Category Archives: Books

Books I love

Yeah, I know, sorry, it’s been a while since I posted. Been busy writing. Got to get Episode finished! But I have a bit of time to tell you about a recent challenge I was given on Facebook to post the cover of a book I love for seven days with no review or explanation. These were the books I chose, but this time I want to explain why I chose them:

 

Day 1

This is a book you can’t put down and I think I’ve read it over twenty times. A traumatic tale told through the eyes of an innocent 10-year-old girl in America’s south, To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic simply and beautifully written, exposing bigotry and racism in a time when such things were unfortunately acceptable. It keeps you riveted from the first page to the last.

Day 2

The first full-length book I ever read age 10 which inspired me to write for children. Not a literary masterpiece, old-fashioned, a world apart from my own, but as enduring and as popular  today as it was back in the 1940s when it was first published. Say what you like about Enid Blyton, but she still sells.

Day 3

This is the official programme of the Champions League Final held in Kiev on 26 May 2018. I don’t own a copy and I wasn’t at the Final, but I was watching on telly and on that day it was my favourite book. Oh, I had such hopes for Liverpool’s first Champions League trophy since 2005, only for them to be dashed by the cheating, diving, fouling Real Madrid, one fluke goal and two terrible gaffes by our goalkeeper!  I’m not bitter, though. (Yes, I am!)  I’ll never get over it! 😦

Day 4

I studied A-level Ancient History and Literature at further education college and The Iliad was our set text. I knew little about the story before I started reading and I loved it: Helen of Sparta running off with Paris of Troy, the Greeks declaring war on Troy in an attempt to get her back, the bickering and in-fighting amongst the Greeks, the gods sticking their oar in…it’s full of great drama, blood, guts and glory. The poem starts in the tenth year of the war and I often wondered why this was, until recently I discovered The Iliad is part of what is known as the Epic Cycle and there were other poems before this, outlining how the war started, now long since lost. It was this that inspired me to write Episode and to read other epic poems such as The Odyssey and The Aeneid.

Day 5

So the Trojan War is over and famed Greek warrior and king Odysseus is on his way home back home to Ithaca, to his wife Penelope and son Telemachus, who was a baby when Odysseus left to fight in the war. On the way he encounters many adventures and challenges and Penelope is having to fend off a queue of blokes, convinced Odysseus is dead, who want to marry her. The Odyssey is an enjoyable tale focusing on Penelope’s anguish, Telemachus’s quest to search for his father and the conflicts Odysseus has to face on his journey home. You can feel and sympathise with the characters in this sequel to The Iliad.

Day 6

This is a book I have always wanted to read. It is an open, honest account of Anne Frank’s young life growing up while hiding from the Nazis in the small flat in Amsterdam and her relationship with her family and the other families hiding with her. She doesn’t come across as a saint: in fact, I was often left thinking, ‘What a little madam!’ She appears selfish in some ways and is quite scathing in her opinion of her mother. The abrupt ending of the diary is explained at the end and because her story is so well-known there is a feeling of poignancy in this.

Day 7

As a comedy of manners, Pride and Prejudice never fails to impress: the comical Mrs Bennet, the downtrodden Mr Bennet and his life full of women, the awful cousin Mr Collins and the snooty Lady Catherine de Burgh. The Bennet daughters are a collection of different characteristics: the beautiful, self-composed Jane, the not-quite-as-beautiful-but-nevertheless-down-to-earth-and-critical Lizzie; the over-studious and plain Mary; the silly, sawdust-between-her-ears and easily-led Kitty; and finally the pretty but selfish Lydia. As a love story, it’s a bit of a mind field! And it never fails to amaze me what a small world Jane Austen’s characters live in: Mr Collins, the Bennet cousin, happens to be curate in Lady Catherine’s parish and Mr Wickham happens to be a childhood friend of Mr Darcy before they fell out. A terrific book.

 

I could have listed so many more such as The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which was clever and comical; the Red Dwarf books, the first of which made me laugh out loud so much once on a train I had to stop reading it! Books will never stop giving me pleasure.

 

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OK, so when will Episode be published?

Episode will  be published in November 2018, in time for Christmas!

At least, that’s my aim.

More family aggro, more bad luck, homelessness, illness, death, abduction by aliens, the world ending all notwithstanding, my sixth novel will be published at the end of this year, two years later than intended. But what can you do when real life gets in the flippin’ way!

Yeah, so November’s nearly eight months away, but there’s still a lot of work to do on the book. I haven’t been idle. I’m struggling with an ending, so while I struggle I edit. No point in just doing nothing. I’ll have more time when the football season’s over in a few weeks, too, a major distraction averted.

Am I ready to reveal yet what the book’s about? No. You’ll have to wait nearer the time. I can say this much: it’s for readers age 9-12, there’s time-travel, Greek gods, and a famous mythological (or possibly real, who knows?) queen who states that actually, it’s not really how Homer told it (and when I say Homer I don’t mean Homer Simpson) because it’s not how her story really was. That’s why she’s desperate to escape and for that she needs Travis and Alisha’s help.

Anyway, that’s all for this month, I have a book to finish, bye.

 

The Facebook author page: is it really worth the aggro?

When you spend most of your time writing and editing and you have no time to promote…

Surely you should be doing both? Well, that’s true, but right now my new book Episode is proving to be a lot of hard work, much more than I anticipated! I’ve almost finished it, but I always have this compelling need to edit before I actually do finish, and that’s what I’ve started doing now. I wore myself out today on chapter four! It’s something that works for me though because most of the time editing and rewriting often works out my ending. I get that Eureka! moment!

What about promotion, though? It’s hard finding the time to promote old stuff when you have new stuff you want to get out there.

I have my Twitter account I use a lot (OK so not just for promoting, but without other interests I wouldn’t get a fan base for my books), promo sites and reviews. I also have a Facebook author page and this is causing me a problem: I’m considering ditching it. Here’s why:

  • Likes: the highest number of Likes I amassed was 522 last year. Since then, this has dropped to 498, probably because I haven’t given the page the attention I should have, but also because, in common with other pages, Facebook likes to purge Likes now and again, especially from deactivated accounts. A lot of people are ditching Facebook because they find it a drag. I do myself. I’ve tried to get more Likes and have had no success
  • Getting posts noticed: the number of times I’ve posted news about my books and not got a single thumbs-up like. You can boost a post to the top of the feed for advertising, but it costs a lot of money and I’m not prepared to pay it
  • Pressure: most authors use Facebook pages instead of a blog. What’s the point in doing that though if people are leaving Facebook in droves? With my blog I can just post when I need to, not when I feel pressured into doing so. Facebook invites pressure: if you don’t post you lose friends or Likes and you can’t return the favour because you don’t know who’s unfriended or unliked
  • Having the time: well-known authors with millions of followers probably wouldn’t maintain the pages themselves, they’d have someone else to do it. That’s nice. I don’t have that luxury. It’s bad enough thinking about what to say on my Facebook profile; it’s proving to be a bit of a drag juggling both. I’d rather spend my time writing and editing than have to worry about posting on my Facebook page and frankly I get a lot more exposure on Twitter
  • Profile not page: a lot of authors just keep profiles instead of pages and have a lot more engagement with readers. They acquire followers who don’t have to be friends.

So I am seriously considering binning off my page. It’ll be scary and I’ll lose all those Likes, but at least I don’t have to worry about it any more.

A new review for Big Brother: 4/5 stars!

 

Was I chuffed to find a new review for Big Brother on Amazon.co.uk! My thanks to the reviewer; glad they enjoyed it! 👍

Not Perfect, but a Highly Imaginative Offering Nonetheless
Sci-fi with a dash of horror; street level style. Ash is a young boy from a broken home; while his dad lives and works in the US, Ash is going to school and once home tries to keep things together in his Liverpool home for both himself and his badly screwed up mother, although he is really from Bristol and only came back to his mother’s home town after his mum and dad broke up. I can’t say or explain too much of the plot as it would be a class one spoiler, but Ash, after getting another pasting from a school bully, realises that what he wishes for can actually come true.

Now, some things to point out. This is YA but at the back end of the age-group / target audience, verging on grown-up reading. The central character, although perhaps he has reasons to be the way he is,is not the nicest lad on the planet. He seems to resent authority (his drunken drugged-up mother, teachers, social workers, the usual suspects as it were), just as much as he resents those who use him as a punchbag and as the butt of their jokes. He gets angry, swears and rejects whenever he’s threatened, and is rather amoral in some serious issues, although always with pangs of guilt lurking in the background before occasionally coming to the fore. Contradicting this is his sense of duty which sees him reject the chance of a better life, either in the US with his father, or back in Bristol, where he could stay with his Gran, who he likes and respects, and which would also allow him to return to his old school in Bristol, and be with his old friends in his old haunts where he was happiest. Instead, realising he is all his messed up mother has got, stays in Liverpool.

There are also a few references to sex and sexuality, but in a very general sense, not in the least graphic; for any concerned parents looking for a good book for their kids, yes, this is at times realistic and even raw, but it’s nothing that isn’t readily available on all YA bookshelves and on the TV and cinema.

So, we have an anti-hero as the central character, some rather odd, spooky stuff going on (science or magic? That would be telling.) And an ending which may not appeal to all, but is highly effective.

All in all, a book flawed in some ways at some points, but nonetheless a good, solid read, weighing in somewhere between a novelette and a full length novel.

What did you read on World Book Day?

World Book Day

I spent most of it reading the BBC Weather App today as we in the UK continue to be gripped by the Beast of the East (freezing temperatures and snow from Russia) and Storm Emma. March 1st, the first day of spring, and it’s been snowing like mad! Crazy weather and it’s set to continue into the weekend. I have a very confused and unhappy cat who can’t understand what’s going on and why she isn’t allowed to go outside! When I  open the door for her, the wind and snow rush in and she runs and hides! As far as I’m concerned, there’s not much else to do but read and write. I’m in the middle of two books at the moment: The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick and A Daughter’s Choice by June Francis.

As a corny bit of fun, here’s a suggested reading list to fit the current climate:

  • Emma
  • A Touch of Frost
  • The Snowman
  • The Snow Queen
  • War and Peace (it’s Russian!)
  • Storm Warning
  • Gone with the Wind

Meanwhile, the good news is I’ve nearly finished Episode! I won’t be sorry when I finally do finish it because it’s gone on and on. Thankfully, the family issues are now resolved and I can get on with my books as well as my life! I’ve already got my seventh book planned.

 

My review of White Nights by Ann Cleeves

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After the impressive first book, Raven Black, I’m afraid I found White Nights too much of a slow burner. A visitor to an art exhibition is found murdered. Detective Jimmy Perez has very little to work on other than to find out if anyone in the small community knows who the man is and the history of personal relationships form the basis of his investigation. To his frustration he can’t head up the case himself; that’s down to Taylor, sent in from Inverness. Taylor is actually from the big city of Liverpool and he finds Shetland too insular for his taste. He also likes to show Perez who’s boss. When another murder is committed, and bones are found on a cliff edge by climbers, it is Perez who manages to solve the case first.

I was kept guessing right up until the end whodunnit, which is a plus, but then I was left feeling dissatisfied and cheated when the perpetrator got away with it by dying! I hate it when that happens!

While the case is going on there is an insight into Perez’s private life, but he really does come across as a colourless character without much personality and it’s difficult to find sympathy with him or any of the other characters in the story.

Got a bit of reading to do!

So I asked Father Christmas for some reading material: a copy of The Man in the High Castle (to help me understand what he TV series is going on about!) and the complete series of Poldark books. All twelve of them!

 

 

It appears I have a bit of reading to do this year as well as writing! Twelve Poldark books will keep me busy! I’m going to start with The Man in the High Castle first, though. Back in August I wrote a blog post about what should come first when following a story: the book or the film/TV series. It was the series on BBC 1 that inspired me to read Poldark. I didn’t mention The Man in the High Castle in that post, but I should have. The Amazon series has left both me and my husband scatching our heads. We’ve realised it’s an alternative history, a parallel universe, but we still don’t get it, so I asked for the book in the hope that I could better figure out what’s going on. I’ll let you know in a review.

As for Poldark, I can’t wait t get stuck into those. Should take me about six years I reckon. Just hope I live that long!

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