Review: Gazelle in the Shadows

Title: Gazelle in the Shadows

Author: Michelle Peach

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: April 26, 2018

Genre: Adult Fiction

Rating: 4 Stars

 

 

I was recently sent a copy of Gazelle in Shadows for an honest reviews. It is a debut novel from former diplomat with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Michelle Peach. This is a self-published title which was released April 26 2018.

This is a thoroughly reflective illustration of life in Syria under the governmental unrest of the early 1990s – a brutal regime producing fear, anxiety and rage amongst those caught beneath it. It is a thriller and suspense; definitely not a book that I would ever have picked up browsing in a bookstore, so I was pleasantly surprised by how much I ended up enjoying it.

Set in the mid nineties, Gazelle in the Shadows follows the life of a young, and perhaps a bit naiive British college student, Elizabeth Booth who is an Arabic student at Durham University. Like any college language student, she decides to go abroad immerse herself in Arabic language and culture. She finds herself in Damascus. A new world presents itself to her in this ancient city. It is place of humility and generosity, bazaars and street markets, warm air and natural beauty. She easily assimilates, quickly making friends, excelling more than ever in her studies and soon attracts the attention of a young native.
Elizabeth’s naïveté however leads her into danger before she even lands in Damascus. During her flight over Elizabeth makes the acquaintance of a flight attendant, Asim and his friend Hassein. A friendship hastily evolves and results in the two men committing themselves to serving as a sort of body guard for Elizabeth. From here a spiral of events occurs. What starts off as an easy friendship and love affair turns progressively questionable. Incident begin to occur around her as she gets progressively caught up within a mesh of lies, deceit, empty promises, and dangerous political activity in the form of terrorism.

Quite frankly, Elizabeth is a bloody idiot. She commits herself to a study abroad program in a politically unstable country and doesn’t even have the logical sense to find a place to live. Instead, she basically throws herself into the arms of two strangers who could be anyone, like seriously, ANYONE, and entrusts herself in their freaking care. Like, for real?!?!?! That in and of itself is a serious red flag, like, girl, have you know brain? I mean, I’m all for believing the best in people but try to have some sort of boundaries! She makes friends and love interests spark without her ever fully even knowing the crowds in which she is involving herself. This leads to endless trouble for her as her trust and curiosity begin to take a backslide.

The narrative time of the novel is rather short, but in that short period Elizabeth gets mixed up in a lot of evil going ons. The author’s political background definitely manifests itself in the ways in which she so accurately illustrates Syrian politics, history and culture. She paints a beautiful portrait of the troubled Middle Eastern city, offering readers a narrative that parallels so much of the disastrous happenings goin on in Syria even today. By following the life of rather dumb college student, Peach retells Syrian history and in this way, blurs the lines between fiction and reality. I really enjoyed learning so much of Syrian culture through this book and even found the brief diary entries between the chapters riveting, rendering the book “un-put-downable”.

Although the ending was pretty predictable (even from the first page I knew, it wouldn’t end well for Elizabeth), I found it to be an extremely enticing read. So many questions were swimming in my mind as I read: Will Elizabeth make it home from school? Will she even make it to school? Does Hassein even really love her? Who are all these woman Hassein is introducing her to ? Gazelle in the Shadows is a thought provoking tales that keeps readers at the edge of their seats in a new world where nothing is as it seems.

Yours Truly,

(Book image credits go to Goodreads)

Review: An American Marriage

Title: An American Marriage

Author: Tayari Jones

Publisher: Algonquin Books

Publication Date: February 6, 2018

Genre: Adult Contemporary, Social Rights

Rating: 4 Stars

Dear fellow Babblers,

A sad, tragic love story; a couple so deeply in love but whose timing destroys their lives. An American Marriage is one of the most highly anticipated novels of 2018, earning itself a spot on the Today Show as well as the Oprah list. A novel of love, rage, heartbreak and all that causes and results from it, this is a raw piece of work. Though a work of fiction, if someone was to tell me this was nonfiction I would easily believe them. That is how realistic the plot and characters came across to me. Even the themes discussed – racism, human rights, marriage and family – all growing into deeply debatable issues in today’s progressive society, were explored and intricately opened, welcoming the reader into a global debate. The story was not a happy story, nor were any of the characters happy characters but it gave a deep reflection into everyday life and the issues and risks that come along with just getting out of bed every morning.  Continue reading “Review: An American Marriage”

Review: The Sun is Also a Star | Blinded by this Sunny Star

Title: The Sun is Also a Star

Author: Nicola Yoon

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Publication Date: November 01, 2016

Genre: YA

Rating: 4 Stars

Dear fellow Babblers,

This book is an outpouring of tears and everything that any girl looks for in romance – affection, sensitivity, thoughtfulness, hopefulness. The Sun is Also a Star is a book on race, immigration, young love, hope, family – everything and anything that can be connected with love. Just like in Everything, Everything, Nicola Yoon effortlessly brings together romance and culture by bringing together two young people from different worlds, representing love not only as a union between two people but also an understanding of dreams and differences between worlds and how these worlds affect dreams (wow, that was a riddle in an of itself!). Continue reading “Review: The Sun is Also a Star | Blinded by this Sunny Star”

ARC Review: The Beauty that Remains | Everything About this Beauty is B-E-A-Utiful

Title: The Beauty that Remains

Author: Ashley Woodfolk

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Expected Publication Date: March 06, 2018

Genre: Young Adult, LGBT, Mental Illness

Rating: 4 Stars

I received an ARC copy of The Beauty that Remains in exchange for an honest review. Thanks goes to NetGalley, as well as the Delacorte Press for this advanced copy which is expected to be released on March 06, 2018.

Dear fellow Babblers,

The Beauty that Remains is Ashley Woodfolk‘s debut novel, believe it or not. It is sure to be one of the greatest books of 2018 and that’s saying a lot given that we’ve barely walked into February. This is all that a contemporary reader looks for – LGBT awareness, suicide, depression, diversity. I’m still in awe over how deep this book has got to me. The expression and heartbreaking grief of this novel is breathtaking, as ironic as that may sound. Pain, love and struggle after loss spreads the lives of a group of teenagers who, initially seem only similarly by age and loss of a loved one, but it’s this love and loss that bring them together at the end. That, and of course, some good ‘ole rock and roll…  Continue reading “ARC Review: The Beauty that Remains | Everything About this Beauty is B-E-A-Utiful”

Review: Murder in Little Shendon | Spitefully Slow, in Stuffy Ole’ Shendon

Title: Murder in Little Shendon

Author: A.H. Richardson

Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform

Publication Date: August 28, 2015

Genre: Murder Mystery, Thriller

Rating: 4 Stars

I was recently sent Murder in Little Shendon by publicists in exchange for an honest review.

Dear fellow Babblers,

A.H. Richardson’s Murder in Little Shendon is an Agatha Christie murder mystery written in the hand of our beloved 40-page-sentence author, Marcel Proust. This means to say that this book is a murder mystery in the way that it is not so much the murder that is at heart of the entire story, but rather the way in which it is described – how the murder, it’s suspects, and everything and everyone in between are presented to the reader. Alternating points of view and perspectives lure the reader into the story where everything is no longer cookie-cutter perfect and all is amiss, inviting the reader to solve the inexplicable question: who killed ole’ Barholomew Fynche and does anyone really even care ?

Goodreads Review:

Picture, if you will, a picturesque village called Little Shendon, suddenly caught up in dealing with a murder of one of its citizens – not a particularly well-liked one at that. Which makes it all the more intriguing because the list of suspects becomes very long. This tantalizing tale unfolds with delightful twists and turns to find out whodunit to Mr. Bartholomew Fynche, the murdered shopkeeper. Fear grips the community as the investigation slowly progresses. Everyone is interviewed; everyone is suspect! From the murdered man’s housekeeper to Lady Armstrong, her staff and her nephew. Or could it be the shy librarian new in town? Or the defiant retired army major and his ladyfriend, the post mistress? Or perhaps the weird sisters who live on the edge of town? Then there is the couple who own the local inn and pub, along with the two Americans who are staying there? Even the vicar and his wife fall under the gloom of suspicion. Uncertainty, wariness, and terror reign as neighbors watch neighbors to discover the evil that permeates their upturned lives. No one feels safe in this charming little village. A.H. Richardson, noted author, places in your trembling hands a mystery murder that will keep you reading until you learn the details, uncovered by Police Inspector Stanley Burgess and his two amateur detectives, his friend Sir Victor Hazlitt and the famed Shakespearean actor Beresford Brandon. Scratch your head with them over the strange clues that turn up. Follow them as they tread carefully among the landmines that appear innocent as they lie hidden beneath the surface of mystery. Something evil skulks in this tiny country village. Who is the murderer? And why was this strange uncivil man dispatched in such a seemingly civil community? You are challenged to discover the culprit before the last few pages. And no fair looking ahead – it’s the journey that proves the most enticing.

Babble:

Set in a tiny, seemingly banal village called Shendon where all is expected to be right, a terrifying murder unfolds that brings a town together not for the mourning of a beloved inhabitant but rather as suspects of the murder of a brusque old man. In this post World War II British town Mr. Fynche is a sour antiques dealer but the reader never gets a chance to really get to know the guy as the story begins in the middle of things at the onset of his murder. Together with his trusted ally Sir Hazlitt and quirky actor buddy Beresford Brandon, local inspector Burgess traverse through the village, one by one questioning its inhabitants in order to discover the truth behind Mr. Fynche’s death. The three buddies split up, waking up a once gray and dreary town, spreading fire, spotlighting all everyone and anyone that they come across, determined not to miss a single detail of this sudden kill.

The novel quickly and suddenly alternates points of view between as multiple characters are introduced and made suspect, possibly villain in the story. Each character comes with a different past – their own story to tell, one way or another connecting them to the murder. Each have secrets, some more profoundly wicked than others. This is exactly what I found most appealing about the novel. The cook at Sir Victors aunt’s home is constantly fighting to keep still in the face of questions while a young newcomer evidently hides something that no one can guess but all can detect from her inscrutable manner. There are clues that the trio follows which bring them through twists, turns, and often back to where they started as they are lead to doubt what is being said and whom they should trust and believe is telling the truth and why others feel the need to lie. It was not so much the murder that drew me in, it was the flawlessness that the author displayed in using the murder as a way to study each and every person in the town. Richardson creates an accurate portrait as she takes the reader into the mind of the characters, revealing the secrets they keep, conflicts they are fighting, and the troubles that they have no choice but to confront with the unfolding of Mr. Fynche’s death. Each character has a story to tell and takes the reader along, back in time to the point where their secrets become their worst enemies.

The language is really old school, keeping up with the murder unraveling during the 1940’s. I particularly enjoyed this in the book, feeling as though I was reading into another time where everything was classic, different and the world was still suffering the consequences of the second world war.

If I have to give this book any negative feedback it would be the abrupt changes between first and third person, not to mention the random switches in perspective from one suspect to another. This made it at times hard to follow and keep up with what one suspect was saying, and differentiate it from what was actually going on in the book. As a result, I never really managed to feel as though I was in the story. I felt on the outside and never got the feeling that I could forget that I was simply reading a book. I also feel as though this book would have worked better were it formatted as a script rather than a novel with each scene taking the reader into the life of one of the characters. This would have solved the issues of distraction from the alternating time and character perspective. It also would have made the story far easier to connect with as each scene could have connected the suspect with their role in the murder, all-the-while canceling out issues of reliability and whether or not the suspect can even be trusted in solving the murder.

All the suspects’ stories lead up to the riveting, bone chilling and somehow unexpected reveal in the end: the merciless killer. The investigators finally get their answer, but this answer creates all the more questions which often go unanswered, creating ten more mysteries for ever one that is solved.

Murder in Little Shendon brings together the disturbed mind of Christie and the evocative descriptions of Proust to create an entirely new style of mystery, at the same time quick to form, slow to progress and difficult to resolve. This is a highly recommended story that rethinks what makes a murder mystery a murder mystery, no longer putting gruesome action first but instead reevaluating how it is described, rendering language and style more competent than story itself.

Yours Truly,

(Book image credits go to Goodreads)

Review: Girl in Pieces | Portrait of a Sad Girl

Title: Girl in Pieces

Author: Kathleen Glasgow

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Publication Date: August 30, 2016

Genre: Young Adult, Mental Illness

Rating: 4 Stars

Dear fellow Babblers,

This is a morbid story from the first page. Everything that happens is bad and rawly portrayed. There is no romanticization or good here. I was initially intrigued by the synopsis but was by no means prepared for what I read. This book was just so much to digest and take in, I had to put it down multiple times just to process the overwhelming darkness blanketing each page. Mental illness, suicide, self-harm, rape, love, abuse are all ever so evocatively described. Literally everything that happens in this book is a trigger for an even greater disaster than the one that preceded it. This book shows what happens when too much happens too quickly. Life becomes difficult to bear and an entrapping nightmare that blurs one’s perceptions of reality and the reality of their minds.  Continue reading “Review: Girl in Pieces | Portrait of a Sad Girl”

ARC Review: Alone | Bizarrely, Dreadfully Illusive

Title: Alone

Author: Cyn Balog

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Publication Date: November 7, 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Suspense

Rating: 4 Stars

I received an ARC copy of Alone in exchange for an honest review. Thanks goes to NetGalley as well as Sourcebooks Fire Books for this advanced copy which was recently released on November 7, 2017. Also, my apologies to NetGalley, the publisher and the author, Cyn Balog for the late posting of my review.

Dear fellow Babblers,

Alone by Cyn Balog is altogether thrilling, curious and strangely beautiful. Balog goes beyond authors to create a story that leaves readers puzzled, relieved, frightened, traumatized. The plot is unheard of. The writing style is quick paced and slow to climax; a paradox yes, a mistake no. The characters are disastrous and unknowingly on their way to their fate. The feelings provoked are doubt, sympathy hatred for things unseen. This chilling tale starts with the disturbing infatuation of a mother who inherits and old mansion, affecting her children’s contact with the outside world, especially her teenage daughter, Seda. Through Seda’s eyes we are trapped within the creaking rooms and dusty exterior of this place she fears she must now call home. All is sad, but quaintly uneventful until a group of friends lose their direction on their way to a winter resort. When these teens enter the mansion seeking safety, it is without pause that they enter a faraway, yet so close universe where fun is mixed with fear, and life becomes death.  Continue reading “ARC Review: Alone | Bizarrely, Dreadfully Illusive”

Review: A Blindfellows Chronicle | There Goes Another Amazing Read

Title: A Blindfellows Chronicle

Author: Auriel Roe

Publisher: Unbound

Publication Date: July 20, 2017

Genre: General Adult Fiction

Rating: 4 Stars

I was recently sent A Blindfellows Chronicle by the author, Auriel Roe in exchange for an honest review.

Dear fellow Babblers,

This is a novel, collection of short stories, sensual expression of intimate thoughts. I was left feeling satisfied and ready for more from the author. It’s not a book I would ever generally pick up, but upon meeting the author and chatting with her I became intrigued. What could such a quirky and kind person write? Despite the somewhat dense and scattered events and writing style of A Blindfellows Chronicle this book is the kind that takes you into the author’s imagination and confuses your perception between fiction and reality. In a narrative period of thirty years Roe visits many characters, personalities, and worlds, all which seem incongruent but naturally seem to fuse together with a twist of heartfelt emotion by the last page. Continue reading “Review: A Blindfellows Chronicle | There Goes Another Amazing Read”