19 Apr 2018

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Book Review / The Beloveds by Maureen Lindley

An exploration of domestic derangement, as sinister as Daphne Du Maurier’s classic Rebecca, that plumbs the depths of sibling rivalry with wit and menace.

Oh, to be a Beloved—one of those lucky people for whom nothing ever goes wrong. Everything falls into their laps without effort: happiness, beauty, good fortune, allure.

Betty Stash is not a Beloved—but her little sister, the delightful Gloria, is. She’s the one with the golden curls and sunny disposition and captivating smile, the one whose best friend used to be Betty’s, the one whose husband should have been Betty’s. And then, to everyone’s surprise, Gloria inherits the family manse—a vast, gorgeous pile of ancient stone, imposing timbers, and lush gardens—that was never meant to be hers.

Losing what Betty considers her rightful inheritance is the final indignity. As she single-mindedly pursues her plan to see the estate returned to her in all its glory, her determined and increasingly unhinged behavior—aided by poisonous mushrooms, talking walls, and a phantom dog—escalates to the point of no return. The Beloveds will have you wondering if there’s a length to which an envious sister won’t go.


Published:     17th June 2018
Publisher:  Titan Books
Goodreads :  Click here
Series or Stand-Alone:  Stand-Alone

Source:  Review Copy from Publisher


MY REVIEW

This was a really interesting read for me.  I am going to start by saying that I have not read Daphne Du Maurier's book, so I really can't do a comparison between the two.  Honestly, this is not one of those books that I would normally pick up but the description intrigued me, so I thought I would give it a go.  Right from the beginning I knew that the main character Betty was a character that I didn't particularly like very much and wouldn't like for most of the book, but that's ok.   I don't think I was meant to.  We follow Betty who is a very bitter character who is obviously either suffering from mental illness or most definately on her way to this.  For me, the best part of this book was following Betty as she travels on this downward spiral of mental illness.  Not that I wish anyone to suffer but I found it interesting to see what choices she would make.  Also, having the point of view of the story being Betty's point of view, it really explores more of her and her state of mind more than if the story was in another point of view.

A truly disturbing read but one that I would highly recommend. 









Continue reading Book Review / The Beloveds by Maureen Lindley

16 Apr 2018

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Series Review / The Babysitters Club Specials by Ann M Martin


Kristy, Mary Anne, Stacey, Claudia and Dawn are the luckiest baby-sitters in the world. This summer they're going on the greatest trip ever: a plane ride to Florida, a boat trip around the Bahamas, and then three days of fun - in Disney World!

Of course they have a million adventures. Claudia gets notes from a mysterious "Secret Admirer." Kristy, Mary Anne, and Stacey make some unusual new friends. Dawn has her first real romance. And they still have time for what they like best of all - baby-sitting.


Published:     1990s
Goodreads :  Click here
Series or Stand-Alone:  Babysitter Club Specials, Books 1 to 15

Source:  Owned


MY REVIEW

What a trip down memory lane!  Back in the 1990s when I was a young teenager The Babysitters Club was one of those series that I was completely hooked on.  In fact, I think this is probably the first series I ever picked up.  Although I didn't read the entire series (as there are more than 200ish books in the series) I certainly picked up and read whatever I could get my hands on from the library.  I didn't really want to read all 200 plus books in this series but saw that the Specials collection is about 15 books, so I thought I would pick those up instead.  I have had the physical books with me for a while now, having rediscovered they were still available to buy.

There are some books that you can forget the plot and characters of and there are some that just stay with you.  The Babysitter Club plot and characters have definately stayed with me for a very long time.  What I liked about these specials was the fact that at the start of each book it gave a brief reminder of what the Babysitters Club was and who the main characters are in the club.  That helped certainly in the first book to bring me back into this work and reintroduce myself to the characters.  It was also good to have this in each of the specials as these specials were written at periodic points in the series and not one straight after the other where in between specials a lot has happened with the characters, each special book does a great job of catching you up what what has happened.

Despite the fact that each of the specials kind of have the same plot (trouble occurs and Babysitters Club saves the day in one way or another) I really enjoyed rediscovering this work and the characters that I loved when I was younger.

If you ever get hit by the 'I need to read something from my past' bug, just do it.  You will never know what you will rediscover.




Continue reading Series Review / The Babysitters Club Specials by Ann M Martin

13 Apr 2018

Author Interview / Joshua Banker


Career grifter and perennial loser Cal Reeger is a dead man. He owes a lot of money to crimelord Jaefor, and the only thing he owns are his pair of revolvers. Not even the jacket on his back belongs to him. To repay this debt, he must infiltrate the Archaeology Guild's site at Natx Hollow.

As Cal schemes to steal the find of a lifetime from the aeons-old site, the ruin's true nature is revealed. Within a cryogenic coffin belowground sleeps Centurion Prae Ganvelt, a member of the first civilization, the original race of humans who flourished millions of years ago.

Still looking for a way out of his debt and with a mercenary hot on his tail, Cal joins the awakened warrior Prae and archaeologist Peter Mathester to investigate the fate of Prae's kind. Within the mysterious, ancient compound of Ala’ydin, they learn that progenitor scientist, Erudatta, altered the cycle of dormancy for Prae's people. What they still must discover are his reasons for doing so.

The Fifth Era of Man examines the dangers of unearned achievements and the desperation that drives those who are prey to their own bad decisions.

Amazon Kindle - https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07B6TFX6Z/
Print - https://www.amazon.com/dp/1983515027/
Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38923457-the-fifth-era-of-man

 
Excerpt:

“On the prowl tonight?” Prae offered a barbed inquiry without even looking at Cal.

He made a clicking noise with his tongue as he fashioned a gun from one hand and pointed it playfully at Prae. Without saying anything else, he slipped away and back into the crowd; his attention was drawn by a brunette on the other side of the room that appeared to be a few too many drinks along.

“Prowl?” Oebe inquired as she looked back and forth between Prae and Peter.

“Uh, he’s looking—”

“Sorry, I wasn’t certain if such terminology was reintroduced.” In the poor light, it was hard to tell if Prae was blushing. “It means… to look for a dance partner,” Prae offered, hoping to end the subject.

“Yeah, dance. The one with no pants,” Peter commented under his breath. He scratched at his scalp as he looked from Oebe’s inquisitive gaze.

“I don’t understand.”

Before Peter could fashion a response, Prae held out a hand, asking him to hold off. “I say let Reeger explain this to her. It’s his fault we’re in this situation.”

 
Author Interview:

1.  If you could work with any other author, who would it be and why?

Neil Gaiman, because I love the aesthetic of his writing. From his days on Sandman all the way up to Anansi Boys, there's a distinct flavor to his prose that just clicks for me. It's both creative and grounded as he delves into an array of mythologies. Gaiman is the kind of author whose brain I just want to pick, purely as a learning experience. 

2.  What would be a typical working day for you? When and where do you write?

My day job is as graphic designer in a corporate setting, so I'm up early every day with a pot of coffee and a computer. Because I write whenever the inspiration strikes, I tend to leave a document open just so that I can scribble down small chunks as they come to me. I've been known to have something come to mind while I'm doing the most mundane of things - taking a shower, going for a walk, or even just listening to music.

3.  What is the hardest part of the writing for you?

Finding the balance--making sure that I describe the scenes as I see them in my head without overwriting. I never want to bog the reader down with needlessly-dense narrative for the sake of painting a word-picture. I've regularly written out hundreds, if not thousands, of words to frame a single moment. Only when I take a step back can I see the need to trim things down for the sake of narrative flow.

4.  When and why did you first start writing?

I was always creative; as a teenager, I painted, I drew, and I wrote. When I was younger, I didn't quite have the tools to create a compelling story that was ready to share. After some time lived and experience gained, I started producing works with the complexity and depth I needed in order to put my work out for a wider audience. It wasn't until later in life that I felt I had the proper understanding of how to tell a story.

5.  How did you come up with the idea for your book?

They say inspiration comes in many forms. For The Fifth Era of Man, I had two distinct concepts that I wanted to explore: How would a person who lived for millions of years deal with the world as it changed without them? What kind of impact does long-term and short-term memory have on emotional growth and expression? The exploration of both these themes allowed me to lay down groundwork for a what ultimately became a by-the-seat-of-your-pants adventure story.

6.  Are you a big reader? If so, what are you reading now?

Harry Potter. I was in my mid-20s to 30s when they came out, so I'd never read the Harry Potter books before. I'm currently binging the entire series and am now on Order of the Phoenix. It's interesting for me to see how the books were trimmed and reformed for the sake of making viable screenplays, including how characters were changed to make them more palatable. When not visiting the Wizarding World, I like classic sci-fi, especially the work of Philip K. Dick.

7.  Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?

Get into the habit of doing something every day. Even if you only put a couple of hundred words down--that you may rewrite or discard at a later date--the daily activity does wonders. I've known a number of people who just couldn't find the impetus, but if you're already in the habit, it becomes easier to move through your stories. For me, it created a voracious appetite to create, even if the the current work won't see the light of day anytime soon. There are passages  I've written that I might not explore for years to come.

Genre: Science-fiction, cyberpunk, noir
Continue reading Author Interview / Joshua Banker

12 Apr 2018

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Book Review / The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey

A fresh, personal, and entertaining exploration of a topic that concerns all of us: how to be more productive at work and in every facet of our lives.
 
Chris Bailey turned down lucrative job offers to pursue a lifelong dream—to spend a year performing a deep dive experiment into the pursuit of productivity, a subject he had been enamored with since he was a teenager. After obtaining his business degree, he created a blog to chronicle a year-long series of productivity experiments he conducted on himself, where he also continued his research and interviews with some of the world’s foremost experts, from Charles Duhigg to David Allen. Among the experiments that he tackled: Bailey went several weeks with getting by on little to no sleep; he cut out caffeine and sugar; he lived in total isolation for 10 days; he used his smartphone for just an hour a day for three months; he gained ten pounds of muscle mass; he stretched his work week to 90 hours; a late riser, he got up at 5:30 every morning for three months—all the while monitoring the impact of his experiments on the quality and quantity of his work.

The Productivity Project—and the lessons Chris learned—are the result of that year-long journey. Among the counterintuitive insights Chris Bailey will teach you:
·         slowing down to work more deliberately;
·         shrinking or eliminating the unimportant;
·         the rule of three;
·         striving for imperfection;
·         scheduling less time for important tasks;
·         the 20 second rule to distract yourself from the inevitable distractions;
·         and the concept of productive procrastination.
In an eye-opening and thoroughly engaging read, Bailey offers a treasure trove of insights and over 25 best practices that will help you accomplish more.


Published:     5th January 2016
Publisher: Crown Business
Goodreads :  Click here
Series or Stand-Alone:  Stand-Alone  Non-Fiction
Source:  Bought


MY REVIEW

At the beginning of this year I said to myself that I would make sure I pick up more non-fiction books, having hardly read any in 2017.  When I think of non-fiction, I tend to gravitate more towards personal development style books like this one.  Productivity is my main goal for the year.  Finding a way to spend less time doing things that don't need doing and finding more time to do more fun things in life.

I felt this book was more geared towards people who either run their own business or run their own time.  For those like me who work a full time job and doesn't really have much control over the time you spend at work, you could get some really useful tips for this but there are parts of this book that really don't apply.

What I enjoyed the most was learning more about the author and more about how he dealt with particular situations in his life and thinking how it would apply to mine.  At the end of each chapter you also have little tasks you can do, which I did, and I gained a lot of new ideas from that.

A fun read that although geared more towards those who run their own business or run their own time I learnt a lot and discovered new ways of organising my life. 



Continue reading Book Review / The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey

9 Apr 2018

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Book Review / The Homecoming by Rosie Howard



Maddy fled the idyllic market town of Havenbury Magna three years ago, the scene of a traumatic incident she revisits most clearly in her dreams. 

Even so, when she is called back to help at the Havenbury Arms when her godfather Patrick suffers a heart attack, she is unprepared for the welter of emotions her return provokes. 

Psychologist and ex-army officer Ben is sure he can help Maddy to resolve her fears, until he finds himself falling for her, and struggling with a recently uncovered family secret of which Maddy is blissfully unaware. 

Then Maddy's mother, Helen, arrives and Patrick himself must confront a few uncomfortable truths about his history and the pub's future.


Published:     15th February 2018
Publisher:  Allison & Busby
Goodreads :  Click here
Series or Stand-Alone:  Book 1, Havenbury
Source:  Review Copy from Publisher




MY REVIEW

If I had to describe this book in one or two words, I would call it a family drama.  Although there were no real surprises in this story as I had figured out what was going on early on, I really did enjoy the comfort of knowing what was coming up and enjoyed the ride.  There are quite a few characters in this story but I didn't have any trouble keeping up with them.  If I had to pick a favourite, it would have to be Ben.  Ben is a character that starts of as a good neighbour type of character, has come conflicts along the way and that's all i'll say for now as I don't want to spoil the story.

In this story we follow Maddy as she returns to a place where she experienced a pretty traumatic event that even she cannot remember.  With the help of Ben and others, she gradually remembers what happened back then.  I would have loved to have read more about this than having a 'quick reveal' at nearer the end of the story but maybe that is something we get to see in the next book in this series?

If I was being picky I would have much preferred a shorter book.  For me, if the book was about 50 to 100 pages shorter and a little less description the book would have had a faster pace.  There were some parts in this book where I had wished the story was moving on quicker.  That said, I did really enjoy this and am looking forward to reading more.









Continue reading Book Review / The Homecoming by Rosie Howard

6 Apr 2018

Author Interview / Matthew de Lacey Davidson

Dublin, Ireland – Autumn, 1845.  A young Irish boy, Nathan Whyte, whose life has been uneventful up to this point, is present at the arrival of a celebrity who has stepped off a boat that has just rolled into the harbour from the United States of America.

This famous guest has recently achieved much renown (or notoriety, depending on the viewpoint) as an exemplary writer, and one of the greatest orators of his age – in an age of great oratory.  At first confused, Nathan's curiosity is piqued as he slowly realises that this man – Frederick Douglass – the greatest voice of abolition of his day – whose talent for shattering ignorance is unique – entrances his audiences with his eloquence, dignity, sharp wit, and unparalleled public speaking skills.

However, what Douglass and Nathan have yet to discover is that in a very short period of time, Ireland – at the beginning of the Great Famine – through individual acts of compassion and by bearing witness, will have as much of a profound effect upon Douglass as Douglass is to have upon Ireland.  And further, that through these events, both he and Nathan will be irrevocably transformed.


AUTHOR INTERVIEW



1.    If you could work with any other author, who would it be and why?

Although not all of Shakespeare’s collaborators were exceptional writers, I still would obviously feel utterly intimidated by working with the greatest writer of all time.  Nonetheless, I certainly would give anything to have been able to observe him working, and to see the process by which he brought together all his great ideas and characterisations, and how he managed to dream up his extraordinary plays.

2.    What would be a typical working day for you? When and where do you write?

As I have a lot of activities, and work at a full-time job, I catch a second here, grab a minute wherever I can.  Most of my writing involves a lot of research, so I tend to do that while commuting.  Writing tends to happen in the evening and on weekends, but by the time I flip open the computer, I already have a very clear idea of what I am going to write and how I am going to structure it.

3.    What is the hardest part of the writing for you?

Staying motivated, while recognising that I am a non-commercial artist, is my biggest hurdle.

4.    When and why did you first start writing?

I never had any intention of “becoming a writer”; it just, well…kind of happened.  For most of my life, my writing was confined to creating the occasional humourous essay in the style of S.J. Perelman – or writing song lyrics – which culminated in my writing a chamber opera based on the short stories of New Zealand author, Katherine Mansfield.  Afterwards, I saw an advertisement for a non-credit poetry-writing course taught by Sue Sinclair at McGill University.  I had no intention of writing poetry; I just wanted to write a better libretto.  However, upon attending, I discovered that I, apparently, had a flair for writing “light verse” (…and what does that mean…fewer calories?).  Eventually, I found that I had the ability to handle more profound topics, as well.  I believe that starting off with poems made me more aware of the need for concision.  In poetry, every word is of the utmost importance – and repetition of words is to be avoided.  Using poetic techniques in a subtle fashion, in both short stories and novels, I think adds greater depth to writing.

5.    How did you come up with the idea for your book?

The novel which I just published, Precept, is a fictional account of the four months that 19th century civil rights leader Frederick Douglass spent in Ireland.  The story behind what suggested this to me is rather convoluted.  While watching a DVD of the film Lincoln, directed by Stephen Spielberg, I started to ask myself, “Where are all the black people?”  I mean, I saw a couple of nameless soldiers, and a butler, and a maid, but nobody else.  Then I started to ask, “Where is Frederick Douglass?”  Now, you cannot discuss either American history, Civil War history, the history of slavery, or history in general without acknowledging Frederick Douglass.  He was probably the most eloquent Orator of all time, and of paramount importance in the fight to abolish of slavery.  Nonetheless, what I saw in Lincoln made me feel so upset, that I started to read up on Frederick Douglass myself, and found an interesting little historical tidbit, to wit, that he spent four months in Ireland when escaping possible recapture as a “fugitive” slave.  Also, that the country had almost as much of a profound impact upon him, as he did upon it.  I thought, “What a marvelous idea for an historical novel.”  Then I thought, “How could I accomplish such a thing successfully?”  So, I chose the narrator to be a young Irish boy who witnesses and observes Mr. Douglass.  And much of what he sees goes unexplained, as children don’t understand everything that goes on around them.

6.    Are you a big reader? If so, what are you reading now?

I try to read as much as I can from as many sources as possible, mostly classics.  Most modern writing is done, for better or for worse, on a for-profit basis, so while there are a number of good writers around, a large percentage of them are forced to “fill out” their books so that publishing companies can sell according to the number of pages.  A salient example that springs to mind is James Blish who wrote “A Case of Conscience.”  I’m not really interested in Science Fiction, but the first half of that book was really not bad at all.  The second half…well…not so much.  This was because the publisher wanted him to create a novel when the subject matter could really only support a short story.

I am currently reading the collected poems of Countee Cullen, edited by Major Jackson.  While his style is much more conservative and less experimental than Langston Hughes, it is my personal opinion that he “hits the mark” more often.  I am also reading a collection of short stories by Graham Greene (who has become very underestimated, of late), and a collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s stories, “I’d die for you and other lost stories” edited by Anne Margaret Daniel.  I think the stories he held back because he couldn’t sell them during his life are far better than the ones he sold for a great deal of money.

7.  Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?

Don’t enter any poetry-writing competitions which charge any fees!  Save up your pennies and self-publish.

Further, if memory serves, I believe that poet Mary Oliver says in one her books, something along the lines that if you have a choice between doing your own writing or reading another writer, one should choose to read someone else’s writing first.  In my opinion, preferably, the classics. Too many writers are not aware of what has been done in the past, and as a result, one encounters no cultural, sociological, nor historical context; and further, no one benefits by re-inventing the wheel.  In addition, if someone is going to try and be socially conscious in what they write, they need to be aware that there is a very fine line between making socially conscious artistic statements, and creating propaganda – or just plain preaching.  I stand to be corrected, but I believe it was Alice Walker who once wrote that if you are going to write political treatises, you should probably stay away from fiction writing.

In the 19th century, creative writing was deemed to be worthwhile only if there was a strong, judgmental, purported “moral” to be gleaned. This was the reason why homosexual characters (or women who have extra-marital affairs) in the novels of that era, always come to no good end.  Even Oscar Wilde, who was gay himself, was not immune from this sort of thing as one sees in The Picture of Dorian Gray, an obvious allegory for someone like Wilde, who leads a “secret life”.  My strongest hope is that everyone should find that attitude towards writing perverse.  “Moral ambiguity” and not openly judging the characters is always more interesting, and a more artistically sound method of story-telling, in my opinion.  In other words, let me think for myself.  Stories that let the reader decide what is right from wrong will stand the test of time.  It is the advantage a truly great film like Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing will always have over obviously silly films, like certain Westerns or Police/Action movies where there are excessively-clearly defined “Goodies” and “Baddies.”



Websites to Visit:





Author Biography

Matthew de Lacey Davidson is the author of two poetry collections, a play in verse, a short story collection, and a novel. In addition, he is a composer and pianist and has released 12 compact discs. His poetry and short stories have been published by "Grammateion," and the online literary journal, "Danse Macabre"; music analyses by SCI; cartoons and reviews by TOM Magazine; and cartoons by Canadian Science News. He has written the music, libretto, and lyrics for a chamber opera, "The Singing Lesson," based on three short stories by New Zealand author, Katherine Mansfield. He lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, with his wife, Shayna, and a plethora of Siamese and Tonkinese cats.
Jill Murphy, writing in “thebookbag.co.uk,” when reviewing “Roses in December: Haunting and Macabre Tales,” gave the following estimation:
“The style is elegant with carefully crafted sentences and precision in vocabulary…a pleasure to read…the authorial voice comes with empathy and compassion, always…And I think it speaks to the humanity in all of us. We would do well to listen.”

 
Continue reading Author Interview / Matthew de Lacey Davidson