Wednesday, 18 April 2018

The Whisperer, by A. Ireland King - Review

The Whisperer
By:  A. Ireland King
Publish Date:  February 19, 2018
Published By:  Amazon Digital Services
Genre: Contemporary,  
Pages:  412 Kindle Edition
Source:  Author

She chose death.
She got life.
When Meredith Potts jumps in front of a train, the first surprise is that she still exists.  She meets the mysterious Michael, a guardian angel of sorts. As Meredith learns to help the living in quiet ways, she must also face her own demons.
Events are now in motion that will uncover a terrible secret and expose a killer. Where will Meredith’s unplanned journey lead? Can the truth really set you free?   
Set in Scotland’s capital city, this gripping tale of treachery and redemption is ultimately optimistic. Prepare to be swept away by authentic characters—The Whisperer will keep you guessing and leave you warm and fuzzy.
Welcome readers, back to a book review today with a look at The Whisperer, debut novel by A. Ireland King, an indie author from Scotland getting started in this crazy challenging world of self-publishing.

A. Ireland's novel sounded intriguing in that we the reader are going to get a take from the other side of the veil after a suicide and maybe learn what pain had led someone to take such drastic steps. It also sounded from the blurb like there was a mystery being solved from the other side. I love reading stories set in far off places too, earthbound and fantasy, so the Edinburgh, Scotland setting cinched it for me.

The story begins on the tracks, the train tracks to be precise, where Meredith gives up the ghost.

She is surprised to find she’s suddenly and unexpectedly still ‘around’ in some new form and then meets Michael, another being on this plane who tries to help her understand her new found mobility and possible purpose. Meredith discovers she can hang around with anyone, former family, even people she didn’t know, though of course they can’t see her. If I could hang around with those who couldn’t see me or know I was in ear shot, I’d definitely learn some interesting things and so does Meredith, both good and not so good. These things begin to shape her other-side mentality in a new direction so she’s actually growing as a character after death.

The author has a direct, easy flowing writing style that speeds you along several different story lines, some connected to Meredith in some way, and a simple easy way of drawing you into their lives, thoughts and emotions. We learn more about Meredith through her/and omniscient observation of the living she left behind (great show not tell). You feel for Meredith in the way that life is just tough but also that she could have been more communicative, braver in her discourse with others while still alive and that might have helped her. Maybe this is a message for the rest of us.

On one level however I find these concurrent stories somewhat depressing. Admittedly I read mostly paranormal fantasy in order to escape from the ‘life is tough’ thing (have enough of that every day in reality). While the stories in A. King’s novel are interesting, heart felt, and ultimately warming with an essentially positive and encouraging undertone, reading the struggles the various characters work through (or not) was a bit of a downer for me.

The story gathers steam as the murder investigation gets underway and from this point I read through to the end in one sitting wanting to find out the truth. The end reveal is a really great twist and I loved the unexpected and uplifting ending.

If you enjoy reading stories involving the human condition and trying to understand how to better the lives of those around us and thus our own, don't hesitate to pick up The Whisperer. 4.5 stars for a very good debut novel!

Why do we sometimes get ideas from nowhere to do things, to take unexpected actions we didn’t think we would? Maybe it’s a whisperer …

My thanks to the author, A. Ireland King, for a reading copy in exchange for an unbiased review. You will find her on the internet at the links below:
Grab your copy at Amazon  

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Kurt Seyit ve Sura - TV Series Review

Welcome readers ~ today I’m excited to present my review for something a little different - an epic period romance TV series, Kurt Seyit ve Sura, now available on Netflix, North America. The TV series is based on the true story of Seyit (officer in the Russian Tsar’s Imperial Guard) and Sura (daughter of a Russian nobleman) who fall in love but then must flee the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. The TV series is based on the series of books by Nermin Bezmen, the actual granddaughter of two of the characters in the story. I have not read the books but rather my review is for this gorgeous, romantic, tragic TV series.

Normally I review young adult and fantasy books but this incredible series has just yanked me by the heartstrings and I want to tell you all about it. That said, the real Sura is noted to be 15-16 at the time of the story so that definitely rates as YA territory.

I will be comparing bits of the true story that I’ve gathered from blogs and websites to the TV series storyline to fill out my review because once you start watching this series you will probably want to know just how much of it is taken from the true story just as I did! Warning – spoilers ahead!

The Book(s):
Kurt Seyit ve Sura (1st in series)
Book by: Nermin Bezmen 
Publish Date: December 18, 2017
Published:  Create Space Independent Publishing Platform
Genre: Historical, Romance, Epic, International
Pages:  446

An instant best seller since its debut in 1992, Nermin Bezmen’s Kurt Seyt & Shura is a classic of contemporary Turkish literature, a sweeping romantic drama set around the time the splendor of Imperial Russia is obliterated in the wake of the Great War. Bezmen tells the story of two star-crossed lovers fleeing the wave of devastation wreaked by the Bolshevik Revolution-- and does so with great sensitivity: one half of this couple who sought refuge in the capital of the dying Ottoman Empire was her grandfather. 
Translated into 12 languages, Kurt Seyt & Shura inspired a sumptuous T.V. series that continues to enchant millions of viewers across the world. With the publication of this novel in the United States, English-speaking fans will now be able to read the true story of this great love affair, which triumphed over so much adversity yet failed to overcome human fallibility. 
Kurt Seyt, the son of a wealthy Crimean nobleman, is a dashing first lieutenant in the Imperial Life Guard. Injured on the Carpathian front and later sought by the Bolsheviks, he makes a daring escape across the Black Sea. Too proud to accept payment for the boatful of arms he hands over to the Nationalists, he faces years of struggle to make a new life in the Turkish Republic rising from the embers of the dying Ottoman Empire. All he has is his dignity and love. 
Shura: An innocent sixteen-year-old beauty enchanted by Tchaikovsky’s music and Moscow’s glittering lights, falls in love with Seyt. A potential victim of the Bolsheviks due to her family’s wealth and social standing, she is determined to follow her heart and accompanies Seyt on his perilous flight over the Black Sea. Their love is the only solace to their crushing homesickness for a land and family they will never see again, two lovers among hundreds of thousands of White Russian émigrés trying to eke out a living in occupied Istanbul. 

Source for My Review:  Kurt Seyit & Sura, TV Series on Netflix, 46 episodes
Principals (really hard to trim this list!):

Kurt Seyit            Kivanç Tatlitug
Sura                     Farah Zeynep Abdullah
Murvet                 Fahriye Evcen

Petro Borinsky    Birkan Sokullu
Baronesa Lola     Asli Orcan

Celil Kamilof       Ushan Cakir
Tatya                     Eva Dedova
Guzide                  Elcin Sangu

Ahmet Yahya      Tolga Savaci  (owner of Seref Hotel in series, and author's husband!)
Lieutenant Billy  Cem Bender 

Where else does an epic historical romance begin except at the scene of combat, here at Russian pre-revolutionary Carpathian front line skirmishes. Director, Hilal Saral, starts with the events that lead to Petro Borinsky’s intense, poisonous hatred of his friend Seyit Eminof which comes to dominate many of the dramatic and tragic events that occur in the TV series. To Lieutenant Eminof honour is everything, but it seems that maybe even honour pays a price …

We now attend Alexandra (Sura) Verjenskaya’s first society ball in Petrograd (St. Petersburg, Russia). Seyit is stunned by his first sight of the luminous, innocent Sura and immediately realizes that she will not be one of his usual society girl conquests. Kivanc Tatlitug as Seyit Eminof is strikingly handsome with the formal manners of a courtier and such intense blue eyes you just know Sura won’t last one minute once they lock with hers. When Seyit falls in with her social circle, at first she’s too tongue-tied to even speak to him and you just feel for her naïvete and hope that she will withstand Seyit, the wolf.

Farah Zeynep Abdullah as Sura gives a rare natural sweetness to our beautiful heroine. Despite Sura’s crushing attraction to the dashing lieutenant she summons the nerve to get to know him. But this is a powerful two-way attraction and both Seyit and Sura are soon in each other’s thrall.

We break to visit the Eminof family in Alushta, Crimea, with Seyit and his male buddies (Crimea is that little peninsula that hangs down from the Ukraine into the Black Sea) and learn Seyit’s father is very traditional and more so, very traditional Turkish. Interestingly, Seyit’s family’s values are the next source of looming problems between him and Sura. Seyit then goes to fight at the front but when Russia withdraws from WW1 and Russian society begins to disintegrate to the rebels, he must flee Petrograd. He and Sura are now hopelessly in love and she breaks with her family (who are also fleeing the capital) to run with him back to his family home in Alushta.

The TV series is in spoken Turkish with English subtitles so busy watching, but I would rather hear the natural voices of the actors and just deal with subtitles. Turkish is a curious language, unlike any other that I've ever heard. Even so, you pick up a few words here and there from the subs.

I’ve read that in the real story Petro is finished when they reach Alushta, but in the TV series, he continues with them to Istanbul. Close friend in arms, Celil too doesn’t make it past Alushta in real life but is a significant player in the TV series to the end. Both characters (along with Misha) contribute significantly to the series story line though so this was definitely a great move on the part of the script writers.

Emotions run high through all 46 episodes. Turkish cinema does not shy away from intense, soulful, even poetic expressions of love by both the men and women and while there are no Hollywood style bedroom scenes, you scarcely miss them. The pain of lost loved ones is met with heavy sorrow, and loyalty to family and friends is profound and unbreakable so betrayals are evil and unbearably destructive.

Kivanc Tatlitug is outstanding in his role, lavishly giving us everything;
·     Laser perception of everything that’s happening around him in war and in his personal life.
·     The most tender, sweet expressions of his love for Sura.
·     Intense grieving for his murdered family.
·     A man’s terrible righteous anger.
·     Caring of young children and siblings.
His emotional range through this series is spellbinding and it’s easy to see why Kivanc is currently named one of Turkey’s highest paid actors. He's especially brilliant in expressing those emotions through his eyes.

Seyit and Sura eventually make it to the Seref Hotel in Istanbul, a safe haven for Russian emigres run by Ali and Yahya two kindly brothers and their families. We are taken often to the hub of the place, the kitchen, and you feel just like one of the family in no time in getting to know everyone and everything that’s going on.

Supporting characters and their story lines fill out the main wonderfully and we follow sister Valentina and the Baron, a scheming Baronesa, Celil and Tatya, then Guzide, and Yahya, Binnaz, Ayse, Alya, a young lad, the terrible Lieutenant Billy, and even Murvat through these turbulent times.

The Flaws (flaws make for great drama)
Let’s look at handsome Petro first. Because of a single mistake at the beginning, Petro evolves into a magnificently pathological character. As Baronesa Lola says, he is Evil. Petro is conniving, manipulative, a liar even to himself, and a sneaky traitor. All of these ‘qualities’ I find Birkan Sokullu plays with insidious subtlety. He keeps Petro believable under the guise of being a noble gentleman but who keeps getting away with it. On one level you can't help admiring Petro's malevolent cleverness.

Seyit’s flaw takes more time to uncover. One revealing incident in the TV series is on Seyit and Sura’s wedding day (by episode 29 things are actually getting a bit soap-opera-ish as there are several similar incidents). Because of continuous undermining behind the scenes by ‘friends,’ Seyit vanishes before this very special event. Using clever tactics he escapes being shipped back to Russia and certain death and in about a month and a half finds his way back to Istanbul and his fiancé. For unknown reasons he is unable to discuss what happened to him openly with Sura (!!!). Whether it is because men at the time didn’t consider it right to tell women the difficulties of life to protect their soft sensibilities, or other ‘masculine’ reasons, this incredibly important discussion does not take place.

Because of the real life timeline of some characters that did not make it to Istanbul, many of these betrayal ‘incidents’ portrayed in the TV series did not actually occur so something else was at play in the true story as Seyit and Sura never actually marry.

Neither do they marry in the TV series, but the series storyline offers these continuous heinous and painful betrayals by others as causes that lead to that eventuality.

In reality it seems that Seyit either was unable to get over the strictures of his father not to marry outside of their culture (his subsequent marriage to Turkish girl, Murvat, seems to bear this out), or he could just never properly own up to the young Russian girl he must have undoubtedly loved truly, and who gave up her whole world to be with him, because of cultural/social norms of men at the time, or expecting the little woman to have blind faith in her man with zero explanations of what’s going on, or really whatever. The world was very different in early 1900s let’s not forget.

As the denouement starts to unfold, Farah Zeynep Abdullah does a great job bringing a young, vulnerable Sura to the point where she eventually matures enough to comprehend Seyit’s limitations whatever their unknown source. This is difficult on a backdrop of having lost most of her own family and having the guts to start over in yet another foreign city. She’s a tough survivor who despite everything does believe in their love. In the end, I was left just shaking my head.

Still, intense experiences bind people together and I’ve read that Seyit never forgot Sura to his very death, and that she apparently wrote to him years after she moved away from Istanbul. Their story is drama-filled, emotional, and tragic and just pulled me in. It seems somehow impossible that a young couple in love who had endured so much to secure a new life together do not stay together in the end. Fairy tale endings in this world are no guarantee, that’s for sure.

This television series is really well produced and I think will be a big hit with North American audiences.

If you love epic period romance, check this out.
If you love sweeping historical/international films, check this out.
If you love costumers, check this out.
Just lay in with supplies as it’s hard not to binge-watch this magnetic series!
To learn more about Turkish history, check out
Ginger Monette on Turkish History where she gives a great run down without throwing the whole textbook at you.

About the Author
Nermin Bezmen is an accomplished artist, art teacher, yoga instructor, and broadcaster whose meticulous research into family history led to the publication of Kurt Seyt & Shura in 1992. This fictionalized account of her grandfather’s life became an instant best seller and is now considered a masterpiece of contemporary Turkish literature; in fact, it has reached textbook status in several secondary schools and universities. Exquisite detail distinguishes her writing as she proves that truth is indeed stranger than fiction and that our ancestors call out to us from the pages of history. Her powerful character analysis and storytelling skills invite readers to explore their own dreams, sorrows, anxieties, and even fleeting fancies. Bezmen has published seventeen novels, two of which are biographical and one of which is a fantasy. In addition, she has a children’s novel, a collection of short stories, and a book of poems to her credit. She has two children and three grandchildren and lives with her husband, actor Tolga Savacı, in New Jersey and Istanbul.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Fire and Ice by Michele Barrow-Belisle - Review

Fire and Ice
Faerie Song Saga Book 1
By:  Michele Barrow-Belisle
Publish Date:  November 24, 2013
Published By:  Clean Reads
Genre: Contemporary, Supernatural, YA/Adult, Occult, Fantasy
Pages:  467 Kindle Edition
Source:  Author

Adventure wasn’t something Lorelei Alundra was interested in. Gifted with two other-worldly talents for singing and healing, she’s always shied away from her gifts and the spotlight, preferring quiet anonymity over attention and fame. But when she meets the enigmatic Adrius, with his dark and dangerous mystique and eyes that could see into her soul, her uneventful life becomes irrevocably altered.

Adrius turns up in every one of her classes and knows more about her than any newcomer should, including the condition of her mother who is suffering from a mysterious illness. Accepting his offer to help leads her into a terrifying and thrilling world where Elves are even hotter than Legolas, and Faeries.... are nothing like Tinkerbell. The two magical beings are fire and ice opposites; one Lorelei can’t help falling for, and the other she's compelled to be with

Now she’s trapped, expected to prevent a war between witches and faeries, or forfeit her mother’s life. Nothing is what it seems. Not her family. Not the Fey. Not even Adrius, whose feelings for her balance precariously between desire and danger. Despite her better judgment, she can’t say away from him.

As secrets unravel and unsettling truths are revealed, Lorelei must fight to save much more than her mother’s life. One mistake could put the fate of his world, and her soul in jeopardy.

But hey, no pressure… right.
I’m thrilled to be reviewing Michele Barrow-Belisle’s first in series of her Faerie Song trilogy, Fire and Ice, as I’m a big fan of fantasy books in different genres and have been wanting to read her series so welcome to my blog and read on!

Our protagonist, Lorelei, is a student and behind the scenes empathic healer and wannabe singer in little Drearyton Cove. She’s got quirky/nervous habits of coping with big stress (singing before a live audience) but is something of a philosopher about life in that she notices small details about peoples’ behaviour so we get a bit of inner monologue with sass that gets us into her mind right away.

Author Michele Barrow-Belisle effortlessly brings intriguing, magical elven prince Adrius into Lorelei’s every-day world, and then smoothly transitions all of us to Adrius’ world, Mythlandria in a great, seamless change-over scene.

The amazing appeal of this novel is how the world of Mythlandria, the elven world, is painted. The writer treats us with exotic and fantastic descriptions of her faery world that will fire your imagination and bring you to a very delicious other place. Some descriptions of the elven and their world make me think of Asian anime fantasy/romances mixed in with Disney-esque touches (the author does borrow from established fantasy movies/books). At the same time Mythlandria is incredibly dangerous and Lorelei treads fearlessly into dangers untold.

But, Lorelei is waaay impulsive in the actions she takes when confronted with new situations. She makes snap decisions about important things that lead her into real trouble. I want to be on her side but at the same time am saying, girl, you should have thought about that a bit more, being in a strange, magical land and all! No amount of sass is going to save you from that kind of disaster. This should be a fast learn for a sassy heroine but isn’t with Lorelei. That said, Lorelei’s impulsive choices lead her into fantastic and terrifying new places and situations.

I loved the elven cast of characters. Adrius is beguiling and secretive both at once and we see he is quite torn and conflicted by unknown truths that involve Lorelei he cannot divulge. Michele Barrow-Belisle plays this out well through to the end. Zanthiel, a shadow/demonic fae Lorelei knows she has connections with but before only through dreams, is a great bad-boy foil to Adrius that I found myself so interested in and even rooting for … weird, neat. It’s a good writer that makes you want both the apparent good guy and shadow fae for the heroine. And there are several other interesting supporting characters to fill things out.

The author uses a lot of mythology as the basis for her characters including murderous redcap goblins (goblins that soak their caps in the blood of victims). Lorelei, in German folklore, in one of several variations is a young woman who sits upon a high rock over the Rhine River luring shipmen with her enchanting voice and songs to their death (this theme isn’t played out here but Lorelei being a singer makes one think maybe in next in series …). Originally published in 2013, Fire and Ice is based on the ‘chosen one’ trope so this scenario has been around the block a bit now but the heroine’s modern, sassy stance, fast paced action and visual lushness of the novel kept me from minding much.

The ending is a great segue into the second book in the series without a painful cliff hanger and left me wanting to know more about very interesting Zanthiel, and the truth about Lorelei’s father and fae lineage.

Finally, personally I don’t like the technical thing of 13 lines per page (despite adjusting font and page size to get more lines per page on my Kindle) as it means ‘turning’ pages more frequently, but maybe that’s just me.

Overall, the visual landscape and fascinating characters in Michele Barrow-Belisle’s fantasy world Mythlandria are enthralling and I can see why Faerie Song has been optioned for a film adaptation (Khando Entertainment). I recommend the series to everyone who loves YA/NA fantasy. I can’t wait to see Mythlandria on screen. 4.3 stars!  Grab your copy at Amazon !

My thanks to the author for a reading copy in exchange for an unbiased review. You will find Michele on the internet at the links below: