‘Dyed Souls’ by Gary Santorella @dyedsouls @matadorbooks #blogtour #dyedsouls @rararesources @gilbster1000 #bookreview #bookbloggers

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today, for Dyed Souls by Gary Santorella. Many thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for including me as a reviewer.

Dyed Souls is set in California during the 1980s, at a residential treatment centre for troubled young people. In the acknowledgment at the front of the book, the author says that he hopes that he has done justice to the hundreds of kids he’s worked with over the years. I think he has done this and more with Dyed Souls, which centres on an extremely intelligent, but vulnerable young teenager, called Charles Lyle.

We start Charles’ story in a worrying and volatile way, in a car with his ominously threatening young mother, on their way to somewhere, at this point, known only as the ‘Cottage’. The chapter titles throughout are metaphors for the content of that part of the story, and I really loved this device. The first chapter is entitled ‘Great White’ and relates to Charles’ relationship with his mum.

Charles finds himself dumped back at Hawthorne Residential Treatment Village, earlier than expected, as a result of some event, unknown to the reader, which occurred while he was on a weekend visit home.

I felt so angry with Charles’ mother, and the emotional abuse she seemed to layer upon her son; this thoughtful and intelligent, but broken boy. The treatment centre is full of children who have without doubt suffered at the hands of their significant adults, sexually, emotionally, or from being in violent or neglectful homes. The home is not run deliberately to exacerbate these children’s problems, but the disciplinary and counselling protocols, do not, in the main, serve to address the basic issue facing these children, which is to be able to trust in adults, when their own parents have failed them so badly. Only two or three of the staff are good enough to earn very basic trust. The childlike instinct to protect their parents is also a major barrier to their recovery, and this is particularly applicable to Charles.

The author uses Charles’ first-person perspective to tell this story, and so for me, there was going to be the question, under the circumstances, of whether this account would be reliable. The writing is accomplished and flowed very well. The characters are vividly drawn; the over-sexualised, but resilient Margo, Walter, with his unique verbalisations, Paula, Shorty, Javier, and Charles’ grandfather. It is a gritty and disturbing story, made softer by Charles’ usually gentle voice.

Charles spends most of his time reading, when he is not sneaking about, and his account is embellished with his interpretations of (amongst others)  Charles Darwin’s Descent of Man, while he searches it for explanations of his own circumstances. Darwin describes how sympathetic kindness amongst tribe members led to reciprocal good feeling and became habit forming, and natural selection would favour those communities with the highest level of sympathy, encouraging a greater number of offspring. Charles reasons this through in relation to his mother.

“Maybe some people don’t put much stock in the importance of kindness. Or maybe they have learned how to take advantage of people’s feelings of sympathy, so they can better their own chance of survival. But with my mom, I’m not sure what advantage she’d be gaining, other than making it easier for her to do what she wants, which, as far as I can tell, doesn’t help her much at all.”

Dyed Souls deals with the complexity of child and adolescent mental health services in western society, and encourages us to sympathise greatly with those who have to leave treatment centres like Hawthorne at 18 years old, when their support network on the outside is non-existent, and their coping mechanisms may be still too deeply affected by the events of their pasts. It begs the questions, what are we all going to do about this? Is our sympathy strong enough to build a better future for our children?

It is a coming of age story, a discussion about whether it is possible for children with harmful relationships with their parents to reason through the instinct to protect and be able to approach adulthood with greater perspective. The end of the penultimate chapter seems almost inevitable, given the events leading up to it, and the final chapter wraps up in a bittersweet way.

I really enjoyed Dyed Souls. It had the examination of the experience of an individual which makes it fascinating in a literary and philosophical sense, but also is a great YA fiction too.

Be aware; Sexual abuse (implied), emotional abuse, occasional use of medication to control behaviour, incident of animal cruelty, use of multiple swear words.

Dyed Souls has won two awards:

Silver in the 2018 Global eBook Awards – Young Adult Fiction Category

Chill With a Book Readers Award.

Dyed Souls Global Ebook Awards                                              Dyed Souls Chill With A Book

Author Profile: Gary Santorella

Dyed Souls Author Pic

Gary Santorella, Owner, Interactive Consulting is a Lean implementation, organizational development, conflict resolution, and team-building specialist. He has a BA in Behavioural Psychology from Providence College, Providence, RI (1980), a Master’s Degree in Occupational Social Welfare from UC Berkeley (1990), and is a licensed cognitive-behavioural therapist in the State of California. His book: Lean Culture for the Construction Industry: Building Responsible & Committed Project Teams 2nd Edition was published by Productivity Press (a division of Taylor & Francis) in 2017. His first novel, Dyed Souls, was published by Matador Publishing in 2018.

Very importantly, this is a blog tour, and there are many other unique and wonderful perspectives on Dyed Souls for you to read, and I urge you to do so! The tour dates and the other bloggers involved are here:

Dyed Souls Full Tour Banner

Purchase Links –
Troubadour – https://www.troubador.co.uk/bookshop/contemporary/dyed-souls/
UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dyed-Souls-Gary-Santorella/dp/1788038096
US – https://www.amazon.com/Dyed-Souls-Gary-Santorella/dp/1788038096

 

 

 

The thinning of the veil…

wolf howling at moon

Well, here we are. It’s that time of year again. The nights are closing in; the veil between the worlds of the living and dead are thinning as I speak. Allegedly.

Without fail, I always try to scare myself witless for the next six weeks or so, year-in, year-out, therefore I have further burdened my already double stacked shelves in preparation.

I’m telling myself I’m mad, because first on the list this year is ‘The Woman in Black’ by Susan Hill. I have some experience of this story; twice I have seen it performed at The Theatre on the Lake in Keswick in the Northern Lake District, which is one of my favourite venues. The first time, I came out a bit shaken. The second time, a few years later once I’d had children, I exited the theatre a little bit psychologically damaged. To the point, that when the film with Daniel Radcliffe broke loose several years later, I couldn’t bring myself to watch it!

The books are never as bad though, right?

Also in the wings, I have MR James’ ‘Ghost Stories’, Daphne du Maurier’s ‘The Birds and other stories’, A Discovery of Witches’ by Deborah Harkness, ‘The Witches of New York’ by Ami McKay and I plan to revisit a story that I enjoyed at the time, but didn’t review and that is ‘The Loney’ by Andrew Michael Hurley. I have thought about it so often, and certain parts have really played on my mind in the period since, that I think I owe it a review.

Updates as I get through them. Think of me; I’m a wuss and I have no earthly idea why I do this to myself!

 

‘Rotherweird’ by Andrew Caldecott

Rotherweird CoverWeird science, weird history, weird regulations, weird disappearances, weird murder and some very odd behaviour… Welcome to Rotherweird. I loved this book, what a joy!

A tricky one to review though, as I don’t want to risk spoiling it for anyone and it would be very easily done. I can probably just about get away with the following synopsis:

Rotherweird, in the 1500s, becomes home to twelve exceptionally gifted children, who are seen as such a threat to the Tudor monarchy, that they become secretly isolated. Then, their education begins in earnest.

Fast forward… Rotherweird in the 21st century remains an anomaly. It’s self governing, isn’t on any map and even if you found yourself at the top of Rotherweird Valley, the town itself wouldn’t be visible below.

Guidebooks describe the Rotherweird community as secretive and hostile. If you are defined as an ‘Outsider’, it means they don’t trust you and you aren’t allowed in. Unless there are exceptional circumstances. Should you live in the Rotherweird Valley, but not in the town, you are a ‘Countrysider’; thereby, not only being a bit of a bumpkin, but not to be trusted: you can be let inside the town walls if you’re useful, although not for very long. So there.

Sir Veronal Slickstone (an Outsider), for sinister reasons of his own, hires a prima-donna method actress and a young man who has, up to press, lived the veritable life of a shifty, petty street criminal. Then, forthwith, after some minor preparations, they all get into a big black luxury car and head out, off grid, into Rotherweird. And they’ve been invited. And so has a hapless history teacher called Jonah Oblong, who has been called to interview for a position at Rotherweird School. But he has to find his way there using his wits alone…

(Remember the scene in ‘Salem’s Lot, where the really bad guy turns up in a big black luxury car, and it transpires he’s arrived to take up residence in the boarded up, run down mansion, notorious with the locals? Well, it’s a bit like that.)

So, on to the things I loved about this book, and there are many. It’s very well written, unsurprising considering the author, finely balanced between comedy, adventure, fantasy and tragedy, with a touch of the gothic to it. I would genuinely struggle to assign a genre. It’s a fascinating, intriguing, unfurling macabre story, with well-named, multi-faceted characters, whose motives are difficult to fathom until the moment the author wants you to. The plot thickens all the time; I never lost interest. I did once or twice think I’d been pretty clever in working out some twists and turns, but actually the author leads you there, revealing bit by bit, quite intentionally.

I’d like to just interrupt myself here, and take a minute to pay tribute to the illustrator. She is called Sasha Laika, and she studied figurative art in Moscow. I fervently hope that the process by which she created the artwork in this book was through Andrew Caldecott providing the title of the drawing and then letting her design her wonderful illustrations to it. For example, my favourite one is entitled, ‘Oblong at the Oak: That’s the Twelve-Mile post, that’s the Rotherweird Valley, and you owe me six quid’.
They are fantastic and, even if you are a book Puritan, you may actually be a bit tempted to sharpen your coloured pencils and make a start on the front cover.

If you enjoyed Peake’s Gormenghast, I think you’ll find yourself at home here in Rotherweird. I dare say a Pratchett fan or two will find something to enjoy here too. I don’t think there are any particular age restrictions in terms of inappropriate material. Probably 11 + though, more from a comprehension standpoint than anything else. I mean, I’m 40 and I had to google some things. Ha. For anyone giving it a go, I honestly hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I have.

This reader will be figuratively placing her feet on the nearest decorative black or white tile in range, and enthusiastically tumbling down the weasel hole to land in Wyntertide, for the next installment.

 

Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott, illustrated by Sasha Laika

Published:  Published June 16th 2017 by Jo Fletcher Books (first published May 18th 2017) 
Original Title: Rotherweird
Edition Language: English
Series: Rotherweird #1