Month: May 2017

‘Fever Dream’ by Samanta Schweblin #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

fever

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

A young woman named Amanda lies dying in a rural hospital clinic. A boy named David sits beside her. She’s not his mother. He’s not her child.

The two seem anxious and, at David’s ever more insistent prompting, Amanda recounts a series of events from the apparently recent past. As David pushes her to recall whatever trauma has landed her in her terminal state, he unwittingly opens a chest of horrors, and suddenly the terrifying nature of their reality is brought into shocking focus.

One of the freshest new voices to come out of the Spanish language, Samanta Schweblin creates an aura of strange and deeply unsettling psychological menace in this cautionary tale of maternal love, broken souls and the power and desperation of family.

This is a very unusual novella, structured as questions and answers between a dying woman, Amanda, and a child, David, who is not hers. Amanda has been on holiday with her daughter, Nina, and has befriended Carla, David’s mother. Carla is frightened of David, calls him a monster, and tells Amanda that her son has been ‘transmigrated’ into another body after being poisoned.

This ‘new’ David is certainly strange, but is Carla telling the truth? Is she deluded? How has Amanda ended up dying in a hospital bed? And where is Nina?

The writing here (translated by Megan McDowell) is just excellent. There is a sense of foreboding, of menace, a real strangeness to the tale that is executed beautifully. It’s unlike anything I’ve read before, and it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, I’m sure, but I found it completely absorbing. In an age of disappointing, box-ticking, formulaic books, it was a genuine pleasure to read. There are no answers here, no satisfying resolution. It’s creepy, uncanny and weird, really, if I’m honest. But it’s brilliant.

5 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a copy for review.

 

 

‘FARMAGEDDON – THE TRUE COST OF CHEAP MEAT’ BY PHILIP LYMBERY #FRIDAYREADS #BOOKREVIEW #NATIONALVEGETARIANWEEK

It’s National vegetarian Week this week in the UK. I’ve shared this review several times – but it’s such an excellent, thought-provoking read that it definitely warrants sharing again.

farmageddon

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

A caveat before I begin this review – a very long time ago I worked for Compassion in World Farming. I’m also a non-dairy consuming pescatarian (occasionally eat fish but definitely no meat and no dairy or eggs) and am still a supporter of CIWF. Philip Lymbery is the CEO of CIWF, a charity that campaigns to end factory farming and to improve the welfare of farm animals around the world.

‘Farmageddon’ is a thought-provoking and very readable account of what is going on in the farming industry worldwide and how that not only has consequences for the animals but also for all of us. I have to be honest, I have a lot more respect for livestock farmers than I do for the majority of meat eaters who pop into the supermarket,  buy a £2.99 chicken for dinner and don’t for one second think about how that chicken was raised and killed so cheaply. The type of people who put their fingers in their ears and don’t want to know where their food comes from. People seem to still believe that pigs and cows and sheep and chickens all live on Old MacDonald’s farm, happily chomping away at grass in the fields or pecking in the farmyard, despite all the evidence that’s now available to the contrary.

The consequences of humanity’s reliance on meat are far-reaching and potentially devastating. This book explores in a thoughtful and intelligent way the disasters that have already been caused by our appetite for cheap meat – the decline in the number of birds, for example (in the last forty years the population of tree sparrows, grey partridges and skylarks, among others, have plummeted), the threat to bees, and the pollution caused by the need to get rid of the huge amounts of waste produced by the millions and millions of animals now being farmed.

I know from experience that people don’t want to be preached at – and this book isn’t preachy at all. The author isn’t trying to make you vegan – he is just telling you what he has seen, from China to the US, to South America and though Europe, and gives options and alternatives that could see an end to the suffering of those millions of animals (and they do suffer) and better health and a better environment for everyone.

This book is, in my opinion, an absolute must read. It isn’t always comfortable reading, but it’s time we pulled our fingers out of our ears.

5 stars

 

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT The Silent Kookaburra by @LizaPerrat family #Thriller #wwwblogs

My review of ‘The Silent Kookaburra’ for #RBRT

Rosie Amber

Today’s team review is from Alison, she blogs here https://alisonwilliamswriting.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Alison has been reading The Silent Kookaburra by Liza Perrat

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This is a really well-written and absorbing story. Set in 1970s small-town Australia it centres on Tanya – an unhappy child, overweight, bullied at school and trying to cope with her mother who has been devastated by a series of miscarriages. Her father loves her, but he doesn’t cope either, seeking solace far too often in the local pub, and her grandmother, Nanna Purvis, is a hard woman, although her kindness shines through as the novel progresses.

When her mum finally gives birth to a daughter, Tanya thinks things will be fine, but problems with baby Shelley’s health, cracks in her parents’ marriage and the arrival on the scene of creepy Uncle Blackie mean that Tanya has much more to deal with than she can cope with.

And things…

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‘He Said/She Said’ by Erin Kelly #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

he said

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

In the hushed aftermath of a total eclipse, Laura witnesses a brutal attack.

She and her boyfriend Kit call the police, and in that moment, four lives change forever.

Fifteen years on, Laura and Kit live in fear.

And while Laura knows she was right to speak out, she also knows that you can never see the whole picture: something is always hidden… something she never could have guessed.

Kit is an eclipse chaser, something he’s been doing since he was a child. In 1999, he attends a festival in Cornwall with new girlfriend Laura to see an eclipse, which they watch together. Returning to the campsite, they see what Laura assumes is a rape. This incident impacts the rest of their lives together, and they become embroiled in a situation where no one really knows who’s telling the truth. And Beth, the alleged victim, won’t leave them alone.

The story flips between what happens at the festival and its aftermath and the present day – 2015. Laura and Kit are living under assumed names, terrified of their past catching up with them. Laura is pregnant with twins and Kit is about to set off to the Faroe Islands to see a last eclipse before fatherhood. We hear the story from both Laura and Kit, which works really well to set up the tension and to create an atmosphere where the reader doesn’t really know what, or who, to believe.

I did really enjoy reading this book. It’s a clever plot with a twist that is genuinely surprising. The characters are well-drawn and, unlike some other reviewers, I did warm to them, particularly Laura, and could definitely understand her motivations. It was a real page-turner.

However, there were a couple of things that didn’t really work for me. Laura and Kit keep referring to an incident in Zambia, after the alleged assault. It is hinted that something major happened. When this was revealed it was a real let down. And they also refer to a video online that is terribly upsetting for Laura. Again, it isn’t, and this is another let down. If things are built up like this, then the reader deserves something worthy of all that tension.

That said, this is a really good read. The author understands how to build tension and how to keep a reader engaged. I’d definitely recommend it.

4 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a copy for review.

#ThrowbackThursday ~ The Black Hours by Alison Williams @AlisonW_Editor #Historical

BetweenTheLines

Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favourites, as well as books that were published over a year ago. Not to mention those that are languishing on the to be read pile for whatever reason.

I found this book via Rosie Amber’s book review team during my first year of blogging. It was a fascinating read.

‘Look upon this wretch, all of you! Look upon her and thank God for his love and his mercy. Thank God that he has sent me to rid the world of such filth as this.’ 1647 and England is in the grip of civil war. In the ensuing chaos, fear and suspicion are rife and anyone on the fringes of society can find themselves under suspicion.

Matthew Hopkins, self-styled Witchfinder General, scours the countryside, seeking out those he believes to be in league with the Devil. In…

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Authors – why you shouldn’t ignore bad reviews #wwwblogs #bookreviews

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The one or two star review. It strikes fear into the heart of every author. There are reams of articles about how to handle bad reviews everywhere. And most of them give the same advice.

Ignore them, they say. Scroll right on past. Don’t take it to heart. All authors get bad reviews. Not everyone will like your book. Maybe the reviewer had an ulterior motive. Forget about it. Move on. Keep your head up.

Well, yes. To all of these. But also, no…

Writing is hard. I know that, I’m an author. You invest huge amounts of time and effort into your writing. It can be a pain. And it’s terrifying having your work out there, where it can be picked apart. Wouldn’t it be lovely if everyone could bear all that in mind when they write a review of your book?

But why should they? No one has forced you to put your book on Amazon. And your reader, who has spent their money and invested their time in reading your book, is entitled to their opinion. You chose to sell your book. They bought it in good faith.

Now, I’m not talking about the reviews that are silly and thoughtless and are to do with delivery times and downloading issues etc., etc. Or the sort of reviews that complain about the amount of sex or swearing in a book, something that’s down to personal taste. Or reviewers that mark you down because they don’t like the genre. Those can certainly be discounted. I’m talking about reviews that point out a fault with your book. And if lots of readers are telling you that your books are full of errors, or are too wordy, or are boring, or that they had to skip great big sections, then you need to take note. The problem is, lots of writers lump all these types of reviews together. Worse, they accuse these readers of being trolls.

On Twitter the other day, a writer was asked what he thought about the one star reviews his book had received. Oh, I ignore those, he said, they’re all trolls.

Hmm, I thought. Are they? I decided to do a bit of digging (I love a good distraction). The author’s book had a lot of one and two star reviews. Some of them were scathing. The majority pointed out that the writing was poor, full of grammatical errors and typos.

Surely all these people can’t be trolls, I thought. Why would they be? So I went to the ‘Look Inside’ feature. All these people were right. The opening pages of his books were all very poorly written and full of lazy errors.

Now, the problem with all these articles, caressing these poor authors’ egos, is that this author now feels that he doesn’t have to listen to these readers. That their opinions are worthless. So he goes blindly on, ignoring the issues with his writing, deluding himself and churning out more dreadful books.

And this is a problem with a lot of authors and it’s one that does other indie writers no favours. There is a tendency among authors to be very precious about their work. They think because they’ve worked hard and because they’ve sweated over a book then that means it should be above criticism. They seem to think that because they’ve poured their hearts and souls into something then no one must be mean. Well, I’m sorry, but that’s rubbish.

Why do we writers think we’re above criticism? That it’s OK for us to put something that’s poorly written or badly edited out there, expect people to pay for it, spend their precious time reading it, and then not expect to be taken to task if it’s not up to scratch? If you went to a restaurant and bought a meal and it was crap would you think, oh well, but the chef spent time on it, I should be nice? No, you wouldn’t. You’d complain. You’d be entitled to. And if you’ve put a book out there, then the reader that buys it is entitled to complain if it isn’t up to scratch too.

And while there are a few horrible people out there who are just nasty for the sake of it, I doubt very much that every single person who’s ever given a bad review falls into this category. Most are just fed up and disappointed because they bought a book, with their own money, and it wasn’t that good.

I also know of book reviewers who have dared to criticise books and who have been met with insults and worse. One has even given up reviewing books because the stress of it has made her ill. She’s been so badly treated by authors that her health has suffered. That’s just not on.

Indie authors say they want to be treated with respect. They say they want to be recognised. But then some expect special treatment. The world doesn’t work like that.

So look at those one star reviews. It’s painful, I know. But there might be something in there that really helps your writing.

Be brave. We only learn through our mistakes after all, and if you never face those mistakes and correct them, then you’ll never grow as an author.

And just to lighten the mood, here’s my favourite one star review, for the movie ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’:

wolf street

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‘Forbidden’ by F. Stone #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

#RBRT Review Team

I reviewed ‘Forbidden’ for Rosie’s Book Review Team.

forbidden

Amazon.co.uk     Amazon.com

Better Wear Your Flak Jacket
Gunfire echoes within the walls of a Middle East police compound. Screams of terror are brutally silenced. Police captain Hashim Sharif captures one survivor. Soon Eliza MacKay will wish she had died with her companions.

The vile act of terrorism is covered-up. Sharif becomes the reluctant keeper of his city’s bloody secret – and the witness, MacKay. His corrupt superiors have a gun rammed against his skull. Disloyalty to the mayor will be rewarded with being buried alive.

Whatever the cost, his government’s honor must be restored. Secretly, Sharif hunts forensic evidence. Who is responsible for the murder of fifteen American volunteers? And, why did MacKay lie about her identity? He can’t trust her. Her mental illness is going to get both of them killed.

When he receives orders to dispose of MacKay, his Muslim faith is tested. Murder an innocent in cold blood? He will suffer Allah’s eternal wrath.

CIA Agent Hutchinson has the lying Sharif in his cross hairs. Sharif dodges the agent’s traps almost as easily as the hitman on his tail. When Sharif discovers the shocking truth, he loses all hope of survival.

What is worth dying for? Perhaps it’s not bringing a madman to justice. Could it be saving the life of a woman who kick-started his numb heart? On the knife edge of risk, Sharif plots an act most forbidden and fatal.

This was a difficult review to write because there are some really good elements to this book. The author has obviously researched extremely thoroughly. She has also put a huge amount of work into this novel and it is clear that she cares deeply about her characters and about her story.

The plot is a good one and there is plenty of drama here to keep the reader entertained and the two main characters certainly lend themselves to a potentially explosive and compelling romance. There is a good mix of conflict and attraction between the two.

The setting and the storyline are timely and the idea behind the story is sound.

However, in my opinion the novel needs another edit. There are too many issues with both the story and the writing itself that should have been picked up and improved upon prior to publication. There are places where the writing needs tightening. There are common issues like exposition, unnecessary dialogue tags and awkward prose that need a thorough going over.

I also felt that some of the characters were a little stereotypical. And I wasn’t convinced by the ‘seer’ aspect of the story. It felt under-developed and unnecessary.

I do hate to be negative, and I’m sure there will be a lot of readers that will really enjoy this novel. But for me, it needed an extra polish.

three stars