Book Reviews: The Memory of Trees by F.G. Cottam and Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century by Peter Graham

The Memory of TreesThe Memory of Trees
F.G. Cottam
Severn House, October 2013
ISBN 978-0-7278-8315-5
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Billionaire Saul Abercrombie owns a vast tract of land on the Pembrokeshire coast.  His plan is to restore the ancient forest that covered the area before medieval times, and he employs young arboreal expert Tom Curtis to oversee this massively ambitious project.

Saul believes that restoring the land to its original state will rekindle those spirits that folklore insists once inhabited his domain. But the re-planting of the forest will revive an altogether darker and more dangerous entity – and Saul’s employee Tom will find himself engaging in an epic, ancient battle between good and evil.  A battle in which there can be only one survivor.

We have a collective unease when it comes to deep forests and that unease has pervaded our storytelling world for a long time. From Hansel and Gretel abandoned in the woods to Dorothy’s trek with her companions to the simple stories of British highwaymen, we’ve been preconditioned to prefer open space. With that mindset, I anticipated a good scary tale in The Memory of Trees. Alas, it didn’t quite pan out that way.

The idea of megalomaniacal men trying to manipulate sorcery to obtain good health or immortality is not a new idea and it’s a serviceable motive for Saul Abercrombie’s desire to rebuild a vast forest on his land but I found his total disregard for what might happen to his daughter rather unlikely. Even more so was everyone’s lack of serious alarm when confronted with abnormal and threatening situations. As an example, Tom Curtis and Sam Freemantle go to a location called Gibbet Mourning where they observe something that is undeniably menacing and actually begins to “rustle and shiver” and make sighing noises when Sam approaches it. Should I find myself in such a scenario, I’d run for the nearest collection of people and hide in a dark corner but Sam and Tom calmly talk about hauntings and agree that they don’t like the place. That’s it. That’s also pretty unbelievable.

The growing malevolence is made very obvious but, somehow, it didn’t really make much of an impact on me, possibly because the cast of characters is too big and too widespread, making it a little difficult to remember exactly who they are. If you can’t connect with a character, it’s hard to really care about what happens to them.  When very strange things begin to occur with the plantings, there’s little reaction beyond noting the strange things.

That lack of reaction to practically everything that goes on in this story is essentially why it didn’t work for me because it meant there was no real tension. Despite my lack of enthusiasm for The Memory of Trees, I enjoyed Mr. Cottam‘s style and obvious ability to write and will try something else by him. I do think other readers would enjoy this book more if they take logic and normal human behavior out of it and just read it as a tale of ancient evil come to life.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2013.

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Anne Perry and the Murder of the CenturyAnne Perry and the Murder of the Century
Peter Graham
Skyhorse Publishing/W.W. Norton & Company, May 2013
ISBN 978-1-62087-630-5
Hardcover
Originally published in 2011 in New Zealand under the title
So Brilliantly Clever: Parker, Hulme and the Murder That Shocked the World

From the publisher—

The spellbinding true story of Anne Perry, her friend Pauline Parker, and the brutal crime they committed in the name of friendship.

On June 22, 1954, teenage friends Juliet Hulme—better known as bestselling mystery writer Anne Perry—and Pauline Parker went for a walk in a New Zealand park with Pauline’s mother, Honora. Half an hour later, the girls returned alone, claiming that Pauline’s mother had had an accident. But when Honora Parker was found in a pool of blood with the brick used to bludgeon her to death close at hand, Juliet and Pauline were quickly arrested, and later confessed to the killing. Their motive? A plan to escape to the United States to become writers, and Honora’s determination to keep them apart. Their incredible story made shocking headlines around the world and would provide the subject for Peter Jackson’s Academy Award–nominated film, Heavenly Creatures.

A sensational trial followed, with speculations about the nature of the girls’ relationship and possible insanity playing a key role. Among other things, Parker and Hulme were suspected of lesbianism, which was widely considered to be a mental illness at the time. This mesmerizing book offers a brilliant account of the crime and ensuing trial and shares dramatic revelations about the fates of the young women after their release from prison. With penetrating insight, this thorough analysis applies modern psychology to analyze the shocking murder that remains one of the most interesting cases of all time.

We never like to think our children are capable of doing horrific things and it’s even more difficult to understand when two individuals predisposed to such acts find each other. When that happens, behavior that may never have gone beyond thoughts can become reality and this seems to have been the case with Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker. The interesting thing to me is that Juliet was considered the dominant personality and, yet, it was Pauline’s desire to kill her mother that they carried out.

Both girls thought they were “geniuses far above the common herd of mankind”, a personality trait frequently found in anti-social personality disorders. They had developed their own sort of religion in which sin could be a good thing although they didn’t appear to take it seriously; it was mostly a form of self-entertainment. Both were very narcissistic and showed no remorse when they were found out. In many ways, they mirror the 1924 case of Leopold and Loeb. As intelligent as they may have been, especially Juliet, they were really clumsy with their attack on Pauline’s mother and their ineptitude was probably due to lack of knowledge about such things but there is no doubt that impulse control was not a factor as they planned the murder in detail.

Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century is a fascinating account of a sensational case. Modern-day readers from  the US and other more “sophisticated” countries won’t recognize this as the murder of the century but it certainly was in 1950’s New Zealand. There are recognizable contributing elements such as the girls’ self-imposed isolation and their obsessive dependence on each other and it’s interesting that Juliet received much rougher treatment in prison for no apparent reason.

Overall, the accounting of Juliet’s and Pauline’s lives after prison takes a harsher approach to Juliet, who took the name of Anne Perry in an attempt at anonymity. In particular, she is painted as an icy woman even in her 70’s and, with this, I must take some exception. I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Perry in 2002 at a book event and spent a few moments chatting with her over my display of her books. She was nothing but charming and friendly and I suspect that her demeanor towards readers is quite different from how she reacts to those who pry into her life. At the time that I met her, I had not heard her story but, when I did a year or two later, it did not change my opinion that she is a likeable person. I believe Anne Perry is a prime example of the young person who commits a terrible act but is able to redeem herself in later life and would never pose a threat to anyone again. I have no reason to doubt the veracity of Mr. Graham‘s account of this crime and its aftermath but it’s time to let it rest. Anne Perry’s private life is hers to protect and I’m content to just enjoy her books.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2013.

Book Blitz: Fable by Chanda Hahn

Fable Blitz Banner

Fable by Chanda Hahn
(An Unfortunate Fairy Tale #3)
Publication date: August 27th, 2013
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Young Adult

Synopsis:

Book 3 in the UnEnchanted Series.

All that glitters is not gold.

When something precious is stolen from sixteen-year-old Mina Grime, she
will do anything in her power to get it
back, even if it means traveling to the
dangerous Fae plane and battling one of the strongest fairy-tale villains yet.

However, nothing can prepare Mina for the dangerous obstacles she will face in
the Fae world, or the
choices she must make when love and life are on the line.

Goodreads

Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble                    Amazon

Purchase Link Book 1:

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Purchase Link Book 2:

Barnes & Noble                Amazon

Excerpt from Fable

FableMina stopped and parted the long weeping willow’s branches, and could see the rose resting against Jared’s black boot. Wait…not Jared—Teague.

Teague reached down to pick up the rose and brought it to his nose to breathe in its scent. His hair was a lighter shade of brown than Jared’s, and his eyes were a deep blue, while Jared’s were a haunting gray. They both had similar angular jaws and drop-deadgorgeous looks. Teague once again was dressed in black, and Mina had a mind to joke about whether he was going to a funeral, but he was, so the words died on her lips before she even spoke them. Instead, she glared at him and held out her hand, demanding the rose without saying a word.

Teague’s eyes widened and looked her over, never once dropping his Cheshire Cat smile. “I only came to pay my respects.”

“What respect? You don’t respect me or my family. Otherwise, your kind never would have cursed us.”

“You’re wrong—it’s always wise to respect your enemies.”

“Well, I don’t respect you.”

“You should, Mina. Do you see what happens when you ignore your duty—when you ignore me?” He pointed to Charlie’s grave, and his voice became threatening. “I don’t like to be ignored, and now you have one less distraction in your life, so you can focus more of your time on me.”

Teague’s words confirmed her worst fears. Her actions had led Teague to strike out against her family and kill her brother. Her stomach dropped, bile rose in her throat, and every inch of her was sick with the guilt his words layered on her. It was her fault, and she knew it. But she couldn’t show him how weak she was, and how much his words had affected her. She had one more person to protect: her mother, and she would not be negligent again.

“You’re not welcome here. So please leave.” Mina snatched the rose out of Teague’s hand and felt a sting in her palm. She winced in pain but refused to acknowledge it.

Teague reached for her hand, and Mina let him open up her palm to inspect her wound from the thorn. She was still reeling, and her whole body shook with anger. Teague leaned forward and blew on the small cut in her palm, and it healed itself. She ripped her hand from his grasp and took two steps away from him, almost falling on the ground. She needed to keep better control of herself.

She needed Jared.

“How is my dear brother?” he asked, as if reading her mind.

“Why don’t you ask him yourself?”

His eyes darkened. “We are not exactly on speaking terms.”

“It wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that you keep trying to kill me, would it?”

“Now, sweet Mina, our fight goes back long before you were born. But you can’t hold it against me that I’m only doing my job. I’m supposed to throw quests your way, and you are supposed to try to stop me. It’s as simple as that. I can’t help it if we have a casualty or so in the process. That’s what makes the stories so good.” He smirked. “That’s what makes them popular. That’s what makes me powerful.” He was so close to her now that he ran the back of his finger across her cheek, and she flinched and smacked it away.

“I see that you are as disgusting as ever.”

“I see that you’re getting your fight back. You know, Mina, out of all the Grimms over the years who died at the hands of my fables, you are by far my favorite to toy with. I wonder why that is?” he asked, appearing to ponder the question.

“Maybe because you picked the wrong girl to mess with.”

“I don’t think so. I’ve finally found the perfect Grimm. I think you will be the most challenging. Which means your ending, the tale that finishes you off, will make us both famous.”

Mina’s lip trembled, and she steeled herself to not show fear. She stood her ground and looked Teague right in the eye. “A thousand sweet words can never disguise the rattle of a viper about to strike. I will not drop my guard ever again. And I will end this curse…by doing whatever…or killing whoever…I have to.”

Teague’s face turned furious, and his lips pressed into an angry thin line. “Then be prepared, my dear Mina, for you won’t be able to ignore this next tale. I’ve made sure of that.” He stepped away from her. A crack of thunder rattled the earth and she jumped, turning in surprise. A second later, pouring rain followed, soaking everyone within minutes. Mina turned back toward Teague, but he was gone.

About the Author

Chanda HahnPronunciation: Sh-and-uh   H-ah-n

Chanda is the  author of the popular YA Unfortunate Fairy Tale Series which includes UnEnchanted and Fairest.  Both books have topped the ebook charts in 5 countries. She also pens YA epic Fantasy.

She was born in Seattle, Washington, raised in Nebraska, has lived in MN, IL and currently lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and twin children. She’s a former children’s librarian and children’s pastor. Currently she spends her free time penning new novels and a daytime taxi driver for her kids.

Author links:
Website
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