Book Review: ‘A Different Kind of Angel: A Novel’ by Paulette Mahurin

A compelling story based on real events.

It is not difficult to be horrified by the level of cruelty that humans will inflict on one another, especially where prejudice and power are involved. There is much in this book that tells of the trauma, the emotional and physical scarring, and the horrors experienced by the victims of such torture experienced not only by those who survived the government pogroms against the Jews in late 19th century Russia, but also by those exposed to the depths of degradation meted out to those who found themselves inside the cruel, cold walls of the notorious Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum in New York. 

Based on the true story of Nellie Bly’s infiltration of the asylum and subsequent exposure of the abuses and brutality that occurred there, and on the experiences of many who fled Russia in the hope of making a new life in America, ‘A Different Kind of Angel’ tells the stories of Klara Gelfman and the other women she meets inside that institution. 

The book certainly has its dark moments, but it also gives emphasis to the resilience and kindness of people like Klara and her friends Catherine and Nellie. These women are inspirational in their ability to rise above the pain and muck time and time again, reminders to us all of the power of encouragement and kindness in the face of hostility and fear. 

Mahurin tells a compelling story. The characters are strongly drawn, and the depictions of the various behaviours of the inmates of the asylum are vivid and, one suspects, based on careful study and research. At no time is the narrative insensitive to the plight of the insane, nor to the individual qualities of each woman and her mental illness. The reader has a strong sense of how their lives and conditions could be  vastly different given proper care, nutrition and some kindness, and feels deeply grateful to the few souls who showed these women as much compassion as they were able to. 

Overall, the story is more encouraging than depressing, and most enlightening. Despite the darkness, the message of the story is  positive and empowering, especially for those enduring some kind of misery or darkness in their own lives. 

‘A Different Kind of Angel: A Novel’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘Curtain Call’ by CH Clepitt

Whether you choose the novella or the audiobook, ‘Curtain Call’ is an excellent choice of book.

‘Curtain Call’ is a touching and poignant story of a young woman named Jen finding her way in her first real theatre job, in the drama that unfolds backstage between theatre staff and performers. It is quite uniquely styled and very engaging in its humour, but also provides well-constructed moments of pathos that really move the reader and involve them more deeply in the story. 

Any keen reader of Clepitt’s work knows that it is wise to expect the unexpected. The plot of ‘Curtain Call’ is original and the cast of characters are all remarkably quirky and incredibly normal at the same time, yet the story is highly relatable to anyone who has experienced the crushing anxiety of not knowing what to do in a new job or wishing they knew exactly where they stood in their relationships. The overall effect is one of the reader feeling as though they have made a new group of friends that they might easily bump into tomorrow while picking up a coffee in town.

The audiobook runs for 3 hours and 15 minutes. The narration is clear and enjoyable, with good use of voice and characterisation to bring the characters and the story alive. The narrator’s voice is pleasant and easy to listen to, so the whole listening experience was a pleasure.

The ‘Curtain Call’ audiobook and novella have both been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find yours here

Book Review: ‘Spring Fling’ by Claire Buss

A relatable, easy to read poetry collection.

‘Spring Fling’ offers vignettes of daily life and glimpses into the thoughts of a young woman. Her children, family life, personal feelings and places they visit all feature in this collection of poetry. 

Some of the poems carry a kernel of a deeper truth that provoked more thought, while others skip through a scene, describing it in a way that leaves the reader nodding and smiling. In every case, it is easy to relate to the ideas expressed by the poet. 

‘Spring Fling’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Audiobook Review: ‘A Blessing In Disguise’ by C H Clepitt

A delightful short story audiobook that can be enjoyed in one sitting.

CH Clepitt A Blessing In Disguise AudiobookI’ve enjoyed every book by C.H. Clepitt that I’ve read, so I was keen to see how this book worked as an audiobook.

The story is read by Margaret Ashley. Her voice is very expressive and easy to understand, with a lovely British accent that makes listening a pleasure. The reading of the story is well paced and articulate, so it’s easy to follow.

The story itself is lighthearted and whimsical, the sort of thing you’d find on a lovely British TV sitcom. With the subtitle “Life Begins at 48”, this story uses warmth and humour to draw the audience into the all-too-familiar-these-days scenario of a middle-aged woman’s life taking unexpected turns one after the other. The main character Linda is likeable and, although somewhat cynical, takes the surprises and twists of life in her stride. ‘A Blessing in Disguise’ reminds the audience that problems and complications do sometimes bring their own rewards, and that life really is what we make of it in choosing how we will respond and resolve the situations we find ourselves in.

A fairly short story of 26 minutes’ duration, it’s easily enjoyed in one sitting.

Acorn Award I GoldenThis excellent audiobook has been awarded a Gold Acorn, and is also available as an ebook.

Find your copy here.