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“Finding Katie” Harmony Kent

I found this a fascinating, revealing and affirming read. I normally avoid books written in the continuous present, but there are occasions when that ‘oral’ way of telling a story is absolutely appropriate; and this is one of them. Kate’s history of eating disorder, self-loathing and self-harm clearly indicates how deeply damaged she is. She suffered systematic abuse throughout her childhood and early adolescence. She had an obsessive-compulsive, violent, cruel mother and a sexually abusive father, and it was drummed into her that everything bad that ever happened to her at home happened because she was a disobedient, selfish, wicked,...

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“Haunting Megan” Rebecca Reilly

This is a story that twists and turns but never fails to pluck at the heart strings. Its refrains are involving – haunting and chilling – but what gives it its power is how securely it is rooted in reality. It is heart-stopping at times because you know the author is right: the world isn’t fair, mistakes are made, and the innocent are routinely crucified. But Rebecca Reilly IS scrupulously fair: it is such a relief that the psychos aren’t all men and the victims all women. I know from personal experience, as does she, that damage does not discriminate...

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“The Swallowed World” Tyler Bumpus

The Swallowed World is a tour de force: taking the reader on a journey that is both realistic and allegorical in equal measure. This is the hell of humanity struggling for survival in a drowning world, and highlighting a fact with which we are all sadly too familiar: adversity brings out the worst in most people. As sea levels rise and swallow the land, so the evil that men do swallows their capacity for good. Hope lingers, however in another human characteristic – curiously highlighted in a genetically engineered version of ourselves: our capacity for fellow feeling, for empathy. It...

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“Shadow of the Drill” Rhani D’Chae

This is an exceptionally well-written contribution to this genre. What I found curious at first was the author’s choice of genre. I had never before associated her level of competence - penetrating character analysis, lyrical description, philosophical introspection, immaculate detail, precise and powerful movement of the action, convincing dialogue – with this social context: strip joints, prostitutes, brutal enforcers, the seamy, sordid, disreputable, largely nocturnal, dangerous and deeply unattractive tranche of society most of us go to considerable lengths to avoid. It works surprisingly well: because it reminds us that everyone involved in such a world in whatever capacity is...

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“I’m not Crazy… I’m Allergic!” Sherilyn Powers

This is an ‘astonishing’ book because of the strength of the case it makes for something that very many medical practitioners and researchers even now appear not to be sufficiently aware of: that in some people, severe allergic reaction presents as depression and psychosis. The book is largely about ‘Julie’ who for fifty years was given drugs that didn’t work, when what she needed was a correct diagnosis, anti-histamine, and to stop ingesting the foods that were making her ill. It is her cry, once Sherilyn had been able to prove to her what had been wrong all along, that...

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“The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman” Robin Gregory

Robin Gregory is a bright child multiplied by herself. There is so much wit, wisdom, light, warmth and tenderness (and sometimes unbearable sadness) in this superbly written book. Moojie is a child with special needs and special powers (aren’t we all, to some degree?) and the author takes him on a journey through his hard life in a quest for love and belonging that leads to a kind of acceptance, understanding and belonging. His improbable world of wonders bears some resemblance to the one that Lewis Carroll led Alice through, and much resemblance to the one we have the temerity...

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“The Crystal Navigator” Nancy Kunhardt Lodge

This book rang bells for me immediately.  It was about bright children, as my books are.  It wasn’t afraid to use interesting phrases like “chromatic aberration” and “inordinately fast synapses firing simultaneously”) and literary references such as ‘Den Vinter Svampe’ and ‘The Steady Gaze of Tawosret’s Mummy’.  It took magical and unusual events in its stride, and was beautifully written in an uncluttered way.  I felt a spooky affinity with the writer… I’m always happy to revisit Wonderland, and if Lewis Carroll can be allowed a talking white rabbit, Nancy Lodge must certainly be allowed a dignified corgi named Wilbur. ...

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