Monthly Archives: December 2016

Review Wednesday – Dangerous by Ian Probert

img_1936One of the hardest things is to understand the motivations of others when they move in a world so alien to you that it might indeed be another planet.

This is the way I feel about boxing, a sport that lives on the periphery of my universe. I know of its existence and yet I have no desire to explore it depths and cannot fathom why anyone would. Of course the fascination lies in that, to some, this world is wonderful, desirable and the centre of their existence. The fascination is that we humans are capable of so many different reactions and responses to the world around us.

I know Ian Probert’s writing from his very funny children’s book, Johnny Nothing and that was what brought me to reading Dangerous, a book, of all things, about boxing. And yet, it isn’t. Dangerous is about love and loss and finding a place in the world comfortable enough to inhabit.

Ian Probert pulls no punches (sorry, but the phrase is entirely the most appropriate!) in this honest account of his relationships within and without the boxing world. Making his living as a boxing reporter some twenty -five years ago he admits that he loved his job and the circles he moved in. Then a tragic ‘accident’ in the ring left a boxer on life support and Ian, who counted himself a friend and supporter of boxers was suddenly seen as nothing more than an outsider by the boxer’s family, an interfering reporter who was only interested in his ‘story’. Ian was shattered by this rejection, that so mirrored his personal life, and left behind the job he loved.

In the book, the author tells the story of his determination to reconnect, to revisit the boxing world and meet with those characters, new and old that have been so important to his life. He very ably describes a life of camaraderie, even love, amongst the boxing fraternity and helps outsiders to see that there is much more than just punches and pain.

At the same time we hear about the author’s personal life, a crisis with his daughter’s health and the long-standing conflict with his father which is at the heart of the story.

The book is painful, heartbreaking, funny and above all human;  the story of man who has decided to ‘say it how it is’. If you like brutal honesty you will appreciate Dangerous. If you love boxing you will, I think, find this a fascinating insight. And if you don’t, you will experience a little of an alien world and maybe in the process understand it just a bit better.

Review – Frostbite by Julia Dweck

img_1935A super-fun story for the holiday season. The little hero of the story always wanted a dog but his mum said no. So one cold and snowy day he decides to go out and find a dog. Magic, of sorts, ensues and soon the boy has a dog made of sticks and snow to play with. Much like The Snowman, a trip home causes problems, not because Mum objects, but the warmth inside sets in a thaw! All ends well, with a bit of ingenuity.
The story is told in funny rhyme that really works and the illustrations, quite frenetic in their style, are great.
A lovely book for around the five year age range I would think.

Review – The Good Mother by A L Bird

img_1934This story has all the hallmarks of a winner. Susan wakes in a room where she is being held captive; she has no idea why. To add to her terror she soon realises that her daughter, Cara,  is being held in the adjacent room. They make contact but they must be very careful not to be overheard.

The story is told from two viewpoints, that of Susan and her captor, a man who she believes she recognises from somewhere but she is confused and can’t pinpoint how she knows him.

Thre were lots of twists, as per the subtitle which promises them and the story is clever, a great idea. It was a hard one to nail, though. Difficult I think because we were privy to the captor’s thoughts and actions as well as those of Susan and that made the storyline confusing unless… he was who he was.

I did conclude early on who the captor must be, it was the only explanation that could possibly work. His actions were pretty reprehensible at times, even given the extreme circumstances, but it brought some kind of sense to the story.

The book was enjoyable and well written, maybe a little repetitive in the Susan parts and perhaps a few too many twists but it was a good read for the idea alone.

 

How the WordPress Blog Subscription Works

Thanks to Yecheilyah for a very useful and clearly structured post on following and being followed on WordPress. Also the difference between subscribing to follow posts v newsletters.

The PBS Blog

blog

I’ve seen an increase in people who follow this blog outside of the blogosphere (*Waves!*) which basically means they aren’t active on blogs. They aren’t on WordPress, or Blogger or any other blog platform but do follow me through email. For this, I think it’s important to explain some WordPress basics. After all, it wouldn’t be fair not to show everyone around the place. Yes, please have a seat. Coffee?

When you follow someone’s blog, you do this in one of two ways. You either follow them through the Reader—your “Timeline” of sorts where you can read the posts of those you follow when you log in—or you can follow that blog through email. This means you will get an email every time they publish a new blog post. This button is usually located on the blogger’s sidebar (or slide-sidebar) and says, “Click to Follow this Blog and Receive Notifications…

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Review – The Time Being by Antonia Honeywell

img_1933This free audible short story really grabbed my interest. A prequel, apparently, but there was enough here to imagine the awful state this dystopian world had descended to.
Lalla, nine year old, ponders about life when flowers and green beans were flown all the way from Africa just so that people in England could enjoy them. Now no crops are grown at all and Lalla only knows of many foods from stories and labels on tinned goods.
Lalla’s parents are in a privileged position that we are given no explanation for but ‘privilege’ seemed to mean that they have somewhere to live and that within those walls they are somewhat safe. Nevertheless Lalla longs for the outside.
Short stories are, I think a difficult craft but this one held my interest and was enough for me to imagine the frightening world that Lalla lived in.

Review- No Cage for a Crow by M.R. Graham

img_1887Beautifully written, this first instalment of the ‘memoirs’ of Morrigan Holmes (the sister of the great, Sherlock) was absolutely delightful.
The story begins in the warmth and cloistered atmosphere of the Holmes household but Morrigan is desperate to escape. This she does with some bravado and she flees into the streets of London. Immediately we see the overwhelming contrast of how life exists in hugely contrasting levels in the great city. Morrigan almost immediately falls into the clutches of a vicious gang.
The reader finds out only a little of what happens in this short instalment and nothing of the background and we are left with a mighty cliffhanger at the end of it.
I loved this. The writing style was so superbly fitting for a story about Sherlock’s family and his era.
Four stars for the style alone… the story would need to be read in its entirety to find out if it is a five star read.

My Dad’s a Goldfish – Tales of Fantasy and Magic

This looks like a lovely book and such wonderful illustrations! It has been written to support a great charity too.

My Dad Is A Goldfish

cropped-goldfish-87-1254566814ncva1.jpgjulie

My friend Julie is using a bit of magic to raise funds for Alzheimer Scotland.

In memory of her father, Graham, who had Lewy Body dementia, Julie Bowmaker has written and published Tales of Fantasy and Magic, a book of nine rhyming stories for children. The book is beautifully illustrated throughout by Langholm-based artist Margaret Walty and has a foreword by Sally Magnusson who said: “Children will love this beautiful – and fun – book.”

There’s Delia Duck, who desperately needs a new hat, Ferdinando, an adventurous camel who learns to swim and a cat called Bonnie who makes her own spaceship along with other characters brought to life by Julie’s wordimg_0001s and Margaret Walty’s glorious illustrations.

Julie remembers how much her father enjoyed his outings in a minibus to the day centre, which prompted her to raise cash for Alzheimer Scotland so that others might benefit. She said:…

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Review – The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter

img_1931I downloaded this book as a very generous freebie via Audible and was eager to give it a try. I didn’t know until I got started that this was book 8 in the Will Trent series and no doubt there is a lot of background history I have missed but it worked well enough as a standalone thriller.

The story is highly charged from the first sentence, a man’s body found in masses of blood, bloody footprints leading away from the scene. Will Trent is called in to investigate; the victim turns out to be an ex cop and a crooked one at that. It soon becomes clear to the investigators that the blood at the scene did not come solely from the victim.

The author sets up a complex web of mystery; the crime was committed in premises belonging to an obnoxious and wealthy character who has already got away with rape and who Will has been Investigating for some time. Also, we discover, that Will’s estranged wife, Angie is somehow involved. As I said, a complicated scenario, but not confusing, even though abusive childhoods, secret children and Will’s new relationship-in-danger, add to the mix. And all ends of the story are tied up nicely to give a satisfying conclusion.

What didn’t work so well for me was the style of this well written work. It seemed to me that the world Will Trent inhabits is full of sassy people who always have just the right line waiting on the tip of their tongues. Some of it is very witty and certainly the dialogue is slick. But maybe a little too much so, at least for this reader, though, judging by the many five star reviews, I am probably in the minority.

 

 

Making Good Things Happen

Image source - Pixabay

Image source – Pixabay

This time last year I was determined the New Year would be a better one. An ongoing, family-health situation meant that the whole year had been swallowed up by it. When I say the whole year, I don’t mean that nothing was done at all but what I am talking about is creative energy and time to laugh and have fun.

Nothing changed at the beginning of this year and around April time it seemed like this situation might go on forever. And then I saw a way to make things happen. I finally realised that while I could not change things around me I could change me: my attitude, my outlook, my way of dealing with things.

Writing and, of course that essential partner, reading, have always been a part of me and what Individual Me really wants to do most. I am not talking here about Wife Me or Mother Me or even Grandma Me;  those roles are also vital to my wellbeing, but when something goes beyond your control you have to protect all the Me’s in order to protect the whole.

That’s why somewhere back before the summer started I decided that I needed to get back to writing and reading. I had never really left; it was just whenever I did those things there was no real focus. No matter whether I was reading it or writing it I was never lost in a book the way I used to be.

I’ve been trying to make up for lost time. I am writing almost every day and I have re-read books  that I didn’t give enough attention to first time around. A little while ago I promised myself I would not fail my Goodreads Challenge this year. I am still not too sure if I will make it but I am giving it a good try.

This week I will be posting reviews every day, if I can, as well as my usual Wednesday slot, as I still have quite a few to do if I am going to cross the finishing line in time. Twenty two reviews to go!

Christmas is coming, the season of good cheer. If there is some huge issue clouding your life I want to say, hard as it is, try to compartmentalise, try to give a little time to each and every part of your life that is important to you. I hope you can reap the benefits of that little bit of control, I know I have.

Image source - Pixabay

Image source – Pixabay

Finishing your draft? Don’t open it again until after Christmas

Great advice for those of us just finishing a first draft. And what better time, with Christmas almost here and our attention being needed elsewhere, to relax, have some fun and look forward to a first read-through in the New Year!

Nail Your Novel

On November 30th, or thereabouts, Nanowrimoers typed ‘The End’. Whether you’re a Nano or not, the next thing you must do is put the manuscript away. Close the file, stow the notebooks, do a happy dance. Unless you have a deadline that demands you thrash it into shape straight away, don’t touch it for at least a month. At least.

Become a stranger to your story

We all know how we can read a page over and over and somehow miss the appalling typo in the first sentence. When we’re too tangled in a novel we see what we think is there – not what is actually on the pages.

To do useful revision work, you need to allow enough time for your novel to become unfamiliar – so that you’re no longer thinking like its writer, but as a reader.

Let the flavours marinate

Your manuscript needs to marinate…

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