January 2020: “Emma’s Fury: The Last Winter” By Linda Rainier

Summary (Warning: Mild Spoilers):

In a modern world under the rule of Greek Gods, the Fury are the judges, jury, and executioners of justice for supernatural crimes in order to bring balance to the earth. The Fury, protected by their Gyges, follow orders passed down from the Mothers. Except, the Fury are dwindling – as their numbers decrease questions begin to arise, especially when one of those murdered is a Mother.

Emma and her Gyges, David, become caught up in a bizarre and terrifying mystery involving vampires, werewolves, fae, secret identities, Titan cults, and a plan that could end the world. In order to save each other and the power structures preventing the collapse of the unseen modern world, they must face their trauma, their emotions, and worst of all, the truth.

When every character has something to hide, come along on a dark supernatural adventure as we hope Emma and David can find a way to save the world.

Overall Response:

“Emma’s Fury: The Last Winter” is one of those books that captivated me from the first chapter. The descriptions engulf the reader in the scene, and the hand to hand combat scenes are some of the best I have ever read. If I was a better artist these fight scenes could so easily translate to a comic book format in the best possible way. For those that enjoy fiery scenes between villains that are the most extreme form of frenemy with benefits with each other with the added tension of knowing how wrong everything happening is – this is definitely the book for you.

Rainier succeeded in doing two things that made the book so much fun to read. First, She succeeded in keeping the reader a step ahead of the characters as they tried to solve a mystery while still providing plenty of twists and turns that took a reader off guard. Second, her characters have moods that change in very human-like ways corresponding to exhaustion levels and internal states. Moods are often missed by authors for the sake of consistency, and I do understand that it is difficult to balance a character’s voice with dynamic moods, but these characters have unique voices. Well developed characters are essential and I love it.

I often find myself identifying with Emma on a very personal level throughout the book and this is unusual for me as a reader, particularly with such an emotional character. I find myself wanting to do psychological analysis on many of the characters in similar ways that I have seen readers attempt to diagnose characters with a variety of disorders as outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition. In order for the characters to be at the level a reader could do that an author has taken the time to truly develop each individual personality. I am not an expert on this and hope that someone who is will read this book because this is brilliant.

For those that enjoy what I will call, with the utmost love and respect intended, “Greek Mythology Lite” with a variety of supernatural lore thrown in this is a fantastic read. There were times I couldn’t put it down and in the end I was so excited that this is book one of a series because it means the story isn’t over. I cannot wait to dive back into Emma’s adventures and see where the aftermath of this book takes these characters as we continue to explore the modern underworld.

LGBTQA?

There are some hints and references to a variety of types of relationships that are inclusive, though as part of the story romance is very specifically excluded. This does not impact my recommendation that anyone interested in modern dark fantasy should read this book.

Grammar

There were a few minimal concerns that I brought up directly in an email to the author. These did not interrupt the reading experience.

Twilight Zone

Every book has at least one. In this case, I think it may have been me – “Emma pauses briefly as she becomes keenly aware of a distant yet familiar presence. It is akin to a fragrance that is unrecognizable as it dances along her skin.” This sentence really confused me, but at the same time I imagined a cartoon cat going into an extremely alarmed posture with electricity. I’m not sure how to interpret it and maybe it’s too trippy of a synesthetic experience for me to fully grasp.

Want to learn more about the Author?

You can buy the book here. I had the pleasure of interviewing Linda Rainier as the first installment of my 2020 Author Interview series. Please take a moment to read her responses to my questions on her writing process. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

January 2020: “Guided By The Ghosts” by Sean Haughton

Plot Summary (Caution: Spoilers!)

George Stevenson is a ten-year-old boy like many others. He likes football (translation for Americans: Soccer) and Star Wars like every other kid his age, but he doesn’t have friends and has trouble connecting. Let’s be honest, the situation is worse than his parents know, and the way other children and the school have responded has not helped. George is miserable and isolated.
Then something extraordinary happens. George looks out his window late at night to see two ghosts the same age as him. These two ghosts also struggled in life, and in death, they learned a few things they can now pass along. Now, in one incredible philosophical and therapeutic journey, George has a chance to alter the trajectory of his life for the better.

My Overall Response:

Sean Haughton takes readers through this wholesome, heartwarming tale that takes advantage of parallel comparison and realistic dialogue that sounds like a precocious ten-year-old to show how the experiences George has changed his character for the better. The philosophical and therapeutic lessons provide benefit to a reader. Additional ambitious details add unique discussion points of historical and current relevance in the United Kingdom without allowing them to overpower the story.

The philosophical and therapeutic lessons I appreciated most in this story are:

Skepticism can be removed from Negativity. Be willing to question everything.

Spiritual awakening can be found in your own back yard – don’t automatically reject western philosophies.

Feel your emotions. They’re there. Accept them and give them space to exist.

The most ambitious details of the book were the memories of the ghosts. I believe that these allowed for some series of topics of discussion to be brought up. These details round the ghosts out and make them much more human and realistic. These details also immediately imply additional information about the ghosts’ lived experiences.

I appreciated the references to the religious tensions of the 1990s in the UK because it is so relevant to current affairs, albeit indirectly. For those interested in reading more, I recommend the extensive body of research on the “secularization of Britain” and a variety of factors (e.g., economy, education, immigration, Cold War, the rise of the European Union). I admit I am somewhat tortured that the author only barely touched on this, but at the same time, it meant that I spent an entire afternoon reading old research papers and educating myself. I can’t say I’m disappointed, and honestly, I think the amount of information provided is much more appropriate to a younger audience.

Overall, I love this delightfully wholesome story about a little boy from a loving home that needs some help learning how to process and deal with the outside world. I love that the ghosts aren’t evil, and if you’re looking for that kind of book, look somewhere else.

LGBTQA Friendly?

George is ten. It’s not unfriendly toward LGBTQA members of the population, and the internal struggles George’s character faces are shared by any “out-group” or individual that feels isolated. While LGBTQA presence is not directly mentioned, I think the topics in the book are valuable (given my personal experience).

Grammar:

Update: I have spoken with the author and these have since been corrected for future editions of the book.

For future editions, there are two consistent issues that do need to be addressed.

  1. The dialogue often has additional unnecessary punctuation marks. Example (pg. 27) “‘We can’t remember our names.”, the girl interjected.”  This is an easy fix because it’s consistently present.
  2. The word “corporeal” is used where I believe the author may have meant the word “incorporeal.” Example (pg. 62) “He felt like throwing up, but once again felt corporeal, as though his physical body no longer existed.” It’s a consistent issue through the book, so it should be easy to go back and address.

While there are other grammatical or punctuation issues that may be present, I will not address them here because they do not interrupt the reading experience.

Twilight Zone Moment:

Every book has at least one. The issue I am stuck on is how the ghosts can remember the names of other people but not their own names. This makes it a bit confusing as to why they remember specific details as opposed to others.

Want to know more about the author?
You can buy Guided by the Ghosts here. To read more about Sean Haughton you can visit his blog here, Twitter here, or Instagram here. You can view his other books here.