Welcome to my March wrap-up blog post featuring all of the fantastic posts on my blog that I posted during the month of March.
There was no wrap-up post for February as I took most of the month off and had a break away from both reading and blogging. March saw my return and well, that is why you are once again getting a wrap-up post! 😉 Not gonna lie, I’ve struggled with blogging and reading again recently and it’s not that I want a break but, that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and everything that is happening because of it is making life hard and I’m struggling to both read and blog.
I’m a menial worker, low-paid, unskilled and a scumbag but, since the virus, I am now a ‘key worker‘ as I work in a supermarket, what a change a few weeks and a pandemic bring! Once things are back to normal then I am sure that I will once again just be a scumbag. 🙂
Troubling times for all, tough and I hope that wherever you are that you are doing the best that you can, getting by and managing to keep safe.
My March Posts.
The Memory Wood is told through three perspectives. Those of Elijah, Elissa and Detective Superintendent Mairead MacCullagh who is in charge of the investigation into Elissa’s abduction. For all three they are more than just names on a page they are real and you feel for them. For Elissa and her horrifying predicament. Elissa is bright, clever and resourceful. She is also determined. She doesn’t want to be weak and let the ordeal break her. There is a strength inside to survive, a will to live, to see her mother again. She is scared and terrified. But, she has to try and not let it show, no matter how frightened she is, she has to control her fears and not fall prey to the terror of her situation. Elissa uses her knowledge of chess to help her, to calm her and to settle her as it is something that she knows and that is comforting in the living nightmare that she finds herself. For Elijah who seems brittle and broken with a decaying mental state, a naivety and a sadness surrounding him. But, at the same time as there is that fragility to him, he also radiates a weirdness and there is a feeling of something being off about him, a disquiet over his contrary actions, his choices, his evasive answers and the secrets that he keeps. And, finally, for Mairead who has her own issues Her priority is the case and finding Elissa, no matter the cost to her own health. The fate of Elissa, her safe return seems to be inexplicably linked to Mairead’s own well-being, if she rescues, saves her and if she lives then, Mairead hopes that a part of her will live, will be saved too.
The story is fast-paced and intense with some disturbing and dramatic twists. The three different perspectives weave together well and serve to form a compelling and sinister whole. There is a something insidious that burrows, that crawls under your skin and a menacing shadow like a looming spectre that haunts the pages of The Memory Wood. A lingering unease and an ominous trepidation for what will come to pass and for what will be revealed that is felt from one perspective to the next, that keeps you gripped and that finds you relentlessly turning the pages.
There is a depth to the story that goes beyond mere monster-slaying whereby the newly returned creatures want to re-establish their way of life and reclaim their lands which they believe that they have as much right to as the humans but, the humans don’t see it that way. A few like Devin, Tommy and Adria have befriended the magical creatures, forming bonds and relationships. However, most of the humans perceive the creatures as less, as not equal to them and they also have a fear of the unknown, of things, like the creatures that they don’t understand and, instead of listening and learning they resort to violence. That sentiment is also true of the creatures and both sides use weapons rather than words looking like they will repeat the mistakes of the past rather than build to a new future. The creatures were slumbering and while humanity has forgotten them, they still remember humanity and the past. They remember the wars between the races, the chaos, the bloodshed and the countless deaths that ultimately saw them imprisoned.
Not all humans are humane, some do very bad things and they are more monstrous than the monsters. Likewise, not all monsters are monstrous, not all of the returned magical creatures want to harm humans and some have humane traits that put humankind to shame. Some of the dragon-sired creatures desire a diplomatic solution to the problems caused by their unexpected return. You can’t erase but, you can forgive the dark deeds of past and forge relations in the hope that you can find a solution that allows for a new tomorrow where they can build a land where they are neighbours, trade partners and all races co-exist as equals. While others, those whose animosity, hatred and loss fuel them like the faction known as ‘the Forgotten Children’ who have infiltrated Londheim want war and a land that will drown in the blood of humankind as they seek to reclaim what was once theirs.
I had a lot of fun with this collection. The short stories are full of mystery, intrigue, deduction and are a bunch of marvellous and cleverly plotted little puzzles. Some of the short stories have a very classic Holmes feel whilst others offer the reader something different, straying from the traditional and into the unusual. Having that variety serves to create an eclectic, varied and impressive assortment of stories. The stories take place throughout the course of Holmes career as a consulting detective from his fledgeling years when his name was just being made through the years when he was a household name, revered and well-known to all and up to his retirement.
Before each short story, there is an introduction by Lovegrove where he explains a little about the story and its origin. These introductions are a nice touch, interesting to the reader and serve to give you additional insight into Lovegrove, his work and his love for the iconic duo. Occasionally, there is a little bit of trivia about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Holmes and Watson too.
The writing, the characterisation and the sense of place for the settings are stellar throughout. Lovegrove is a terrific storyteller with a style that is reminiscent of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle but with the addition of some modern flourishes. He both pays homage to and respects the original creations whilst breathing fresh new life into them. All of the included shorts have their own individual merit, there is enjoyment to be found in each and every one of them and as a whole, they form what is a very satisfying and highly entertaining collection.
Dear Child is told through three perspectives. Those of ‘Lena’, Hannah and Matthias. ‘Lena’ is struggling to adjust to life after the cabin, to move on now that she is free, to come to terms with the ordeal, to process what happened to her, the living nightmare that was her captivity, the trauma that she went through and that has left a shadow upon her, like a spectre that haunts her and has left her scarred. Hannah is a clever, intelligent and polite child. She is literal in how she perceives things, in what she says and there is a practicality to her reasoning. She comes across as slightly strange with an oddness that exudes from her. Matthias isn’t the most likeable and he comes across as quite controlling and quick to anger. But, even if you don’t like him you can’t help but feel for him and for Karin. The plight that they have been through, the emotional turmoil of losing their daughter and not knowing what has happened to her. What they have been through for years and are still going through now. There has been no news, no developments but, always that lingering hope that one day Lena will be found alive and well and that they will be able to welcome home their daughter. Or, the worst case that her body, her remains will be found. But, then at least, they would know the truth, know that Lena had left this world and they would have closure, they would be able to lay that hope alongside her body to rest, be able to grieve and mourn her passing.
All three of ‘Lena’, Hannah and Matthias, are all well-realised characters and in their own way, all are victims who have suffered psychological trauma that has impacted them in various ways. The three perspectives work well to create an intelligent, cleverly woven, multi-layered and suspenseful story.
In the four walls of the isolated cabin, the captor is god. The boarded windows mean that there is no natural light, whether it is actually night or day is unknown and the captor controls the light and time of day inside the cabin. There are a stringent set of daily rules that have to be obeyed, set meal times, bedtimes, study time for the children and going to the bathroom is regulated to specific in the strictly adhered to and controlled regime set by the captor. The captor goes out, away to work, maintaining an air of normalcy away from the cabin and leaves ‘Lena’ and the two children locked inside, like a family, a sadistic, sick and twisted parody of happy family life, husband, wife and their two children confined inside the four walls that constituted a prison.
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