The Devils prayer by Luke Gracias

“Guilt is the currency of the Catholic faith. Guilt is the mortgage on our souls, held by the faith. We pay for it in repentance, abnegation, altruism, and charity until the day we die. Our penance is a journey, and as we travel down its road we are given a sense that we are being forgiven or healed. It is some sort of cosmic wheel that we choose to believe in, to help us shut out the Devils of our past.”

This tale is of stories within stories, that build up a history of human manipulation and mistrust (and I could add deceit and depravity).

Siobhan’s mother disappeared six years ago and Siobhan has just heard that her mum committed suicide in front of 80,000 people during a religious event and that she was a nun when she did so.

At her mothers memorial service Siobhan is approached by a priest who brings her something of her mothers and tells her that “Sister Benedictine” asked him to pass them on to Siobhan.

Siobhan sets out on a journey of discovery to find out what her mum wanted her to know and what others want for themselves or to keep hidden.

Siobhan finds out what her mother lived through, from the age that Siobhan was four, until the present day. None of it is expected or ordinary. It is a long twisted story. Siobhan is periodically interrupted as she discovers the truth of her mothers life and has to take action to protect herself. Her mother has given her information and Siobhan must decide what to do next.

And, phew, what a wild ride that was! Totally absorbing and engaging. I certainly would read that again and recommend it. Particularly if you like historical/religious – good versus evil type tales.

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

4/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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Official description:
A nun commits suicide in front of thousands in Spain. In Australia, Siobhan Russo recognises that nun as her mother, Denise Russo, who disappeared six years ago.

In search of answers, Siobhan travels to the isolated convent where her mother once lived. Here she discovers Denise’s final confession, a book that details a heinous betrayal that left her crippled and mute, and Denise’s subsequent deal with the Devil to take revenge. In the desperate bargain Denise made with the Prince of Darkness, she wagered Siobhan’s soul.

As Siobhan discovers the fate of her soul, she learns that hidden within the pages of her mother’s confession is part of The Devil’s Prayer, an ancient text with the power to unleash apocalyptic horrors.

And now her mother’s enemies know Siobhan has it.

Can Siobhan escape an order of extremist monks determined to get the Prayer back? Can she save the world from its own destruction?
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Dragonsong by Michael Forester

“Hail, Oberon –defend me now! For thou art my dear chosen one this evil must thou not allow! Thy silence doth thy father now amaze!”

A tale of dragons and ancient times, with elves and humans in strife.

Oberon, Captain-King of Elves, covets a maiden in Albion, but she (is protected and ) only wants to take up and fulfil her inherited duties. In his rage at his rejection Oberon determines to revenge himself on her and Albion.

Later in the book, on taking up her duties Rebekah finds her true love, which is when Oberon unleashes his revenge, twisting her against her father Merlin, in the process.

It then falls to Merlin to try and help redeem his daughter and save all of Albion from dragonsong in the process.

This book is not written in prose, it is all rhyming couplets. It takes some getting used to. The first time I started to read, I put it aside in frustration. However, on re-starting the tale I persevered and found it engaging to read. In fact I managed to get three quarters of the way through in one sitting.

Those who like ancient style tales will enjoy this book. But like many bardish tales, you could expect tears!

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

4/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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Official description:
A bardic epic fantasy in rhyming Old English, an allegorical masque of good and evil in an Authurian tradition. Rebekah, daughter of Merlin and noblewoman of Albion has been driven to madness by the murder of her lover Vidar. In her torment she bargains with the Prince of Demons to turn her into a dragon. Once transformed, she seeks to take revenge upon her father, Merlin, whom she is fooled into believing is responsible for Vidar’s death.

Behind the subterfuge stands Oberon, Captain-King of Elves, who cannot foresee the devastation his jealousy and unrequited love for Rebekah will unleash upon the world of Gaia. Its salvation depends upon Merlin travelling back in time to find a pure hearted warrior, Lady Attie, who, together with Michael, seer of Albion, must take the Sleep Stone from the gates of Hell to persuade the dragon to sleep. But if they are unable to return the Stone to the mouth of Hell in time, the demon army will awaken and ransack Gaia in a war that will destroy its existence. Time is the solution to Gaia’s destiny – but only if the gods of Asgard can find a way to stop it.

Dragonsong is a unique epic fantasy that explores fundamental themes of good and evil, jealously and revenge. Woven together with a gripping and powerful plot, the pattern of the language, the musicality of the form and the profound emotions invoked carry the reader to extremes of human experience and capability at both its best and worst.

A Note From the Publisher
Michael Forester was born with a pen in his hand. His first published creative work, If It Wasn’t For That Dog, about his first year with his beloved hearing dog Matt was published in 2005. He is an Oxford University graduate, a Winchester Writer’s Festival prize winner and has been long/shortlisted three time in the Fish Writing Contest. His first novel Vicious was showcased by The Literary Consultancy.

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The Spy by Paulo Coelho

“I am the nightingale who gave everything and died while doing so. Sincerely, Mata H”

I thought this book would tell me of Mata Hari’s life and adventures.

It is, in fact, a book about the ending of her life. It is written in the form of correspondence from the heroine to her lawyer and his response. Mata Hari writes from her prison cell, telling the tale of her life as she sees it, and as she wishes her daughter to know of it. Her lawyer writes the tale of his defence of her lifestyle and activities, ‘for the record’.

I kind of enjoyed this book, I expected more excitement and adventure I think. When really it was all so very ‘polite’ and !dull. I wasn’t borne along reading at speed for the next chapter. I even read some bits more than once (as I got distracted by external events and had to leave the book to one side) and found that I hadn’t quite remembered them or found them sufficiently engaging to remember them at all. It’s a bit sad really as I was looking forward to reading this book. I don’t think I would recommend it to anyone unless they had a strong interest in the subject matter.

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

3/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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Official description:
When Mata Hari arrived in Paris she was penniless.
Soon she was feted as the most elegant woman in the city.
A dancer who shocked and delighted audiences; a confidant and courtesan who bewitched the era’s richest and most powerful men.
But as paranoia consumed a country at war, Mata Hari’s lifestyle brought her under suspicion. Until, in 1917 she was arrested in her hotel room on the Champs Elysees and accused of espionage.
Told through Mata’s final letter, THE SPY tells the unforgettable story of a woman who dared to break the conventions of her time, and paid the price.

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Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

I took my time reading this book, I needed to absorb it. It isn’t the sort of book I normally choose to read, but I was immersed in it totally. When I came to the end it was a bit of a shock to realise that I wouldn’t be in that Icelandic environment again.
The book is well written, with only one or two conversations where I lost track of who was talking and had to re-read the passage.
It is based on a real-life event pieced together from research, set in the 1800’s in Iceland. To me, times seemed grim for the poorer folk back then and I’m sure I would not have even survived. The description of the environment and living conditions made the book come to life.
I may read it again in a year or two, when I’ve forgotten the details a bit.

4/5 Stars

Official synopsis:-

Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes.

In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnúsdóttir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of two men. Agnes is sent to wait out the time leading to her execution on the farm of District Officer Jón Jónsson, his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderess in their midst, the family avoids speaking with Agnes.

Only Tóti, the young assistant reverend appointed as Agnes’s spiritual guardian, is compelled to try to understand her, as he attempts to salvage her soul.

As the summer months fall away to winter and the hardships of rural life force the household to work side by side, Agnes’s ill-fated tale of longing and betrayal begins to emerge. And as the days to her execution draw closer, the question burns: did she or didn’t she?

Based on a true story, Burial Rites is a deeply moving novel about personal freedom: who we are seen to be versus who we believe ourselves to be, and the ways in which we will risk everything for love.

In beautiful, cut-glass prose, Hannah Kent portrays Iceland’s formidable landscape, where every day is a battle for survival, and asks, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?