God and the gods by Genesis Yengoh

When a gruff young policeman asks to see what’s in his pouch, traditional medicine man, Mforme Tata, responds,  “It is not something you want to see… So are you sure I should open this package?”  Brace yourselves, readers: “when traditional values that have been held, respected and unquestioned for several generations are mixed with the complacency and stupidity of of modern rationalism in the contemporary world, the outcomes can be disastrous.”  Genesis Yengoh’s story centers around the dramatic coming-together of old and new in the lives of Nseimboh Ngoske and Tayang Emmanuel Tifu.  As Nseimboh, the favorite and eldest son of Elias and Lydia Ngoske, moves steadily up the civil service ranks, his family enlists traditional practices for protection.  Meanwhile, Nseimboh’s uncle, Tayang, himself initiated into the high ranks of a secret traditionalist society, decides not to bring his twelve year old son forward for initiation.  Both men reap the consequences of their actions, as do other members of the family.  Mixed with beautiful renderings of landscape and dress, as well as hospitality and village life, Yengoh’s probe into Cameroonian culture is shocking and at times brutal.    
Genesis Yengoh


A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

The more reasons we have to hate Ove, the more we love him.  He loves rules more than people.  He scowls instead of smiles.  And he certainly won’t put up with BMW owners.  Ove’s relationship with himself changes over time, too.  Neighbors keep thwarting his suicide attempts with their annoying requests, and he keeps answering their pleas.  The Pregnant One and her husband, The Lanky One, can’t open their windows.  “IT consultant” (whatever that means) Jimmy seems to do nothing but eat and want to talk Ove.  Social Services want to take demented Rune away from his wife, Anita.  Is Ove willing to bid his old enemy good riddance?  Fredrik Backman keeps us in suspense about Ove by going back and forth in time, telling Ove’s story backwards and forwards.  The past threatens to swallow Ove, but the present also gives him reason to keep going.  With heart-warming wit and sentences as spare as Ove’s own attempts at dialogue, this story brings color where there is only black and white.  It might even inspire readers to adopt a stray cat.

Travellers – Inceptio by Rob Shackleford

Just as the Travellers become immersed in Saxon community, we readers are taken up into the world of Inceptio (Latin for beginning).  Author Rob Shackleford leads us into his story by setting two alternating storylines alongside one another, one about the team of PhD students who accidentally create a time travel machine and another about time traveller Michael Hunter encountering a Saxon monastery and adjacent village.  The threads converge at the point when the machine has not only earned the group their doctorates, but jobs and notoriety.  British, American and Australian military collaborate with the team’s academic advisors to elite soldiers, Michael first among them, into a year of Traveller training before departure for first century Britain.  The Saxons soon enlist “Lord Michael” and his mates to lead the defense against Viking invaders.  Told in a variety of styles – news reports, diary entries, e-mails, candid dialogue and graphic prose – Shackleford’s tale will please fans of Secret of Kells as well as The Last King.  Fast-paced, it reads like a movie, with the heart of a memoir.  More Traveller books are planned.

See more Indie Reviews here

Signs for Lost Children by Sarah Moss

The prologue and epilogue of this novel contain their backstory as beautifully as the inro, the ancient Japanese pockets Tom brings home to England.  What looks, on the inro’s outside, like one carving of four foxes turns out to be four fox compartments with invisible seams.  So, too, Sarah Moss weaves a plot in the segues between alternating tales of Tom Cavendish’s Oriental travels as a lighthouse engineer and Ally, his bride’s, career as a new “mad-doctor.”  Moss gives us readers a taste for the revolutionary courses her characters chart, both in their careers and in their unlikely family life, as we must imagine what transpires between the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next.  Taking her own healing process as a model, newly-minted Dr. Ally Moberley Cavendish gropes to nurture recovery in a way traditional asylums cannot.  Meanwhile, Tom is smitten by the mysterious structural as well as a cultural architecture in Japan.  Both surrounded by lush landscapes, our heroine and hero present breath-taking portraits of a new paradigm of nineteenth century work and marriage.    

Torn by Simon Williams

I laugh out loud at myself as Simon Williams describes our American foibles from his outsider perspective.  But the funnier he is, the more tragic becomes the problem he eludes to many times, that his humor covers up until page 220 of 225.  He derides the American health care system as he first experiences in Florida and paints a picture of the DMV reminiscent of Zootopia, peppering episodic tales with references to Monty Python (his shared interest in which helps him pass his physical therapy exams at “uni”) and other pop culture icons from the 1980’s and 90’s.  The “rugby gods” shine down on him for the most part, but the Universe also deals him some “s*** to stir.”  Despite rude patients and divorced workmates, rugby injuries and car trouble, a girlfriend’s hijacked photo and bar brawls, he never stays down for long, until serious depression strikes.  Having traveled a bumpy road with him, that’s when I’m hooked.  I ditto his claim that writing is a way of getting back up.  Writing and good mates.  Two follow-ups succeed TORN. See other self-published reviews here

Indiana Belle by John Heldt

What’s worth the risks of time travel, murder, revenge, catastrophic weather and a mother’s wrath?  A Midwestern beauty with wit to match.  When 2017 doctoral student Cameron Coelho lays eyes on journalist Candice Bell’s 1925 portrait, he falls in love, plunging into his research on 1920s social norms in the Midwest via time-travel, crime-fighting, and old fashioned courtship.  Cameron joins Candice in her investigation into Evansville’s dark side, while trying not to get on the dark side of could-be mother-in-law.  With mother’s permission, the pair travels by rail across the country to gather important time-travel accoutrements for Cameron’s physicist benefactor and Candice’s future relative, impressing and mystifying one another on the way.  John Heldt entertains with short chapters packed with punch and conflicts that resolve.  The characters are dreamers who “overcome the odds… they make things happen,” most notably blending past, present and future with charm and genre-bending creativity.  This isn’t your average sci-fi; it is his eighth book, third in the American Journey series.  As a bonus, the self-published author offers a prediction about 2041.  see other indie reviews here

Gringo Champion by Aura Xilonen


The Gringo Champion is a “wetback” who earns his title by beating all odds.  After crossing the Rio Grande into an American border town, Liborio is rescued by migrants, naked and blistered.  He lives and works with them until they’re nearly caught by immigration officials.  He escapes to a city where he finds work in a bookstore.  There, he discovers the loves of this life: books and “the chickadee,” a beautiful neighbor.  A fight to defend her lands him unexpected fame and a chance to channel his anger toward good.

Liborio’s primary opponent is not the one he hits, but his past.  Aura Xilonen inserts Librorio’s recollections of his past in italicized sections sprinkled into his narration of the present.  For the first half of the book, past and present are equally represented.  But after Liborio shows his boss what he writes: “I saw her there for the first time, or what the hell ever, spinning serendipital through the trees of a pleistocene paradise.  But she, with the fucking sweetness produced by blindness, didn’t see me until it was too late, mingled with a pagan night on a red bus, when we monsters sprout from the alveolar sewers of the city, under the hieroglyph that rains down ectoplasmic beatings on only a few, when amid the streets, amid the streetlights, amid the hanging gardens of the fucking starts, someone, in silence, falls in love,” the italicized segments end and the present takes over as the only narration.  Jefe, the bookstore owner and Liborio’s boss, can’t believe this isn’t plagiarism.  Just like other authority figures throughout Liborio’s nineteen years, Jefe can’t believe Liborio is capable of his own creativity.  And until he begins to write, Liborio is merely the product of years of abuse.  He is, at first, leery of the words he reads in the bookstore (where he devours books), and feels threatened by anyone who tries to do him a good deed.  He lashes out.  But in this pivotal confrontation with Jefe, Liborio recognizes his own power – his pen and his fists.  From then on, he puts his power to work for his own benefit.  He lives in the present.  He becomes not only a gringo but a champion.

As Liborio becomes more settled and the text becomes less bifurcated and less profane, I wondered if the story would devolve into a fairy tale.  Would he marry the girl of his dreams?  Would he become rich and famous?  I didn’t want it to happen both for the sake of the story, which is beautiful in its edginess and the way it hops back and forth in time, and for the sake of truth.  Fairy tale endings aren’t common among illegal immigrants; I didn’t want this fiction to spread false hopes.  But the book exceeds my expectations.  I was surprised by the final scene.  Love wins, but not as I thought it might.