Between the Beats Review: “Mark of The Hyena: An Electric Eclectic Novelette” – By Mark Fine

“Mark of The Hyena: An Electric Eclectic Book” – By Mark Fine

mark of the Hyena
Available on Amazon

I’ve enjoyed Mark Fine’s writing since I read his novel, The Zebra Affaire.Delighted to find his Electric Eclectic novelette, Mark of the Hyena, I eagerly dove into reading it. Fine’s writing is almost poetic; his use of words musical. This short story captures all the beauty and harshness of sub-Sahara Africa. When the San Bushman of the Kalahari, N!xau, comes across the barely living Professor Werner, this cautionary tale of “civilized” man versus “savage” begins.

N!xau and his tribe have been pursuing an Oryx antelope when they discovered Werner, injured and dehydrated. Werner is in Africa fulfilling a bet; a bet he was confident he would win. The professor believes the San are “inept primitives.” However, it is the primitive San who provide Werner with some liquid which is acquired using fundamental skills; skills Werner, an egotistical American, knows nothing of. However, Werner views himself as superior to these diminutive people. Unable to communicate effectively, Werner is brought to the camp and cared for by N!xau and his wife, K/ora.

Instead of appreciating the skills of the people, Werner views them as ignorant. Judging himself as superior, the tall, pale man believes he is entitled to all they can offer. Neither aware of, or caring to understand, what the tribe values, he takes advantage of their generosity.

What Werner fails to appreciate is his lack of understanding of the ways of the people and the dangers of the situation show him to be the ignorant one. He is spied committing a heinous act by N!xau’s son, !Xi. Even a child in the desolate area is wiser than the well educated foreigner. The consequences of Werner’s false belief that he is the supreme being in this situation is proved wrong in a most delightful manner.

Fine’s ability to present characters as diverse as these is a tremendous skill. The Bushmen are simple; their wisdom born of generations of experience passed down orally. Werner’s education does him no good in the strange environment he has taken no time to familiarize himself with.

Fine educates the reader in this story. Set against the rich panorama of Africa, he reminds us that modern man is not always wiser or better equipped to survive in all settings. Sometimes it would be better to observe and listen; he might learn something valuable that can save his life. I highly recommend this well-written and profound story.



Mark Fine B&W (300dpi)Print

Mark Fine on Amazon

Mark Fine on Facebook

Mark Fine on Goodreads

Mark Fine on Twitter

Mark Fine Website


Win Amazon Vouchers in the Electric Eclectic Prize Draw

COMPETITIONS

Win Amazon vouchers in the Electric Eclectic Prize Draw 

This is a simple prize draw.

 Just leave your review of an Electric Eclectic book on Amazon and email Electric Eclectic a copy.

 That’s it. So easy to enter.

You will then be entered into a quarterly draw, giving you the chance to win a five pounds/dollars Amazon gift voucher.

 Prize draws take place each quarter, the next is June, followed bySeptember, the final one this year will be in December… a nice Christmas gift for the lucky winner.

 To qualify for entry into the any of the draws, reviews must be from verified purchases of an Electric Eclectic book and the review must be accepted by Amazon and shown on the relevant books page.

 The more Electric Eclectic books you buy the more chances you have of winning and with so many authors and so many books to choose from it will be easy peasy!

 Winners will be announced on the Electric Eclectic Facebook page

and other social media.

 Only one review, per purchase-per reader, will be accepted.

 The draw is independently undertaken by CQ International Publishing, their decisions are final.

Gift vouchers will be in the form of Amazon e-gift cards and electronically emailed to the winner to the same address their draw entry was made.

 No cash alternative is possible.

Please view the original article on Lizzi Newton’s Between the Beats blog:
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READERS REVIEW ROOM awards a Goldworm for “THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE”

THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE: AN APARTHEID LOVE STORY (THE SUB-SAHARAN SAGA BOOK 1)

The Zebra Affaire” by Mark Fine is a Best Book Bit, so be sure to take a look at the reviews and the book trailer! Here is part of one reviewer’s thoughts:

By gently educating the reader with the background of the conflicts in South Africa, awareness of the difficulties faced by the star crossed lovers is enhanced.

Blank white book w/pathIT’S THE SPRING OF ‘76. For Elsa, her affair with Stanwell may well prove lethal, as she’s white and he’s black, and they dared to fall in love in apartheid South Africa. The terrified lovers are the prey in a deadly manhunt from the golden city of Johannesburg to the exotic but dangerous wilds of the African bushveld. ‘The Zebra Affaire’ is a thrilling fusion of romance and suspense—laced with rich South African history.
The tension is palpable as the persecuted couple race against time and bigotry. Reviewers rave about this intimate, yet dangerous love story; that’s set against a canvas that is both vividly authentic and powerfully provocative.

ORDER NOW!

About the Book

‘“INTENSELY DAZZLING…NOT A BLACK AND WHITE STORY, A RAINBOW STORY WITH THE RICH COLORS OF LIVES IN TURMOIL.” – Elizabeth Newton, author of ‘View from the Sixth Floor’

“A book to savor slowly…appreciating each moment. I found myself re-reading sentences and whole paragraphs; such was the quality of the writing. One of the best books I’ve read this year.” – Jean Gill, author of ‘Song at Dawn’

“The story of Stanwell and Elsa really touched me. Racial discrimination was so dehumanizing. This book took me to the days of the liberation struggle, and I experienced the hurt as I read. It was a real privilege to read the history, a period of pain and hope, as seen through Mark Fine’s eyes.” – Thandi Lujabe-Rankoe, Former Freedom Fighter & Senior South African Diplomat

“More than a daring, multiracial romance set in a racist 1976 South Africa, that nation on the turbulent cusp of collapsing due to apartheid; The Zebra Affaire grips your soul and won’t let go. Never mind zebras, think lions, raw and roar.” – Geoff Nelder, author of ‘ARIA: Left Luggage’

Book Trailer

Book Details

Check Out The ‘Goldworm’ Reviews For This Book

Review One:

Africa: an alluring and mysterious continent, rich in exotic animals, scenery and peoples. A safari in Africa would be an amazing experience- the chance to see giraffes, zebras, elephants, lions and so many more spectacular creatures, along with unique and beautiful landscapes, jungles, deserts, mountains and waterfalls.

But, amidst the supreme natural beauty of Africa, there is also much man-made ugliness. Author Mark Fine has brought to life the trauma of South Africa in his stirring novel.

In the prologue, the author explains that for too long, the British and Dutch white people had dominated and subjugated the native people of South Africa. With that backdrop, Mr. Fine begins his gripping story of racial hatred forty years ago in the spring of 1976, as he describes how the lives of several South Africans literally and figuratively collided.

On a sunny morning, Afrikaner Elsa, who has just moved from her family farm to Johannesburg meets with Lydia, a British woman at her home in Sandton, the richest square mile in all of Africa. As they enjoy their tea, they hear the sound of screeching tires and clanging metal. They rush to the street and discover that a truck has crashed, injuring a young man. We learn that he is Stanwell, from the Malawi tribe who lives in the bleak and dangerous Soweto district.

The smashing of the truck causes the lives of the Afrikaner woman, the British woman and the native man to crash together in a life-changing way. Stanwell and Elsa fall in love, a love which is legally forbidden at this time in South Africa. Author Fine tells their tale of terror and danger in a fast-paced, yet sensitive manner. He understands the human condition and he understands South Africa. Blank white book w/path

Readers will not only be swept up in this exciting and thrilling story, but they will learn the true picture of life in South Africa under the legally sanctioned racism that was known as apartheid. Although racism and repression of the native African people had been allowed for years, the South African government officially made this cruelty legal in 1948 by enacting the Apartheid laws.

Mr. Fine explains that life in South Africa began to change in the 1970’s due to economic sanctions imposed by the rest of the world and also interestingly because of the introduction of television. But South Africa did not change fast enough to help Elsa and Stanwell.

Mr. Fine also provides detailed historical notes throughout the book to enhance the reader’s knowledge. I enjoyed learning more about the actual events that were the basis of the story of the fictional Elsa and Stanwell. There are many other interesting characters and stories in the book, too.

Apartheid ended in 1996 with the first free elections open to all. Former prisoner Nelson Mandela, of the Xhosa tribe, became the first freely elected President and the first black president. South Africans now describe their country as the Rainbow Nation as a tribute to their transition to a multicultural diversity.

I highly recommend this book, for the history that should never be forgotten and for the sweeping and powerful story that is told with grace and understanding.

Review Two:

It is not often a book as intensely dazzling as “The Zebra Affaire” by Mark Fine comes along. A forbidden love story takes place against the dramatic background of 1970’s South Africa and apartheid. Fine draws you into the story cautiously, laying the groundwork for the eventual affair between Elsa and Stanwell. By gently educating the reader with the background of the conflicts in South Africa, awareness of the difficulties faced by the star crossed lovers is enhanced. This is more than a racial segregation issue; there is a deeper issue brewing in South Africa. Tribal conflicts cause significant damage to a country beset by violence and political unrest.

As the love of Elsa and Stanwell grows deeper and more intense they are assisted by some to strengthen their bond. While segregation forbids open encouragement of their union, friends support them quietly. But the strict Afrikaner regime stands against them if not publicly at least in a behind closed doors attack on their union. While they flaunt their affair the government seems to stand in stunned silence as the world looks on. But the fanatics behind the scenes are both appalled and disgusted by their obvious sexual relationship and strive to expose and punish them for breaking hundreds years old laws.

With vibrant descriptions of both the beauty and ugliness of South Africa the story weaves its way to an intense climax. Waiting for the resolution of the love affair the reader will also wait for the resolution of apartheid. Knowing the eventual outcome of South African politics and the rise of Nelson Mandela it is easy to anticipate the same result for Stanwell and Elsa. In spite of some subtle foreshadowing of events to come the inevitable conclusion still comes as a shocking surprise.

I highly recommend this lush and beautifully written story. Fine’s use of words is akin to an artist’s use of the palette; this is not a black and white story, this is a rainbow story with the rich colors of lives in turmoil. In a word, it is brilliant. If I could rate it higher I would do so.

Review Three:

Reality+romance = relevance

This book came highly recommended and I put off reading it till I knew I had stopped having expectations. Preconceived expectations are never a good thing. The apartheid topic is one I don’t gravitate towards, because it still shocks me too much that people could and can be narrow-minded enough to judge others by skin colour, instead of character. I just get too emotional and enfuriated.

This story is two-fold. One is the social romance fiction based on historical events, and the other is the author’s account of the historical account, which is not fiction but interpreting and explaining the past. You may appreciate this or not, but the author forewarns you that it is your choice and how to watch out for it. The historical background account is certainly useful for those unacquainted with the socio-political situation, although the rest of my review will refer to the fictional part and author’s style. It is absolutely impossible to look at the storyline by taking it outside its historical context, but it is equally impossible to review politics here.

The characters, plot, emotions, descriptions are all reminiscent of the great movies from the golden ages of Hollywood, and you can easily picture someone like Grace Kelly playing Elsa, or Sidney Poitier playing Stanwell. Though at times I did wish there was more conversation between Elsa and Stanwell themselves, the scene with the beaded ‘love letter’ makes up for all the words. The implications of tradition in contrast with their rule-breaking speaks in abundance. However, despite this romantic duo, my favourite character is DGF — sort of love at first read, for so many reasons. Malan Zander, on the other hand, made me want ot leave the book as soon as he appeared, not for bad writing, but for hitting too close to home – the puny souls, abusing power every chance they get, are all too painfully realistic, regardless of time and culture. An entire tapestry of characters is well-displayed as you follow the battle of interracial romance with the world paralysed with bigotry and inhumane politics.

The wording is really rich, intricately written, with quite a few local expressions adding to the overall atmosphere and understanding of the two worlds melded into one. The style is consistent throughout, the syntax quite complex and vocabulary exuberant, and the topic absolutely noteworthy. The fact that the author actually lived in such surroundings and times exudes additional credibility. The contrast between the descriptions of Stanwell’s cursed mines and the media frenzy surrounding Formula 1 and fashion is excellently written, and leaves a striking impression on the reader, enhancing the depiction of injustice and inequality. As the story progresses and nears its ending, the analogies with the wilderness become stronger and serve the story impeccably.

The author does not limit himself only to displaying the brutality of racism, but other forms of tragic prejudice – mysoginist, antisemitic, bullying the weak, misguided and misdirected tiny lords with legal power. What a grand race humans could be, if we weren’t so puny sometimes! Nevertheless, Mark Fine shows very clearly there are no clear lines between the good and the bad, and it is not money, status or skin colour which makes us good or bad, but our nature. Family, loyalty, friendship, respect and love go beyond any limits and matter the most.

The Zebra Affaire is an old-fashioned, romantic but not deluded, vintage-like tale which is not to be rushed in and cannot be rushed. If you are looking for fast-paced, cliffhanger thrillers with wild erotic scenes, you might not find everything you are looking for in this book. If you are looking for a book that makes you think, and engages your sense of humanity, culture, history and language, this is one of the great ones you will enjoy. The writing here reminded me of music – this might not be something you dance to, but something you listen to carefully and in peace. There is much to be learned from such art.

Review Four:

I like to challenge myself from time to time by choosing genres outside of my comfort zone. Historical fiction is probably one of the toughest for me to read because of the statistics and complex story lines found within; but the cover and title of this book pulled me in and I just had to try it.

I was mesmerized from the beginning of this story. The author paints a vivid, controversial scene right away. His character descriptions are thorough and make you feel as if the players are on a stage right in front of you – every single character! The love story has a Shakespearean feel to it that makes your heart ache for the couple, as with Romeo and Juliet. And each love scene is written beautifully.

The pace is steady until about halfway through, where it starts rolling and doesn’t stop until the very end. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a compelling, thought-provoking read.

FINE REVIEWS: “Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer”

5-Stars!  I recommend “Gosnell” as required reading.

It is the silence of others, despite the grotesque nature of the crimes committed, that continues to bewilder me as I read this startling book. Thankfully, filmmakers Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer refused to avert41h0mkgijcl their investigative glare from the inhumane travesty conducted in Philadelphia—the mutilated, mass killing of born-alive infants within the seedy walls of the Women’s Medical Society Clinic by a certain Doctor Kermit Gosnell. This ‘Doctor’ eschewed the Hippocratic oath and human decency. Instead, Kermit Gosnell chose a bleak path nearer to that of Josef ‘The Angel of Death’ Mengele. Mengele did not act alone. His grizzly deeds in Auschwitz were government sanctioned.

Nor did Kermit Gosnell act in isolation. The complicit role activist media, social radicals, medical colleagues, and incompetent (politicized) government played in perpetuating his crimes is an indictment of the moral wasteland we’re becoming. This is not about equating Gosnell’s crime to the horrific actions of Mengele, except to illustrate contemporary society’s refusal to learn from the past. If we did care, these blood-curdling crimes against babies would have ended earlier. If we did care, a caring nation would collectively march in the streets demanding answers. Instead, there’s muted silence and politicized obfuscation.

For me, this telling of the Gosnell nightmare is the first salvo in the fight for our very souls, and a diminishing chance to avoid us being judged barbaric. It is not okay to set aside fundamental moral principles (by either omission or commission) in the pursuit of blindly furthering an ideology. And, it’s never acceptable to contrive distorted truths and false claims (rationalized that it’s ‘for the greater good’) as a justification for the darkest of human behavior.

In that sense, this book provoked in me a reaction well beyond the Pro-Choice/Pro-Life debate. It touched the core of what it truly means to be an empathetic, civilized society; and how the reprehensible conduct of some bad actors destroys it for all of us. As such, authors McElhinney and McAleer have my thanks. I regard them as ‘canaries in the coalmine’ alerting us, American society, to the consequences of turning a blind eye to the inhumane deeds of a select few. If we continue to get this wrong and allow enablers to disassemble facts in order to cover up crimes against the feeblest among us, history will judge us all harshly.

“Gosnell” is a tough read, but a civilized society has the responsibility to pursue the truth wherever it may take us. There should be zero tolerance for cover-ups or dubious rationales, no matter where one resides on the ideological spectrum. In that spirit, I recommend “Gosnell” as required reading in all institutions dedicated to social sciences, moral ethics, governance, and medicine.

Available on Amazon

Year End Best Books Ever! And ‘The Zebra Affaire’ Makes the List!

Making the Top 20 list at number eleven is the historical / literary fiction novel, The Zebra Affaire according to the myriad-minded author, Jean Gill. Also, an acclaimed photographer, Jean Gill commented in her article:

He’s black, she’s white, and in 1970s South Africa their love affair is a criminal offence. There are chunks of non-fiction you can read if you want (I loved them) as a love story challenges apartheid. Totally authentic in time and place with a real love of South Africa despite the horrors. Reminded me of ‘Doctor Zhivago’ and feels relevant again today.


At the prompting of readers’ from the THE BOOK CLUB facebook group, Jean Gill prepared her recommendations. Her list contains a compelling and diverse collection of superb reads for the inquisitive reader, that I’m including Jean’s complete article for both your convenience and reading pleasure.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Best Books Ever! What are yours?

by Jean Gill [See the original here.]

I was asked to choose my 20 best books ever for The Book Club, a readers’ group on facebook. Impossible of course! This is the list I came up with. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments! And help yourself to some Christmas goodies while you’re thinking about brain food!

Pink Rheims biscuits

1. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
Book 1 in a trilogy showing dystopian survival in a reality TV game where the forced participants can die. Not my type of book, I thought, but I could not put it down. I love the feisty teen heroine who’s a deadshot with bow and arrows and no book better captures the post-truth machinations of current politics. (I’ve been wanting to use the word ‘post-truth’ since I discovered it was Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year 2016.)

2. The Gate to Women’s Country – Sheri Tepper
Fantasy novel that turns what-if into a gripping story. What if there were a way to organise society so women can have great sex with unsuitable men AND also ensure that children are protected and nurtured? I read every fantasy book Sheri Tepper writes, for the way she creates amazing worlds, tells a good story and makes me see our own world differently.

Starry starry blinis

3. H is for Hawk – Helen McDonald
Best Autobiography
Autobiography about two interwoven emotional journeys; grief and training a goshawk. A book to savour for the beautiful way its written, for its passion and honesty, for its expertise regarding birds of prey and their training. A bonus for me is the analysis of received wisdom from the past re training hawks, in particular via quotations from the troubled soul T.H.White (another of my favourite writers).

4. The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Best Children’s Book
The French Winnie-the-Pooh; a children’s book with observations on life that strike a chord with adults. Full of quotable quotes! ‘People have forgotten this truth,’ the fox said. ‘But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed. You’re responsible for your rose.’
Goodreads has 659 favourite quotes from this book so I think you’ll find one that hits the heart!

French Christmas log

5. Mums Know Best – The Hairy Bikers’ Family Cookbook
Best Cookbook
A recipe book collated from family recipes throughout the U.K. during the Hairy Bikers’  television tour. A tribute to Mums and to home cooking, with recipes that all work and that show the whole multi-cultural range of the British people and our food. When my French neighbours sneer at Britain’s lack of cuisine, I tell them ‘You find world cuisine in Britain’ and nowhere is that more true than in this cookbook. It makes you want to write down all your own family favourites; I still use the splotched, handwritten recipe for Grandma’s Christmas Cake although my mother is dead now and I am the Grandma. The photos are good too and as I’m a food shooter (with a Nikon D750 as weapon of choice 🙂 ) I have hundreds of cookbooks and am very fussy about the photos.

6. The Visual Toolbox:60 lessons for stronger photos – David duChemin
The best photography book. From a master of travel / landscape/ wildlife photos who works with natural light. Offers inspiration and guidance, whatever level of photographer you are. In DuChemin’s company I gain confidence in who I am as a photographer; I learn what I want to improve and how to do it. His own photos are a joy.


7. Assassin’s Apprentice – Robin Hobb
Epic fantasy.
Book 1 of the Farseer Trilogy. Illegitimate and unwanted, young Fitz has to fulfil the only role at court which is offered to him – that of assassin. As the kingdom faces invasion, Fitz discovers his own magical powers and has to learn to control them, for his king and country’s sake. The grand, heroic adventure swept me away, I fell in love with the wolf, and I read every Robin Hobb book the moment it’s available. Training in magic has become clichéd but Robin Hobb pits the illegal Wit (bonding completely with an animal) against the court-controlled Skill (telepathic communication and control of humans) and, uniquely, Fitz has to master both kinds. The relationship between Fitz and his Wolf is as deep and convincing as those between the various humans.

8. Chéri – Colette
Very French love story.
First published in 1920, when France was where the British went to be naughty, Colette’s story of a 19 year old boy and his 43 year old female lover is a sensual classic. Worldly-wise courtesans and pretty young things (male and female) play out their relationships against a backdrop of gowns and soirées. I discovered Colette when I was 18 and the whiff of decadence fascinated me as much as her beautiful, poetic style. She taught me about pearls. She also taught me that a woman could break all the rules, as a writer and as a woman. Colette was the first woman to be accepted into the all-male Académie française, and a poster showing her with her cat in St-Tropez is beside my desk. She was my first inspiration as a writer. Chéri is no longer shocking but this slight volume lingers in the imagination like French perfume.

9. The Map of Love – Ahdaf Soueif
The best epic love story. Set in colonial Egypt and present-day, the story of a young English widow who meets the love of her life is revealed through the discoveries of her descendant, who also goes to Egypt. The relationship between Anna and Sharif is a heart-melter for any romantic and the exotic background takes you on a voyage of discovery.

10. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
Best BIG 19th C novel. Historical romantic suspense set in the 17th C with the best swordsmen in the whole of France. The historical equivalent of shoot-outs and car chases; sword-fights and breakneck horse rides to save the Queen of France. So many characters to fall in love with but my favourite is Milady. The Best Villain ever!

11. The Zebra Affaire – Mark Fine
Historical / Literary Fiction. He’s black, she’s white, and in 1970s South Africa their love affair is a criminal offence. There are chunks of non-fiction you can read if you want (I loved them) as a love story challenges apartheid. Totally authentic in time and place with a real love of South Africa despite the horrors. Reminded me of ‘Doctor Zhivago’ and feels relevant again today.

12. Shogun – James Clavell
Best block-busting page-turner. The adventures of a 17th century English sea-captain surviving in the violent politics of Japan – and I mean violent. Gut-wrenching (this is the culture of hara-kiri after all!) high adrenalin and romantic. Bushido code, world trade, culture clash and steamy tea ceremonies. The beautiful translator Mariko is wonderful and so much depends on the choices she makes, we agonise on her behalf. An emotional roller-coaster, whether you like historical fiction or not.

13.  The Game of Kings – Dorothy Dunnett
Best historical fiction with fictional heroes in real 16thC events, starting in Scotland. Book 1 in the six-book Lymond series. Francis Crawford of Lymond is, in my eyes, the most desirable fictional hero ever and his complicated adventures are not short of romance. Intelligent, wide-referencing and thrilling, Dorothy Dunnett’s books are the ones I’m most flattered at my historical novels being likened to.

14. Steppenwolf – Hermann Hesse
Modern classic. Appeals to the middle-aged lonely werewolf in all of us, the one who looks in the mirror with distaste and is willing to follow a free spirit into The Magical Theatre and dive into life’s might-have-beens to discover what still could be. Wild psychic adventure!

15. Soul Music –  Sir Terry Pratchett
Best comic fantasy. The Grim Reaper’s grand-daughter has to learn the family business; Death. Stands alone but set in the many-novelled Discworld where Pratchett fans like me have their favourite characters and set of stories. Death is mine, with his grim sense of humour and his kindness; the character of Death in ‘The Book Thief’ derives directly from Pratchett.

16. Sailing to Sarantium – Guy Gavriel Kay
Best historical fantasy. Based on medieval Byzantium but ‘given a quarter turn to the fantastic’ is how G G Kay describes his technique. He captures the grand sweep and scale of history in all his books, with characters who know they are part of something bigger, characters who make me feel in awe of their nobility, their love affairs, their creative work. He makes me feel proud to be human (not easy!) And there’s a heart-pounding chariot race.

17. Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien
The first fantasy novel, ever, and it’s epic. If you’ve read other fantasy novels you’ll recognise the elements: the band of elves, dwarves, men and hobbits, heroes who have to save the land from the forces of evil, with the help of Gandalf the wizard. What keeps it fresh for me is that Tolkien did it all first and there was nothing like this before TLOTR I can feel Sauron’s eye seeking me out and I identify completely with the struggles of small people burdened with the responsibility of the cursed ring.

18. The Distant Sound of Violence – Jason Greensides
Modern urban fiction about British teenagers from different cultures. They have big hearts but the world’s against them. You just want to adopt them all but the adults in their life have no idea what they’re going through – or don’t care 😦 An ending that stays in your mind, powerful and gives hope.

19. I Heard The Owl Call my Name – Margaret Craven
Modern fable. A young vicar, who does not know he is dying, is sent to a native American village where the two religions/ mythologies take the reader on a spiritual journey in two cultures. You don’t have to be religious (I’m a sort of humanist) to respond to the wisdom in this novel, a metaphor for how to live well and accept death, when the owl calls your name. ‘Don’t feel sorry for yourself because you are going to so remote a parish. Feel sorry for the Indians. You know nothing and they must teach you.’

20. The Bees – Laline Paul
Best novel about bee-ing. Suspense and dystopian paranoia drive the story because ‘they’ are out to get the young bee Flora 717. She tries to keep out of trouble while knowing that something is terribly wrong in the hive. Underlying the survival adventure is an accurate knowledge of bees. I’m a registered beekeeper, having followed practical training for three years in Provence, and the micro-view of the world created by Laline Paul is correct in all its facts and possibilities. If bees could speak human, this is the story they would tell and as well as being a page-turner, it’s an important story for the planet.


About Jean Gill

Jean is a Welsh writer and photographer living in the south of France (specifically in Montelimar) with a big white dog, a scruffy black one, a Nikon D750 and a man.  Click here to see Jean’s impressive body of literary works.

Fine Review: “Red Queen Check” by Elizabeth Horton-Newton [Short Story]

strategyVirtues of the short story told by an artful author

I’ve become extremely fond of the short story as a medium. Life is too busy, yet I enjoy a good read, so an enticing short story is a most satisfying treat. Being a fan of author, Elizabeth Horton-Newton—her two novels “The View from the Sixth Floor” and “Riddle” having provided hours of pleasure—I confidently chose her ‘Red Queen Check’ from the short story anthology, Crooked Tales. Glad I did.

The sheer glee in the author’s writing radiated from every paragraph. This doesn’t mean this is a cheerful, trivial read; in fact it is at times gritty. However, there is little doubt she wished for the reader to enjoy the delicious comeuppance she had in-store for the miserable sociopath (or, maybe psychopath) at the stories core. But, it is the recipe of the revenge fashioned that is most satisfying.

From the opening line, Horton-Newton teases the reader with sensual heat as she introduces the femme fatale. By the third paragraph we are repulsed by him, a contemptuous and possessive blowhard with deadly desires.  And so, in the best tradition of a fine short story the stage is set for a diabolical plot driven by an avenging heart.

Yet, despite the obvious pleasure in her writing there is little doubt that the author had earnest intent. Elizabeth Horton-Newton’s message is clear:  there is little use in society for those that abuse—no matter their power or position.

I applaud the writer’s craft exhibited by Horton-Newton; her ability to score such rich characters within such a satisfying story arc—and all this, with only 4,000 words used! No wonder I now find short stories so appealing…and hope for more from the artful Elizabeth Horton-Newton.

For more about CROOKED TALES short stories click here.

About Elizabeth Horton-Newton

elisabeth-horton-newtonElizabeth Horton-Newton was born and raised in New York City. She began writing when she was a child, writing stories for friends and family. In the 4th Grade at P.S. 151 in Manhattan, she wrote an essay about her dream job—she wanted to be an author. Elizabeth continued to write short stories over the following years as she raised a family. After attending Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY and East Tennessee State University, she worked in the social work field for thirteen years.

She currently lives in East Tennessee with her husband, author Neil Newton, and a collection of rescued dogs and cats. Her first book View From the Sixth Floor: An Oswald Tale was published in October 2014; a love story that revolves around the assassination of President John Kennedy on November 22, 1963—and the ensuing conspiracy theories. This was followed in June 2015 with the release of Riddle, a romantic thriller about a Native American convicted of killing his high school girlfriend. Elizabeth’s third novel, a somewhat erotic romance of one woman’s journey through love, loss, and resolution, will be released in the fall of 2016.

This mother of 4, grandmother of 5, and great grandmother of a newly arrived boy, loves serial killers and all things horror. She has been this way since early childhood, much to her mother’s dismay. Fascinated by the inner workings of the criminal mind, an interest strongly influenced by her father, she allowed her imagination to run wild in her tale for this anthology. You are invited to pay Elizabeth a visit at Between the Beats and her author website here or connect via Facebook and Twitter: @redqueenliz

“Mark of the Hyena” by Mark Fine [CROOKED TALES short story]

Review by Elizabeth Horton-Newton the author of ‘View From the Sixth Floor: An Oswald Tale’ and ‘Riddle’

“Mark of the Hyena” by Mark Fine

When civilizations collide N!xau’s click ticks tsk tsk tricks a surprising vultured culture.

Author Mark Fine provides a unique short story with his offering of “Mark of the Hyena”. Presenting the tale with two perspectives; N!xau an African San Bushman native and Werner, a smug European professor who sets out to prove his allegation that the San Bushmen were a “trivial people” because they had no written record of their history or culture.

 

‘CROOKED TALES’ gathers the talent of 15 of the hottest authors around to thrill you with their visions of mayhem, in places exotic, bucolic, other-worldly, or simply sinister.
CROOKED TALES: Deception & Revenge in 15 Short Stories (Short Story Tales Book 2)

From Fine’s artful descriptions of the native language of clicks and clacks to Werner’s attitude of superiority, the author creates vibrant characters. In spite of the turmoil the tribe is experiencing N!xau and the Bushmen rescue Werner and transport him to their village in order to save him from certain death. The professor is ill prepared to survive in the unfamiliar wilderness he had foolishly attempted to explore. On the other hand N!xau, his wife K/ora, and his son !Xi are likewise unprepared for the true savagery of the egocentric European.

This is a compelling story that highlights the conflict between two diverse cultures, with the best of one meeting the worst of the other. Incredibly insightful it provides a harsh look at the attitudes of the pseudo intellectual professor when offered the kindness of the natives. Fine’s ability to see through the eyes of different cultures shines through in this well written story. The unexpected climax is rewarding and beautifully handled. Mark Fine remains one of my favourite authors.

CROOKED TALES IS AVAILABLE ON AMAZON

Ulla Hakanson I just loved Elizabeth Noreen Newton’s review of Mark Fine’s fascinating story “Mark of the Hyena,” one of my favourites in the short story collection “Crooked Tales. Another favourite of mine is Anita Kovacevic’s “Beneath,” a truly unique story of the battle of wills! This whole book is filled with well-written suspenseful gems. Love it!

Thanks to Between the Beats for this article, for more great literary themed stories and reviews click here.

Author: Mark Fine

Author Mark Fine was a record label chief for PolyGram. Variety magazine named him “Music Executive with 20/20 Vision”—good thing too as Fine is tone-deaf. His failed efforts to compose a song resulted in the critically acclaimed novel, “The Zebra Affaire.” As research for his writings (and opinions) Fine immigrated to America from South Africa, in an effort to better appreciate being a stranger in a strange land. Due to his African roots, he is a strong advocate for wildlife conservation and is an ardent #RhinoProtector. Readers may follow him at http://www.markfinebooks.com and http://www.facebook.com/ZebraAffaire.

Readers Review Room & Traci Sanders – interview with the founder

Traci Sanders is an amazing lady I had the pleasure of meeting a while back in an online writers’ group. Apart from being an early educator and caregiver, she is an award-winning multigenre a…

Author Mark Fine said, “Traci is an impeccable example, as are you, Anita, of the wisdom, enterprise, creativity and innovation of the Indie Author. Both of you are making great strides in legitimizing the Indie Author scene. You refelect the fine writerly talent that’s been constantly ignored by ‘snobbish’ media and publishers row in New York, London and elsewhere. Keep up the good work! #IndieCred4Authors.”

Source: Readers Review Room & Traci Sanders – interview with the founder

TWISTED TALES: 15 Literary Lies & Epic Yarns: “Karmic Odds” by Mark Fine

Short Story Review by Elizabeth Newton

Mark Fine B&W (72dpi)WebI must confess Mark Fine is one of my favorite indie author’s. I further confess his short story contribution to Twisted Tales, Karmic Odds, is one of my favorite stories in the collection. With the same adept use of prose he shows in his full length novel, The Zebra Affaire, Fine weaves a tale that is both compelling and disturbing.

Beginning with an easy pace, relating the trials and tribulations of a rather unpleasant marriage, Fine sets the tone for the story. From Roxanne’s first vitriolic outburst at long suffering Gerhard I wanted to smack her in the head. Unlike the poor man’s cheerful mother, Roxanne makes dinner time an Olympic event in castration by words; a contest Gerhard is doomed to lose. Escaping from her viper’s tongue Gerhard travels back in time to a memory that begins pleasantly before turning to a more disturbing recollection.

This is where Mark Fine spins his best magic web. He has a knack for bringing the past to life, embracing the reader with vibrant historic events, making his reader comfortable in the membrane of notable occurrences. Gerhard may have had loving parents in post war Germany but his happy if simple life is turned upside down when he is forced to leave his family behind and travel across the sea to the United States. It is in the golden west, with its sunny beaches and fifties rock and roll that Gerhard meets his future bride, Roxanne.

Roxanne’s “chameleonesque” personality may have sent up warning flags but like many men who have succumbed to beauty and the attentiveness of a stunning woman, Gerhard pushed his reservations aside.  He made the “beach-tinted” “breath of fresh air” his wife.

It would seem at this point the story would have a happily ever after conclusion but that is not to be. This is the story of a woman who is both superstitious and greedily demanding and her foreign born brow beaten spouse. It is the tale of lucky numbers and lottery tickets. It is the account of a man who sets a juicy trap for a conniving bitch. The conclusion of this story is as delicious and sweet as the Slurpee Gerhard consumes at the local 7-11.

Kudos to Mark Fine for not only driving the knife in to the hilt but twisting it skillfully and making me almost jump up and shout out “hurray”! Upon completion of reading this short story I was able to sit back and smile with the satisfying comment, “Karma is a bitch”.

TT Free

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FiNE REVIEW: “Unsevered” by Traci Sanders. An emotional, yet hopeful Love Story.

This book’s loving message is meaningful: that in the most unexpected way second chances are always possible.

An unconventional tile: “Unsevered”

51lfwjT9lNL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Let me first address the book title, “Unsevered”. An unconventional word that’s both awkward to say and discordant to hear. Why not, for example “Unbroken” or “Unbowed”? Curious, I had to read the book, and in doing so, I’m impressed how with a single word author Traci Sanders was able to capture the complexity of the human condition.

The antonym to “severed” suggests amputation.

Forgive me for being personal here, but I lost my wife to breast cancer, and the emotional tear of feelings was akin to “amputation”–not only the permanent loss of a loved one, but also the knowledge that the future life we had hoped to live together was forever destroyed.

This is what Jewel experienced when she lost her dear husband Harley to the unkindness of war. But Sanders use of “UNsevered” is a clear indication that there is always hope, and that loss need not mean “severed”.

A glimpse into the full life of a woman.

To this reader (taken from my distinctly male perspective) it was a forthright glimpse into a wife, lover, widow, friend, daughter, mother and bride.

In doing so I sensed the quiet of an anti-war song, the pang of a love letter, the grief of a widow, the camaraderie of a friend, the undying gratitude of a daughter, the selfless love of a new mother, and the wisdom and courage to fall in love, again.

Is there an enriching life after grief?

Though it is a universal experience it’s amazing how ill-equipped we are when it comes to grieving; and then moving forward beyond those bleak days. There is no formula. However, many of us are crippled by the notion that we are destined to have only one single “great love” in our lives. This prevents us from moving forward with optimism, and hope. And that, for me, is the significance of this love story; it is author Traci Sanders’ valiant message of hope.

It tells us to keep our hearts open for the unexpected (Yes, that’s another possible title for this book “Unexpected”) because in the cycle of life we do get do-overs.

“Unsevered” is well worth the read. Get it HERE from Amazon 🙂

FINE REVIEW: “Bride Without a Groom” by Amy Lynch ~ Great Fun & Highly Amusing

Bride Without a GroomBride Without a Groom by Amy Lynch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Man, I loved this book! I chortled and giggled my way through all 300 odd pages. How could I not after floating in the head of one self-absorbed, dilettante named Rebecca on a mission to land herself a husband. As for the target of her ambitions, Barry the lawyer, well, he was simply outgunned. The poor man had to beat a hasty retreat to Bangkok, (or was it Hong Kong, or Taiwan?) in order to muster his defense against Rebecca’s ‘you have to marry me’ onslaught. In Barry’s absence there’s hope that Rebecca would see the light, which she attempts through a veil of self-indulgence, fried-foods and gin & tonics. But Rebecca isn’t alone in her quest as she has the unwavering support of her BFF, the wealthy Emer.

Every dastardly challenge is rewarded with a mani-pedi, spa retreat, body wax, spray-on tan, and another gin & tonic; in other words Rebecca’s world is deliciously superficial. And that’s the brilliance of author Lynch’s writing, because as a reader you still wish for Rebecca to get her man despite her obvious failings.

As for writing style, it’s so successful rendered in the first person, from Rebecca’s perspective, that I could not help but become fully engaged in her trials and tribulations. The dialog was sassy, snappy and spot on in a British/Irish kind of way (which I found thoroughly refreshing). I especially enjoyed it when Amy Lynch lifted the lid on the inner workings of Rebecca’s mind; I so enjoyed the ruminations and rationales made by this hopeful bride in her effort pursue her life’s single purpose–to get herself a husband. Poor Barry never had a chance! There is no doubt I’d be delighted to read Amy Lynch’s next book because of her ability to both charm and amuse me. A fun, fun read.

View all my reviews