A Single Light, by Patricia Leslie: monsters prowl the Australian highlands

‘When Rick Hendry is contacted by a federal agent to help investigate a growing number of mysterious vanishings across Australia, he finds himself immersed in a world where normal is a very narrow view of reality. The two men are joined by a doctor, an archeologist, a journalist, and an Afflur Hunter.’ 

They soon discover that in the bush, south of Sydney, among the beach goers, walkers and picnickers, a menace grows. The mysterious Bledray monsters are preparing for a Gathering; a feast of epic proportions. Only the Afflur Hunter and Guardians can stop them, but their strength is failing and humans are needed to help prevent a second holocaust’. 

A Single Light is an urban fantasy tale of ghoulish monsters and non-human protectors battling to save humanity amid the spectacular and rugged landscapes of the Royal National Park south of Sydney.‘ From Back Cover.

Reporter Gabriella worries about the state of her colleague Rick Hendry who is clearly not sleeping well. It turns out he doesn’t want to sleep because in sleep he dreams – and the dreams terrify him.

‘There was something out there, taking people ..’ p.36. Officer Anthony Biglia.

Biglia comes across an expose written by Hendry and believes that the reporter can help him. They swap their theories. Jamie Morell finds abnormalities in the victims’ blood. None of them can work out how and why eight people are dead.

‘All are equal in the face of eternal hunger.’

For the Bledray, Maliak, Moriah, Jedidiah and Laeh, the humans exist only to be protected or to be hunted. On the plains below the high country lie millions of souls, a feast to gorge on.

‘ She ran then, urgency gripping her as the screaming of dying souls mixed with the stars and faded into oblivion.’ p. 136

I found that the hunger of the creatures is somehow believable- it’s the idea of insatiable appetite taken to extremes. The sense of menace grows as the hunters of souls and the hunters of Bledray converge upon one another until there is a climatic encounter as bush fire rages. (The fire scenes seemed particularly struck me in the light of the huge fires in NSW last summer covering some of the same ranges.) The author’s attention to detail and sense of place in the descriptions of these highlands in serves to ground the story. You can read more about Patricia Leslie and her work at her website  patricialeslie.net.

Patricia LeslieA Single Light_a novel by Patricia Leslie_The beach almost deserted

Where to find A Single Light: From the publisher Odyssey Books. Also at Amazon Australia, at Amazon USA, at BookDepository, at Barnes and Noble, at Chapters Indigo, Waterstones, Booktopia and more. Or ask your friendly local bookshop to obtain it for you.

Patricia Leslie also wrote The Ouroborus Key, an absorbing blend of Sumerian mythology, esoteric Templar secrets, and a detective story. This makes for a fascinating combination as you can see from my review here.

The graphics shown here are courtesy of the author and of publisher Odyssey Books.

You are at Mark’s blog called Baffled Bear Books. Mark is a dark coffee tragic and bibliophile as well as the Guardian and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears.

All Because Of You: Fifteen tales of refuge and hope, by Isobel Blackthorn, author of The Canary Island Mysteries

This powerful collection of stories hit me hard, and I think it will leave you, like it did me, thoughtful about relationships and events in your own life, and also about people you may have known, even perhaps  have tried to help.

Most of the tales are narrated in the first person and by women. They seek escape from abuse and manipulation, and not always from male husbands and ‘lovers’. One tormentor turns out to be a therapist, another a female ‘friend’. We meet survivors bonding as they huddle in the soul-destroying shelters. We watch on as mothers, themselves survivors of dire relationships, struggle  to save their daughters from also being undervalued and misused.

The stories are permeated and to some extent driven by the conviction of so many victims of bullying and abuse that the blows dealt to them are somehow their own fault. This tenuous grasp of self esteem, even when a person has perhaps had years of space to feel safe again, is vividly portrayed in ‘Bad Good Friday’. A woman tries to cudgel up a sense of grief for her dead father, who was apparently, at best, a cold man, while all the long night someone’s locked up dog howls with its own misery.

The later tales have a lighter touch which leads you out from the others with a sense of relief, even a smile. Two are narrated by men and one in the third person, and while this change in form might seem at first discordant, I found it fitting. A wounded person often needs a wholly different perspective – usually that of someone who at last cares, to find the sense of hope the sub-title of these stories refers to.

Where to find it: First published in 2012, All Because of You can be now be found at Amazon. There is also a Large Print edition available. Note that the different formats (Paperback, Kindle and Large Print) have different covers.

Isobel Blackthorn has set several of her novels on the Canary Islands, beginning with The Drago Tree (reviewed here). Her Canary Island Mysteries include A Matter of Latitude  and Clarissa’s WarningYou can learn more about the novels and stories by Isobel Blackthorn  at her website.  

You are at Baffled Bear Books, the blog of Mark, guardian and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears. Mawson is writer bear of It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In.

Seven Ghostly Spins – A brush with the supernatural, by Patricia Bossano

When isolated from the bustle of civilisation, the mind slips unfettered.’

Seven Ghostly Spins contains six paranormal tales that are short enough to read during a commuter ride to work. (But will you then feel a bit too disturbed to carry on as usual that day?) One tale, ‘Abiku’, is a creepy novella perhaps best read when safely at home with the lights turned on.

‘Amelia’s mouth opened and an infinite, desolate scream escaped.’

I am not a frequent reader of ghost or horror tales. Although the author offers tantalising notes on the inspirations for this collection, for instance, that one of the stories is based on “a real walk in the moonlight”, I still began by thinking, “All right then, so let’s just see if you can get to me.”

Fellow Baffled Ones, these stories got to me.

We get crumbling houses and overgrown paths in abandoned gardens, dark basements, cemeteries, fortune tellers, and birds ominously pecking at the window. Yet, as the book’s subtitle suggests, the stories are more about ‘brushes’ with the supernatural than with horror. We are offered different levels of the mind and of sight, portals that open unexpectedly, places that seemingly tug at the mind, objects that influence actions.

‘I close my eyes and I float for a while, not in my room but in a dream. I think I should go home but I don’t know how. I’m not worried though ‘.

‘Alison’ is the sweetest ghost story I’ve encountered although very sad.  It’s based on the legend of a girl who died in a real theatre in San Francisco.

‘By The Iron Gate’ is as much about the pathos of a woman’s tightly restricted life as about the supernatural. ‘I would grab the iron bars and stare into the moonlit garden, like a prisoner longing to return to her cell.‘ In ‘She Caught A Ride’, a hazing goes wrong, and in ‘Carolina  Blue’ a chiffon dress leads to a fateful encounter of the heart. The dully named story called ‘205 1/2, 25th Street’ is anything but as a man’s viewing of a real estate purchase turns into a chilling time slip through to the actions of his forebears.

I enjoyed these stories both for the brushes with supernatural elements and also for the well written glimpses of the characters’ lives wherein time and again a carefully added word or phrase by the author turns the ordinary into something else. Why not let your own mind slip unfettered for a while. I think you may close the book, as I did, feeling thoughtful about particular ‘odd’ events in your own lives.

Seven Ghostly Spins, by Patricia Bossano, with featured author Kelsey E Gerard, is published by Water Bearer Press. Patricia Bossano has also written Faery Sight, Nahia,  and Cradle Gift.

Where to unshroud it: From BookDepository (free shipping worldwide) and Amazon in Kindle and soft cover, Barnes and Noble in Kobo and soft cover,  also Waterstones and Chapters Indigo. Hardcover editions are also available. Or, ask your friendly local bookstore to order it in for you, and for your friends who appreciate a frission of the supernatural.

Mark is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears.

Books With Pictures In Them: Of course they are for Grownups

Everyone loves pictures. Seen the ‘motion pictures’ lately? Watched the telly? Got prints up on your walls? Of course! We crave pictures. Why then the bizarre notion that Books With Pictures In Them are only for little people?

Illustrated books are for GROWNUPS too. And when you buy such a book you get to enjoy the skill and craft of the writer and also of the artist. It’s a two for the price of one sort of purchase when you look at it that way.

In this post I present such books that have made their way into my shelves. Call them what you will: Picture books, Pictorial books, Illustrated Books, Graphic Books, Comics, Managa. There are books where the pictures themselves are almost the whole of the story, and books where the pictures supplement the story.

Makeshift Galaxy is an illustrated story about love, sacrifice and survival, and published by Odyssey Books. The lush full page illustrations perhaps supplement this sparely told story, or perhaps are the story. Here is my review. Stocked at Abebooks.com, and Book Depository, and Amazon .

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Octopus and Family by Annabell Lee, also from Odyssey Books, has a lot of fun with octopi, as you can see from my review here, and moreover it is one to hide from your little ones rather than give to them.

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Octopus and Family by Annabelle Lee

Now Only Freaks Turn Things Into Bones by Steff Green and Bree Roldan is indeed intended for little ones and contains a strong message about bullying. Still, why not enjoy these illustrations yourself as well. More about it in my review here.

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The Ashes of Olympus Trilogy by Julian Barr is an example of Books With Some Pictures In Them. The line drawings help create the mood of early times and fear of the gods.

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The Way Home, Ashes of Olympus, by Julian Barr, takes place in the dawn of western history, among the early Greeks and peoples of Italy

The Last Hero is a discworld novel collaboration by Paul Kidby with Terry Pratchett. While most of Sir Terry’s novels became a delight to artists to work with after their first publication, only this one as far as I know, that was created as a collaboration.

The Truth is a Cave in The Black Mountains is another collaboration, this one between Neil Gaiman, who began the story as a verbal presentation – to Grownups- and then, with Eddie Campbell, expanded it. Personally, I would not give this to a little person; it’s as dark as the mountain it refers to.

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More about Eric by Shaun Tan in a future post. And as for It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In , well this is a story of longing, loss and hope, told through images of teddy bears. It was pondered by Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published writer-bears.

Mark is guardian for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears. He is the writer-bear of It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In

Twilight, Dusk, Mirrors, Dreams: Tales by Dan Djurdjevic

‘To sleep, perchance to dream- ay, there’s the rub.’ Hamlet (III, i, 65-68)

For when you are dreaming, you will wake. You assume. But what sort of waking will it be? I think we have all experienced at some time that dread, dripping, crushing sense of fighting our way back up from .. something .. out from .. something. And to emerge as though breaking through an ocean surface, taking great gulps of waking reality, and to realise that the place or something you have fled from was not really there, and must have ‘only’ been a nightmare.

“He dreams of blackness: an endless blackness, darker than the crow and more inscrutable. There is a solidary light far in the distance, a dull yellow pinpoint swallowed into the void, and he stumbles towards it on his phantom legs.” The Crow. 

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But what if, as you sit up taking in your surrounds, another realisation crashes in – that perhaps you have just woken from someone else’s nightmare?

The calm prose of Dan Djurdjevic’s Hazy Shade of Twilight stories (new edition issued as The Shadow of Dusk) belies the growing consternation of his characters as their personalities and identities shift and change. Frequently their perceived realities seem distorted.

“It took a while to realise that I was now in a different place altogether: a blank, featureless room of cold white … empty save for the bleached glare. There were no shapes, no corners, no lines. No shadows”.

They reassure themselves: it was only a dream, a nightmare, it’s because I’m exhausted, it’s what happens out in space, it’s the drugs I took for the pain. But again and again these ‘explanations’ don’t hold up. The characters sometimes seem to be changing places. Their loves and romances, fears, jealousies, start to seem to belong to other selves, as if they are seeing them through distorted memories. Or they might be seeing mirror images of themselves – which of course are similar but reversed, and perhaps distorted and warped too. Such a possibility is explored in The Mirror Image of Sound. (My review here.)

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Dan’s stories, to different degrees, float in half lights and shadows where things may not be what they seem. In the modern romantic drama Nights of the Moon to which The Shadow of Dusk collection serves as a kind of “sequel”, we met the same characters (or are they) who apparently have a very definite existence in the harsh geographical reality of a mining camp in Western Australia. But they are presented to us only through the memories of one person’s point of view. Are we reading what has ‘really happened’?Dan moon 2745

Perhaps somewhere in the obscurities of moon light, twilight, dusk, and shadows all of us are able to become more acutely aware of alternative lives that we could be living had we made other choices. Perhaps those alternative ‘I’s sometimes merge with and partially morph into the “I’ that we think we own.

To dream. Ah there indeed is the rub. For how can we know if we ever wake fully?

My review of The Mirror Image Of Sound is here. And of The Girl in the Attic here.

Where to find Dan’s books: Book Depository (also with free shipping):
A Hazy Shade of Twilight – and other nightmares, The Mirror Image of Sound, Nights of The Moon , The Shadow of Dusk , Essential Jo and, suitable for Young Adults, The Girl In The Attic.

On Amazon: The Mirror Image of Sound, Essential Jo, The Girl In The Attic, Nights of The Moon, The Shadow of Dusk   (first edition titled Hazy Shade of Twilight). You can also find them at AbeBooks.com: there is a general link below.

AbeBooks. Thousands of booksellers - millions of books.

Mark is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears.