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Maria Staal "Author, Freelance Writer and Mad about Architecture" (Netherlands)

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Hedgeland (Hedge Witch: Book 1) (Science Fiction series / Fantasy series)
Hedgeland (Hedge Witch: Book 1) (Science Fiction series / Fantasy series)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting mix of sci-fi and fantasy, 24 Jan. 2012
Hedgeland is an interesting and knowledgeable novel where the sci-fi theme of multiple dimensions and time travel, bonds with the fantasy land of faeries and seers.

The main character in the story is Caridwen, who we meet when she and a group of peers are on the brink of stepping into an alternate dimension and time. This they do with the help of a device called a kiste. Her people have made this journey before and never had any problems. This time, though, a traitor is among them, who wants to manipulate the alternate reality for their own benefit.
Meanwhile in another time, a professor of Future History is studying the life of April an Australian woman, who in a past life was known as Caridwen. Only after a while does the professor realise that the military's interest in April is more than scientific curiosity.

In the book, the storylines of the three different time periods alternate between the chapters. However, it is not difficult to follow the well-written narrative. April's timeline is the most scholarly part of the book, as she tells her sister about the research she is doing for her new book. Yet it is not too academic to become incomprehensible.
Nyland manages to let the different stories intertwine nicely into a complete story, although the stories of April and Caridwen's are not yet finished.

This book is a good read for people interested in sci-fi and fantasy. Although fantasy is not normally a genre I go for, I found this book a great read. I'm curious to find out how the story continues.

Price: £2.30

4.0 out of 5 stars A difficult subject brought in a delicate, feel good way, 20 Nov. 2011
This review is from: Revelations (Kindle Edition)
'Revelations' deals with the difficult subject of domestic abuse in a delicate way and has a happy outcome for all the characters in the book.

Melanie Walker has just moved back to the town where she lived as a small child, to work with a local theatre company. Having had to deal with the loss of her parents as a child, coming back to her hometown isn't easy, but she soon meets Mike. He turns out to be the man of her dreams.
Mike's mother, a great patron of the local arts, seems familiar to Melanie, but she can't put her finger on it.
As Mike and Melanie's relationship grows more serious, Melanie is forced to think back about the time that she and her mother ran away from her father, who abused her mother. Only if she gives her past a place, can she accept Mike as her future husband.

Although this novella deals with the difficult subject of domestic abuse, it is not a difficult read. The characters of Melanie and Mike are well told and as a reader you really want them to get together.
This is the first book by Noble Brown, who is a good storyteller. 'Revelations' is a nice read for a dreary Sunday afternoon - a Christian themed romance story that leaves you feeling good about the world.

HANDCUFFS and a Pyramid of Satin
HANDCUFFS and a Pyramid of Satin
Price: £2.23

4.0 out of 5 stars Nice little feel good story, 28 July 2011
'Handcuffs and a Pyramid of Satin' is a nice little feel good story with a bit of a twist.

Kelly Cavenaugh is an American woman, who has been happily married for two years. She feels however, that something is missing in her life. She decides to leave her husband, Jeff, for a while to visit the city of Frankfurt in Germany, where she was born, when her father was in the army.
Jeff is shocked that Kelly has gone to Germany without him and asks advice of his church minister.
Kelly meanwhile hangs around Frankfurt with David, a dashing attentive man, she has met at a club. Everything looks great at first, but not everything is at it seems and David puts Kelly in real danger.

Although the story might be a little farfetched, it is a nice read for a Sunday afternoon. It's easy to relate to the characters of Kelly and Jeff, and as far as Christian fiction goes, the story has a good morale to it, without being to preachy.

Noble Brown is a new author, with good story telling skills. I can recommend this novella to anyone who is looking for a light Christian themed romance story.

Doing Max Vinyl (Annie Ogden Mystery Book 1)
Doing Max Vinyl (Annie Ogden Mystery Book 1)
Price: £2.15

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fast-moving and slightly absurd, 28 July 2011
'Doing Max Vinyl' is an interesting, slightly absurd story that moves at a fast pace. Several storylines are intertwined nicely in this book towards an explosive end.

The main character of the book, Max Vinyl, is not actually a good guy. He's a baddy who is using his recycling business as a front to dump large loads of old used computers in Lake Michigan. His secretary and girlfriend, Tris discovers the fraud and starts a relentless campaign against Max, aimed at hurting him as much as she can.
Meanwhile two of Max's goons are looking for a GPS device they lost, which they use to guide them to the spot on the lake where the computers are dumped. To get the GPS back, they have to battle it out with Annie, who has recently returned from military service in Iraq and is now unemployed. She decides to work undercover at the recycling plant, to get a better grip on things.

The stories of several people run side by side in this book, but they all aim to either thwart Max and expose his illegal dumping practises, or try to help him get away with it.
All the characters and their stories are well defined and believable, with hints to some slightly absurd humour. The stories are cleverly intertwined and well told, which make you want to continue reading.

I enjoyed reading this book. It was interesting to see how all the storylines come together in the end. A recommended read for anyone who likes a bit of action and humour.

Space Turbulence - a science fiction murder mystery (The Kolian Chronicles #1)
Space Turbulence - a science fiction murder mystery (The Kolian Chronicles #1)
Price: £2.22

4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting whodunnit in space, 14 Jun. 2011
Mysior, a young woman who has been trapped in a loveless marriage to a self-made king for years, escapes from his clutches and finds herself on board the 'Freedom of Spirit', an old cargo freighter that travels between planets, sometimes picking up passengers. Soon after Mysior has boarded the ship, the pilot is murdered. As the captain was with her when it happened, he knows Mysior is the only one of the crew and passengers who can't have committed the murder. As he now has to fly the ship, he asks Mysior to try and find out who could be the murderer, preferably before they arrive at their destination in three days time.

We follow Mysior as she conducts her interviews with the crew and passengers and together with her discover their back stories. The story is interestingly put together and as Mysior unravels the sequence of events that led up to the murder, we encounter a few red herrings as to who could be the murderer.
Next to finding the murderer, Mysior has to discover her true feelings for the captain, something that is not made easier by the jealously of the first mate.
The characters in this book are well described, the murderer not too obvious and overall it gives a good feeling of being on a spaceship. I found it hard to put this book down as the narrative left me wanting to find out what happened next.

This book will appeal to anyone who likes murder mysteries, especially if you like a bit of space travel as well. I for one am looking forward to reading the next book in this series!

The Santa Shop (The Samaritans Conspiracy Book 1)
The Santa Shop (The Samaritans Conspiracy Book 1)
Price: £0.00

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting story with a large feel good factor, 29 May 2011
The Santa Shop is a nice little story that leaves you feeling good after finishing it.

In this first person narrative, we get acquainted with Skip, a man who after the tragic loss of his wife and baby son ends up living on the streets of Albany. Filled with remorse and guilt about the death of his family, he decides that he can't go on living anymore. While working out how to take his own life, he meets another homeless man, who tells him of a special bridge that people use to say farewell to their earthly existence.
On hearing this Skip decides that jumping off the bridge is a good way to go and he sets out to find this bridge, in the hope of reaching it before Christmas Eve.

As we follow Skip on his journey, we get a realistic idea of what he is going through. His desire to die is well told and easy to sympathise with. The people he meets along the way are nicely described. Most of them he meets only once, but they are believable and real. Some of the characters that jump out are Father Johnston, a priest who lets Skip sleep in the chapel for a night, Barwood Stone, the homeless guy who tells him about the bridge and Jenny, owner of a corner store.

The Santa Shop is not a very long story - probably not more than 10.000 words. But it doesn't need to be longer. It is a well written story that has a good structure and keeps you wanting to read on. Ultimately you feel empathy for the main character Skip and although you don't want him to die, are willing to follow him on his journey to a better and happier life.
The conspiracy that engulfs Skip is not a transparent one. It is a good conspiracy anyway, which leaves you to think that the world really can be a better place if more conspiracies like this happened more often.

I recommend The Santa Shop to anyone who is in need of a feel good story. Especially one that can be read curled up on the couch on a cold winter afternoon.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
by John Berendt
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars The people are the gems in this book!, 17 Jan. 2011
An entertaining, at times hilarious, surreal and slightly serious book, that leaves you surprised at how many different and interesting characters live and work in Savannah.

When John Berendt moved to Savannah GA from New York, to live part of the year in this historic city, he could not have known how many interesting people he would meet.
In a very entertaining way he describes the many characters he meets, relates their life stories and his interactions with them. Standing out are the Lady Chablis - nightclub singer, John Williams - owner of a large historic town house, and Minerva - the voodoo lady, but all of the people John meets are portrait in such a way, that the reader feels that they have met them.
Although murder plays an important part in this book, it is the people of Savannah that are the most important.

A travel book of sorts, many people didn't realise this was a real account of John Berendt's time in Savannah and thought he had made it all up. The dialog is witty, and the story of his encounters with the Savannahians interestingly described.

John Berendt fell in love with Savannah, its culture and people. I did too after reading this book. Highly recommend to anyone who enjoys a bit of people watching.

The Sewing Circles of Herat: My Afghan Years
The Sewing Circles of Herat: My Afghan Years
by Christina Lamb
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, but at times hard to read, 17 Jan. 2011
Fascinating, and at the same time hard to read book about the authors visits to Afghanistan, first when the country was still under Russian occupation and later after the fall of the Taliban.

Christina Lamb first visited Afghanistan in 1988 as a young reporter, hitching a ride with some mujaheddin fighters, who were fighting a guerrilla war against the Russians who had invaded the country. She gained insight into the life of the mujaheddin fighters, many of who later joined the Taliban.
In 2001, Christina returned to Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban. As a journalist she talks to many people about the time the Taliban had a iron grip on the country, during which, among many other things, kite flying, reading books and going to school was forbidden.
She meets up with men and women who on risk of being executed, defied the Taliban and set up secret societies, who continued to educated people, specifically women.

This book is a travel book in so far that the story follows the authors on her travels through Afghanistan, first in the 1980s and later in 2001. Christina describes what she sees around her in great detail and relates the conversations she had with people, many of who have horrible stories to tell. Where necessary she gives historical information that ties in nicely with the rest.

This is not an easy read as it tells a tale of much suffering and hardship. I would however, recommend this book to anyone who wants to get an insight into what happened to Afghanistan and its people in the last 30 years.

The Songlines (Picador Books)
The Songlines (Picador Books)
by Bruce Chatwin
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars The Songlines, 12 Jan. 2011
This interesting and knowledgeable travel book left me wanting to know more about the subject of Aboriginal culture and customs.

Bruce Chatwin describes in this book his journey into the Australian Outback to find out more about the Songlines, which are part of the Aboriginal Dreamtime or creation stories. That this is not all as straightforward as it sounds becomes clear early on, as Bruce joins an Australian researcher of Russian descent, who is mapping the sacred sites of the Aborigines. As he travels with the Russian, Bruce talks to Aboriginal tribal elders, who tell him that every tribe has their own Songs, which they use as a map to traverse the vast Australian Outback.

Bruce's style of writing is entertaining. He manages to combine humorous dialogue with facts about the Outback and Aboriginal culture.
Towards the end of the book he does digress a bit with quotes and short facts copied from his notebooks, about his thought on why people are nomads, but it does tie in with the subject of his book - the nomadic Aborigines.

Even though The Songlines was written in 1987, it is a good read for anyone interested in Aboriginal culture and life in the Australian Outback.

The Book of Secrets
The Book of Secrets
by Tom Harper
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read!, 2 Nov. 2009
This review is from: The Book of Secrets (Paperback)
A fast paced novel that alternates between the present and the past that focusses on Gutenberg and his invention of the printing press.

In this book fiction is interwoven with historical facts, which make it very easy to believe that Gutenberg's life really happened like this.
Tom Harper also has a knack of discribing medieval cities and bringing them to life.

The shorter chapters do a great job of keeping the suspense and draw the reader futher and further into the book.

A recommended read for everyone.

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