Magical Realism

Worlds Within Worlds

Worlds Within Worlds
Imagine living in a multi-layered reality of separate but complimentary worlds—physical, mental, spiritual and technological—when a bully you thought safely tucked away in the cyberworld suddenly appears in your physical world looking suspiciously like your worst nightmare. Can you stuff him back into your computer? And if not, can the Magan Lord’s daughter from the fantasy book you’re editing, your dreams of a rabid beast, your visions of a Tibetan Yogi and your reawakened memories help you maintain your sanity and survive the darkest night of your life? Find out in the double award-winning metaphysical thriller Worlds Within Worlds when all this happens to author, editor and reviewer Prunella Smith. This inspirational, transrealist work—a mix of psychological thriller, fantasy and romance—has been awarded the Awesome Indies Seal of Excellence and a BRAG Medallion of Excellence in Independent Fiction. Worlds Within Worlds has a unique perspective on the nature of creativity. Its touch is light, its humour distinctive but it reaches deep into the nature of human experience.

Reviewed by Awesome Indies Assessor

December 12, 2014

I received a free copy of Tahlia Newland’s Prunella Smith: Worlds within Worlds for review, and I have to say up front – this is a book that is long overdue. It addresses cyber bullying, especially as it pertains to writers and reviewers, but does so in a chilling way that will live you looking over your shoulder with every word you write.

Prunella Smith is a freelance editor and author who is up against a deadline on an editing job – a fantasy story about an adventurous woman, Kelee, who is having an affair with a young groomsman on her estate. Ella, as she is known, is also a book reviewer, and a recent review of a not-so-good novel has provoked the author, Dita, to begin a campaign of on-line stalking and bullying. Dita’s cyber bullying begins to take its toll, interfering with Ella’s ability to objectively edit Kelee’s story, and things only get worse when she discovers that she has a physical stalker as well.

Newland’s tale kept me interested from page one – and the little surprise she threw in near the end, well -2 I didn’t see that one coming. A thoroughly entertaining story. An easy five stars here.

Reviewed by Frank Kusy (aka Wussyboy)

This is a very topical book, a very well written one too. Thirty something Ella Smith lives in a remote log cabin in the Australian bush, cut off from most of humanity but connected through her mind and imagination (and her internet) to a multitude of worlds: at times she is a writer/editor in the real world, at others she is a wise old Yogi in the prelude to the 1959 Chinese invasion of Tibet, or Kelee, the fictional warrior princess with whom she comes to identify strongly through the book she is editing. Not to mention her alter ego as Electra, an ‘after dark’ dancer in a local strip joint. The topicality of the book comes when Ella responds to a request of an ‘honest’ review from an arrogant (and unbalanced) author on his new novel and gives him just that… a two-star review on a social media website (Amazon) which he deeply resents. At this point, we enter Stephen King territory – the demented author Dita shouting “Take it down!” much as the main protagonist of King’s ‘Thinner’ shouts ‘Take it off!’ to the gypsy who has laid a curse him. When she doesn’t, the author turns cyber troll and begins invading her virtual world with increasingly nasty abuse and threats, along with one-star reviewing her own recently published book. As the bullying author penetrates even her dream world (he’s a dark, human shaped blob in a hoodie!) her other identities as Kelee, Electra and the Yogi also run into crisis, and she struggles, through her Buddhist practice, to elevate her mind above the worldly concern of being unliked by 20 Facebook friends overnight. ‘Sometimes it’s hard being a Buddhist,’ she observes when not just one but two stalkers get on her case – the fight is on, in her own mind, to see all obstacles as opportunities, to see Dita, The Creep and even the evil Beak as fuel to fire her own journey to enlightenment. This is riveting stuff, part magical realism dreamscape, part taut psychological thriller, and I was literally on the edge of my seat when the final twist – and what a twist it is – came around. Phew, what a ride!
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an ‘honest’ review of my own. Well done, Ms Newland, I can honestly say this is the best book have read this year.

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Reviewed by Amy Spahn

Worlds Within Worlds tackles the problem of identity in the age of technological anonymity. Ella Smith is an independent author and editor whose online life crashes into reality with disturbing implications. The book questions how much of one’s true self can – and should – be broadcast to the world.

The story also delves into the nature of authorship when anyone with a computer can publish themselves instantly. What determines the value of a writer? Their career success? Their contributions to other authors, appreciated or not? What about when their readers disagree with their interpretations of their work? Who is the final authority when everyone has an opinion?

This book will make you think. Considering the deluge of new works streaming from authors these days, that may be the highest praise a novel can receive.

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Reviewed by Robyn Gregory

World Within Worlds was an interesting read. There was a mixture of Buddhism, magical realism and present-day problems of a 30-something writer/editor. She has chosen career over a family and children. She seems fairly content with the decision. During the time she is editing another author’s book she is bullied online by an author who she gave a bad review to. My only issue with it was that there were too many storylines running at the same time and I was having a little bit of trouble following along with them. I think it would have been better if they had her story alongside Kelee’s story (the one she was editing). But, otherwise, it was able to keep my interest. I received this book free from Awesome Indies Books in return for an honest review.

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Reviewed by Justin Spahn

My wife recommended this book to me, and I absolutely loved it. I do not normally review, well, anything on Amazon, but I decided it was time to start, having read something which inspired me to respond. Its multiple layers were very compelling, and the author struck just the right balance of keeping the various strands and plot threads and titular worlds separated as well as intertwined.

I love how thoughtful this book was. It asked many questions about reality, imagination, and how perception and intent shape the world and vice versa. It gripped my attention and fascinated me, and I found that I couldn’t put it down. The main character is in her own world, experiencing the worlds of others through meditation, social media, dreams, and real-life clashes. In addition, the entire book is a world of its own within the author’s mind, and I myself, as the reader, am yet another world into which her worlds are introduced and experienced. Is the book I finished reading the same book that the author wrote? Did I perceive and experience it the way it was intended, or did I myself change the book simply by observing it, like a quantum physics experiment? Not since “If On A Winter’s Night a Traveler” by Italo Calvino have I felt so intellectually stimulated by a novel!

Finally, I find that I’ve bonded with the main character, which is quite a feat as I personally share virtually nothing in common with her, and yet I miss her terribly. I eagerly look forward to the release of the sequel!

The Evolution of Reptilian Handbags and Other Stories

The Evolution of Reptilian Handbags and Other Stories
An unhappy housewife flees with her lover as civilization collapses in a tsunami of trash. A bank teller aids invisible thieves. A welder learns she has the power to kill with a kiss. A hive of women transforms tourists with arcane sexual rites. A Korean War sniper stalks his doppelganger: a children’s television host. Amnesiac goddesses-turned-farmers struggle for survival in war-torn, post-apocalyptic Iowa. By turns emotionally resonant and irreverent, surreal and sexy, these ten stories swirl with unseen currents, blending the fantastic and the mundane to get to the deeper truths of our existence.

A Hole in the Pavement

A Hole in the Pavement
Every morning, Norris watches his goddess walk to the bus stop in front of him, the gap between them far wider than the physical distance. This morning, she stumbles. He wants to run and help her, but finds himself stuck in a hole that appeared along with his self doubt. By the time he gets out, she’s long gone. He vows that if it happens again, he won’t hesitate, but when she falls the next day, he has more than his own hole to deal with. Can he find his heroic self before she walks away?

Reviewed by Awesome Indies

 

When you’re reading a sweet, tender story of romance, you don’t expect to be on pavements with holes in them, or at bus stops, or held in the routines of the morning’s commute, and you certainly don’t expect that setting to contribute to the story’s charm. That, however, is exactly what Tahlia Newland has achieved here. There are just two characters, each with a self-image that’s far from flattering. The girl thinks she has ‘thunder thighs’ and an expanding waistline and yet she ‘can’t give up eating ice cream’. The man sees her as a goddess and himself as an ordinary mortal. He suspects she finds his bow tie unfashionable but to her, it’s cute. And so the story develops in this world of ‘rusty fences, cracked paths, faded paintwork and builders’ rubble’.

But it’s also a world which has ‘the fragrance of Jasmine in the warm air’ and it’s this juxtaposition of mundane everyday elements and the dreams and fantasies which we all carry that leads the whole to a very satisfying conclusion. The strange holes which keep appearing are part of the crumbling everyday setting and yet, in the story, they have a generative, symbolic function. They’re an excellent metaphor, used with restraint and sensitivity. This is magical realism at a seemingly simple and yet powerful level. And it’s all in the characters and the use of language. Their feelings are ‘golden’, ‘brilliant’. Magnolia leaves carpet the ground, but the hole contains sticky-looking mud. The ‘thunder-thighed’ woman has eyes with ‘endless depths’, the shy, tongue-tied man becomes a rescuing knight. And it seems that the holes were never there at all.

 

Ripple

Ripple
The twenty million year old story of how one dolphin was inspired by love to an intellectual achievement that changed the universe. Twenty million years ago, powers of the universe allow an ancient spirit one final chance to achieve a mysterious intellectual purpose, by incarnating it as a dolphin on the planet Azure (Earth.) The spirit is born as Ripple, a vulnerable female with a seeming tendency to insanity. She falls for the scarred fighter-dolphin Cosmo and love inspires her to achieve her purpose. But before she can communicate her discovery, she must overcome terrific odds among the terrors and tragedies of the ancient oceans. If she can succeed, the universe will change forever, and allow dolphins to profoundly affect the yet-to-evolve human race.

This is an excellent work of literary fiction, well written, moving and thought provoking, in fact, at times, downright disturbing. Truly, if we didn’t find it disturbing, there’d be something wrong with us. In just a few scenes we are shown that, despite our laws, there is still precious little justice for rape victims today. Are they really going to ask that fifteen year old to stand up in public and identify her father as her rapist? Yes, they are, and there is nothing the women can do to stop it.

Farris has taken the heart-wrenching topic of incestuous sexual abuse and approached it bravely. She has delved into the guilt, the shame and the horror felt by the victim, a fifteen year old girl raped many times by her father, and the girl’s mother, a high powered lawyer who spent more time at work than she did with her daughter. This absence from the daughter’s life in pursuit of a career is a topic that many women and, I hope, men will relate to. Phoebe couldn’t have become her father’s play thing if her mother had been around all those nights. So, of course, Helen, the mother, feels enormously guilty. The revelation also shocks her to near breaking point.

Her relationship with her husband wasn’t great, but she never thought that he would be in an pedophile group or that he would spike his daughter’s drink with a date rape drug and video his sick games so he could show his online friends. Helen finds the video and, traumatised by the sight of her husband raping her daughter, whacks him with a golf club when he returns home. He falls, hits his head and dies in hospital.

And that’s just the beginning. Will Helen be tried for murder? And what about the rest of the pedophile ring that the father had invited over to fuck his daughter the next night? The author relates just enough of their online conversation for us to know that these men are truly dangerous.

Yes, it’s heavy stuff, but at least Helen knows to take Phoebe to a safe house, and at least Helen has money and friends. I couldn’t help wondering about women and girls in this kind of situation who don’t have those kinds of resources. It would be an even bigger hell.

If it’s sounding too miserable for you, don’t be put off because the story actually has a lot of heart and it comes from the women who support and care for each other. Helen and Phoebe end up in a safe house in the country and Helen gets excellent councillors and a smart sassy lawyer who has her own background of abuse. The inner turmoil and conflicting emotions of the characters come out slowly and in ever deepening layers, like peeling an onion. The revelations to their therapists, and Phoebe eventually confronting her mother are expertly plotted and paced for maximum affect. We discover the depth of the betrayal, the things her father told her to keep her compliant and the effect it’s had on Phoebe. It’s all too believable and terribly sad. We are left in no doubt as to the long term effects of such abuse.

The story is held together with a very strong sense of danger from the remaining men. The police are supposed to find them, they find two, but the third remains at large, and they don’t know who he is. By the time they find out, it is almost too late.

We hear the voice of this man in small snippets throughout the book. He’s there in the back ground like our worst nightmare. He’s the evil in the shadows, the monster beneath the bed. He represents unbridled lust without conscience. The women’s characters are all expertly drawn. I cared deeply for them. They were real people to me.

In contrast, the man is a cardboard cut out, but he should be. More rounded characterisation would give him too much power. It would detract from the women, and this is the women’s story. We only need to know the man in his role as abuser, the rest is irrelevant here. Also, he is much more fearsome as a shadow. Once a fear becomes known, it is no longer so scary.

If I was to be picky, I might say that it was too easy to pick who the third man was, and that certain things in the story were a little too convenient, like the Olympic horse rider and Carl’s boyfriend being a therapist, but they really didn’t matter. It was a great story and ultimately one of hope, for it showed that with the right kind of support, victims of abuse† can heal, start over and make a good life for themselves.

I highly recommend this book, especially to men.

5 stars.

 

Reviewed by Richard Bunning

Tui Allen’s book “Ripple” should be as important to new generations as Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring” was to mine. Carson’s grew out of a life time of interest in Marine Biology. We now understand on a scientific level that by destroying our environment we are diminishing ourselves. Allen’s book is a seminal work that takes us to the next level, more than most other work has done in the 50 years since. Allen can do for our metaphysical spirit what Carson did for our intellectual comprehension. Carson wrote of the nuts and bolts of environmental structure, and Allan of the essence of life itself.
But isn’t this book just a short sentimental journey, flowing from Allan’s clever perception of what cetacean life might actually embrace, namely, a sentient consciousness to rival our own.
Yes, and yet it is so much more.
This is a timely reminder, though we don’t lack them in number but only of this quality, of what we are doing to the waters of this azure planet.
Can we heed this story as any more than a brief sentimental journey, as our brief tears over the likes of Joy Adamson’s “Born Free”? Probably not! However, I insist we should. Allen’s Ripple needs to be on our reading lists and perhaps it could even be some sort of film. Time will tell. Many reviews by far more influential critics than I will have to appear first, but this book is every bit good enough to join the common vernacular of our savage modern tribe, if the brush of fame can just be applied.
Who is to say whether “Ripple” will be simply another “science fiction drama” that touches a few lucky readers, or one that grows to touch our common consciousness, our understanding of ourselves? All I can do is send this weak bleat into the ether, without any hope of where it might fall. I hope that this sentimental delight doesn’t prove to be a visionary documentary drama foretelling of the final extinction of sea mammals, sometime between 2207 and 2217 Anno Domini.
I hope the book’s cover doesn’t confine it to the young adult, and mostly female, shelves. It will sell well from them, but it is so much larger than this market. This is a book for every one of us who has a thread that still ties them to concern for the wellbeing of life, and not just a rope connecting them with the selfish survival of man. Unlike the other books mentioned here, this is certainly fiction, but not mere fiction, not mere, not for one fleeting second.

Shadow on the Wall

Shadow on the Wall
Recai Osman: Muslim, philosopher, billionaire and Superhero? Controversial and daring, Shadow on the Wall details the transformation of Recai Osman from complicated man to Superhero. Forced to witness the cruelty of the Morality Police in his home city of Elih, Turkey, Recai is called upon by the power of the desert to be the vehicle of change. Does he have the strength to answer Allah’s call or will his dark past and self doubt stand in his way? Pulling on his faith in Allah, the friendship of a Jewish father-figure and a deeply held belief that his people deserve better, Recai Osman must become The SandStorm. In the tradition of books by Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie, Shadow on the Wall tackles issues of religion, gender, corruption and the basic human condition. Beautiful and challenging, this is not a book to miss.

The Imagination Thief

Imagination Thief, The
Alone in his skyscraper office one night, Jaymi undergoes a transformation that changes his life: he acquires the power to see into others’ minds, and then to control and project their thoughts.  Realising the power of this, he hypnotises a media mogul into broadcasting an electrifying extravaganza of sound and vision emanating from Jaymi, the like of which has never been witnessed before. However, one of the mogul’s underlings has more subversive plans for milking Jaymi’s talent, involving the theft of others’ imaginations and intimate memories for commercial gain.  This huge broadcast plunges Jaymi and his friend Alaia into the underbelly of Asbury Park – a seaside town once thriving but now half-forgotten, whose oceanfront is almost a ghost town. Ruled by gangsters and drug dealers, headed by Lucan, it is populated by lost souls and the beautiful who have fallen on hard times. Blackmailed into thieving the most private and primal parts of their imaginations, Jaymi discovers a web of secrets and provocations simmering beneath the surface of the town, about to explode.  Delving into the most extreme possibilities of imagination, personality and love, The Imagination Thief explores the universal human predicaments of power, beauty, happiness, hopelessness, good and evil.

You Can’t Shatter Me

You Can't Shatter Me
Publisher:
Published: November 13, 2013
Sixteen-year-old Carly is set to become top of her art class until bully-boy Justin gives her a vicious payback for standing up for one of his victims. Her boyfriend, karate-trained nerd Dylan, wants to smash the guy’s face in, but a fight at school means suspension, losing his chance at school honours and facing a furious father. Carly is determined to find a more creative solution to her problem, but will she sort it out before Dylan’s inner caveman hijacks him and all hell breaks loose? Justin might be a pain, but his harassment leads to a deepening of Dylan and Carly’s romance, and Carly finds an inner strength she didn’t know she had. The magical realism style provides a touch of fantasy in an otherwise very real story that offers heart-warming solutions to bullying. You Can’t Shatter Me is food for the soul. It has received a BRAG Medallion for Outstanding Fiction and an AIA Seal of Excellence in Fiction.

Reviewed 

January 18, 2013

I thoroughly enjoyed this short novel by Tahlia Newland to the extent that I chose to read it twice – and got even more from it the second time around. On the surface this is a story about high school teens – boy and girl becoming aware of one another, while outside that is the constant threat of bullying by an unhappy individual who knows no other way to escape his own, very real demon in the form of an abusive parent.

The way the story is written, with a strong magic realism aspect to it and emphatic underlying messages on morality: love, forgiveness, compassion and understanding, are a real treat, showing the force of faith in oneself and in others who may appear to be beyond redemption.

The writing is excellent, the dialogue natural, the settings totally appropriate for a story aimed at high school children. The thrust of the book is clear, the characters engaging and the story has a strong structure. It is exactly the sort of story schools should use to teach about the various aspects of bullying; how not only the victim but the bully can be helped and how it is so very important to look below the surface for the bully’s motivation.

Overall, a charming story about love and redemption that will appeal to more perceptive children of high school age and could be used to teach those somewhat less perceptive.

Review by Katt Pemble

****

I tossed up between a 3 and 4 star rating for this one. I went with a 4 as you can see. The reason I wasn’t sure was because I felt that the imagery and the fantasy aspect seemed a little too prominent within the story.

Hold up, I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Tahlia has a very strong story here, the characters are realistic, honest and believable. Their reactions are true to being a teenager and the situations they find themselves in is a realistic representation of what a teenager might go through at school. It’s important these days to teach children about bullying and how to deal with it.

An indie book to rival the finished products of the big six, Tahlia should be very proud of the highly glossy polish this book has. If all indie authors could produce this standard of work, the readers of today would be in for a treat!

Now, back onto the story, while there were cliche moments, it didn’t disrupt the storyline. In fact I think some of them helped to solidify the moment in the story and show character growth and development.

Where I took a step back from the story was with the imaginary happenings of the characters, the strange cut scenes that they used to help make important discoveries and growth. They seemed a little too ‘young’ for the story to me. It could be that I’m just not the intended target audience of You Can’t Shatter Me, and as I believe that is the case I overlooked that and bumped up the rating.

This book would be a great one to share with the young adult in your life, be they a son, daughter, niece or nephew. It highlights the bravery required to overcome bullying, but it also teaches them other valuable lessons about self worth and being kind to others. It should be compulsory reading for all Primary and High school kids today.

**Note: I was provided an electronic version of the book in return for an honest review***