Archive for April, 2020

The War of the Snakes

Julian Cheek

“Dreams can’t be real, can they?”
Such is the gnawing question reverberating through Sam’s head as he battles with a dilemma, which refuses to be ignored.
In his dreams, he is always confronted by one simple point: Muanga-Atua exists! And for some un-asked for and un-wanted reason, he – Sam – is expected to save this place from the calamity that engulfs the people of the Turangai. Not only that, but he is also supposed to have some sort of incredible power by which he is expected to destroy both the Bjarke and their leader, Lord Elim, the Turangai’s oppressors.
“But that is ridiculous! Right?”
Determined to ignore all that occurs in this so-called ‘dream world’, he does nothing. That is until one cold, grey, autumn morning a TV news flash captures a shocking series of events, which leads to one undeniable truth; what he has tried to ignore all along in Muanga-Atua has somehow incredibly exploded into his world and it is searching… Searching for him.
His do-nothing approach is just not good enough. Not now. He will have to go back to Muanga-Atua to seek out this power he was supposed to have obtained. Find the power, accept what it can do through him, and go out into that awful place to do battle with someone, or something that makes his very blood run cold.
But how? How can he go into this world and be all that the Turangai think he is, when he still cannot accept the truth? That he is ‘The One’. Sam, Wielder of the Staff of the Ethereals and saviour of their world. And now, apparently, of his own as well.


Favourite Things About The Main Protagonist

My favourite things about Sam, the protagonist in the Ethereal Series trilogy, is that he is both loveable and incredibly frustrating. At times, you want to encourage him not to give up and at other times, you want to pull him into a quiet corner and slap him senseless!

I have grown up with boys and I can associate with how Sam copes with his feelings of rejection from both his parents and his peers. We find out, at an early stage of “The Awakened”, Book 1 of the Ethereal Series, that a traumatic loss in the family, drives his parents into their own black holes and they cannot cope or deal with their younger son, who was only ever looking for some answers to questions which had none. As the reader follows Sam through Book 1 and Book 2 (The War of the Snakes), one begins to see the battles that Sam is having to deal with, both imposed from the outside and created from his own feelings of inadequacy. It is hopefully a scenario which the readers will be able to associate with.

Furthermore, he is a young man who is also being forced to listen to his own testosterone which refuses to bend to his pleading. He cannot help himself at times, and this is one area that I enjoyed playing on, especially with his interaction with Alice, proprietress of “Timber’s Tea House, and, as an aside, leader of the Anahim, who happen to be spirit beings in charge of the worlds he interacts with. Here, he is never quite sure of himself and, what he finds incredibly frustrating, is that he cannot put his finger on what is happening that she is able to get under his skin.

On the other hand when he encounters both Ma-Aka and Pania in Muanga-Atua, we begin to see another side of him that he has kept hidden all these years; A caring, gentle soul who, ultimately, wants the best of those he comes into contact with.

I tried to make him a very believable and honest individual, one we all hopefully, can see elements of in ourselves. I enjoyed creating this character who, at times, is so physical in his stupidity, that the reader really wants to take him to oneside for a good telling off. If the character is real enough, then the reader will want to engage with him. And this, I have enjoyed creating through his stumbling slow realization that perhaps, just perhaps, he is worth a damn.

In short, the main characters of the story are split into the two worlds. The main character in both, is Sam, a 17-year old boy. In Sam’s “normal” world, his parents, Margot and Paul Gilbert, who are introduced to the reader in Book One, “The Awakened”, struggle to cope with the tragic loss of their eldest son, David; Sam’s brother and closest friend. Their overwhelming grief is so intense that they are unable to see how it is affecting their youngest son, Sam. This is purposely not made clear at the outset as I want the reader to start to journey with Sam in his angst and turmoil, (which is a pivotal element binding all three books together.) and start to associate themselves with the very real scenario that happens to many families when their world is torn apart by the loss of a family member.

Binding the two worlds together, is Alice, Proprietress of “Timbers Tea House” and, unbeknownst to Sam, an Anahim, (a powerful and magical “angel” of sorts, sent by the Ethereals, the ultimate spiritual powers in Muanga-Atua) sent from the alternate reality to watch over him and hopefully, guide him into becoming what his destiny demands of him. Again, I did not want the reader to know this at first, but I have tried to weave the words in such a way so that the reader starts to guess but is never quite sure until the right moment.

In the alternate reality, Muanga-Atua, which he accesses whilst dreaming, Sam’s main “partner” is Babu, a Padme. In Muanga-Atua, no-one can exist without a Padme, which is revealed to each person when they reach a certain age. The fact that Babu happens to be a small, furry, lethal fang-bearing, snake-tailed apparition,does not endear him to Sam to start with. In the beginning, the reader is introduced to the fact that, for some reason, Sam has been to this place before, but cannot remember why. So whenever he meets other people who all seem to know him, his natural inclination is to strike out at them in defense, a trait roughly taught by his feelings of a total lack of love from his parents over the loss of his brother David, for which he blames himself!

In book One, the reader is introduced to a further three main characters who all interact with Sam during his journey. Ma-Aka, Pania and Ngaire are all woven into Sam’s world and become an unbreakable trio of companionship, friendship and love. In Book Two, these characters remain but now the reader is introduced more fully into the world of Muanga-Atua being introduced to five unique and challenging monks of the realm together with three strange men who become lifelong aids to his plight. The lives and workings of the Bjarke, the sworn enemy of the Turangai, are drawn out in stronger detail together with the direction behind the scenes of Lord Elim, the main person responsible for Sam losing his memory in the first place.

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Publication Date: April 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 600
Genre: Fantasy
Age: YA
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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The Loss of Some Detail

Mandi Martin

Forget all you know, for all you know might well be false.
That is how is often seems to asylum worker James Grey as he tends to the patients abandoned to Oculus Mentis, an austere asylum lost to the world. His day to day quite literally forgettable.
Until now.
Slowly the world around him starts to change. Plagued by lucid dreams, a haunting drawing and visions of a pleading female he feels his mind is dissolving.
Aided by the enigmatic Silas and silent Marianne he seeks to solve the mysteries that are tormenting him.


Favourite Things About The Main Protagonist

When it comes to my favourite things about my main protagonist, in this case; James Grey, it is quite hard to answer.
I like all of my characters, including those less pleasant, for different reasons, they are after all a part of me.
The first thing that springs to mind is his compassion. He is trapped in a world of woeful treatment and surroundings that would take whatever sanity one possesses. Despite that he is able to hold on to his heart and still care for people who others long since gave up on.
He simply sees people as people, despite their quirks and difficulties. After all, we aren’t here to judge others.
I tried to think back to when I was on a psychiatric unit, being bounced between there and the main hospital, for over six months. The staff were putting up with a great deal of stress and strain and seeing the worst in life more than the best.
Yet they were always so caring and comforting. Without them I wouldn’t have managed to last.
I took inspiration from that and I believe in some ways it shows in James.
In the Victorian era the mentally ill were the dregs of society and the asylums were little more than a dumping ground or a place for experimental ‘treatment’.
Staff maybe started with the best intentions but slowly many of them were worn down, becoming bitter and distant and not seeing the patients as people anymore.
The name ‘Bedlam’ was an apt name for an asylum.
The staff James works around are very similar to that but James himself has maintained his caring nature even though it is tested greatly as well as his own sanity. Many believed that getting too close to the afflicted would mean they ‘caught’ their deficiencies, a mind-set that made conditions worse.
He also has an inner strength that might not seem obvious but when one reads the entire book they will see what I mean. Life is fragile and is very easy to give up but he holds onto it, even though there would be many an occasion where it would be simple to cut those narrow strands that tie us here.
I think he finds solace in the fact he has at least two people he can confide in, despite them not being able to solve what bothers him they can still offer an ear to listen and to accept that small aid is strength in itself.
Consequently he has to rely on himself, a hard ask and a struggle when one is conflicted and fearful.
Compassion and strength are two things I admire in anyone and that stretches to fictional characters also. They are important traits that I strive for in my own life and I hope others do as well. I like to try and get across that people are different but that doesn’t mean we cannot like each other, appreciate each other’s uniqueness and I hope that comes across.

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Publication Date: March 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 162
Genre: Historical
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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The Russian Lieutenant

Peter Marshall

When a Russian warship arrives in Portsmouth Dockyard, a handsome uniformed officer strides down the gangway to meet Marina Peters, an English girl of Russian ancestry, who had discovered him on a dating website. She works for the Royal Navy, so they have much in common.
What they do not know is that their romantic quayside tryst is being observed by agents from MI5, leading to a series of dramatic events involving the security services of the UK and USA.
Marina, a bright and intelligent thirty-year-old career woman, has been seeking something new in her life. So it is with a mixture of expectation and anxiety that she has “waited for her ship to come home”. But what follows is an unexpected introduction into the ruthless world of international espionage.


Extract

Like thousands of others over the years, Marina was waiting on the sea wall by the old Semaphore Tower at the entrance to Portsmouth harbour, peering anxiously out to sea. Through the October morning mist, she was looking for that first glimpse of an approaching ship, just as wives and girlfriends had done since the years of sailing ships, always hopeful they were bringing their menfolk safely home.
But unlike all the others before her, Marina was waiting to welcome a man she had never met.

After spending her childhood, schooldays and early working career in South London, Marina Peters now felt at home in Portsmouth, a vibrant and expanding city combining a long seafaring history with modern developments. As she waited, she reflected on how much she had enjoyed the first three years of her new life there and being by the sea. There were all the attractions of the resort area of Southsea – with its seafront and beaches and the ferries chugging their way to the Isle of Wight and Gosport – and the enticing sight of large cruise liners passing through the Solent to and from Southampton. And of course, there was the glamour of the Royal Navy, its ships and its sailors, and the always impressive Royal Marines.

She had made new friends in her office in the Portsmouth Dockyard, went to occasional parties and had started a couple of new relationships with interesting men she met –which had both fizzled out too soon. She signed up to join a local choir group, doing occasional concerts and widening her circle of friends. She enjoyed evenings at the cinema and tried not to become too dependent on the temptations of computer games and online shopping … until one life-changing evening.

Encouraged and intrigued by the experiences she heard about from others in her office, and from stories she read in magazines and newspapers, she decided to explore social media and dating websites.

Soon, she was hooked. Two or three times a week, at home in her small Southsea flat, she sat at her laptop computer late into the evening scanning the “find a friend” sites. In reality, she found very few pictures and descriptions which deserved more than a passing glance … until her attention focussed, one night, on Nikolai Aldanov. He was a handsome 35-year-old Russian, wearing a smart uniform, who said he was a widower with no children. He said he spoke good English and had special interests in literature and history and wanted to meet a lady who would help him to know more about these subjects, particularly from a British angle. But it was Marina’s own Russian ancestry which made her read this entry more than once.

Her grandparents, Vlad and Marina Petrov, were Russian immigrants to Britain in the 1930s. Through friends, they had both found work in the warehouse of a London company in the docklands importing fabrics from Eastern Europe and the Far East. They were ambitious and, after working hard for a couple of years, they had learned enough about the business to rent a small shop, with a flat above, in a South London suburb. And there, with their savings, they started a small shop retailing those imported fabrics.

It became a struggle in the years after the outbreak of war in September 1939, but they were accustomed to difficult times and kept going. They had two sons, Viktor and Anatoly, who were born during the early days of the war, and like so many East London families, they prayed and kept going and their home and business were fortunate to survive the wartime bombing unscathed.

In 1945, they were proud survivors and decided to become British citizens, Anglicising their name to Peters. It was Marina’s father, now Victor Peters, and her uncle, now called Andrew, who eventually followed in their parents’ footsteps and started work in the shop when they left school at 16. The fabrics business had flourished and expanded in the post-war rebuilding of London, and in the 1960s, Vlad retired, and his ambitious sons took over and continued to grow the business successfully.

The Peters family also grew. Victor married Shona, who had become one of his best customers. She was an Irish-born interior designer working in London’s West End, and they settled into a new and comfortable home in the Thamesside suburb of Putney. It was there, in the late 1980s, that all the family gathered to celebrate the arrival of Marina, the new baby who was given her grandmother’s name.

As she grew up, and especially at family gatherings, Marina was fascinated by the stories they told, particularly those about her ancestors’ struggles in the impoverished city of Voronezh in Southwest Russia and how her grandfather, Vlad Petrov, and his wife had decided to seek a new life in Britain. They were ambitious and bold and had heard stories from others in the town about the new opportunities to be found by travelling westwards.

And so, with few possessions and little money, the two of them had journeyed in stages across Europe by trains and buses and, finally, the cross-channel ferry to Dover. From there, tired and almost penniless, they had travelled by bus to seek out their only contact, “the friend of a friend” who lived in south London’s Russian community. These family conversations often went on to recall the story of how much of the home city they had left behind in 1935, had become a battle-scarred ruin in the Second World War; and how
many of their friends and relations back there had perished or were driven out to become homeless in the surrounding areas; and how Voronezh, ignored for many years, had
now been rebuilt into a thriving, modern metropolis. As she grew into her teens, Marina’s ambition to visit her roots grew stronger and stronger.

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Publication Date: March 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 178
Genre: Thriller
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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