Month: October 2017

Halloween and the portrayal of witches #halloween #witchcraft

Happy Halloween!

Alison Williams Writing

The history of witchcraft and the treatment and persecution of witches throughout the centuries is a subject close to my heart – many of the horrible accounts I read when researching my novel ‘The Black Hours’ have stayed with me. And it always seems pertinent on Halloween to revisit this post.

Macbeth witches

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble. 
By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes. 

Most of us are familiar with these words from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and with the gruesome hags that stir the cauldron. They have become the blueprint for the portrayal of witches; ugly, toothless old women; scheming, mysterious and powerful. But is it fair? And why do we see witches in this way – it can’t all be Shakespeare’s fault, can it?

Before the advent of Christianity there were many diverse religions – Druids, Norse Odinists and the witches that…

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‘Starlings’ by @mirandagold999 #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT #BookReview

#RBRT Review Team

I read ‘Starlings’ for Rosie’s Book Review Team.

starlings

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

‘But I suppose Steven and I knew something about broken things–that sometimes you just couldn’t mend them. Never stopped trying though. Because you can’t-until you do: stop and leave the broken thing behind.’Struggling to bear the legacy of her grandparents’ experience of the Holocaust and her mother’s desperate fragility, Sally seeks to reconnect with her brother Steven. Once close, Steven seems a stranger to her now that he has left London for Brighton. The echoes of their history once bound them–but it is an inheritance Steven can no longer share. Starlings reaches back through three generations of inherited trauma, exploring how the impact of untold stories ricochets down the years. As Sally winds her way back to catch the moment when Steven slipped away, she collects the fractured words and sliding memories that might piece together her grandparents’ journeys. Having always looked through the eyes of ghosts she cannot appease, she at last comes to hear what speechless mouths might have said: perhaps Before may be somewhere we can never truly leave behind and After simply the place we must try to make our home.In delicate brushstrokes, this extraordinary first novel captures a family unravelling as the unspeakable finds a voice. It is by turns sad, hopeful, and deeply compelling.

Sometimes book reviews are really hard to write. There were aspects of this book that I absolutely adored. The writing is clever, beautiful at times, and the way the author uses her writing to so accurately portray the chaos going on in Sally, the narrator’s, head is so very clever. And it works, for the most part. The repetitions replicate the way we have of going over and over a problem, and give a real rhythm to the prose, and the language is poetic at times. Sometimes I stopped and re-read a sentence, or a whole paragraph, because something was so well-written that I just had to read it again.

The story of Sally, and her troubled relationship with her brother Steven, who she adores, and her guilt and mixed feelings about her parents with who she lives, is interesting and thoughtful. The back story about Sally’s grandparents, who escaped the holocaust, is so well done, drip-fed almost, intriguing and sorrowful and poignant and a real strength of the novel.

But the strength of really good poetry is that it’s concise. Every single word matters. It requires precision. And that’s what I felt was somewhat lacking here. Sometimes an image, a feeling, the description of a moment, was taken too far, stretched too thinly, repeated too much. And reading then became a chore rather than a pleasure.

It’s not an easy novel to read. It requires patience and the prose does take a bit of getting used to. It is too dense in places, the story lost under the prose, rather than shown through it. I wish an editor had used a restraining hand, and allowed the really good bits to shine the way they deserve.

So do I recommend it? Yes. If only because there are moments in the writing that are truly brilliant, and it’s worth it for that. And for the passages that sweep over you with their rhythm, when it is like reading really fantastic poetry. And because Sally, is, at times, compelling and her story is a powerful one.

4 stars

‘Lindisfarne’ by @TerryTyler4 #FridayReads #BookReview

11 aa aa aa Lind

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

‘You’re judging this by the standards of the old world. But that’s gone. We don’t live there anymore.’

Six months after the viral outbreak, civilised society in the UK has broken down. Vicky and her group travel to the Northumbrian island of Lindisfarne, where they are welcomed by an existing community.

New relationships are formed, old ones renewed. The lucky survivors adapt, finding strength they didn’t know they possessed, but the honeymoon period does not last long. Some cannot accept that the rules have changed, and, for just a few, the opportunity to seize power is too great to pass up. Egos clash, and the islanders soon discover that there are greater dangers than not having enough to eat.

Meanwhile, in the south, Brian Doyle discovers that rebuilding is taking place in the middle of the devastated countryside. He comes face to face with Alex Verlander from Renova Workforce Liaison, who makes him an offer he can’t refuse. But is UK 2.0 a world in which he will want to live?

‘Lindisfarne’ is Book 2 of the Project Renova series. You can read my review of the first book, ‘Tipping Point’, here.

Vicky and Lottie and their new group of friends have travelled to the small island of Lindisfarne, where they find an existing community, and Vicky’s partner Dex, who she hasn’t seen or heard from since the outbreak. The community seems like a haven, and they quickly settle in, but, as with all societies, there is tension beneath the surface, and cracks begin to appear.

Having read the first in the series, I was itching to know what would happen next, and, if I’m honest, was wondering if the author could keep up the tension and the pace. This doesn’t disappoint. As with the previous book, the settings, the characterisation, the situations are all so well-drawn that it is easy to become totally immersed – which is what a good book should do. And this is a really good book.

The character development is so well done – completely plausible; it’s easy to see how Lottie has become strong and independent, how Vicky has begun to trust herself more, and how everyone still has their insecurities and issues that prevent them from making the right decisions. As with the last book, these characters are real, and they are vulnerable and they make mistakes.

What works so well though is the way that the changes in society, in the world, have allowed people to reveal their true selves. There’s no need to pretend anymore, and sometimes those true colours aren’t what you think.

Another page turner, definitely recommended. So looking forward to the next in the series.

5 stars

‘Tipping Point’ by @TerryTyler4 #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

Tipping-Point-New-cover4

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

‘I didn’t know danger was floating behind us on the breeze as we walked along the beach, seeping in through the windows of our picture postcard life.’

The year is 2024. A new social networking site bursts onto the scene. Private Life promises total privacy, with freebies and financial incentives for all. Across the world, a record number of users sign up.

A deadly virus is discovered in a little known African province, and it’s spreading—fast. The UK announces a countrywide vaccination programme. Members of underground group Unicorn believe the disease to be man-made, and that the people are being fed lies driven by a vast conspiracy.

Vicky Keating’s boyfriend, Dex, is working for Unicorn over two hundred miles away when the first UK outbreak is detected in her home town of Shipden, on the Norfolk coast. The town is placed under military controlled quarantine and, despite official assurances that there is no need for panic, within days the virus is unstoppable.

In London, Travis begins to question the nature of the top secret data analysis project he is working on, while in Newcastle there are scores to be settled…

‘Tipping Point’ is the first book in the Project Renova series. And I’m so glad this is a series, because as soon as I’d finished this, I was straight onto the second instalment, ‘Lindisfarne’ (review to follow).

Terry Tyler is one of my favourite contemporary authors. I’ve loved everything I’ve read by her, particularly her family sagas. I wouldn’t call myself a fan of dystopian fiction, but I do love ‘The Walking Dead’ so I may well be a convert, particularly if I can find anything as good as this to read in the genre.

Because it is really, really good. And quite uncomfortably chilling. The build-up to the inevitable spread of the disease and the breakdown of society happens so subtly, so quietly at first, that you realise how horribly feasible it actually is that something like this could happen. And the characters are so believable, so real, that it’s even easier to picture. These people are just like you and me, their lives are like ours – this could happen.

And that’s really what is at the heart of this, and all of Ms Tyler’s books – real people, real lives. She has such a knack of capturing a place, a person, a time that you find yourself completely drawn in, completely absorbed.

Vicky and her daughter Lottie have normal, happy lives. Vicky’s partner Dex is a bit of a conspiracy theorist (justifiably in this case), which annoys Vicky, but she’s happy, loves her home, her town, her job. She’s content. And this makes it so much more gripping and involving when the rug is (very slowly) pulled from under her, and she has to face up to what is really going on.

I like Vicky so much because she doesn’t suddenly turn into a competent, brave, knowledgeable superhero. She’s scared and worried and she misses her hair straighteners! And she’s also terrified for her child and would do anything to protect her. And relationships are really what this book is about – within families and within society as a whole – and what we do to protect those we love and to try to hold on to what makes us feel safe and secure.

This is so well-written and an absolute page-turner.

5 stars

‘White Lies’ by @EllieHWriter #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT #BookReview

#RBRT Review Team

I read ‘White Lies’ for Rosie’s Book Review Team.

white lies

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

Sam Davenport is a woman who lives her life by the rules. When her husband Neil breaks those rules too many times, Sam is left wondering not only if he is still the man for her but also if it’s time to break a few rules of her own.

Actions, however, have consequences as Sam soon discovers when what starts out as an innocent white lie threatens to send her world spiralling out of control.

White Lies is a warm, engaging read about love, deceit, betrayal and hope.

Sam and Neil’s marriage is already on dodgy ground – his affair has left her shaken, unable to move past what has happened. But she’s trying. Then they’re involved in an accident, a motorcyclist badly injured, and the lie they tell leads to bigger lies.

‘White Lies’ is about relationships, and trust, and how the past can blight the future. And it’s also about how the best intentions can leave us vulnerable and how we can be our own worst enemies.

It’s very well-written. The characters are believable, and the situations they find themselves in wholly feasible. At first, Sam annoyed me. Her life, despite the affair, was perfect; she was perfect – beautiful, talented, well off, gorgeous husband, thriving business, lovely kids, beautiful home. But as the novel unfolded, her vulnerability came through, which made her more likeable (if really frustrating at times). Her confusion was very well-drawn; she really didn’t know what to do, and everything she did do seemed to make the situation worse – that’s something most of us can relate to.

My only issue is that I felt the rather dark traits in one of the main characters (I don’t want to give spoilers here, so can’t say too much) were, I felt, handled a little too lightly. The way this character behaves is quite disturbing, and I felt that this was dealt with a little too flippantly. The character’s experiences weren’t excuse enough for that behaviour and I felt that they shouldn’t have been quite so easily forgiven.

I loved the side plot around Daphne – it was really lovely; genuinely heart-warming without being sentimental.

Overall, really well-written and definitely recommended.

4 stars

#ReBlog How To Get More Twitter Followers by @TerryTyler4 #TwitterTips #MondayBlogs

Great advice on increasing your Twitter followers.

Rosie Amber

Getting More Twitter Followers

Rosie @rosieamber1 asked me to write a few short guest posts about how to get the most out of Twitter, so I’m starting with the basics—getting followers.

Much of Twitter’s effectivity is down to how many eyes see your tweets—so whether you’re promoting your book or your blog, growing your business or just hoping to entertain people/get your voice heard, it makes sense to give that number a boost now and again.

At the time of writing I have 87K followers, with very little effort – and no, I didn’t buy them! Don’t ever be tempted to do that, as those for sale are not real profiles, but spam accounts. Yes, a proportion of my followers are accounts trying to get me to buy followers, or porn stuff, people who don’t speak English or general spamming, but I do get followed by many real and interesting…

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