Local Authors Reviewed: Part One

As you may remember, a few weeks ago I went to a local authors event to do some networking and get opinions on the best self-publishing platform and was given four books by local authors to review. Here are the first three.

As always, I received these in return for honest reviews. I am going to be very honest. Sorry.

Selected Poems, by Michael Nilsen (poetry)

Published by: Matador

Publication Date: October 2015

ISBN: 9781784624705

Price:£9.99

A collection of poems written over a 22 year period and covering a range of themes including nature, autobiography and surrealism.

My Review

The nature poems were the most affecting and well-written, with great imagination. Unfortunately most of the poems didn’t move me all that much although they could have a different effect on other people. Poetry is subjective like that.

The Crooked Link, by David Evardson (General adult fiction)

Published by:Self-published

Publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9781522901259

Price:Unknown

Stanley is a crook, a crook who happens to have stolen money from an even bigger crook in London. When he turns up in Cleethorpes with a plan to buy a house, if he can sell his London flat first. A chain of buyers and sellers build but the chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link, and this link is crooked.

My Review

The plot is good but the execution needs work. It feels like a first novel even though the author has written several books before. It doesn’t quite ring true enough to become immersed in the plot, although the attempt at local dialect is good.

Marikka, by Sam Hawksmoor (children’s fiction)

Published by: Hammer & Tong UK

Publication Date: 2015

ISBN: 9781511994224

Price: Unknown

Marikka flees from an arson attack on her home to the sea, where she meets Mika – a runaway working for a sinister, scarred man hiding from the world. Meanwhile her father, long thought dead, searches for her with the aide of ‘the girl who can read objects’.

My Review

The plot reminds me of an Enid Blyton novel that has been modernised, including the sinister, mysterious villains and the evil step-father. I really quite enjoyed it and I admit to bawling like a baby at end. I liked the main characters, the plot was good, the chapter titles funny and the writing fluent. There were editing errors, e.g. instance instead of instant, minor things I had to parse to get the gist of the sentence but nothing that a re-edit won’t fix. Definitely a good one for the young teenager before they move on to more challenging books.


I have just one other book to read, For the love of Emily by Joy Wood. I haven’t started it yet but I will soon. The books are piling up again on my to be read list. I’ve been working on craft projects and writing assignments. Before I start University at the end of September I want to get the non-fiction assignments of my Writer’s Bureau course completed. I’m almost done, I have one task left to do on the final non-fiction assignment, and I shall tackle that tomorrow.

For those following the Saga of the Bath, finally today, after nine and a half weeks, the landlord sent a plumber to replace the old bath with a shiny new one. Or, I should say, the letting’s agent did. I intend to wallow in that thing tomorrow morning.

Reviews, as promised :D

Two book reviews for you today, they’re not very long because it’s way too hot and muggy, and I’m still recovering from Paris.

Continue reading “Reviews, as promised :D”

What I learnt in Paris

A long list of things I learnt in Paris that might be of use to other novice travellers (it was orginally ten but the lessons got away from me).

  1. The French are fucking insane and should never be allowed near cars, vans, motorcycle or bicycles.Traffic laws seem to mean nothing and crossing the road means taking your life in your hands and hoping you make it across the road before someone decides to just drive over the crossing. Crossing when the green man is lit is only marginally less dangerous than using a crossing without lights. Follow the example of the locals and cross when they do.
  2. Motoercycles and bicycles are incredibly common means of transport in Paris. When crossing the road, be sure t0o make an extra observation behind you as they tend to appear from nowhere and sometimes ride on the footpath. There are dedicated cycle lanes on the pavements – try to avoid walking in them. Bicycles can be rented from racks all over the city and can be left at any other official rack.
  3. Restaurants have English language menus; they’ll either give them to you when you walk in and are obviously a tourist or you can ask for them and you won’t have to struggle with trying to make sense of the menu in French if your language skills are so-so.
  4. Always wait to be seated when you enter a cafe or restaurent. The waiter will ask how many and whether you want to sit inside or outside. Most of them speak reasonable English if you need help.
  5. Portions are huge! It might seem expensive but you get a generously sized meal. eat where there are lots of locals; if they like it the food will probably be good. You almost always get a bottle of table water to go with your meal so if you’re on a budget don’t order a drink.
  6. The Louvre is open until 9.45 pm on a Wednesday and Friday, I recommend going in the late afternoon/early evening when the crowds have thinned out and it’s less sweltering outside. It is very hot in some parts of the Louvre purely because of the number of people in the building, which is something to bear in mind when visiting. You won’t need a coat. 
  7. Again, at the Louvre, and other attractions, you can pre-book your tickets online and get the e-tickets on your phone. This allows you to skip the much longer queue for security. People in wheel chairs and those with children in push chairs are also sent to the head of the queue. 
  8. Watch for the beggers; they  sometimes claim to be raising money for a deaf and blind or dumb charity or a disabled association and present official looking sponser forms. They are not real charities and the beggars are neither deaf nor dumb.Wave them away with a stern ‘Non’ and if they persist don’t get you purse or wallet out; they will look inside and demand you open zipped pockets. Just keep waving them on. The same applies to the dodgy old men who ask you to take their picture in front of a building, such as Notre Dame and then say they want a selfy with you instead, while they try to grope you or get in your pockets. 
  9. Avoid buying from the street vendors of cheap tat, of which there are many. They are usually men carrying strings of mini Eiffal towers and will offer 1, then 2, then 3, etc. up to five for a Euro. Again, ‘Non’ and carry on walking.
  10. Remember your manners; it isn’t hard to learn ‘Oui’, ‘Non’, ‘Bonjour’, ‘Bonsoir’, ‘Merci’ and ‘Si’l vous plais’. Also ‘pardon’ is useful for getting through crowds.
  11. If you want tea buy some tea bags from Franprix or one of the other supermarkets, the tea bags in the hotel room are not great.The Louvre has a tea shop in the food court but it’s expensive tea. I had a quick look and had a heart attack. 
  12. The airport security and much nicer and more thoughrough than they are in England (in my limited experience) and can be very helpful and funny. In fact service in general is really good. 
  13. Getting in to any country is easy, getting out is the problem.
  14. France in August is hot and you can’t get a decent cup of tea anywhere.
  15. McDonalds is the same everwhere, except where it isn’t. There are local differences but in general the menu is predictable; this is useful on your first night when you’re knackered and can’t be bothered with anything too complicated.

I’m baaack!

We’re back in England and I am exhausted; we’re currently sat at the bus stop waiting for a bus back to Harrogate. I’m looking forward to getting back home tomorrow and sleeping in my own bed with my Hell Hounds. I’ve missed them, but it has been nice to have no responsibility for a change. 
I’m currently in Harrogate, and I have to say after the last few days of 30 degrees and clear skies, I’m enjoying the existence of clouds and cooler weather. I don’t think I’m built for hot weather. We had a bit of a wait at the airport this afternoon because we decided to go straight from the hotel to the airport and avoid the stress. Dragging the suitcases around for several hours would have been a bit of an arse as well. We got through security and passports and took up residence at Pret a Manger, had dinner and read for a few hours. 

In Paris I managed to spend almost all of my money and ate amazing food, treat myself to two new books and a copy of a quarterly literary journal, and a hat. We saw amazing sights and determined to go again another year to see even more. I particularly want to see L’Musee de le Homme
There will be more to come, including my ‘top 10 tips for visiting Paris’.
Bye
Rosie

Review: Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History by Bill Schutt

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Published by: Algonquin Books

Publication Date: 14th February 2017

Format: Hardback

ISBN: 9781616204624

Price: £20

Continue reading “Review: Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History by Bill Schutt”

Review: Eyes on the sky by Francis Graham-Smith



Published by: Oxford University Press

Publication date: 23rd August 2016

I.S.B.N. 9780198734277

Blurb

Four centuries ago, Galileo first turned a telescope to look up at the night sky. His discoveries opened the cosmos, revealing the geometry and dynamics of the solar system. Today’s telescopic equipment, stretching over the whole spectrum from visible light to radio and millimetre astronomy, through infrared to ultravioletX-rays and gamma rays, has again transformed our understanding of the whole Universe.

In this book Francis Graham-Smith explains how this technology can be engaged to give us a more in-depth picture of the nature of the universe. Looking at both ground-based telescopes and telescopes on spacecraft, he analyses their major discoveries, from planets and pulsars to cosmology. Large research teams and massive data handling are necessary, but the excitement of discovery is increasingly shared by a growing public, who can even join in some of the analysis by remote computer techniques. Observational astronomy has become international. All major projects are now partnerships; most notably the Square Kilometre Array, which will involve astronomers from over 100 countries and will physically exist in several of them. Covering the history and development of telescopes from Galileo to the present day, Eyes on the Sky traces what happens when humankind looks up.


My Review

As regular readers will know, this is the second book this year that I’ve read about the history of telescopes (the first being Mapping the Heavens)  and I think the difference between them is one of degree. Eye’s on the sky is aimed at a more popular market but is still in-depth enough for the more knowledgeable reader. The focus is also slightly different, as a more specialised area – the development of full spectrum instruments rather than the full history of astronomy – is covered.

The book is fully illustrated and with a comprehensive ‘Notes’ section, for further reading. This is an easy to read book which follows a chronological and wavelength order. I really recommend it to astronomy enthusiasts.

4/5 

Review: The Shining Woman by Marjorie Bowen

Published by: Endeavour Press

Publication date: 13th May 2016

I.S.B.N: 9781533249647

Blurb

Now chiefly remembered as the author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin has often been acclaimed as a prophetess of the emancipation of her sex — a woman who did much to smooth the way for subsequent female triumphs.

But Mary’s life beyond her Vindication – published in 1791, eight years before her death, by her friend Joseph Johnson — was plagued by poverty, misery, and despair, with only a few snatched moments of happiness to keep her going.

Born into a family of impoverished gentility, she spent her childhood as a drudge in her own home, subject to a drunken father and largely responsible for her four younger siblings.

Exposed from a very young age to the power men hold over women, and the scarcity of choice women have in submitting and obeying, Mary formed opinions of the equal rights of women that stayed with her for many years.

As an adult, her ability to make for herself a living through writing and hackwork went a long way towards affirming her beliefs, but she rapidly grew tired of the dullness of her life and longed for companionship.

But ideals and reality often do not coincide, as Mary discovered in her own relationships with men.

Hungry for affection and love, she entered into an affair with Gilbert Imlay and lived with him, having fallen deeply in love with him and knowing he could not be had on any other terms.

The two held significantly different outlooks on love, life, and matrimony. Mary’s letters to Imlay during the course of their relationship, and particularly after the birth of their daughter, Fanny, make clear the desperation with which she sought to hold on to him, long after he wished to wash his hands of her.

Two attempts to take her life likewise marked the despondency with which the affair had left her.

Mary subsequently lived with William Godwin; mentally exhausted and emotionally broken, she was lonely and eager for some imitation of the life she had led with Imlay.

Though Godwin had long been against the institution of marriage, Mary persuaded him into marrying her because she dreaded social ostracism and the brining of a second illegitimate child into a harsh world.

This attempt at returning to conventional societal norms only served to have certain doors permanently shut in her face.

Upon her death she left behind her two daughters, who, however unintentionally, followed very much in their mother’s footsteps, chasing unorthodox relationships and defying convention.

Death served as a release from the unhappiness and anguish that had dogged Mary’s footsteps from birth, leaving behind a legacy that spoke of a strong and proud feminist.

Marjorie Bowen was born in 1885 on Hayling Island in Hampshire. She and her sister grew up in poverty, but Bowen was eventually able to study at the Slade School of Fine Art and later in Paris. Her first novel, the violent historical ‘The Viper of Milan’ (written when she was 16) was rejected by several publishers, who considered it inappropriate for a young woman to have written such a novel. It went on to become a best-seller when eventually published.

Her total output numbers over 150 volumes with the bulk of her work under the ‘Bowen’ pseudonym. She also wrote under the names Joseph Shearing, George R. Preedy, John Winch, Robert Paye and Margaret Campbell.

Bowen died on 22 December 1952, after suffering serious concussion as a result of a fall in her bedroom. This book was previously published under the name George R. Preedy.

My review

This reprint is really showing its age, in the judgemental attitude of the writter and the lack of any analysis. This biography is interesting, admittedly and covers all the necessary details, however the use of direct quotes from surviving letters doesn’t so much support the narrative as weigh it down with repetition and lack of useful analysis or synthesis. There is no discussion of Mary Wollstonecroft’s obvious mental health conditions – if we use her letters as evidence she, and Eliza Wollstonscroft, we’re clearly suffering from depression or PTSD due to their abusive childhood. I had a mixed reaction to this book; I was engrossed by the fascinating life led by its subject but turned off by the authorial style.

If you want a quick lesson about Mary Wollstonecroft this book will provide details, but if you want depth and analysis there are better biographies available.

3/4

Local authors give me books

And other things I’ve been up to in the book department.

 

August is here and with it the sound of screaming kids playing in the streets, barbecues and my long-awaited holiday. This first I’ve ever been on alone, my first abroad and the first time I’ve done all the booking online – just the online check-in to do. I haven’t had a holiday in fifteen years. We’re off to Paris for three nights to celebrate my friend’s birthday. I’m very excited, two weeks from now I’ll be flying (again, first time in twenty-seven years) from Leeds-Bradford to Charles de Gaulle. It’s a big adventure for me.

Continue reading “Local authors give me books”