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The Keys to Mageia by Julie Elizabeth Powell

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The blurb:

Mageia is a magical realm, discovered in madness, perhaps, but is it real?

Jorja knows only too well that what she sees could just be an imaginary world of an insane mind, where she lingers to escape the cruelties that surround her. Except for her frail mother, she has nobody to love her. But she did have these strange powers. Are they valid or part of her folly in thinking she is different? She has been locked up, after all.

Maisie is blind; had been since she’d appeared. Though an orphan, found on a doorstep of a Home, there is something special about her that, at the age of seven, begins to change her perception of what could be the enigma of truth.

What is the connection between Jorja and Maisie?

The Keys To Mageia reveals their secrets and will possibly make you believe it’s all real.

Two tales of adventure, mystery and surprises, one story of fantasy, where your wishes may or may not come true.

My review:

“The Keys of Mageia” consists of two novels by Julie Elizabeth Powell, now combined as one. The first part of the book was previously published as “Of Sound Mind”; the second is entitled “Maisie”. The link between the two stories is the magical land of Mageia.

In the first part of the book, we are introduced to the character of Jorja, a young girl who is aware that she is different, but is reassured by the love of her frail mother. However, on her mother’s death, Jorja is exposed to the hatred fo her aunt and she is eventually considered to be mentally unstable and placed in an institution. She suffers at the hands of an unscrupulous doctor, but eventually escapes.

Jorja discovers that she is able to enter a different world, a world known as Mageia. Here, she discovers that her difference is not considered as such and that she has a role to play in the future of this magical place.

Maisie is a seven year blind girl – an orphan whose difference causes her some problems. She is a bright, intelligent child, but sometimes needs the relief afforded by her dreams. The dreams are amazing, because she is able to see and while in the land of her dreams, she meets a woman and boy. She feels a connection to them and both have major parts to play in her story. It may be no surprise to learn that the land of Maisie’s dreams is Mageia and the woman’s name is Jorja.

Maisie has a huge part to play in overcoming the evil which threatens to overcome the magical land of Mageia, but to say more might spoil the story for others!

I thoroughly enjoyed the stories of Jorja and Maisie. Julie Elizabeth Powell is so good at creating fantasy worlds and I was entralled by Mageia and the wonderful characters brought to life by the author. Well worth reading!


Brooklyn by Colm Toibin


The blurb:

Colm Tóibín‘s sixth novel, “Brooklyn”, is set in Brooklyn and Ireland in the early 1950s, when one young woman crosses the ocean to make a new life for herself.

Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the hard years following World War Two. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor Eilis in America — to live and work in a Brooklyn neighborhood “just like Ireland” — she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind.

Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street, and when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, who loves the Dodgers and his big Italian family, slowly wins her over with patient charm. But just as Eilis begins to fall in love with Tony, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future.

My review:

It seems to me that “Brooklyn” by Colm Toibin is a novel that you either think is very good or quite unimpressive. Looking at reviews, opinion seems to swing from one extreme to the other with regularity.

Personally, I think that this is a wonderful novel! Why is this my opinion? To begin with, Colm Toibin’s writing style suits me completely. He is able to paint pictures with his words, which feed my imagination. His writing flows in a way which made me want to read on and on. His characters seemed very real to me and they evoked a variety of emotions.

I liked the simplicity of the plot, which tells the story of young Eilis Lacey and her emigration to America from a small town in Ireland. This had not been part for her future until her sister, Rose and a priest, Father Flood, came up with a fully-fledged plan for Eilis to seek a better future in New York. Eilis settles in Brooklyn and then her story unfolds. I will not say more about the plot, as I don’t like spoilers, but she learns a lot about life in a very short time.

I was moved by several episodes in the novel, as they touched on experiences in my own life. The emotions described by the author were so authentic – homesickness, extreme grief, falling in love.

This is not a showy, sensational novel; it is just a very good one that I shall remember for a long time.

Bring Me Back by B.A.Paris


My review:

“Bring Me Back” by B.A.Paris is a psychological thriller that I really wanted to like! The blurb had intrigued me – a happy couple on their way back from a holiday; stopping for a break; the young woman has disappeared when her boyfriend returns to the car.

This is how the novel begins and it did draw me in. Finn, the young man, is devastated at the loss of his lovely Layla. After searches had been made, it’s decided that Layla has died. Twelve years pass and Finn’s life improves no end when he meets Ellen, Layla’s sister. Eventually, they fall in love and Finn proposes to her. However, the future which they envision is badly ruffled when it appears that Layla may, in fact, be alive.

Up until this point, I was enjoying the novel, but for me, the middle section dragged and was repetitious. About two thirds of the way through, I had guessed how it would end. I’ve read quite a number of crime novels and prefer more intricate plots than is offered in “Bring Me Back.” The pace picked up again in the final section which helped redeem it for me.

I liked the fact that the story was told through the eyes of both Finn and Layla and although the pace was uneven, the writing flowed. I think this is ideal as a quick, uncomplicated read for the beach or a cold winter’s day.

Thank you to Netgalley for allowing me to access this novel, in return for an honest review.

Meet the Author:


B A Paris grew up in England but has spent most of her adult life in France. She has worked both in finance and as a teacher and has five daughters. Behind Closed Doors is her first novel.

The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-time by Mark Haddon


The Blurb:

Fifteen-year-old Christopher has a photographic memory. He understands maths. He understands science. What he can’t understand are other human beings. When he finds his neighbour’s dog lying dead on the lawn, he decides to track down the killer and write a murder mystery about it. But what other mysteries will he end up uncovering.

My Review:

This is another book that I’ve had on my book shelf for years – just like “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “In Cold Blood.” When I eventually thought I should read them, I was delighted to have unearthed such amazing books from my rather large collection of un-read books. I have to admit that I feel much the same about “The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-time”!

The narrator of this well-known tale is Christopher Boone, a fifteen year old, who is on the autistic spectrum. He has Asperger’s Syndrome. His mathematical skills are way ahead of his chronological age and in many spheres of learning, he succeeds despite his disability. As with many people who fall within the spectrum, Christopher has enormous difficulties with social interaction and has developed strategies to help him to cope with overwhelming situations. These include covering his ears and groaning, working out complicated mathematical problems and looking for patterns.

Christopher is also keen on the truth and when a neighbour’s dog is murdered, he is determined to find out the truth behind Wellington’s death. Unfortunately, Christopher’s pursuit of the truth uncovers more than he imagined and leads to all sorts of problems for the boy, his family and neighbours.

This book gives an interesting insight into the mind of a person with Asperger’s Syndrome. We feel his pain when his brain overloads with information and the confusion of his meltdowns. I have taught children with this condition and also have an autistic granddaughter, so I can say that Mark Haddon has done an amazing job in his portrayal of Christopher.

The book is funny, but also tragic. A whole range of emotions are to be found within the pages, but it is such a worthwhile read. I would recommend it to anyone who wants something a little different – I think it is a book that one will remember for a long time.

Meet the Author:


Mark Haddon is a British novelist and poet, best known for his 2003 novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. He was educated at Uppingham School and Merton College, Oxford, where he studied English.

In 2003, Haddon won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and in 2004, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Overall Best First Book for his novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, a book which is written from the perspective of a boy with Aspergers syndrome. Haddon’s knowledge of Aspergers syndrome, a type of autism, comes from his work with autistic people as a young man. In an interview at, Haddon claimed that this was the first book that he wrote intentionally for an adult audience; he was surprised when his publisher suggested marketing it to both adult and child audiences. His second adult-novel, A Spot of Bother, was published in September 2006.

Mark Haddon is also known for his series of Agent Z books, one of which, Agent Z and the Penguin from Mars, was made into a 1996 Children’s BBC sitcom. He also wrote the screenplay for the BBC television adaptation of Raymond Briggs’s story Fungus the Bogeyman, screened on BBC1 in 2004. He also wrote the 2007 BBC television drama Coming Down the Mountain.

Haddon is a vegetarian, and enjoys vegetarian cookery. He describes himself as a ‘hard-line atheist’. In an interview with The Observer, Haddon said “I am atheist in a very religious mould”. His atheism might be inferred from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time in which the main character declares that those who believe in God are stupid.

Mark Haddon lives in Oxford with his wife Dr. Sos Eltis, a Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford, and their two young sons.

To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey


Set again in the Alaskan landscape that she bought to stunningly vivid life in The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey’s second novel is a breathtaking story of discovery and adventure, set at the end of the nineteenth century, and of a marriage tested by a closely held secret.

Colonel Allen Forrester receives the commission of a lifetime when he is charged to navigate Alaska’s hitherto impassable Wolverine River, with only a small group of men. The Wolverine is the key to opening up Alaska and its huge reserves of gold to the outside world, but previous attempts have ended in tragedy.

For Forrester, the decision to accept this mission is even more difficult, as he is only recently married to Sophie, the wife he had perhaps never expected to find. Sophie is pregnant with their first child, and does not relish the prospect of a year in a military barracks while her husband embarks upon the journey of a lifetime. She has genuine cause to worry about her pregnancy, and it is with deep uncertainty about what their future holds that she and her husband part.

A story shot through with a darker but potent strand of the magic that illuminated The Snow Child, and with the sweep and insight that characterizes Rose Tremain’s The Colour, this novel from Pulitzer Prize finalist Eowyn Ivey singles her out as a major literary talent

My Review:

Eowyn Ivey’s first novel, “The Snow Child” captivated me, so when I had the opportunity to buy her second offering, “To the Bright Edge of the World”, I did so with great enthusiasm and anticipation. I was not disappointed!
The story of Colonel Allen Forrester’s exploration of the Alaskan interior, following the course of the Wolverine River, is an exciting and intense tale of wonder, exhilaration and extreme hardship. The author brings the spectacular and treacherous landscape to life and offers insights into the lives and traditions of the native tribes of the region.
Hand in hand with the story of the Colonel and his small, intrepid group, is the heart rending account of Sophie Forrester’s months without her husband’s company. She is prevented from taking any part in the expedition and has to remain in the Vancouver Barracks, often without knowledge of her husband’s whereabouts and wellbeing. During this time, which brings her much heart ache, she shows us what a brave and resilient woman she is, as she develops an interest in the fairly new art of photography.
There is another aspect of the novel, which is right up to date. An ancestor of the Forresters wishes to donate the manuscripts left by Allen and Sophie Forrester to an Alaskan museum. This story is told through a series of letters between Walter Forrester and Joshua Sloan, the curator of the museum.
In fact, the whole book consists of diary entries, letters, newspaper cuttings and photographs. This was a style of storytelling that I found very effective. The Forresters came to life in their words and I found myself caring deeply about them. Even the more minor characters were real to me. This is style that Eowyn Ivey absolutely owned!
There is a mystical, supernatural aspect to the novel that I found intriguing. As Colonel Forrester and his team ventured into the interior, they came across some strange “happenings”. These were based on the myths and beliefs of the natives, developed to help them understand their environment. So, we are to ask: Were the “happenings” real? Or did the explorers superimpose the myths that they had heard onto their own experiences? Whatever, the novel was enhanced by their inclusion.
I thought this was a wonderful book and it is one that I will treasure. Thank you, Eowyn Ivey!

Meet the Author:

Eowyn Ivey’s first novel, “The Snow Child”, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction and an international bestseller. Her newest novel “To the Bright Edge of the World” will be released August 2, 2016. Eowyn was raised in Alaska and continues to live there with her husband and two daughters.

The Huntress with Helle Gade

I love this poem by two talented poets, Helle Gade and Ben Ditmars.

The Midnight Writer

25036039995_8a45dbb50f_z Image Source: Flickr

Blue hearts hum

With ceiling fans

Free as coils

Burning casually

On unsocked feet

The huntress comes at night

Her silent voice

Carried by the northern wind

Listen carefully

For she whispers

The secrets of the dark

She hunts the truth

The fears you harbour

She will alleviate

For she is all there stands

Between you and the evil

That hunts in the dark hours

Winter is approaching

With thunderous steps

Gale winds of cold fury

Following from the frosty

North It is time to go to ground

To cover up and wait longingly

For spring to chase away

The harsh breath of frost

I wish I could hibernate

Like a grizzly bear

Awake to budding flowers

And the promise of light

I fear an icy wind, and collapsing through the narrow skin –

Perhaps it is possible to bloom below subzero or survive in stasis


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The Vegetarian by Han Kang


My review:
The Vegetarian by Han Kang is one of the most unusual books that I’ve read for a long time. Set in Korea, it tells the story of a young woman’s decision to become a vegetarian and the consequences of that decision for her and her family.
Yeong-hye decides to turn from eating meat following a horrific dream and the reawakening of memories from her childhood. Her husband, who narrates the first part of the book, cannot understand what has come over his ordinary little wife; Yeong-hye distances herself from him and her family as lack of empathy and antagonism grow.
The second part of the book is told from the point of view of Yeong-hye’s brother-in-law. He is an artist, whose obsession with an idea and with a mark on his sister-in-law’s body lead to catastrophic outcomes for the whole family.
Yeong-hye’s sister plays a major role in the final section of the book. She questions herself about her reactions to the past and how she could have protected her sister.
However, the book was so much more than the above synopsis.I think it describe the chaos which lurks under the surface of many of our lives, waiting for a trigger to set it free from the constraints that society and we ourselves put upon it. It deals with abuse, obsession and guilt and the effects that these can have on the mind. Unless the ensuing turmoil is dealt with, with understanding, love and acceptance, catastrophe is never far away.
This is a book which will linger long in my mind.The writing is beautifully poetic in places, in contrast with much of the subject matter.