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Review: Windwalker By Natasha Mostert

Through me you pass into the city of woe:
Through me you pass into eternal pain:
Through me among the people lost for aye.
Justice the founder of my fabric moved:
To rear me was the task of power divine,
Supremest wisdom, and primeval love.
Before me things create were none, save things
Eternal, and eternal I shall endure.
All hope abandon, ye who enter here.
-Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy

This life’s dim windows of the soul
Distorts the heavens from pole to pole
And leads you to believe a lie
When you see with, not through, the eye.
William Blake – The Everlasting Gospel

 

 windwalkerHaunting and elegant. I have head Ms. Mostert’s works described this way before, by other reviewers. This, and so very much more, is the work of Natasha Mostert. For she has a voice that is deeply evocative, an exceptional, mystical writing style. Natasha’s turn of prose is both otherworldly and sensual, a voice that sends chills down my spine and reaches into my soul, making a home for itself in the sweet, dark recesses of my existence. Her writing comes to mind over and over, in the dark of night or the bright light of day, a paean to her brilliant style, as her ability to paint rich, intriguing portraits with words which steal into my awareness in the most common of moments. Words which bring me to my knees, to weep and sigh, to long deeply and without respite.

Kepler’s Bay. A remote and forbidding town in a remote and forbidding land, bitter and forlorn. Perched on the razor edge between the Namib and the sea, Kepler’s Bay clings to the edge of the world with barely restrained ferocity, much as do the creatures of the great desert upon which it backs. Kepler’s Bay. The melancholy call of the soo-oop-wa, the never-ending wind, maddens, takes piecemeal grains of the soul, eventually leaving behind naught but a dry, desiccated husk – a body walking with no spark within.

The Namib, oldest desert in the world, ‘The land God made in anger,’ say the San people. But he had always thought that only a god in pain could have imagined a place like this. And from this land of soaring dunes and brutal winds one day appears a wild man, filled with pain, with fever and madness. Madness and passion. Violence and death. Samuel Becket said: “All men are born mad. Some remain so.” And is madness not pain, turned in upon oneself?

Across the desert, in the lush green of the English countryside, a woman arrives. Lost and maddened in her own right, she arrive upon the doorstep of a sad and haunted estate. As she sinks into the stories of this place of madness, fratricide and pain, broken shadows and haunted rooms, one soon cannot truly discern where the house leaves off and the woman begins. Quiet desperation. Ghosts and haunting images through a camera’s lens.

They are so close, and yet so far apart. So very, very far apart. Has it been this way, lives upon lives, sinking into the past? And what of unintended consequences, the vagaries of fate and karma?

Yet ah! why should they know their fate?
Since sorrow never comes too late,
And happiness too swiftly flies.
Thought would destroy their paradise.
No more; where ignorance is bliss,
‘Tis folly to be wise.
Thomas Gray – Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College

Through our lives, do our souls search? Do they seek desperately, yearning for that which was, which could have been, or which shall never be? And is evil merely the absence of good, demons playing bones with our lives?

Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars. – Khalil Gibran

Photo courtesy of Michael Van Balen All rights reserved.

How many paths must we walk, how many lives to be lived? How long must we suffer before paths may cross, before we might know peace? Do our souls wander alone, searching beyond ourselves for knowledge, deep in the rending silence of the night? A photography of insanity may be a shard of light. Questions and blood and dreams of deaths long past, pain and ancient desire. All are spread before us between these pages. Allow her words to reel you in, to touch and tease, sooth and savage by turns. To think. To dream. To sorrow.

To hope.

This book was provided to me by the author in return for a realistic review. It touched me more deeply than any of her works yet have – and those have been absolutely brilliant. I hate reviews that begin with “If you like the works of” to be honest, but if the interspersed quotes touch your soul, I strongly, very strongly, encourage you to read Windwalker. And then her other works as well. I don’t believe, once you have read this one, that you will be able to resist.

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Review: All for You by Jessica Scott – Very Highly Recommended

 
Some Army families who recently lost members to suicide criticize the branch for failing to aggressively shake a culture in which soldiers believe they’ll be deemed weak and denied promotion if they seek mental health aid. They also blame Army leaders for focusing more heavily on weeding out  emotionally troubled soldiers to artificially suppress the branch’s suicide stats versus embracing and helping members who are exhibiting clear signs of trouble. – The Enemy Within: Soldier suicides outpaced combat deaths in 2012
Thursday Jan 3, 2013 5:23 PM Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

allforyou
Very Highly Recommended. A romance, yes, but also an extremely well written call for compassion and assistance for those soldiers who are in deep and abiding pain.

Write what you know. It is a simple rule, a pillar of “How To Write A Good Book” and probably one of the most misunderstood. As Nathan Englander, the critically acclaimed author of What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank once said, “Write what you know” isn’t about events. It’s about emotions. Have you known love? jealousy? longing? loss?

In her new book, All For You, A Coming Home Novel Jessica Scott takes that advice and builds upon it, writing a heart wrenching story which left me sobbing on the floor, my heart broken for all those soldiers who return from war broken and lost, and just how badly they need our help – help that the unremitting machine of the military and government would rather deny them. As K. Lang from Las Vegas put it in her Amazon review, no matter the branch, there are raging morons who don’t care and people with flaws trying to fix things in spite of those same raging morons. And the raging morons are thick on the ground at Fort Hood, Texas. (Having done a job there many years ago, I can tell you – I met my own fair share. And that was in peacetime.)

For all of you romance readers out there, this is indeed a romance, never fear. And an extremely well written one. If you don’t like romance? Just skip through those parts, but you HAVE to read this book. What is says is too important not to.

Sergeant First Class Reza Iaconelli is a broken and deeply damaged man, a leader of men with a long-time alcohol problem and a broken soul. He has had to live within a shell of alcohol and brutality for so long, he truly doesn’t know any other way to be. Captain Emily Lindberg is the psychologist who has left behind a life of privilege and familial control, striking out on her own in order to do good for the soldiers who truly need her services, leaving behind the spoiled, rich kids of privilege looking for excuses for their own bad behavior.

What Emily walks into is far from what she expects. Fort Hood is a place of systems and procedures that don’t work, that are devastating to the very people they are supposed to protect. Those soldiers, both men and women, who have come back from war, from death and dirt, blood and insanity – actions that are beyond the normal person’s comprehension. Scott lays it out in all its brutal simplicity – get EM’ in, get EM’ back out into the field. No matter what. And if they are damaged? Get EM’ all the way out, back into society, no matter what the war has done to them, no matter how the blood and gore has broken them. No matter how much they have given and suffered for their country. They are coldly thrown away, like so many broken, irreparable tools.

Jessica Scott knows of which she speaks. A career Army officer and wife of a career Army NCO, Scott has written for the New York Times’s At War blog, PBS’s Point of View Regarding War, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. She deployed to Iraq in 2009 as part of OIF/New Dawn and has served as a company commander at Fort Hood, Texas twice. So, yes, she does know that of which she speaks. And what she knows is horrifying.

Scott is careful to point out in her Note From The Author, “This book is not meant as an indictment of our men and women in uniform or the military that we serve or the thousands of leaders who do the right thing every day and try to take care of their soldiers.” And there are those who do try every single day to do the right thing. Who try their best, despite a broken and uncaring system that rolls right over the top of them in a heartless march to simply fill out the paperwork, follow the rules, and move on to the next thing – which, in too many instances, is gaining their next bar or pip or stripe no matter the cost to their own soldiers, those very soldiers whom their very purpose should be to protect and honor.

Yes, Jessica Scott has written a brilliant story of romance between two people who, no matter how different they may be, not only learn to love one another, but also need one another in order to do what they need to do, who need one another to do good and to provide the strength that not only they need, but also those around them need in order to stay sane, focused, and safe. But she has also written a story which points out just how badly our soldiers need our help. How the pain, death, and the horrors they face every day can often be more than even the strongest among them can bear, and how more often than we would like to admit, the uncaring military machine simply throws them under the bus, leaving them to lives of drug abuse, alcoholism, homelessness, and ultimately suicide.

Buy the book. Read it. And then take a look around you. In Jennifer Scott’s words, if you know someone who is hurting, if you suspect someone is having a hard time, ask them. Don’t be afraid. Speak up. Ask the question. Because you never know what someone else is going through. And you might just make a difference.

I would go beyond that. Take the time to check out the heart of her story yourself. Talk to veterans and their families. If you are a family member or friend, be there for them, ask the right questions of your Congressmen and Senators. Write letters and give your support. These men and women give their lives and their souls in order to ascertain that you can stop at Starbucks for your latte. The least we can do is help to make sure that they get the help and support that they richly deserve.

VERY Highly Recommended. This book was provided to me by Netgalley in return for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

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