Month: August 2017

‘The Lauras’ by Sara Taylor #BookReview #FridayReads

Lauras

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

I didn’t realise my mother was a person until I was thirteen years old and she pulled me out of bed, put me in the back of her car, and we left home and my dad with no explanations. I thought that Ma was all that she was and all that she had ever wanted to be. I was wrong…

As Ma and Alex make their way from Virginia to California, each new state prompts stories and secrets of a life before Alex. Together they put to rest unsettled scores, heal old wounds, and search out lost friends. But Alex can’t forget the life they’ve left behind.

This is a really beautiful story with relationships and identity at its core. Alex, the narrator, is a complex and incredibly well-drawn character – leaving home in the middle of the night with Ma as the story begins, and embarking on a journey that will explore not only the places they stay during their journey, but Ma’s past and their relationships – with each other, with Alex’s father and with their wider family as a whole.

The book makes the reader think about identity and what makes you who you are. It is about Ma, and her feelings about not belonging, her rootless and disjointed childhood when she was moved from pillar to post; her need to be on the move, held in check while Alex is too young, until she just can’t stay anymore. And it’s also about Alex, and being a teenager, and being confused, and sometimes wanting to fit in, and sometimes wanting to be different – to be you, and for other people to allow that, and to not question it.

On their travels they meet people from Ma’s past, and Alex gradually learns about that past. There are moments of real beauty and honesty here, and this is done without sentiment. The descriptions of the places they travel through, the places they stay – for an hour or for months – are beautifully done, as are the depictions of the people they meet and the people in Ma’s past that Alex learns about.

This is a really different book, with really unusual and complex characters. It’s about coming of age, and about coming to terms with the past, about accepting who you are. Evocative, complex, and moving – I highly recommend it.

5 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the review copy.

 

Advertisements

‘Long Road from Jarrow’ by Stuart Maconie #FridayReads #BookReview

cover (1)

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

‘Three and half weeks. Three hundred miles. I saw roaring arterial highway and silent lanes, candlelit cathedrals and angry men in bad pubs. The Britain of 1936 was a land of beef paste sandwiches and drill halls. Now we are nation of vaping and nail salons, pulled pork and salted caramel.’

In the autumn of 1936, some 200 men from the Tyneside town of Jarrow marched 300 miles to London in protest against the destruction of their towns and industries. Precisely 80 years on, Stuart Maconie, walks from north to south retracing the route of the emblematic Jarrow Crusade.

Travelling down the country’s spine, Maconie moves through a land that is, in some ways, very much the same as the England of the 30s with its political turbulence, austerity, north/south divide, food banks and of course, football mania. Yet in other ways, it is completely unrecognisable.

Maconie visits the great cities as well as the sleepy hamlets, quiet lanes and roaring motorways. He meets those with stories to tell and whose voices build a funny, complex and entertaining tale of Britain, then and now.

world-marches-5

2016 wasn’t only the year that Bowie died, or the year that brought us Brexit and Trump (so a bad year all round), it was also the year that marked the 80th anniversary of the Jarrow March.

In 1936, struggling to feed their families after the destruction of the shipbuilding industry, the men of Jarrow were desperate, and no one seemed to be listening. So they set off on a march to London, to deliver a petition to parliament. The march was led by one of the first women in Parliament – Ellen Wilkinson, a passionate feminist and socialist.

There are plenty of myths and legends about the march – many unfounded – but what drove those marchers was their desperation, their frustration that they were forgotten, that no one cared. Sadly, many people today feel like that. And what’s really interesting about this book is the insight it gives into the lives of ordinary people today, and the ordinary (and not so ordinary) history and society that often goes unnoticed and overlooked.

This is, in a way, Maconie’s own tribute to the marchers. He retraces the march, following the same route, covering the same miles on the same days. And as he walks he talks to the local, ordinary people, about politics, about Brexit, about the places they live and about life. He also visits some of the more interesting and quirky places in England and the book includes some unusual and really interesting snippets from history.

There is also a lot of background about the march itself, the politics in which it was born, and the terrible conditions the people of Jarrow experienced. Maconie draws parallels between now and then and it’s quite scary how we seem to be locked in a circle where these terrible things are happening again – and there seems to be no will to change them.

I disagreed with a few things and with some of the conclusions that Maconie draws from his experiences – the reasons behind the Brexit vote and a certain political leader (although his view may have changed since the book was written), but that didn’t detract at all from my enjoyment of the book. It’s really well-written, with a friendly, chatty voice – I felt at times that I was walking along beside the writer. There’s so much here – so much history, so much detail about the country, so many strange little tales and strange people. And it’s more than that. I hate it when people say they’re not interested in politics, or that politics doesn’t affect them. Or when people accuse others of ‘politicising’ something. Life is political. Your housing, your wages, your pension, your education, the food you eat, your job. Your life. It’s all political. People are at the heart of politics, and what this book does is give a reminder of that. It’s a tribute to the marchers, a tribute to Wilkinson, something of a tribute to England. It’s history, politics, geography and sociology all rolled into one. And it’s very entertaining too.

5 stars

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

Writing and Editing Tips Revisited – Transitions #ThrowbackThursday #WritingTips

Another post from the past – this time looking at how to take your characters from one place to another, and to take the reader along too.

furlough

Transitions are used to:

  • Change time
  • Change location
  • Change character viewpoint
  • To skip unimportant time periods or events

One issue I’ve seen with many writers is that they put too much detail in these transitions, showing how a character gets from one place to another – getting into their car, driving home, parking, walking up the stairs to their apartment, just like this scene from the infamous B-movie Birdemic:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrremE8SCQk&t=8m12s

The reader doesn’t need to know that. They just want to get on with the story, on to what happens next.

So how do you use transitions skilfully?

  • Start a new chapter – this easily lets your reader know the narrative has moved on
  • If you’re changing scene/time/viewpoint within a chapter use a physical sign like ***** centred on the page, or double space and then don’t indent the first line of your next paragraph.
  • Keep it short and simple – ‘That night’, ‘The next morning’.
  • Jump right in – rather than say: ‘When Linda arrived at the coffee shop the next morning’ go for ‘Linda slid into the booth and took a sip of her first coffee of the day.’ We know where and when Linda is straight away.

WTF? #Googlemanifesto

WTF indeed!

Barb Taub

Fair open discussion or gender stereotyping?

He has a PhD from Harvard in Systems Biology, and quotes generalities from Wikipedia. He says he understands that overall differences between men and women may not apply to differences between individual men and women, and yet he urges Google to make sweeping policy changes based on those group differences. And he thinks that Google’s policy of promoting diversity amounts to discrimination.

 ‘Discriminating just to increase the representation of women in tech is as misguided and biased as mandating increases for women’s representation in the homeless, work-related and violent deaths, prisons, and school dropouts.’—James Dunmore

What he’s really saying, of course, is that diversity—at least as it applies to hiring and promoting women—is super not fair to well… him. So obviously, in his world Google should only be allowed to pursue their corporate values of diversity if they also support increasing the numbers of women…

View original post 734 more words

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT The Former Chief Executive by @k8vane #TuesdayBookBlog

My review of ‘The Former Chief Executive’ 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 Former Chief Executive by Kate Vane

34886396

Deborah’s vision of her retirement – to spend her days finally relaxing with her husband Peter after a long career – has had to be re-imagined. Peter has died, and she is alone, struggling to know what to do with her time and how to live without him, and without the career that defined her.

Luca is also struggling – struggling with life after prison, a new job, a pregnant girlfriend. He finds solace in working on Deborah’s garden and the two develop a friendship.

But the arrival of Deborah’s daughter complicates things as their problematic relationship is put under new pressure. And Deborah also has to contend with her past, and the fear that it will come back to ruin the present.

This is a thoughtful book…

View original post 376 more words

#NewRelease #PostApocalyse #Dystopia #FamilyDrama – Tipping Point by @TerryTyler4

A new book from Terry Tyler – out today! If you’ve not read any of Terry’s books, I highly recommend them.

Rosie Amber

Published Today! The latest book from Terry Tyler

35826790

A big thank you to Rosie for inviting me onto the blog to talk about my new book, Tipping Point, which is released today.

I’ve been wanting to write about the collapse of civilisation due to a deadly virus for a while, and Tipping Point has been lurking on my desktop in note form for well over a year.  I’m fascinated by how people might survive after such catastrophes, when there is no power, no water, finite supplies of food, fuel and medicine, and, of course, no law.  But my story is not just about a random virus.  It’s about a re-structuring of the world, by the powers behind the thrones … could it actually happen?

The first part of Tipping Point is set in the fictional town of Shipden, in Norfolk, which I based on Cromer, where I used to…

View original post 406 more words

How to Approach an Agent – The Query Letter #publishing #writinganovel #ThrowbackThursday

A post from a while ago that aspiring authors may find helpful.

letter_writi_24714_lg

While it’s true that the world of publishing is changing, and that many authors are happy to self-publish, some writers still wish to find an agent, and so will need to introduce themselves with a query letter.

What’s important

It’s absolutely vital to remember that this letter is the first example of your writing that an agent will see, so make it count. These are the key things to remember:

  • Address your letter to a specific agent – avoid Dear Sir/Madam.  Using a name shows that you’ve selected that agent – not just stuck a pin in ‘The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook’
  • Make it clear you’ve done your homework – state why you’re approaching that particular agent (similar authors? Looking for your genre?)
  • Make your book sound interesting
  • State the genre and word length
  • Include any details of your writing history – competitions, publications, experience
  • Keep it formal, keep it short, be business-like
  • Do include EXACTLY what they’ve asked for

Structuring your letter

When I’m helping my clients to write a query letter, this is the basic structure I suggest:

  • Paragraph 1 – why you’re writing and what you’ve included
  • Paragraph 2 – a VERY brief, two or three sentence summary of the book
  • Paragraph 3 – brief details of any relevant writing experience/successes
  • Paragraph 4 – the fact the manuscript is complete and word count. Also, state if you are working on a series, a new novel etc. Agents like to know that you have longevity
  • Paragraph 5 – contact details including a telephone number and an email address

What not to do

  • Don’t make jokes or try anything wacky – they’ve probably heard and seen it all before
  • Don’t spell the agent’s name incorrectly
  • Don’t forget to include your submission (apparently that does happen!)
  • Don’t come across as arrogant – if the agent takes you on you will have a very close working relationship, so you don’t want to sound as if you’ll be a pain in the backside
  • Equally, don’t beg or sound needy – agents need writers!
  • Most important of all, be professional. Yes, we’re all artists, and creative types and so on, but publishing is, first and foremost, a business. This is a business letter – treat it as though you’re applying for a job (because you are)

Good luck!

Writing and Editing Tips Revisited: Writing a Blurb #writingtips #wwwblogs

website-migration-failed-frustrated-woman-at-laptop-300x200

Almost as feared as the dreaded synopsis, the book blurb has the power to turn wonderful writers to jelly. But the blurb is the hook, along with the cover, to reel those readers in. You need to make sure that you entice your reader, that you intrigue them without giving too much away. Longer than the elevator pitch, but shorter than a synopsis, the book blurb is key to whetting a reader’s appetite.

So how should you approach it? Here are some quick tips on getting that blurb up to scratch.

Keep it short. This is NOT a synopsis. You want a couple of two to three line paragraphs. Too much and you risk giving too much away and turning off your reader. Too little and you might miss the mark.

Mention your main character(s). It’s important for your reader to know who the book is about.

Be precise. There is no place or space for vagueness, long-windedness or clever clever vocabulary in your blurb. Short, sharp, to the point.

Make it interesting. Obviously. What’s intriguing about the story? Why would I want to read it?

Don’t give away the ending. It might sound silly to even point that out – but it does happen.

Don’t compare yourself to other writers or compare the book to other books. Tell your potential reader that you’re the next J.K Rowling or Stephen King and you’re more likely to annoy them than anything.

Watch out for clichés or overused words and phrases. Try and be refreshing and new. And interesting.

Good luck!