Non-spoiler book Review: The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley

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I was delighted to receive an advance reader’s copy of ‘The Bedlam Stacks “ by Natasha Pulley to review, along with her first book: ‘The Watchmaker of Filigree Street’ from Bloomsbury Publishing.

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I have to say that I really enjoyed both books, but today I have just finished ‘The Bedlam Stacks’ so I will focus on a review this book first while it is so fresh in my mind.

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The synopsis:

bedlam leaf large 2        ‘In 1859, ex-East India Company smuggler Merrick Tremayne is trapped at home in Cornwall, England, with an injury that almost cost him his leg. On the sprawling, crumbling grounds of the old house, something is wrong; a statue moves, his grandfather’s pine explodes, and his brother accuses him of madness.bedlam leaf large

When the India Office recruits Merrick for an expedition to fetch Quinine- essential for the treatment of Malaria- from deep within Peru, he knows it’s a terrible idea. Nearly every able-bodied expeditionary who’s made the attempt has died, and he can barely walk. But Merrick is desperate to escape everything at home, so he sets off, against his better judgment, for a tiny mission colony on the edge of the Amazon where a salt line on the ground separates town from forest. Anyone who crosses is killed by something that watches from the trees, but somewhere beyond the salt are the quinine woods, and the way around is blocked.

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Surrounded by local stories of lost time, cursed woods, and living rock, Merrick must separate truth from fairytale and find out what befell the last expeditions; why the villagers are forbidden to go into the forest; and what is happening to Raphael, the young priest who seems to have known Merricks grandfather, who visited Peru many decades before. The Bedlam Stacks is the story of a profound friendship that grows in a place that seems just this side of magical.’

My strongest reaction after reading this book is how beautiful the author writes. To me, it is reminiscent of reading a classic, in both language and description. The story is set in 1859 and by goodness Pulley transported me there within the first chapter. This really was a book that I couldn’t put down!

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We are initially introduced to our protagonist Merrick, while he is back living in a tumbledown Country Manor house, which was inherited by his elder brother, Charles. Merrick was forced to give up his life as an explorer and an expert on botany, after he suffered an accident, which inhibited the use of one of his legs. Charles enjoys playing Lord of the Manor and seems to have little time for Merrick. He appears to enjoy pointing out all of Merrick’s perceived shortcomings. Merrick however, puts up with this treatment with little resistance, preferring to mind his own business and focus his attention on immersing himself into assisting the remaining gardening staff with the care and keeping of the grounds.

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After stumbling upon the old neglected greenhouse that his grandfather installed many years prior, Merrick takes refuge there and finds comfort away from his brother’s bullying and his own feelings of uselessness culminating from his leg injury.

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I loved Pulley’s description of the Manor and grounds. I could easily picture the dilapidated Mansion with the hole in the roof.

 

“Now there was a little carpet of pine needles over the middle of the floor. I twisted round to see upward. Although there were, on my side, three floors to the house, on this side it was just galleries off the staircase. The ceiling was the roof. Being windowless, it was usually gloomy, with deep shadows between the vaults of the rafters, but now there was quite a big hole. Right above it was a rotten branch still attached, just, to the old pine tree. It had been defying gravity for months.”

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Merrick seeks refuge in his greenhouse, and once there, he notices that a statue that was watching over his father’s grave has moved. This has happened more than once but nobody believes him since the statue is much too heavy to be pushed or lifted by any person or persons on a whim. On this particular day Charles joins him in the greenhouse, and when Merrick ponders out loud over the moving statue, Charles suggests that Merrick is showing signs of madness and comments that he ought to have him committed to an asylum! This is not a comment to be taken lightly, since Charles had their mother committed several years earlier.

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So when an old friend and colleague visits him later with a proposal he can’t refuse- to take Merrick with him on another expedition, this time to Peru; Merrick agrees, despite his disability. Thus begins a chain of events that will see Merrick face action and adventure, mystery and magic; and find friendship in unexpected places, all the while growing as a person. Merrick discovers that he has untapped strengths despite his leg wound, and his only limitations are those that he chooses to see as such.

I don’t want to give any spoilers away so I’ll stop sharing the story here, but let me tell you that this is just the beginning of a super story that will stay with you long after the last page is turned.

 

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I love that Pulley doesn’t rush the story. She takes us step by step with Merrick through the Amazon and into danger. She builds up the atmosphere page by page, and gives us a slow burn of mystery and intrigue with a generous dose of magic mixed in.

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I liked Merrick so very much. He was only in his late thirties yet I pictured him as being much older due to his mannerisms and thought processes. Whether this was because of his limitations of mobility or just his old fashioned ways, I can’t be sure, but he was immensely likeable from start to finish. I was routing for him at every moment. It seemed that he was the type that people like to bully, and the reader has to watch helplessly as his friends and family members push him against his grain in order to suit their own agendas.

 

This is not a fast paced adventure; so don’t expect instant gratification. Read it like a classic, enjoying the nuances of the language, the broad descriptive and the journey rather than the destination.jungle Elephant

However, when you arrive at the destination, you will not be disappointed!

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‘The bedlam Stacks’ was a fully immersive read for me, into the culture and history of Peru from the point of view of an upper class Englishman who had fallen on hard times and had been offered one more chance at adventure and redemption.

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Pulley writes so convincingly as a man that I have to applaud her.

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While this book is a stand alone, I can see plenty of scope for it to become a duology. I feel there are still some outstanding questions that I would like to see answered, and I believe there is more room for development left open- or perhaps that is wishful thinking on my part!

 

If I had one criticism, and to be honest I don’t -but lets just invent one and put it out there anyway for sake of balance- I would say that I wanted more chapters of the English home after the Peru adventure. Any further description of life in a sprawling English Country pile is heaven for me.

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I unreservedly recommend this book. I wouldn’t ever have imagined that I would be interested in Peru as a setting if you had asked me in advance; yet, I thoroughly enjoyed every part of the journey through the Amazon. I would so LOVE to tell you about the magic (oh the magic) but it would break the spell, and we can’t do that.

 

The Bedlam Stacks is due for release in August 2017. Please put it on your #TBR

 

 

 

Can Too Many Books Spoil the Broth?

Huge Witchy Book Haul….

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Hello my lovelies thank you so much for joining me. It’s so good to see you again! Here in the ‘Sunshine State’ it is dark and stormy, with the lightning cutting off the power intermittently and the house shaking with the thunder that seems to have set up home overhead. It is just the weather for me to share with you some of my huge spooky book haul. And I have to start it with a picture of my dream house, which I’m sure would look so spooky today.

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We all love a good book haul, right? especially if we were not planning on one, so that it is a surprise even to ourselves.I have been so good with my self-imposed book buying ban, that it’s been a full month since I last stepped foot into a book store or clicked that button on Amazon.I know the staff at my local bookstore will be sending out the cavalry to find me soon, if I don’t show my face in there.

Anyway, if you happen follow me on Instagram you will know that my hubby and I went on a day trip to St. Augustine on Sunday.It’s about two hours drive from our home in Central Florida. We had some business to take care of, with a little house hunting thrown in, and we wanted to spend a whole day there to take in the beautiful surroundings in this amazing and historical part of Florida.We had a wonderful time, but as usual the day went by far too quickly. Once everything was taken care of we hunted down somewhere to eat, where we could relax, hide from the sun, and scroll through all the amazing photos we had taken during the day. To be honest, the photos I was most interested in were the house ones. Sigh…

As we rolled out of the restaurant, my radar detected a huge Barnes & Nobel bookstore right behind us, winking in the sun. I looked at my hubby, he looked at me, sighed, and drove us the ten yards to the bookstore. He decided he would stay in the car while I browsed (he never learns) So I browsed lots. Too much. I was phoning him with updates while I shopped. I think I bought more in one haul than I’ve ever done. You know, the one where you split the bill between your debit card and your credit card so you can still pay the mortgage at the end of the month.

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I blame the staff. 😉 They didn’t limit me. They actually ENCOURAGED me! ‘Double points today” they said. “If you sign up for a new points card today you get 40% off hardbacks” they said. Only “$25 to join” they said. So how could I argue? After all it was only twenty-five dollars to join and I was getting double points and forty percent off too….

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I initially went in to buy a new Penguin cloth bound classic to add to my collection. I promised myself that I would only buy a new one of these gorgeous designs, when and only when, I’d read the previous one. So far I’ve stuck to that rule.

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How gorgeous are these Penguin cloth bound classics?

 

 

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But on Sunday something magical happened. Well actually it was a whole AREA devoted to the magical that happened. My jaw dropped, my hands shook and my basket became very heavy. I was in more than book heaven; You see, I’m writing a trilogy where fantasy and witchcraft are the main ingredients. I’ve been researching my subject since I was at college, and I have been actively writing for the whole of this year, and I’m finally seeing my life’s’ ambition coming together. So that one trip into the bookstore was an all-my-Christmases-come-at-once moment. Before long I was onto basket number two.

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Some local historic Haunting books.

So, let me share my treasures with you.

‘Spooky South’ by S.E. Schlosser – Tales of huntings, strange happenings, and other local lore.

‘Ghosts of St. Augustine by Dave Lapham twenty-four collected stories from the oldest city in Florida.

llewellyns 2017 Magical Almanac by Billington, Zaman, Blake et al -Ideas and techniques, calendars, stories and spells.

I figured with the local history books, if I’m moving into the area, I ought to know more about it. I can’t wait to get my teeth into these books.

 

 

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Next up are some super legends.

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The Story or King Arthur and Dancing with Dragons

‘The Story of King Arthur and his Knights’ by Howard Pyle is one of the children’s classics. Its only $10 and it is stunning!  It has tons of lovely illustrations, beautiful end papers and of course the silver edged pages that are the trademark of the Barnes and Nobel children classics.

‘Dancing with Dragons’ by D.J. Conway – What are Dragons?, how do they feature in magic? This appears to be an interesting investigation into the lore of Dragons.

 

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Oracles and Runes

Now these really intrigue me! I’ve been reading tarot cards since my Grandmother taught me at the age of ten. I collect so many different designs, yet I always seem to use the same pack that I’ve had forever. Nevertheless, I’m now venturing into the realms of oracle cards  (wait until I write my post on the work of the gorgeous and fabulously talented artist, Terri Foss- watch this space) These Faerytale oracle cards are just so beautiful.These are by Lucy Cavendish. All the cards are based upon a well-known fairy tale character. These have to be added to my top ten favorites. Now the Lenormand cards are something that I’m just getting to know. I have heard that they’re more difficult to learn, but I’m always looking for a challenge. Finally ‘The Book of Runes’ by Ralph H. Blum. I once began investigating the Runes but couldn’t seem to get ‘into’ them enough. But now I’m excited to try again.

 

 

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Learning wicca

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These three books are all schooling in the art of Witchcraft.

First up is ‘The Black Arts’ by Richard Cavendish- This book explores every aspect of the dark side of magic: psychic attacks, evil spirits, astrology, and summoning. Eeek…I think this one needs reading in daylight and in company!

‘Witchcraft theory and practice by Ly De Angeles- This is described as a manual that explains in-depth how and why magic works. I think this one looks more non-witch user-friendly.

‘Witch School’ by Rev. D. Lewis- Highcorrell – goodness that’s a mouthful. I thought my surname was, but he gets the prize. This is cited as a three-volume Witch school, rather like a college course on Wicca. The synopsis  tells us that there are twelve lessons to be completed in a year. Hmmm interesting.

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Herbal Magic and A year of Wicca

‘Wicca a Year and a Day’ by Timothy Roderick- This is an intensive study course of solitary witchcraft which focuses on the changing of the seasons and working with natural elements. This seems to go hand in hand with ‘Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs’ by Scott Cunningham. This is a dip in and outlook with meanings and uses of each herb that you can think of. I’m looking forward to this because I’m always blending teas and trying to invent new tastes for myself. Ok so these are the last two I’m going to share today. I see there is a lot to take in here. I haven’t read any of these books yet but I’ll have them to hand as I’m working on the novel, I want to weave as much history and folklore into my book as I can. It totally fascinates me! I hope you’ve enjoyed my witchy book haul post. I’ll be back with more this week. I’m hoping the sun shows up again soon so I can take more pictures. I’ll also be posting part 2 of my candle collection. As for my Barnes and Nobel trip, while I did buy books from some other genres too,I never did remember to look for my next Penguin cloth bound. ;?

I wish you all a lovely day. Curl up in your book nook, light a candle and drift to other worlds.

 

lots of love

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Sally xx