage’s reservations and the dire circumstances that brought them together, give him the strength to face both the past and the present.
With help from those who have passed away, the mystery of who is behind the violence and destruction to those around Colt begins to unravel with some surprising and shocking revelations. With a race against time, the action races towards a dangerous climax as the final pieces of the puzzle come together.
As always the author brings together wonderfully crafted and diverse characters, in an action packed, passionate love story with elements of the supernatural, that will keep you turning the pages to the end and one I can highly recommend.
My review for Natural Selection October 22nd 2022
Although this is the final book in the trilogy, the author introduces both previous events and the characters smoothly, bringing both previous and new readers up to date before beginning a new adventure. There is also a very helpful introduction section answering FAQs and explaining how the communication between evolving species of humans and other creatures might have been established.
The quest of Lucy, and those who now form a strong and united group, is to rescue previous members of her tribe, and to do that differences have to be put aside. If they are to be successful they need to learn from each other, particularly those who have evolved along a different path. This at times requires them to adapt their physicality to acquire new skills, and to accept that friendship and loyalty is possible between species, even those who have been mortal enemies.
This is an unforgiving environment and these new skills and alliances are essential if the group is to find food and shelter and to survive all they will encounter on this almost impossible expedition.
There is little time for the group, or the reader, to relax and enjoy the ever changing scenery from barren plains, lush valleys and harsh volcanic mountainsides to life giving rivers. There is danger at every turn for the unwary, and there are some heart-stopping moments as the group encounter physical and emotional challenges that threaten their lives.
The characters are suberb and diverse, both those from the previous two books and the newcomers. It is fascinating to see how they evolve as part of this eclectic group gaining new perspectives and discovering an awareness and understanding about their own lives and those they now consider family. This is also the case for the animal members of the group who have bonded with Lucy and the other humans bringing their strength and loyalty to form a formidable unit.
This is an adventure of epic proportions. As always when I read a book by this author, my respect for our early ancestors and their resilience in the face of continuous danger from both the environment, hostile tribes and dangerous creatures grows stronger.
I am sorry to say goodbye to Lucy and her extended family but I am certainly very glad that I met them and travelled this exciting and fascinating journey beside them. I can highly recommend the previous two books in the series as well.