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Adding Fire to the Fuel: Challenging Shame and the Stigma of Alcoholism - Scott Stevens

"Adding Fire to the Fuel: Challenging Shame and the Stigma of Alcoholism" by Scott Stevens turns the spotlight on some very important, yet lesser known or discussed aspects of alcoholism: Shame and Stigma.
We all know some about recovery and the 12 Steps programme but we probably do not emphasize enough or know about the many ways that society and its attitudes prevent people from seeking recovery.
Be that the advertising industry that tempts people into drinking and glorifies it, or the shame of drinking or not-drinking. Blaming and prejudices.
In this brilliantly written book so much is said that rings true. I am an ex-smoker and I feel that Stevens does to alcoholism what Alan Carr did to smokers: Intellectualising the problem, educating people and using statistical data to prove his points.
I personally know of two people whose lives have been changed by Stevens' books, one of which even has been in direct contact with the author.
Read this book, for it will make you understand more about a very common problem that is often brushed under the carpet. Here is a man who lived and survived the problem. This intellectual dissection of the problem is disarming and unique. A remarkable book - highly recommended.

The Missing Monarch - Alan Goodwin

"The Missing Monarch" by Dr Alan Goodwin is a beautiful novel set in Laos. When the communist revolution de-throned King Savang Vatthana and his wife, they were put in a correction prison and perished.
Goodwin combines fact with fiction and plotted an escape for the King.
This novel of alternate history / fraction benefits from Goodwin's first hand knowledge of the time and place. With greatly chosen characters he illustrates country and people as the Monarchs escape. Adventure meets history and the ethnic and cultural insights add to the richness of the story.
A real find.
Warning: contains sexually explicit scenes.

MIEDO: Living Beyond Childhood Fear - Kevin Cooper, Katherine Jackson

"MIEDO: Living Beyond Childhood Fear" by Kevin Cooper is a gripping drama that slowly creeps up on you. We know of the fear the young boy lives with from a haunting prologue, before taken back to happier times. As we follow the seemingly biographical childhood desciption we wait for the event that will turn things from unspoilt to spoilt.
Childhood fear is something so painful and damaging and the author really brings out the horrors of it. Trauma, paranoia and insanity blend together. A well written and powerful novel.

The Second Child - Jon Stenhugg

"The Second Child" by Jon Stenhugg is a well written and neatly plotted novel - part thriller, part alternate history. It concerns a murder taking place in Sweden in 1996 and the identity of a child in a picture from Germany during the Nazi period. The story takes our investigative team to archives in Germany and Sweden. Thriller fans will be pleaed as thee book is well paced and has some excellent suspense.
Although set in fairly recent times the book delves deep into the past and serves some interesting historical details, for example forced sterilisation in Sweden in sync with the racial laws of Nazi Germany.
I personally wished the author had added a concise historical note to let us know how much of the backflashes, archive material and story was fact and what was speculation / fiction.
That caveat aside, the book's premise is original and fascinating and should appeal to fans of WW2 fiction and thrillers alike.
I was given a paperback copy of the book for review
Christoph Fischer - Reviewer for the Historical Novel Society

Aaron's Story - Mason Dodd

"Aaron's Story" by Mason Dodd is a very moving and insightful novel. It is also a very important novel that I would recommend people read. How it feels to be gay, gay as a teenager, in school and in your family is difficult to describe. Dodd does a great job at it and his character's honesty enables the reader to get an idea of the many aspects that being gay entails.
The approach of telling the story from the side of an unsuspected gay rather than purely from a victimised or effeminate man helps to illustrate the spectrum of gay identity and the gay experience.
A book not so much innovative or surprising in terms of story but one that I found very rewarding in terms of characterisation and psychological insights.

Myths of the Mirror - D. Wallace Peach

This is a magical and deep running, epic story with wonderful heroes, dragons, adventure and romance that will no doubt  entertain and please all fans of the fantasy genre. The book however is so much more and works on a deeper level about finding oneself and believing and fighting for the good in the world and for justice. An epic, the story is only the beginning of a promising series.
Well-developed characters hit home great messages about human nature: power, greed, true love and keep us entertained in their emotional and physical struggles and battles,
Peach has created a beautiful world known as Mirror. I’m a sucker for dragon stories and so this had me under its spell. There are skyriders, men who ride dragons, enemies and conflicted love.
Very enjoyable and highly recommended.

Death In A Red Canvas Chair: A Rhe Brewster Mystery (Book 1) - N.A. Granger

This is a quirky cosy mystery with ER nurse Rhe Brewster at the centre of the investigation. When her son plays soccer and she discovers a body dumped by the side of the game, Rhe alarms the authorities and before you know it, she is deeply involved in solving the case. Rhe is quite a character, the most apt description of herself is: “despite his PhD in Psychology he (her husband) still doesn’t understand me.” I think many would struggle and that is what makes her such a wonderful and watchable protagonist.
Familiar with Sheriff Sam there is little that can stop her.
The victim was a college student and the investigation starts to step on Rhe’s husband’s toes, a professor at the same college.
The plot is quite complex and has some turns and twists, includes prostitution, kidnapping and marital disputes for Rhe as well. Well-paced with great, entertaining characterisation, good suspense and solid writing this is well worth your time.

Eros the Aegean Chronicles - Yelle Hughes

“Eros” by Yelle Hughes is a fantastic and highly creative blend of modern culture and ancient Greek Myth. The beginning takes us back to one of these curses that go wrong and set off a chain reaction that eventually leads to the fulfilment of a prophecy, but in a different way than was anticipated or intended. Nobody does it better than the Greek, or Yelle Hughes on their behalf.
Eros falls for Psyche but through a series of events he loses her for several millennia and a prophecy tells that she should not meet her again until the 21st century. The beginning is powerful and really gets you in the mood for drama and complications. I used to learn Ancient Greek at my school and Hughes and her work always makes me instantly want to open old Greek books again and refresh my knowledge of this fascinating mythology. Very well done and very captivating.

Fast forward to US soil in the 21st century and witness as modern day Eros, now Erok, gets to fall for Sindi. The writing here is steamy and contains some hot explicit sex scenes. The immortal has fallen for a mortal and divine intervention, cursing and intrigue throws more complication into the plot.

This series is such great fun, particularly when the ancient gods come into play and meet modern life. They are of course fully used to the modern world but their attitude and immortal status bring some amazing quality to the story.

The Bone Wall - D. Wallace Peach

"The Bone Wall" by D. Wallace Peach is a beautiful if somewhat grim piece of fantasy that makes no secret of its metaphoric and symbolic character. Heaven and Hell, good and evil are the forces in an apocalyptic world. The novel presents us with twin girls, Rimma and Angel who are quite different in character from each other. The book is refreshing in its stylistic approach, clear in its message and touching in its characterisation.There is swearing and darkness, there is goodness and hope, a fast pace and a literary quality in the writing.
Impressive.

Operation One Night Stand - Christine  Hughes

"Operation One Night Stand" by Christine Hughes is a hugely entertaining, yet often thoughtful and always absoutely honest story about love and relationships. Caroline finds her fiance in bed with the intern and with the help of her friends gets 'back in the game'.
With great fun and an upbeat feel the story reminded me of the best parts of Sex and The City, where often seemingly shallow chick-lit material was looked at closer with a wider understanding of the human psyche and made you stop and think.
There's much character depth and development in this coming of age story. The book is explicit, refreshingly honest and hard to put down. Enjoy it for the great one-liners, the hilarious situations, the coming of age and the smooth writing style. Highly recommended.

Weapons of Mass Deception - David Bruns, J. R. Olson

"Weapons of Mass Deception" by David Bruns and J.R. Olson is an impressive military thriller. The plot is cleverly constructed with leanings towards speculative fiction and conspiracy, yet it treads carefully in those territories and presents a plausible and believable storyline full of action and suspense.
Told in various segments and alternating viewpoints we witness acts of heroism and terrorism surrounding the weapons of mass destruction that left Iraq in 2003 just before the invading American and British troops could get hold of them.
Written with military expertise and competence the book is well crafted and convincing; the plot moves at a fast pace and never lets the dramatic curve slip up. The great characterisation however was a special treat as the players are real people beyond the stereotypes that can ruin this genre so easily.
Veery enjoyable and some food for thought.

The Auction (Scenes from the Underground Book 2) - Gale Stanley

"The Auction (Scenes from the Underground Book 2)" by Gale Stanley is a wonderful erotic story about being yourself. As with most of her work, the author focuses on the full spectrum of love and human desire in this work and sheds some light on the attraction between the drag queen Lark and the men in his/her life: One wants to change Lark, the other doesn't. The central message of acceptance is beautiful, the characters are fascinating, the chemistry sizzling and the sex explicit and hot.
While this is an important work is many ways, it is also entertaining and well written. Stanley writes with sensitivity and passion, her books are a great addition to the GLBTQI book catalogue as well as to any erotic fiction collection.

I'm not a huge fan of the genre but this is truly excellent. 

 

Silently Still - Julieanne Lynch, S.H. Books Editing

"Silently Still" by Julianne Lynch is a very moving story. Told with jumps in the time line Lynch tells us the story of Jacinta Kelly, a young woman with a lot on her plate. Can she live in a small community in rural Ireland, can she cope with her mother's illness, what is it she really wants? In that respect the book serves also as a well thought through character study.
A coming of age story of of loss and bravery, reflective and thoughtful, this is written with great sensitivity and insight into human nature. This is a tale that will pull on your heart strings, that will make you smile as well as cry and it comes with a rewarding ending. A moody and thoughtful literary gem, highly recommended.

Proximity (Wanderlust Series Book 2) - Amber Lea Easton

"Proximity" by Amber Lea Easton is a wonderful action adventure novel that has it all: great honourable characters, hot chemistry between the characters, action and suspense and a fantastic location.
From the first scene when a jealous girlfriend is ditched because of her unkind attitude you know you're onto something good. You can see where the romance part is going but the cave diving and subsequent drama are nail-biting and provide the perfect setting and background for the love story.
In a perfect blend of understatement and playfulness Easton has her audience on a tight leash, paced and edited into a fast moving and engaging read. Very enjoyable and highly recommended.

A Straw Man (The Clay Lion Series Book 3) - Amalie Jahn

“A Straw Man” by Amalie Jahn is another moving young adult story about time travel, love and responsibility. After a whirlwind romance in college Nate Johansen and Melody Johnson hit a rough patch. A fatal tragedy changes their entire circle of friend. The handsome and funny football player Nate becomes an addict and Melody tries to help by travelling back in time.
As with the previous instalments in this series the time trip has unexpected consequences.
Jahn has a wonderfully warm writing style and creates characters that are easy to care for. She handles the serious matters with great sensitivity and makes you feel part of the story and her characters part of your life.
As her characters grow older the story moves into areas such as ethics, politics and philosophy. The Straw Man from the title refers to a nasty political campaign practice but has meaning also for other personal interactions in the book.
Beautiful messages about love and how to live your life are woven into this novel and the ending is a real treat.
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for a review.

Angelic Business 1. Pink Matters - Olga  Núñez Miret

“Angelic Business: Pink Matters” by Olga Núñez’ is a very entertaining and light-hearted teenage story about ‘Pink’, an ‘average’ girl who finds herself suddenly the focus of angelic, demonic and human attention.
Her friend Seth, a good looking and arrogant boy, needs to be put into his place after making some insulting remarks. As if by magic, help arrives in the shape of ‘G’, an interesting newcomer to the school who just might be the person to help her make Seth jealous (or at least see that he is not the only man in Pink’s universe).  Only, there is something spooky about G. Now enter Azrael, another mysterious figure and you have a great set of players in this teenage drama.
Yet, there is depth to this humorous story as theological themes, such as God, angels and demons are discussed and pondered about. Although this is kept on a superficial level, the way that the angels, demons and theological ideas are presented gives you something to think about. The tone is playful and tongue-in-cheek and added to my enjoyment.
The characters and the narrative are well crafted and while this might be aimed at young adults, I had a great time reading it and am looking forward to the next parts to see where this is going. Very well done.
I was given an ARC in exchange for a review.