Author: alisonewilliams

I trained as a journalist and currently work as a freelance editor, writer and researcher, with articles published both online and in a variety of print publications. I have edited books in a variety of genres including dystopian, memoir, erotica, fantasy and business - please see my blog for testimonials and information about services and rates. I work on a freelance basis for several academic writing companies where my work involves writing model essays, proofreading essays and dissertations and editing and improving academic work at all levels from foundation to Ph.D. standard. I copy write and edit for my husband’s communications consultancy. I have worked on a freelance basis for US clients and am happy to edit in either UK or US English. I have taught creative writing with a focus on grammar, punctuation, creativity, voice and expression. I have a first degree in English Language and Literature and a Master’s degree in Creative Writing. I am fascinated by history – but not so much the kings and queens, the emperors, the military heroes or the great leaders. More the ordinary people whose lives were touched by the decisions, the beliefs and the whims of those who had power over them and who now fill our history books. It is their stories that I want to tell. As part of my Master’s degree I wrote my first historical novel ‘The Black Hours’ based on the notorious Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins. I have also written a novella ‘Blackwater’. I am currently working on my next full length novel, ‘Remember, Remember’, set during the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

‘Castles in the Air’ by Alison Ripley Cubitt @lambertnagle #FridayReads #RBRT #BookReview

#RBRT Review Team

I read ‘Castles in the Air’ for Rosie’s Book Review Team.


An eight-year-old child witnesses her mother’s secret and knows that from that moment life will never be the same. 

After Molly, her mother dies, Alison uses her legacy to make a film about Molly’s relationship with a man she had known since she was a teenager. What hold did this man have over her mother? And what other secrets was her mother hiding?

Castles in the Air follows the life of Molly Ripley through the eyes of her daughter Alison. From Molly’s childhood in colonial Hong Kong and Malaya; wartime adventures as a rookie office girl in the far east outpost of Bletchley Park then as a young nurse in the city; tangled romance and marriage to her challenging middle-age when demons from the past seem set to overwhelm her.

The writer in Alison can’t stop until she reveals the story of Molly’s past.
But as a daughter, does she have the courage to face up to the uncomfortable truths of Molly’s seemingly ordinary life?

As she unravels the private self that Molly kept secret, Alison realises that she is trying to find herself through her mother’s story. By trying to make sense of the past, can she move on with her future?

Honest yet unsentimental and told with abundant love and compassion, this is a profoundly moving portrait of a woman’s life, hopes and dreams.
We learn not only about Molly, but about mothers and daughters, secrets and love.
A story for readers struggling to come to terms with the trauma of losing loved ones.

Using letters and journal entries, this book traces the life of the author’s mother, Molly, from her childhood in Hong Kong and Malaya, through marriage and motherhood, detailing her career in nursing, living in New Zealand and her struggles in adult life.

I enjoyed the letters – they give an honest and authentic glimpse into Molly’s life and the upheaval she faces in the war years. As the book progresses, the narrative is unflinching. The author hides nothing, and even though Molly has demons to struggle with, and even though these must have affected the author in her childhood and beyond, the love and affection she felt for her children  shines through and brings a real warmth to the book.

I found the historical detail fascinating and thought that Molly was so interesting. She must have been a fascinating lady, with so many experiences to share. That said, there was some repetition, and some details that, while I can see how they would be interest for the family, did become a little monotonous.

The book is well-written, and the author is obviously a competent writer. I found myself wishing that she’d taken the letters and journals and made them into a novel. I feel this would be much more interesting for most readers and there’s an absolute wealth of material here.

An enjoyable read, but something I felt had the potential to be a great deal more.



‘A Horse Walks into a Bar’ by David Grossman #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview



The setting is a comedy club in a small Israeli town. An audience that has come expecting an evening of amusement instead sees a comedian falling apart on stage; an act of disintegration, a man crumbling, as a matter of choice, before their eyes. They could get up and leave or boo and whistle and drive him from the stage, if they were not so drawn to glimpse his personal hell. Dovaleh G, a veteran stand-up comic – charming, erratic, repellent – exposes a wound he has been living with for years: a fateful and gruesome choice he had to make between the two people who were dearest to him.

A Horse Walks into a Bar is a shocking and breathtaking read. Betrayals between lovers, the treachery of friends, guilt demanding redress. Flaying alive both himself and the people watching him, Dovaleh G provokes both revulsion and empathy from an audience that doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry – and all this in the presence of a former childhood friend who is trying to understand why he’s been summoned to this performance.


This has some mixed reviews, and I can understand why, to an extent. It’s very unusual, very dark and is difficult to read at times. But it’s brilliant.

Stand-up comedian Dovaleh G is giving a performance in a small Israeli town. A childhood friend has been asked to attend – he doesn’t know why, and as the evening progresses, he feels more and more uncomfortable, as do the audience, who realise that this isn’t the show they were expecting.

Dovaleh is telling his own story, and it isn’t very funny at all. It’s heart-breaking, and he tells it unflinchingly. From the performance, we learn about Dovaleh, his life, his tragedies, and we learn about betrayals, about loss.

It’s an unusual structure, but it really works, allowing for Dovaleh’s character to come through so authentically – which is where it is sometimes hard to read. As a reader, it’s as if you’re there in the audience at times, witnessing Dovaleh falling apart. And you really feel for the child that he was, and the pain that he felt, and you understand how that has made him the man he is. It’s about more than one man though. Dovaleh’s mother is still suffering from what she experienced in the holocaust. His father loves him, but, like many men of his generation, he finds it hard to show that love. And Dovaleh, who has the potential to be so much, who is intelligent and funny and shows flashes of kindness, has no real chance of meeting that potential – his individuality sets him firmly outside and he suffers for that.

Like the audience in the little club in Netanya, it was hard to know whether to laugh or cry. This is an unsettling novel, but it is beautifully crafted, and highly recommended.

5 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the review copy

Happy Lupercalia! #valentinesday

Lupercalia heart

Happy Valentine’s Day! Here is my annual Valentine’s Day post about the real ideas behind the celebration.

Yes, I know it’s Valentine’s Day and lots of you will be receiving bouquets of roses and planning romantic dinners (not me- my husband knows I have no time for the gross commercialism that is Valentine’s Day and is under pain of divorce not to buy me flowers – and I mean it), however, it would seem that Valentine’s Day has always had a lot more to it than hearts and flowers. In fact, it originates from an ancient pagan ritual that was celebrated for years before anyone had heard of Valentine.

In Rome, many centuries ago, the festival of Lupercalia was celebrated from the 13th to the 15th of February. On the 14th of February, a day devoted to Juno, queen of the gods and patron of marriage, young women would place their names on slips of paper put into jars. The young men would pick out a name and the two would spend Lupercalia together.

Lupercalia itself was a strange festival. It was held in honour of the gods Lupercus and Faunus and the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus. The ritual began at the cave where Lupa the wolf was reputed to have suckled Romulus and Remus. A goat (fertility) and a dog (protection) would be sacrificed, and the goat flayed. Men would then run through the streets whipping women and crops with this flayed hide, in a bid to encourage fertility and to ease pain in any future childbirth. Not quite as romantic as a candlelit dinner, but this was ancient Rome.


So how did this rather wild sounding festival become the St Valentine’s Day of today? The rise of Christianity saw Pope Gelasius officially condemn the pagan festival, banning it at the end of the fifth Century. He declared that 14th February be St Valentine’s day. Although no-one really knows who this Valentine was, he is possibly an amalgamation of two different men. During the reign of Emperor Claudius, it was decreed that all marriages be stopped. A priest called Valentine was imprisoned for continuing to perform marriage ceremonies. In the 3rd Century A.D. another Valentine was imprisoned for helping Christians. He allegedly fell in love with the daughter of his jailer and cured her of blindness. This good deed did him no good whatsoever, as he was executed on 14th February 289 A.D. These two Valentines may be the ones at the heart of Valentine’s Day (sorry!).

Even the tradition of young women placing their names into a jar to be picked by a man was incorporated into this new celebration – with one rather huge difference. The girl’s names were replaced by those of saints; each man vowing to emulate the life of the saint whose name he picked for the coming year. Not quite as romantic as the original really.

So, like many other feast days and holidays, Valentine’s Day has its roots in something far from saintly. Still, whether you object to the commercialism or not, it’s as good a day as any other to tell someone you love them!


‘Everything You Do Is Wrong’ by Amada Coe #BookReview


Harmony’s teenage craving for drama is answered when a body is discovered by her aunt Mel on Evensand beach. But the naked, lifeless young woman turns out – problematically – to be alive. Unable to speak or remember where she came from, the woman is named Storm by her nurses.

Surrounded by doctors, psychiatrists and policemen, Storm remains provocatively silent. Harmony is desperate to fill in the gaps in Storm’s story, while the responsibility Mel feels for the woman she rescued begins to skew the course of her own settled life. Their efforts to solve the mystery clash with the efforts of rookie constable Mason, assigned to the case and determined to help this damsel he feels to be very much in distress.

Will any of them be able to find out who Storm really is? And what if the distress belongs to everyone but her?

Everything You Do Is Wrong is a compelling exploration of how this enigma sets a family’s good and bad intentions crashing into each other, with unforgettable consequences.

This is an interesting and unusual book, full of some wonderful imagery and description and some really clever little insights into people, places and situations that give the writing authenticity.

I found the descriptions of Evensand particularly well done and very evocative of a typical British seaside town out of season. The rain and the wind and the depressing greyness of it all came over very well. And little things like Harmony sneakily eating a KitKat in the library added to that.

I found it easy to warm to Harmony – while there were aspects to her character that verged on the stereotypical in places, her confusion and unhappiness came over clearly. I felt the hints around an eating disorder should have been more detailed – if she was suffering form something like this, it would have been a bigger aspect of her life, and if she was ‘playing’ with the idea for the sake of drama, then that too should have been developed.

I liked Mel a lot too, and it was nice to have a more realistic middle-aged woman in a novel. Too often they are either old before their time or impossibly perfect for their age – Mel was Mel, authentic, believable, kind and warm but with her own jealousies, and regrets.

I liked the subplot around Storm, the girl on the beach, and thought that the revelation as to how and why she as there was very unusual and made a refreshing change form the usual conclusions to these scenarios. It was a clever idea.

This is a slow burner – don’t expect fast-paced drama and lots of twists and turns. And there are places where I felt things could have been developed a bit further – Mel’s relationship with her husband and sons, Mason’s past, what compels the protagonists in the story behind Storm to do what they do, for example. But there’s some fabulous writing here. I really enjoyed it.

4 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the review copy

‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’ by Holly Seddon #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

don't close

Robin and Sarah weren’t the closest of twins. They weren’t even that similar. But they loved each other dearly. Until, in the cruellest of domestic twists, they were taken from one another.

Now, in her early 30s, Robin lives alone. Agoraphobic and suffering from panic attacks, she spends her days pacing the rooms of her house. The rest of the time she watches – watches the street, the houses, the neighbours. Until one day, she sees something she shouldn’t…

And Sarah? Sarah got what she wanted – the good-looking man, the beautiful baby, the perfect home. But she’s just been accused of the most terrible thing of all. She can’t be around her new family until she has come to terms with something that happened a long time ago. And to do that, she needs to track down her twin sister.

But Sarah isn’t the only person looking for Robin. As their paths intersect, something dangerous is set in motion, leading Robin and Sarah to fight for much more than their relationship…

I seem to be giving almost everything I read four-star reviews at the moment. These are all books I’ve really enjoyed reading, but where something just isn’t quite there. Something stops me from loving the book. And this is one of them.

The premise is really clever – twin sisters, forced apart by circumstances beyond their control, a series of events that cause them to lose contact and to struggle in adult life. The book comes from both viewpoints and is told from the present day and with flashbacks to the past. Sarah and Robin are well-drawn characters and the twists and turns towards the end are clever and surprising.

But I didn’t feel that their past was explored deeply enough. There was a lot more room here to go more deeply, to really get to know that twins and what made them tick. The present day sections around Robin went on for too long and didn’t really add very much to the narrative – I wasn’t convinced by the need for the whole storyline about what she witnesses watching the neighbourhood through her window. And while there are events in the book that explain why Robin is like this, it isn’t clear enough that they have, in fact, affected her in this way.

Sarah’s story, however, seemed a little rushed, and hers was the story that I found more interesting – so that was quite frustrating. And I thought it was too coincidental that all the different strands came together so neatly at the end. And while I appreciate that I read a review copy, there were quite a lot of errors that were very irritating.

It is a good book though, and a very enjoyable one, and I’d read more by the author. This could easily have been a five-star read for me, with a few tweaks and with some cuts here and there and some additions in other places. Really very good, but not outstanding.

4 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the review copy

And the winner is(n’t)! #CoverReveal #humor

Can’t wait to read this! Released on 1st February – a new book from a very funny writer.

Barb Taub

Mwa! To the best blog readers in the world!

Thanks so much to everyone who stopped by my blog last week and voted, commented, tweeted, emailed, and (anonymously) left that note through my letter slot with your thoughts about the sample covers for my new book.

The results? There really wasn’t a clear winner, probably because each of the covers had flaws.

So what did I learn? From your comments and suggestions, I’ve put together a new cover that I’m pretty happy about. But more than that, I was overwhelmed with your thoughtful, wonderful, helpful ideas.

You’d think I’d just be grateful for each and every one of you.

You’d think.

Those who know me, of course, realize that instead I’m going to take shameless advantage of all that help and goodwill and ask for more. MUCH more.

My new book is coming out on 1 February. (Details are below) …

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‘Keepers’ by @sacha_black #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT #BookReview

#RBRT Review Team

I read and reviewed ‘Keepers’ for Rosie’s Book Review Team.


Saving the world is easy: all Eden has to do is die. 

Seventeen-year-old Eden East’s life is perfect… until her soul is bound to her worst nightmare. Then her parents are brutally murdered, and everyone’s a suspect, including her best friend.

As her world spirals out of control, a charismatic Siren, from a past she can’t remember, returns offering help, hope, and a heap of distractions.

Eden must put aside her grief to solve the mystery of her parents’ murder. In a race against time, can she break the binding to her enemy before he destroys her and her world?

Three lives.
Two murdered parents.
One deadly choice.

This is the first in the Eden East Novels series and the first of the author’s novels. Eden is a Fallon – a royal Keeper whose role it is to ensure Balance in the world of Trutinor. The Keepers have different powers and are either Elementals, Shifters, Sirens or Sorcerers. Eden, an Elemental, is destined to be bound forever to another Fallon – a Shifter for whom she feels no attraction. But it isn’t up to her. Things change when Eden’s parents are murdered, and when Trey, a Siren who was Eden’s close childhood friend, reappears after a long absence, and confuses Eden further. They are forced together as they try to find the killers and avoid a fate that could have far-reaching consequences.

The author builds her world compellingly. There are some really well-crafted scenes here and the dialogue is, on the whole, authentic. Eden is a strong yet sympathetic main character and it’s always great to have strong female leads, whatever the genre. And Eden is also a character that a reader will care about – her strength is balanced well with her vulnerability, which adds depth to the narrative.

The writing is technically sound, and the plot has enough intrigue, mystery and surprises to hold the reader’s attention.

There were a few places where I felt the writing could be tightened a bit, and where the focus was too heavily on Eden’s reactions and feeling. There were also lots of characters that it was sometimes hard to keep track of. I do have a problem with fantasy books in that I always find the characters’ names and the names of imaginary places distracting– but I do appreciate that this goes with the territory. The definitions of the terms and traditions/conventions of Trutinor were also very long.

That said, this is a solid first novel from a debut author, and Eden has great potential for future books in the series.

4 stars

‘The Lie of the Land’ by Amanda Craig ‘FridayReads #BookReview


Quentin and Lottie Bredin, like many modern couples, can’t afford to divorce. Having lost their jobs in the recession, they can’t afford to go on living in London; instead, they must downsize and move their three children to a house in a remote part of Devon. Arrogant and adulterous, Quentin can’t understand why Lottie is so angry; devastated and humiliated, Lottie feels herself to have been intolerably wounded.
Mud, mice and quarrels are one thing – but why is their rent so low? What is the mystery surrounding their unappealing new home? The beauty of the landscape is ravishing, yet it conceals a dark side involving poverty, revenge, abuse and violence which will rise up to threaten them.
Sally Verity, happily married but unhappily childless knows a different side to country life, as both a Health Visitor and a sheep farmer’s wife; and when Lottie’s innocent teenage son Xan gets a zero-hours contract at a local pie factory, he sees yet another. At the end of their year, the lives of all will be changed for ever.
A suspenseful black comedy, this is a rich, compassionate and enthralling novel in its depiction of the English countryside, and the potentially lethal interplay between money and marriage.

At the heart of this book is a really, really great story. The situation that Lottie and Quentin find themselves in is symbolic of the times we live in and the realities of the messed-up housing market – Lottie and Quentin are privileged, yes, and spoilt in some regards, but they are property rich and cash poor, and when their marriage breaks down and they find themselves out of work, they can’t afford to live in London anymore. They rent out their house and, with their twins and Lottie’s son Xan, they move to a rented cottage in Devon. But there is a reason the rent on their cottage is so cheap, and a mystery about the former occupant that leads them into danger.
Their life in Devon provides an opportunity to explode the myth of the false idyll of country life. It’s hard work, and it’s cold and damp and the shops are too far away. The local economy is based on zero hour contracts (as so much of the work in this country now is) and most of the time life seems fairly miserable. But Lottie slowly finds herself relaxing and enjoying her new life, away from the social hothouse of the capital.
Lottie has the potential to be a warm and sympathetic main character, but she is little too perfect to feel truly real. Quentin does behave badly, and he deserves her anger, but she surely must have some faults of her own? Xan is lovely, a real strength of the narrative, and twins Stella and Rosie are really well-written, as are Quentin’s parents. Quentin, who I should have hatted, I actually warmed to, although he does verge slightly on the stereotypical.
There is a strong cast of supporting characters, but again I did find some of them too perfect – health visitor Sally , for example. And I couldn’t quite believe in the denouement at the end.
I also found the use of present tense quite off-putting, especially as there were a few times when the tenses did seem all over the place.
That said, I really did enjoy reading this, which is, I suppose, all that really matters. It’s a great book to curl up with and sink into – and despite the fact that some of it seemed hard to believe, I can’t fault it for sheer enjoyment. I became involved in the characters’ lives despite myself and it was a book that I looked forward to picking up at the end of each day. So while it isn’t a perfect book, it is a very good one indeed, and I will definitely read more of the author’s work.

4 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the review copy.

‘Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy’ by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

Option B

From Facebook’s COO and Wharton’s top-rated professor, the #1 New York Times best-selling authors of Lean In and Originals: a powerful, inspiring, and practical book about building resilience and moving forward after life’s inevitable setbacks.

After the sudden death of her husband, Sheryl Sandberg felt certain that she and her children would never feel pure joy again. “I was in ‘the void,’” she writes, “a vast emptiness that fills your heart and lungs and restricts your ability to think or even breathe.” Her friend Adam Grant, a psychologist at Wharton, told her there are concrete steps people can take to recover and rebound from life-shattering experiences. We are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. It is a muscle that everyone can build.

Option B combines Sheryl’s personal insights with Adam’s eye-opening research on finding strength in the face of adversity. Beginning with the gut-wrenching moment when she finds her husband, Dave Goldberg, collapsed on a gym floor, Sheryl opens up her heart—and her journal—to describe the acute grief and isolation she felt in the wake of his death. But Option B goes beyond Sheryl’s loss to explore how a broad range of people have overcome hardships including illness, job loss, sexual assault, natural disasters, and the violence of war. Their stories reveal the capacity of the human spirit to persevere . . . and to rediscover joy.

Resilience comes from deep within us and from support outside us. Even after the most devastating events, it is possible to grow by finding deeper meaning and gaining greater appreciation in our lives. Option B illuminates how to help others in crisis, develop compassion for ourselves, raise strong children, and create resilient families, communities, and workplaces. Many of these lessons can be applied to everyday struggles, allowing us to brave whatever lies ahead. Two weeks after losing her husband, Sheryl was preparing for a father-child activity. “I want Dave,” she cried. Her friend replied, “Option A is not available,” and then promised to help her make the most of Option B.

We all live some form of Option B. This book will help us all make the most of it.

I don’t read ‘self-help’ books very often, to be honest. But I’d read about the death of Dave Goldberg and knew about Sheryl Sandberg, so I was interested to read this.

I was initially sceptical though. Sandberg is a privileged woman; she has wealth, and opportunity, and surely her experience would be far removed from that of normal, ordinary people? I was worried that the book might be one of those that preached from a position of power and privilege, telling ordinary women how to cope, when the author has no idea at all of the everyday struggles that those women (and men) face every day. Add grief and loss to that, and could Sandberg really understand? (Check out Ivanka Trump’s highly insulting, ridiculous and just plain weird ‘Women Who Work – Rewriting the Rules for Success’ and marvel at the complete ignorance of normality).

But Sandberg is fully aware of her privilege. She knows that she is lucky and she understands that other women (I say women because it is still women who are more vulnerable, at least financially, after the death of a partner) will have more to face than she did after a loss like this. And this self-awareness and acknowledgement really made me warm to her. I also couldn’t help but be affected by the sheer honesty and rawness of her grief. I lost my mum before I was forty. I know that isn’t comparable to the loss of a husband. But grief is something we feel a little bit ashamed of at times; we don’t like to let it show, mainly, I think, because we’re worried it will make other people uncomfortable. So to read an honest account of an intelligent, secure and focussed woman falling to pieces through grief was, perhaps selfishly, rather comforting. Her description of her husband’s funeral was heart-breaking. And her emotions are real – she’s a real person, with real feelings.

I liked her, and I respected and admired the way she cared for her children and acknowledged their pain. So I felt far more open to hearing what else she had to say.

I know that Sandberg’s wealth will be a sticking point for many. I know that she can afford childcare, and she doesn’t have to worry about a mortgage. And she has a supportive family and a supportive boss – things that lots of other people don’t have. But that doesn’t mean that some aspects of this book can’t be helpful to more ‘normal’ people. As already mentioned, just reading someone else’s account of grief can help when you have suffered a loss – acknowledging that your feelings are normal and understandable and understood can be a great help. And reading about other people who have suffered horrific things but who have managed to build useful and fulfilling lives is extremely inspirational. And there is advice here that doesn’t hinge on having money – writing a journal, for example, and looking for positive things in even the bleakest of times is helpful for anyone.

There were a few places where things got a bit spiritual, which didn’t do it for me, but these were few and far between. What I really liked were the anecdotes about Sheryl’s own experiences and how she helped herself and her children not only to grieve, but to begin to move on, without forgetting their father – simple things like beginning new family routines and traditions while not forgetting the old ones, for example.

It’s well written too, and thoroughly researched. Definitely worth reading, and recommended for anyone going through a hard time and trying to cope, whether through a death, redundancy, anxiety and depression – there are things here that can help.

4 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the review copy

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #contemporary cultural fiction All The Tomorrows by @nillunasser

My review of ‘All the Tomorrows’ for #RBRT

Rosie Amber

Today’s team review is from Alison, she blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Alison has been reading All The Tomorrows by Nillu Nasser


Jaya is trying to make her arranged marriage to Akash work. She loves him, but he is cold towards her. When she discovers his affair, her reaction is horrific and extreme. Her recovery sees her grow in strength and she discovers her own mind, though she is haunted by her past and restricted by the constraints society places on women. Akash, however, is sent on a downward spiral, into the depths of the city, experiencing degradation, cruelty and shame.

This is an exceptional story; it covers so many human emotions – betrayal, loss, friendship, love, redemption. Jaya and Akash are beautifully drawn and it is easy to sympathise with them both. The other characters are realistic and three-dimensional, Jaya’s sister Ruhi, and Akash’s friend Tariq, in particular. And the…

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