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Appalacian life

Review: More Than Magic (Books Of The Kindling #1) By Donna June Cooper

Indubitably, magic is one of the subtlest and most difficult of the sciences and arts. There is more opportunity for errors of comprehension, judgment and practice than in any other branch of physics. – Aleister Crowley

Processed sugar is poison. – Sandra Tennison (Ben’s mom) – Ben 10: Ultimate Alien
More Than MagicDoctor Grace Woodruff is special. A newly-minted doctor, she works hard and cares for her patients. Especially Isabella, better known as Tink, or Tinker Bell, the young cancer victim who wraps her tiny hands around Grace’s heart. Tink, whose time is so very, very short. Grace wants desperately to do something, anything, to help. And she does.

Now, terrified by what she has done, and suffering the agony of losing her beloved grandfather, Grace returns to her mountain home to take over the family’s herb business, the business they have run since the time of her great-great-great grandmother Lily, the famous Woodruff Herb Farm. But peace is not to be found.

There’s something wrong with our mountain, Gracie-girl. You’re the only one who’ll hear it too.”

Frightened and confused, Grace has no time or patience for the author who shows up on her doorstep, unannounced, with a reservation to stay for a week at the Woodruff cabins – a reservation that should have been cancelled when Grace sent her workers away for a two week vacation so she can get her life, and her blooming powers, under control. Nick Crowe is supposed to be writing a book on how the meth trade affects families – but it soon becomes apparent that he is a lot more than he claims.

More Than Magic is AWESOME magical urban fantasy. Donna June Cooper grew up the granddaughter of a coal miner in the Appalachian Mountains, and her knowledge of and great love for the mountains shines through in her work. Poverty and the misery, grief and destructive nature of the meth trade is a strong theme. But the beauty of the land, the magic and history, the Appalachian Granny Women who heal all those who are in need, all these things play a part in creating this marvelous first book in the Books of the Kindling series.

And, there are the stars. The vast expanses of the universe, spinning above the mountains, the immeasurable depths and brilliant lights.

Pops had told her the new name (Star Crossing) was much more descriptive than the old Woodruff Meadow, since he often had to stop on the road to the house to let a few stars cross.

This is a magical tale, a tale of wonder and joy, of loss and heartbreak, and the ties of the miraculous nature of the Earth. Make a cup of cocoa, gather up a quilt and a soft pillow, and turn on your favorite soft music. Then curl up in your favorite chair and simply immerse yourself in a world of beauty and magic. It is well worth it.

Review: Kentucky Bestiary by Joseph Hirsch

22838744Show me a hero, and I will write you a tragedy. – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Try the devil, though I didn’t double cross him. I pledged allegiance. – Billy Wilkes, Kentucky Bestiary

“Hero” is such an odd word. Is a hero only that person who makes the grand and often fatal gesture? Or can a hero be a simple cop, tired, worn by the pain, the depression, the idiocy of humanity? And when do the horrors of life lead to the horrors of madness?

Corporal Pietro Silone was so very tired of Cincinnati. High crime, danger, drugs.

But the change he expected when he moves back to the ‘hollers’ of Eastern Kentucky – calm, peace, a speeding ticket now and again, is not what he finds. Instead, meth-heads and murder are the acts of the day, and reality takes a curve to the depths of despair and revulsion, of mystifying dreams and horrors of the mind and soul.

“Do you know where the cave led before it got blown?” Pete imagined it leading to the adyta where saurian-headed lizard men sacrificed virgins on an alter with bas relief carvings of some Sumerian forebear of Beelzebub sculpted into its stone, the monsters salivating for blood. It had been a long night.

Kentucky Bestiary is an oddity. Beginning as a quite well written police procedural, it blends and flows into a story of horror and myth, of Appalachian life. The horrors of monsters blend seamlessly with the horrors of the history of the mountains, the coal mines and the monstrous men who ran them, who worked children till their fingers bled, their lungs collapsed, their lives lived in the chthonic darkness of the miles and miles of tunnels, filled with not only darkness, but the terrors of cave-ins; of haints and hoodoos, and things that go bump in the night.

In the mines you had to keep your friends alive. In ‘Nam you had to keep your friends alive.

The threads of history flow through the book – Vietnam plays a role in the story of Pete’s uncle, the Veteran. But the history of the superstitions of the immigrants who populate the area is a stronger thread. Cryptozoology to snake handling, Pentecostals to Native American legend. The horrors of modern day meth heads, excruciating poverty and the hand-to-mouth lives of people with no hope living amongst rich tourists and a mysterious billionaire with a mysterious past, and an even more mysterious present.

The carrion’s gray coat stretched above them and gave off a faint animal musk, the beak of the preserved vulture’s head shadowing them like the canopy shrouding a massive dark Yggdrasil tree.

This is a very different sort of book. If you are looking for straight police procedural, you aren’t going to find it here. But if you are looking for something unusual, odd, and very deeply scary, a mind trip far from the usual, this is one to check out. Just don’t do it right before bed . . .

I received this book from the publisher in return for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own.

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