I get lots of lovely e mails now asking me to read books and all I can say to that is happy happy joy joy. I make it clear that I only post on here about books I have really enjoyed so a free book is absolutely no guarantee but thank you anyway and yes, I eventually give them all a go.Strangely though I desperately want to enjoy every book that arrives because I love books per se, this isn't paid employment so each one feels like a present.
So I set out my ground rules with a PR company who contacted me last week whilst secretly thinking good grief, a book about "love, death,alchemy, the power of the human mind to transform and transcend reality"...do I have to? But hold on, that's what I love about reading and why I do this.
Send me the book and I'll go there.
Next morning at warp speed a copy of Season of the Witch by Natasha Mostert arrives inviting me to "enter a world of beauty and darkness...two sisters, a mysterious house" and actually my house is a tip and I have a pile of ironing to do but I'll read the first few pages and see whether it's a now or later book.
To be honest, I'm preparing for the worst and fully expect to have the ironing done within the hour, though I do quite like the cover,in fact, I really like the cover.
An unusual but obscure poem kicks things off and I don't heed that too much, then a rather surreal prologue, bit of a drowning episode and onto the first section titled House of A Million Doors with a quote from Johannes Trithemius, Steganographia 1499.
Oh careful, careful Natasha, I'm still interested but things now have the potential to go either way; too much New Age crystal gazing or a whiff of a sandal and I'm out of here, please no Victorian pastiche either, so imagine my relief when I get to the first sentence
"Was there anything as cool as rush hour traffic on a hot day?"
Praise be, this is going to be grounded in 21st century reality, I think I'll cope.
I've more than coped, to be honest I think I've been taken over by powerful forces beyond my control.This is one of those truly mesmerizing reads that seems to have appeared from nowhere.Other novels about sisters and mysterious houses and with massive advances have come and gone and disappointed here (though not elsewhere I know) and I hadn't heard a whisper about this one, no hype, nothing.
I know this is the back of beyond but news usually filters through.
It's a tightly plotted, well-structured and finely written gothic novel that never lost me.Hacking into the mind features alongside the computer-hacking industry and it's only a small step to seeing the similarities.I was happily suspending disbelief very early on and this is a writer's skill much appreciated here.Had I once thought "do me a favour!" this book would have sunk, but by the end you actually believe the whole thing could almost be possible, that's how convincing it is.Back to the beginning and that poem and the prologue now have greater significance.
Season of the Witch must also win the prize for the very best named sisters ever...the enigmatic and alluring Minnaloushe and Morrighan Monk, fictional descendants of John Dee the Elizabethan alchemist, beat that.
Natasha Mostert has certainly written a great read with her fourth book and at £12.99 sensibly priced for a 400+ page hardback and doubtless available a good deal cheaper if you shop around which might not please the publishing or bookselling world but it's the reality out here at the book buying end.
I don't know who to tell to get them to take the slightest bit of notice but when a hardback novel comes priced at £16.99 or more it has an uphill struggle here until it comes out in paperback.
I shall be hunting down more by Natasha because I love her style, meanwhile you can visit her at MySpace and her website and risk madness with that memory game if you dare.
Just guard your portals and lock down your firewalls whatever you do and I'll sit here and await the hired help that I'm sure the PR person agreed to send if I read this book and posted about it because now the kitchen floor needs washing, the hoover could do with going round, more ironing...