Monthly Archives: November 2016

Review Wednesday -Follow You Home by Mark Edwards

img_1884I have deliberately held back on a review of this book for quite a while because somehow I could not make up my mind about it. I’ve actually listened to it twice just to see if I missed something the first time around.

Daniel and Laura are on a trip through Europe, their intention being to settle down and start a family after this holiday. On a train travelling through Romania they are exhausted and, on the suggestion of new acquaintances, decide to sneak into a sleeper cotmpartment they have not paid for and get some rest. They are discovered by guards and thrown off the train in an isolated spot along with the girl-half of the couple they just met.

So follows a creepy walk through the woods, the discovery of a old house and along the way, the new friend, Alina, goes missing.

Back in England, what happened and what Daniel and Laura saw in that old house has changed their lives. They become estranged, their life plans togther are torn to shreds and their friends can’t even begin to understand the break up.

Daniel and Laura have sworn never to talk about their experiences in Romania but unfortunately the distance has not put an end the nightmare because it has ‘followed them home.’ Things start to happen to them and to people they are associated with. There are lots of twists and turns.

I did enjoy this book and I listened again to take in all the twists and clues but I think, for me, maybe the subject matter wasn’t the best, a little too sordid and some events a little too unbelieveable. It was good though and many people have given great reviews. I will certainly be reading more of Mark Edwards.

Review Wednesday – In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick

img_1883In 1819 the Whaleship Essex sets off from Nantucket bound towards South America. On board are twenty crew members. There is going to be tragedy; the story of Moby Dick was styled on the real-life Essex voyage.

The book begins with an interesting background to the whaling industry in Nantucket. Men were gone from Nantucket families, sometimes for many months and it was the women left behind who largely ran the community. There was a lot of money to be made through whaling and Nantucket thrived.

As the voyage begins we get to know something of the characters but the Essex soon runs into trouble, literally, when a sperm whale attacks the ship not once but twice and the men are forced to man three lifeboats. Here the real story starts and it’s a grim one. Thirst, disease and hunger gradually reduce the numbers. Terrible errors of judgment are made regarding where to head for in the little boats and places that could have offered much earlier salvation are disregarded because of a fear of cannibals. The awful irony is that, in prolonging their ordeal, the men do resort to this last measure to survive, eating their dead and even drawing lots to be killed and devoured. Of course, this isn’t the only instance of desperate people consuming human flesh to survive. There have been numerous instances, none more prominent than the account of the plane that crashed in the Andes, much later in history. Reading that particular story I felt admiration for those who came through.

However the story of the Essex is also a story of suffering caused by humans to our fellow creatures. Descriptions of whaling, the killing and the processing would give any horror story a run for its money. This is carnage of a truly awful kind. So too the fate of Galapagos tortoises, taken on board and kept unfed where they would survive an agonisingly long time, licking at the deck for ‘sustenance’ until it wasn’t their time for the pot.

This book is well written, well researched and a valuable record. It is a tale of survival but also a grim and horrible reminder that humans not only suffer tragedy but cause it.

 

I’m a Little Behind…

img_1882As I have mentioned quite  a few times I am behind (not a little but a lot) with my Goodreads review challenge this year.

Having been wrapped up with so many other things at the beginning of this year it has only been in the later months that I revised what I could achieve in 2016. I set new goals but, amongst them,  I still hoped to complete my promised reviews – I still do!

Today already has lots of demands on my time but I am also going to try to post at least six reviews for great books I have read this year. The challenge goes on!

Advice for Writers from a Reader Who Loves to Support Writers: Guest Chris Graham (TSRA)

Sound advice for writers from a reader standpoint and links to some great resources via Chris Graham aka The story Reading Ape

Rachael Ritchey

Hey all! Happy day! I’m so excited to introduce to you (and you to) Chris Graham aka The Story Reading Ape as a guest on the blog. Chris is a super supporter of authors and if you haven’t you’d do well to swing over and follow his blog. Chris offers so many free services to authors as well as helping with book design. He’s encouraging and helpful, scowering the world of blogs for worthwhile information to share too. I appreciate his hard work and his dedication, not to mention his insights. And today he’s here to answer some questions and offer some helpful advice.

Thanks for coming over Chris!


Chris Graham, Guest to the blog:

My thanks to Rachael for her kind offer to post an article from me – also for the challenge she set me for the topic:

  • From a reader standpoint, offer some advice, maybe something…

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About the Need to Write

img_1880I always find it interesting when reading author interviews to see the answer to the question ‘When did you first become a writer?’

The answer is so often along the lines of, ‘I’ve always been a writer of some sort or other’.

I identify with that and obviously lots of other writers do too.

Way back in my earliest school days, given a sheets of sums or a picture and story to write I know which one I would always choose and in my early teens I wrote a ‘novel’ (long hand in a series of exercise books!). It was all about highwaymen. I was in my swashbuckling era in those days😊

I wrote another, more serious novel when I was a young mum but in that busy time it never got beyond first draft stage.

But it’s been more than that. There have been journals of my various travels, short stories and even the odd poem. The point is, I think writers see stories everywhere, not necessarily ones that they ever could or would write down but possibilities that some situation or other could become a great book.

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As with many others, it has taken a long time for me to finally get my words down into completed works and, having done that, it’s probably only now that I truly appreciate what a mammoth task the creation of every book really  is.

People talk about building your writing muscles, write more, read more. Practice, though it will never make perfect, can make something good. I believe in that. But I also believe that most creative writers have a built-in need to put experiences and imaginings into the written word and they have probably always had that need whether they recognised it or not.

Review Wednesday – How to Make a Living from your Writing by Joanna Penn

img_1878I have been dipping into this book for months now and thought it only fair to write a review as I will never finish it, in a manner of speaking.

Joanna Penn covers the subject of making money from writing with aplomb. She begins with a short history of her own career and lays out the income streams she achieves through her writing. The book is clear and each section is well defined.

There are writing tips and advice on productivity as well as mindset and focus. In later sections she gets down to the nitty gritty of putting a book together, enlisting the help of professionals along the way and Indie versus traditional publishing.

Every step of the way the book feels like it is offering realistic, down -to -earth goals without ever promising easy-peasy secrets to fame and fortune or too much, You Can do It! -style hype.

I believe this author really know her stuff and I am sure I will be delving back into the book in the months ahead.

Review Wednesday – Escaping Psychiatry by Olga Núñez Miret

img_1876This short story is titled ‘beginnings’ and introduces Mary Miller, a psychiatrist who has been indulging in a little self analysis and having some doubts about her own profession or at least her place in it. She needs a break and Phil, a lawyer friend, comes to the rescue, inviting her to come and stay.

The offer is tempting for Mary, even though Phil is open about her possibly accompanying to his office to meet with a client on a consultancy basis, she is not put off. Indeed, she is rather intrigued by the prospect.

The client turns out to be Oliver Fenton, a famous author who is accused of using unnecessary force when fending off a stalker who has been harassing him for some time. Of course all not what it seems.

If there is such a thing as a cosy, medical mystery maybe this is where this story would lie. Mary is a thoroughly likeable character but also intriguing. There is obviously more to her than meets the eye, as you would expect from someone of her profession. She is clever and discerning and possibly a little unaware of her true talents. Perhaps here we have a Miss Marple of the psychiatric world, though I imagine her a lot younger and quite attractive! (No offence meant, Miss Marple)

As mentioned, this is the ‘beginning’ of cases for Mary Miller. I look forward to reading more, an ideal and enjoyable read between lengthier books.

Review Wednesday – The Fireman by Joe Hill

img_1874The world has been hit by a disaster commonly known as Dragonscale. I loved that term, describing the hardening and drying of the skin but also hinting of much worse to come. And yes, spontaneous  combustion is the likely outcome of anyone who becomes infected.

At the start of the story the plague is already raging through the country though that fact isn’t widely accepted. But as more and more of the disease becomes evident and people are seen burning to death civilisation inevitably falls into rag-tag  pockets of isolated communities surviving  any way they can.

Harper is the main character, pregnant and alone after fleeing from her husband whose solution to the problem she will not endorse. She is a nurse, a capable woman who finds her way though and becomes a strong force for reason in a world increasingly dominated by characters who want a new order, set by their own quirky and sometimes highly destructive rules.

This is a great story, set against an apocalyptic background but, for me, was somewhat spoiled by its huge length and the character’s tendency for long recollections of life before the ‘storm’. Of course backstory is vital to get to know and care about characters but I felt that cutting quite a lot of that out would have tightened the story and given it more impact. I had a tendency to skim certain parts and that is always off-putting for me. Nevertheless a great idea. This is my first Joe Hill book. I will try him again.

 

 

Review Wednesday – Moo Knows Numbers by Kerry McQuaid

img_1877A simple first numbers book that translates well to kindle. The illustrations are clear and uncomplicated. Moo is Midge’s best friend and the two learn together.

Each number up to ten has a dedicated page, one with a picture of Moo with the number and also a page with the appropriate number of favourite things like cars, balloons etc.

A nice little book for beginners.

Review Wednesday – Cold by Ranulph Feinnes

img_1875I have long been an admirer of Feinnes and his adventures and very much enjoy reading about how such people pit their delicate bodies against the forces of nature.

I enjoyed a previous book ‘Mind over Matter’ which told the story of his crossing of Antarctica. In ‘Cold’ Feinnes recaps through all his cold journeys.

The first major expedition that he organised and led himself was the Transglobe expedition travelling around the globe via the poles and begins with the huge obstacles presented getting such a journey approved and sponsored. That is a daunting task in itself and years in the making. Very ably teamed with his late wife, Ginny, the two set about the huge task of making the expedition happen. What comes through time and again is how these solo or small team expeditions can’t happen without the help and expertise of a lot of people. Feinnes emphasises this at every turn. But when the expedition finally happens it’s the grit and tenacity (and a little bit of luck -or sometimes a lot) of the expeditions members that win the day.

Feinnes and the people he had worked with certainly do have grit in huge measures. His account of his attempts to summit Everest and his subsequent success in that endeavour are also a grim reminder of the many people who have failed and paid the ultimate price. Many have died in places beyond any hope of rescue and their bodies remain.

The book is also a wonderful history lesson of earlier explorers and their missions to map the world. I found myself going back and forth to remind myself of some of that history as Feinnes talked about his modern-day journeys. His stories of hardship and the sheer effort for humans to survive in the world’s cold places make for illuminating reading and, of course Ranulph Feinnes has made millions for charities along the way.