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.
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.
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.
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!
Reviewed by Richard Bunning
We reach the top of the climb, having started up the `spiritual’ mountain of Newland’s metaphysical creation in the first book in the Diamond Peak series. Life’s path is never easy for anyone if they are to fulfil their potential, the greater our gifts the more that others’ normally expect us to give. So it is with the heroine, Ariel. In the end, this was not so much of the story of Ariel’s struggle to conquer the blackness threatening her and the lives of those she cared about, but rather about her determination to help the `all’ of humanity. The serpentine Ariel has to destroy is just as binding in landscape we all know as it is on her mythical mountain; a massive peak which seemingly buds from some part of urban Australia. There is a true moral theme, the idea of a saviour, the dream of resetting the clock back on all corrupting evil. This work draws on the powerful allegory of writers like C.S. Lewis, whilst remaining free of his well chiselled, establishment, religious tow.
This is a superb read, in which for me the true peak of creativity was in the all too brief return of Ariel to the `real’ world. In this section we are rewarded by glimpsing the very dark childhood shadows from which Nick, Ariel’s ever closer friend, had to emerge. Of course, the fulfilling of the prophecy was most certainly the summit of excitement. Perhaps the `homecoming’ chapter had a particular resonance for me as it brought to the fore the inventive speculative fiction angle of the book to a degree not seen since the opening chapters of book one.
In my opinion, a perfect rounding of Newland’s `Diamond Peak’ project would be an omnibus addition, an amalgam of all four books in one fat volume. This would allow a huge amount of stripping of retold background and re-established character traits. Going over old ground in each book of the series is so necessary to readers’ understanding in any true serial with a defined `quest’. All four of these books work very well as standalone reads. However, written as one script of perhaps 300,000 words, even if still split into `books’, this could become a modern classic of YA fantasy.
April 20, 2015
Lili McIntyre just ended a difficult relationship and is now on a much-needed summer vacation to Melbourne, Australia for a few months. Her aunt Debs welcomes her Down Under and provides her with a chance to clear her head. On the plane, Lili meets Claire, and that new friendship introduces her to more than she dreamed of. Though Claire doesn’t know it, her new boyfriend, Tom, has an enormous secret. The oblivious Claire introduces Lili to Sam, Tom’s close friend. As a natural double-date, Sam and Lili find themselves thrown together and soon discover a growing attraction.
Soon, Lili discovers why Sam and Tom behave so strangely. They are vampires! Suddenly a world of the supernatural opens up to Lili and her heart will lead her to help Sam keep his secret identity and defend the city from conflicts begun in ages past.
Destiny is an enjoyable book with a fun take on the vampire genre, full of characters created with affection and care. Lili’s struggle to determine her future and the pressures from home struck a chord with me. She feels the urgency to decide her future and move forward, although the hugeness of the decision overwhelms her.
The American/Australian crossover made me wonder through the tale about the author’s origins, but I think I know. Some telling word choice clued me in. I loved hearing about life in Melbourne and all the interesting trips the characters took nearby. Though some of Melbourne’s history appears in the book, I would have like to learn more.
I appreciated the potential for the tale to discuss the subject of abuse. I think that young women, especially, need reinforcement that abuse is real, encouragement that they don’t have to endure it, and illustrations of what it really looks like. Plenty of speakers and nonfiction writers share about abuse, but tales of people enduring and overcoming it reach us in a different, sometimes more personal way.
Lili wonders through the tale why she isn’t scared that Sam is a vampire. I know why: it’s because none of the vampires in this book are the slightest bit scary. Romance and good looks trump blood-drinking. Any slip of the teeth is slight and polite to the extent that Claire never once discovers their identity. Even the scenes that should be thrilling and terrifying lose their teeth because of the detached and passive way the author describes them. My take is that the trouble lies in the author’s unwillingness to make the characters suffer. She loves them too much. Any problem is short and quickly resolved without the pain that blood-drinking romantic interests should pose.
Aside from the pressured calm of the tale, I enjoyed the book and look forward to the second book in the trilogy to find the answers to the problems that Lili hasn’t solved yet. Four stars.
Reviewed by Katt Pemble
Tahlia delivers another solid book, this time by way of a mix of short stories.
I loved the little intro, A drop from the well of creativity. I loved the way the stories where characterised like children, it made me smile, especially this line:
Inspiration falls like a drop of mercurial silver into the vast depths of my open mind. It hovers in space, then collects and merges with a gaggle of ideas and images until it hangs pregnant and heavy with a pressing need to deliver.
I just adore that imagery! What a welcome intro!
Now, the content… While some of the short stories weren’t really my favourite, I can’t fault Tahlia for producing a flawlessly written book, it was. The subject matter was uplifting and inspirational in each piece, dealing with self exploration of your mind and understanding perception, dealing with death and even the dangers of making assumptions.
By far, my favourite story was ‘The Drorgon Slayer’s Choice’ I felt the most connected with the characters, even though it was probably the most far-fetched in terms of plot.
In closing, if you are after a delightfully uplifting and exploratory adventure that is easy to read, well crafted and inspirational too, all while galloping through romance, YA, drama, science fiction and fantasy genres, pick this one up!!
Reviewed by Evie Woolmore
June 16, 2013
This second volume in Tahlia Newland’s YA series picks up just where the first volume, A Lethal Inheritance,
The will-they-won’t-they of Nick and Ariel’s relationship is well written, and we see the situation from both sides. Ariel worries, as many girls her age do, that having a boyfriend will distract her from what she needs to do to succeed, but will also turn her into someone who is less able to focus on what’s important because they are always worrying about how they look. In Ariel’s case, Newland makes it easy to sympathise with her worry about being distracted – rescuing their mother is the most important goal anyone might have – but she also shows well how contradictory our feelings can be, when we are inching into a new relationship. Nick himself is confused about how he feels, managing the conflict in his own feelings and his life before Ariel with the tension she brings. He wants to impress her, protect her, look after, but he also is overwhelmed at times by how she makes him feel. Often YA fiction sees things from only the girl’s point of view, so this is a welcome addition to the novel.
This novel has a much stronger romantic element to it than the first volume but it doesn’t overshadow what is, once again, a well-driven, well-plotted voyage through well-drawn, well-imagined worlds. Twitchet, the talking cat, is wonderfully expressed, and although the sage Walnut is absent for the first part of the novel, Twitchet more than makes up for his absence in his cleverness and his mischief. There are new friends and enemies made, and some whose allegiance is not clear. Tension is steadily built as the novel progresses and we also learn more of the metaphysical vision of this world, of how infectious darkness and self-doubt can be, and how compelling and difficult to escape too. It is impossible to talk in any detail about the plot without giving it away, but suffice to say after a steady beginning, life gets increasingly more complicated and Ariel must test herself again and again and again.
If you enjoyed the first volume of the series then this will not disappoint and will leave you eagerly anticipating the next stage of their journey.
Reviewed by Richard Bunning
Great stuff! I would suggest reading Lethal Inheritance first, though it is certainly not essential. This really is a pure fantasy book, written with an older teenager as the target audience. I’m 57, and don’t really believe that I would have enjoyed it any more or less at 17.
I didn’t like it quite as much as the first book. This is mainly because I’m eager to reach the end of the quest, thus find the middle somewhat of a frustration. The books overall quality is top draw, with a good pace and easy style. Unsurprisingly, some of the fantasy elements are very familiar to anyone that has read any of the genre but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a good deal of originality as well.
We can see all the classical elements of the moral quest, the long road searching for the magic that will allow evil to be defeated. The dark forces are embedded in the suffocating, black serpentine. Ariel, the heroine is growing in skill, becoming immersed in the magic of her inheritance, whilst fighting her instincts to run, or fall into the strong arms of her worldly lover, or even to sink into the smothering, beguiling, evil. Arial is as determined to defeat the Rasama as I am to reach the end of book three. I don’t think Ariel really found anything but frustration in this difficult middle road either, all sorts of frustrations in her case, especially when this book started with her realising that her personal quest had so far failed.
I really need to move on from Sheldra, and Arial and Nick really need to get together with the job done. There are so many cravings that need ending, so Tahlia Newland, please don’t keep us waiting too long. Don’t give the serpentine over much time to grow, or else Arial will need a forth book in order to bring things to a head. Would Newland do that to us?
Reviewed by Katt Pemble
Stalking Shadows is the second book in Tahlia Newland’s Diamond Peak series.
It picks up right after the ending of book one, so really should be read in order. Having said that, the book could still be enjoyed (if a little confusing in parts) even if you hadn’t read the first.
This one didn’t seem as smooth as the first. There were passages that overwhelmed me in a spirituality sense, too much focus on inner light and radiance. There were only a few points where this happened, but it was enough to pull me out of the story.
The adventure was just as exciting as the first book, with intricate twists and turns sporadically placed so as to keep the reader guessing.
I look forward to seeing the relationships between the characters grow in the next book in the series.
**Note: I was provided an electronic copy of this book in return for an honest review***