Archive | March 2017

Review: ‘Who’s to blame?’, by Jane Marlow

Published by: River Grove Books

Publication date: 18th October 2016

I.S.B.N.: 9781632991041

Blurb

Set during the mid-1800s in the vast grain fields of Russian, Who Is to Blame? follows the lives of two star-crossed serfs, Elizaveta and Feodor, torn apart by their own families and the Church while simultaneously trapped in the inhumane life of poverty to which they were born.

At the other end of the spectrum, Count Maximov and his family struggle to maintain harmony amidst a tapestry of deception and debauchery woven by the Count’s son. The plot twists further when the Tsar emancipates twenty million serfs from bondage while the rural gentry’s life of privilege and carelessness has taken its final bow and much of Russia’s nobility faces possible financial ruin.

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East Midlands Writer’s Conference: Rosie’s review

Bleugh, I’,m dying of a cold. Not a ‘take a couple of paracetamol and get on with it cold’ either. I hate having a screwed up immune system, and would like a new one. Anyway, I’ll get on with the post.

Last Saturday I dragged my diseased self out of bed at a disgustingly early hour to catch a train to Lincoln and then from their to Nottingham. After navigating the Nottingham tram system – it’s really easy if you aren’t having a panic attack, you don’t have to interact with other people to buy tickets or anything – I managed, just in time to get to the conference. I got my goody bag, which included the usual confrency type things – schedules and advertising from the sponsor – and a free book. Yes, someone gave me a free book. This happens quite regularly but I still get excited every time. It’s a children’s book set in the First World War, I might give it to my nephew or niece.

I managed to make it to three out of the four talks I’d planned to go to. The first was about creative writing PhDs. I wasn’t too impressed with a couple of the speakers. One was up himself and the other didn’t answer questions properly. The third was quite interesting though. I came away certain that a PhD was beyond me, because of the critical element. Not having a background in formal literary criticism – I only studied English Literature up to AS Level – I felt like I’d be unable to complete the critical essay portion of the PhD.

I’ve been thinking about it though. I have thought about what I’d like to do for my PhD more seriously since then. I’m thinking about writing a novel intertwining the experiences of Queen Edith, Gytha of Wessex and Edith Swanneck in the weeks around the Battle of Hastings and in the months and years that followed. The critical component would be comparing how these women specifically, and Anglo-Saxon women in general were represented in contemporary literature (from the sixth century to the eleventh) with how they are represented in modern historical fiction focusing on the era.

My initial hypothesis is that women had greater representation in the contemporary literature – in the form of hagiography and ecclesiastical works, for example – than they do in modern historical fiction. To be blunt, you’re more likely to find books about St Dunstan than St Hilda, or Alfred rather than Aethelflaed.

What do people think? Is this a viable area of research?

The second talk I attended was about what happens after a book deal has been signed. There were three published authors on the panel. One wrote YA, another literary fiction. I can’t remember what the women running the panel wrote. It was basically ‘things I wish I’d known before getting a publishing deal’, including that you have to organise your own book launch and it’s a good idea to have it in a book shop because the sales will bump your place on the charts. And provide alcohol, because alcohol makes people friendly and spend money. There were other useful bits of information, about getting cover quotes and balancing doing the post-publication stuff with writing the next book and your day job. It was interesting.

The lunch wasn’t too bad, could have done with more chocolate and cold water. I didn’t manage to network, because I’m no good at that sort of thing. What the hell would I have to say to someone who clearly has more experience in writing and the writing world than me? There was one bloke that I noticed couldn’t stop talking about himself, to anyone and everyone, in a loud and clear voice. He was a stand up who’d just got back from a trip to India. I managed to avoid any long conversations with him by the simple expedient of being me and barely responding to his comments, and of course, looking half dead. Really put me off interacting with other people though, even if I’d wanted to.

The third session was a workshop on narrative drive with Rod Duncan, who writes steampunk novels. It was a large group so he talked and we listened. There was a tree drawing and some graphs. It makes sense in context. No, really it does. It’s a tie between this and the second talk for my favourite/most useful of the day.

By 3 p.m. I felt so awful I thought I would faint, vomit, or both. I left at half three and got an early train home. By half six I was tucked up in bed with my Lemsip Blackcurrant cold and flu, and an ice lolly.

I get dehydrated when I have a serious cold, and ice lollies help with that. It works for me, stop laughing. Taking of, it’s time to retire to my pit with an ice lolly. I’m supposed to be at sewing and craft club tonight but I’m not up to it.

Uni Update: The end is in sight

For this year at least.

I’ve been ill, am still ill, with an awful cold. Today has been the first day since Saturday that I’ve felt like doing anything much beyond napping. I missed university yesterday because I just wasn’t up to it. Next week is our final seminar before the Easter holiday. We have to go back in in late April to hand in an assignment, and for the majority there will be meetings with dissertation advisers, but not for me. I have another year to wait before that happens.

Last week was fairly quiet. We read through each other’s work and gave feedback. My tutor suggested I try reworking the first ghost story I wrote as it was better than the second. It meant I had to double the length of the original story but I managed it on Wednesday afternoon and evening. Before the cold from hell felled me, I managed to get some feedback on the re-write and make some changes. It’s been really helpful having the support and feedback of other writers. I just have to write my reflexive piece now, but that can wait for the Easter break, when, hopefully, I’ll be back up to snuff, health-wise.

Next week, will be a symposium rather than seminars and workshops. Everyone else will be telling us what their dissertation project is, and then in the afternoon there will be a poetry performance. The uni are providing food and alcohol. After that, we’re all off to the pub for a proper buffet a la Erika.

Apparently, people got their life-writing assignments back yesterday. I’ll have to wait until next week to get mine, but I’m not too worried. Sam would have said something if I’d messed up completely.

Due to being half dead for the last week I haven’t been up to reading much so no reviews at the minute, although I have been making progress with a book about 19th century Russia called ‘Who’s To Blame?’, so with any luck I might have a review for you in the next week.

Sorry about being a bad reviewer; the last month hasn’t been great, what with going from one infection to the next and the new anxiety/depression medication. Which is beginning to work, by the way. I’m mostly having good days, except for the random anxiety days, and my usual ‘argh I’m doing something tomorrow, must panic about everything that could possibly go wrong’ anxiety and sleepless nights. It’s progress. And I’ve heard from the ASD assessment centre in Grimsby. I have a form to fill in, which I need my sisters to help me with, because forms scare me, and on a practical level, they notice the things I do that aren’t considered ‘normal’ when I have a sensory response to a stimulus. I’ve noticed, now I have my tentative diagnosis,  and people have been told about it, if I need to react to an over stimulating event I will, whereas in the past I’ve forced myself not to and become more distressed in the process.

So, apart from the review of ‘Who’s To Blame?’, what do I have coming up?

Later today there will be a report from the East Midlands Writer’s Conference that I attended last Saturday. I was half-dead and failed to network at all.

Next month, I will be hosting two author spotlight posts and two novel extract posts, thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Authoright Marketing and Publishing, who contacted me to see if I would be interested in taking part in their ‘Spring Reading Week’. The posts will be up at noon on the 14th and 16th April, with my reviews of the books. I am still waiting for the review books to arrive, but hopefully they will get here in plenty of time.

Other than that, there will be the usual reviews and one final uni update for the year.

Right, I’m off to get an ice lolly out of the freezer and go back to bed.

 

Uni update: Week ?

I haven’t done a uni update for a few weeks, have I?

Sorry about that. I changed my medication during reading week and I’m still adjusting. Since then I’ve had two days at university. In week six(?) we started talking about ghost stories; what makes a ghost story, why people read them, etc. and watched a bit of ‘Spirited Away’.

I had started my ghost story, I’d already written one but it wasn’t long enough so I’m saving it to enter in to a short story  competition, probably the on-going monthly Writer’s Forum magazine competition. I’m waiting until I have some money though, because I want to pay the extra for a critique. Over the weekend, between weeks 6 and 7, I finished a second ghost story, which I hope to use as my assignment piece, because I don’t have much more in me in the way of ghost stories, not at the minute anyway.

In week 7 we talked about ghost stories we liked, and I borrowed a Dean Koontz book from my tutor. I read it in one sitting. It’s called Odd Apocalypse, and is part of a series. I don’t know if you’ve read it? I quite enjoyed it. I think I’ve tried to read it before and couldn’t get on with it but this time I could. Interesting characters and plot, and a different take on the ghost story/haunted house idea.

Other than giving each other feedback, I think we’ve pretty much finished ghost stories. Half the lesson last week was about what to do next, dissertations, getting published, that sort of thing. I told our tutor I had three complete novels and another five (at least) planned. He asked what I was doing with them. ME: Nothing, because I don’t know what to do next.

I have decided to try to enter more competitions. So far I’ve entered the ‘Writers and Artists Short Story Competition’ which was free – that was in February, and last night I entered the ‘Writer’s Forum Flash Comp 186’, which was also free because I’m a subscriber to the magazine, with a little sci-fi flash I wrote yesterday morning and left to bubble for 12 hours before I edited and sent it off. I’ve started another sci-fi short story that I’m going to enter in the ‘Writing Magazine’ competition later in the year. One of their monthly competitions had a sci-fi theme, so I’m going to try to enter that.

I’m going to enter ‘Hidden Fire’ in some ‘first chapters’ and first novel competitions, once I get my next student loan payment. The entry fees are about £15 – £30 so I’m going to have to be selective.

This week we are supposed to be sharing the first part of our ghost stories in class; since I already have mine written and it’s 3061 words I’ve shared it with my classmates already so I don’t have to read the whole thing out but can still get some feedback on it. I’m hoping to get some decent feedback, and to get more insight into what the hell I’m supposed to do next with my novels.

On Saturday I will be in Nottingham for the East Midlands Writer’s Conference. It will be a long day, as I have to catch the train at 7 a.m. and I won’t be home again until half seven in the evening, at the earliest (depending on whether I can get a lift from the station or not). I am looking forward to it, even if the thought of sitting in a room with a hundred-plus other people is uncomfortable. I have everything planned, down to which tram to get from the university to the train station in Nottingham on Saturday afternoon. The train tickets have been booked and delivered, I have my information pack printed out. I should be okay but I’m prepared. The new medication is definitely helping with the anxiety.

 

Also, awesome writer and course rep, Jo, has started her own book review blog. Go and see her work at https://feedmebooksblog.wordpress.com/. Also, she has a YA romance e-book out on amazon.co.uk, called ‘Hello World’, which she wrote a few years ago. It’s good, and she’s an even better writer now, so look out for more of her work.

In other news, my friend Michelle Conner released the paperback of her new novella ‘The Bound‘ yesterday and the e-book is released tomorrow.

 

Review: ‘Let The Dead Speak’, by Jane Casey

Published by: Harper Collins UK

Publication Date: 9th March 2017

Format: Ebook

I.S.B.N.: 9780008149000

Price: £9.99

Available here

When an 18-year-old girl returns home to find her house covered in blood and her mother missing, Detective Maeve Kerrigan and the murder squad must navigate a web of lies to discover the truth… When eighteen-year-old Chloe Emery returns to her West London home she finds Kate, her mother, missing and the house covered in blood. There may not be a body, but everything else points to murder. Maeve Kerrigan is young, ambitious and determined to prove she’s up to her new role as detective sergeant. In the absence of a body, she and maverick detective Josh Derwent turn their attention to the neighbours. The ultra-religious Norrises are acting suspiciously; their teenage
daughter definitely has something to hide. Then there’s William Turner, once accused of stabbing a schoolmate and the neighbourhood’s favourite criminal. Is he merely a scapegoat or is there more behind the charismatic façade? As the accusations fly, Maeve must piece together a patchwork of conflicting testimonies, none of which quite add up. Who is lying, who is not? The answer could lead them to the truth about Kate Emery, and save the life of someone else.

My Review

I read this novel in one seven-hour sitting. Despite being exhausted I couldn’t put it down, because I had to find out what happened next. This is a tightly written crime thriller, packed with suspense and an unexpected twist. The characters are rounded and well written, although I found the evangelicals a little stereotypical. The relationship between Maeve Kerrigan and Josh Derwent, at once confrontational and affectionate really draws the reader in as they discover the secrets of Kate Emery and her neighbours.

4/5