Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Getting To Know... Lorraine Rugman


Today I welcome the extremely lovely Lorraine Rugman from The Book Review Cafe to Getting To Know... 

You have the wonderful blog, The Book Review Cafe, what first inspired you to set this up?

Last year I had an accident and tore the tendons in my hand and arm and was off work for three months come the third month I was getting so bored I decided to set up my own blog The Book Review Cafe. After some research I set up a Wordpress account and spent a month creating my blog, amid lots of shouting and swearing (I'm not particularly techie minded)

 
From your reading and reviews, you seem to have a preference for crime fiction, what is it that draws you to this genre?

I have always been a huge fan of crime fiction I like the "unexpected" element to a crime thriller you never really know what's going to happen next, and of course, there’s the page-turning, heart-racing element of suspense, wondering if the bad guy will get away with his crimes, or will he be brought to justice? 

Do you have a favourite place that you like to curl up and read?

I mostly read sat in the corner of my lounge, coffee to my side and reclining in my favourite chair 

When you're not reading, what would we find you doing?

I don't have many hobbies outside of reading, as I work full time I don't get much time to myself. I do enjoy baking occasionally and make a mean cupcake! And I love spending time with my family. Most of my spare time is spent reading and writing review posts for my blog (it's a full time job in itself)

Have you always been a big reader or is it something that has come as you got older?

I've always loved reading, it's a part of who I am. As a child I spent all my pocket money on books and my love of buying books has just grown and grown, to the extent it's trying to find some where to put them all, thank god for the kindle! Otherwise I would have at least another 300 books to home!

Since becoming a book blogger, have you had the opportunity to meet any of your favourite authors?

No not yet, I've only been blogging for a year and although I've been invited to lots of events there mostly been when I'm working or there to far to travel from my home in Bristol. One day I hope to get to a bloggers event and meet some of my favourite bloggers and authors. 

Do you have a favourite author?

I have a few favourite authors whose books I always buy Kimberly Chambers, Robert Bryndza, Caroline Mitchell, Angela Marsons, James Carol I could go on and on.....

Do you use a bookmark, random piece of paper or do you dog ear?

No, No! I couldn't dog ear a book no more than I can crack a spine on a book! I'm very particular about my books and like to keep them pristine, it's got to be a bookmark. 

Will we ever see a novel written by you?

No not in a million years! my husband and family are always telling me I should write a book, but I don't have the imagination or the patience to write.  Also one rejection letter from a publisher and that would be it, I would give up. 

If you could share any advice of wisdom about becoming a book blogger, what would it be?

Follow other book bloggers and share their posts, they will generally do the same for you. The book blogging community is a very friendly one, but first and foremost; blog for yourself. do it for your own enjoyment.

Thank you so much to Lorraine for answering my questions and joining me today on my blog!

To connect with Lorraine

Twitter - @reviewcafe

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Trace This Scar by Jessikah Hope Stenson - Blog Tour Review


Today is my stop on the Trace This Scar by Jessikah Hope Stenson blog tour and I'm excited to be sharing my review of the book. Jessikah is the author of A Single Drop Of Perfect, which I reviewed earlier this year (here) and when I heard that she was releasing her debut thriller, I jumped at the chance to read it! 

Blurb

A Lie. A Betrayal. A Murder. 

Daphne has everything she's been dreaming of since the day her parents died when she was a teenager. A husband, a home and a job. The only problem is her beloved Rich's ex girlfriend Gina who won't leave them alone. Filled with jealousy, Gina's interference soon escalates into harassment. But one day, Gina disappears. When Rich is sentenced to sixteen years in prison for murdering Gina, Daphne refuses to believe he is guilty. But what else could explain his mysterious disappearances? And if Rich didn't kill Gina... ... Then who did?

Review

Trace This Scar had me pretty much hooked from the beginning. Following Daphne's story of meeting the man of her dreams and it slowly deteriorating over time and with her husbands ex causing issues. This all worsens when Gina (the ex) goes missing and Rich gets arrested and charged with her murder leaving Daphne alone, harassed and almost penniless, living in squalor and having no money for food. Daphne believes her husband is innocent but no one will listen to someone like her. 

The other side of the story is Jamie, a spoilt 26 year old "boy" who has just been asked by his mum and dad to move out after he has managed to loose another job after an extremely short period. He sofa hops until he comes across a book store looking for a helper and he meets Daphne who offers him a job and somewhere to live. 

Both characters are extremely unlikeable and I really didn't warm to either of them. Jamie does show growth of personality throughout the book, but not enough for me to change my opinion of him. This is not a bad thing, the characters are written so well that even though I didn't like them as people, I still really wanted to know what happened to them and was they were going to do next. This is definitely the sign of a great author in my opinion. 

The peripheral characters are all well fleshed out too and I particularly liked Jamie's mum and dad as I really just felt they were trying to do their best for their son. They just weren't sure what the best for him was. Rich is another unlikeable but very interesting character, who had a lot more going on than what we saw. 

The story is very well thought out and takes you on a journey that you're not entirely sure where it will end or what you're going to find when you get there. Though a few times I thought I knew what was going on, something else would happen and it'd throw me off and I'd think something else. I really couldn't put this down as I just needed to find out what happened next. The alternating POVs between Daphne and Jamie also kept me reading as I always tell myself I'll just get to the end of this characters chapter then I'll put the book down, but then I always need to see what the other character is up to. 

Overall an excellent book and I'm extremely excited to see what Jessikah will come up with next. 

I gave this book 5 stars

To purchase your own copy of Trace This Scar, click HERE


Don't forget to check out the rest of the blog tour



Friday, 25 November 2016

Getting To Know... Peter Taylor-Gooby


Today on Getting To Know... I am welcoming Peter Taylor-Gooby. Peter is the author of The Baby Auction, a dystopian thriller (look out for a review soon). 

You have written many sociological papers and books and you are world renowned for your work on new social risks. What is it that draws you to this subject and drives your passion about it?

It’s curiosity and wanting to find out how the world works and how it’s changing. The core idea is that as families change, as people live much longer and as global competition and technological change transform our working lives, people face new risks: managing young children with both parents working full time; getting housing; care in old age; getting the training and re-training you need for a job. We don’t have the right policies and institutions to help with these and different countries tackle them in different ways. It is spreading knowledge about how these things work and contributing to it that drives me (and there’s always the magic moment if you’re very lucky, when you know something before everyone else in the world does).

Your book, The Baby Auction, is a dystopian novel and you have talked before about why you write dystopia, but what was the inspiration behind this story?

The starting point was really an intellectual problem: how you can have real trust and real love – all the things we values most – in a market society? Markets are about looking out for yourself. Buyer beware! is the watchword, and markets are increasingly taking over our world. But then the characters came to me and I rewrote and rewrote and the finished book is really the story of Matt and Ed and Dain and Anna.

Have you found writing a fiction novel a lot different than writing non-fiction?

Absolutely different! Writing fiction is so much about getting inside the character and seeing the world from their viewpoint and letting them develop. I find scenes with my characters in them come to me, with great clarity, and I desperately want to get them into the book, so I write them, and then the characters start doing things I didn’t expect and certainly didn’t plan and it all takes off.

Academic writing is all about devising a rigorous structure, typically developing a theory to generate a hypothesis you can test with the evidence available and everything narrows in on the conclusion. Imaginative fiction is the other way round. I write fiction to discover how things will end up, I write the academic work to make one miniscule contribution to an enormous structure of knowledge.

As well as your writing, you work as a Research Professor of Social Policy at a University, what kind of things does this role entail?

I run research projects and teach postgraduate students. The research we’re doing now is detailed work in Denmark, Germany, Norway, Slovenia and the UK on what people think the welfare state will be like in 25 years’ time (not finished yet, but the UK stands out because it’s so gloomy: most people here say we won’t be able to afford to have decent pensions or the NHS by them and you don’t get that in the other countries.)

Do you have a favourite character that you have written so far?

I think it’s Matt. He’s not really interested in all the big issues that are going on around him or having a career, he just knows that Ed is the best thing that’s ever happened to him and he does what’s right, whatever it costs. I admire him.

You have received an OBE, is there anything you can tell us about this experience?

Many impressions! How palatial Buckingham palace is and how many different kinds of flunkies and of equerries and guards and assistants and servants there are. Then the other people receiving honours, all the people who’d worked on the Olympics, NHS workers, scientists, business people and of course soldiers. A group of young lads, looking very nervous, whom everyone treated with great respect, and you realised they were there because they’d had all lost limbs in Afghanistan.

When you're not writing, what would we find you doing?

Either riding my bike round the country lanes of east Kent or looking after my lovely grand-daughter (best grand-daughter in the world, in fact just like any other 15 month old!)

If you could give younger authors you any advice about your writing journey, what would it be?

Everyone’s different (that’s why we have such a glorious range of literature) so do what you do, and keep on doing it – and do pay attention to the rhythm of your sentences. English is a musical language!

Do you have a favourite author?

James Joyce for his monumental achievement (though he wasn’t really a nice person); so many other wonderful writers, can I mention Margaret Atwood for the depth of her insight, especially The Robber Bride and Cat’s Eye, and Anthony Doerr. All the Light We Cannot See completely bowled me over.

What can we look forward to next from you?

Ardent Justice a romantic thriller set among homeless people and billionaires in the City of London. Love, violence and a bit of tax evasion (and, of course, corrupt police, a complaisant media, an uncaring bureaucracy and the underbelly of the London art industry.)

Thank you so much to Peter for joining me today and taking time out of his extremely busy schedule to answer all my questions



The Baby Auction

Auctioning babies makes sense, at least that’s what Market World thinks. After all the baby goes to someone who can give them a good start in life, and the parents get a return for their pain and trouble. 
For Ed and Matt, the Baby Auction sums up everything that’s wrong with a society based on profit. Then one day Matt rescues a drowning child and they face the question: can love and compassion overcome the harsh laws of Market World?


Thursday, 24 November 2016

All Things I Can Do by Lilly Rowe - Review


I've been reading and reviewing a lot more children's books recently and I've been really enjoying it. (I read a LOT of children's books with my 3 year old, but as you can imagine it tends to be the same one a hundred times in one day before moving on to another). The most recent one I read is All The Things I Can Do by Lilly Rowe with illustrations by Joel Guerrero. 

Blurb

Drawing inspiration from Philippians 4:13, “All Things I Can Do,” is a fun and engaging children's poetry book that covers a range of issues like vanquishing a monster in a closet, wishing for a snow day in July, giving a guardian angel a day off, and more. “All Things I Can Do,” has an inspirational undertone, quirky voice, and beautiful illustrations to support the book's message that with faith, children really can do all things.

My Review

I'll start with with artwork, the art is bright and very engaging for children. I liked the fact that there was a picture before each poem which was relevant to the poem so you could talk about the picture with your child to help them with understanding the poem. 

The poems themselves are all very beautifully written and they rhyme (always such a good thing in children's books). I feel that each poem is as strong as the other and there are some really good lessons throughout. Being inspired by a bible quote there is a mention of God and belief, so if you are religious this is a perfect book for you to introduce your children to poetry through faith. If you are not religious it is not so overwhelming that you would not enjoy the poetry. I am not religious but I still thoroughly enjoyed reading all the poems. 

Overall a very enjoyable book which will be read again by both myself and my Nerdlings. 

I gave this book 5 stars. 

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Pee Wee The Christmas Tree by George Wells - Blog Tour Review


Today is my stop on the Pee Wee The Christmas Tree by George Wells blog tour and I have both my review and a review from my three year old Nerdling. 

About Pee Wee The Christmas Tree

Heartwarming illustrated story about a Christmas tree overlooked for his small size who refuses to give up on finding a family to spend the holidays with.

For years, Pee Wee has lived in the shadow of the bigger trees on the Christmas farm. Without enough sunlight to grow tall and strong, he has been forced to watch helplessly as the other bigger and more attractive trees are picked every year, going home with a happy family. Just as Pee Wee is about to give up hope that he will ever get the chance to bring joy to a family during the holiday season, he is finally cut down to be sold!

After years of waiting, Pee Wee is disappointed to find that he is still overlooked by customers wanting fuller trees to  decorate. With his dream of celebrating Christmas with a family of his own fading fast, he is at last discovered by two children who tell their father that they found one that is the perfect size. Driven back to their home and adorned with lights and decorations, Pee Wee is finally able to accomplish his life’s big dream: to make children happy at Christmas!

Pee Wee the Christmas Tree by George Wells is the perfect story for young kids this holiday season, encouraging them to never give up on their own dreams and proving that - large or small - there is room for us all.

My Review

Pee Wee The Christmas Tree is a very cute little story about a Christmas Tree who is too small to be used but is eventually found by the perfect family for him. It's a very nice subtle moral tale of not judging people by their outer appearance (in this case height) which is a good thing to instill from as early an age as possible.

The drawings are beautiful and match perfectly with the wording throughout. Both me and my little guy enjoyed looking at the pictures and took time to point different things out in them as we read the story. The story does rhyme which is always good in a children's book, though it took me a couple of attempts in places to get the rhythm back when I lost it while talking about the pictures.

Overall a fun book for younger children and one which parents won't mind reading. A great way to get in the Christmas mood and to prepare for decorating in December.

I gave this book 4 stars.

Mini Nerdling's Review

Woo Christmas tree has a star. Happy tree.



To purchase Pee Wee The Christmas Tree click HERE

About The Author

George Wells has been a songwriter for over fifty years with over 100 of his songs having been recorded. He has worked with artists including Charlie Walker, Neil Bonnett and Patsy Trigg and has had a song featured in the 1969 film, From Nashville With Music, as well as numerous television and radio programs over the course of his career. Wells currently resides in Huntsville, Alabama. Pee Wee the Christmas Tree is his second book.




Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Getting To Know... Ben Parker


Today on Getting To Know... I am welcoming author of the wonderful Beetlebrow (which I reviewed HERE), Ben Parker. 

Have you always known that you wanted to be an author, or did you want to be something else growing up?

Ever since I was fifteen-years-old, reading the Beat Generation books of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and Herbert Huncke, I saw the excitement of literature, and have felt the desire to be a writer.

I’m the child of two librarians, and grew up with a great love of reading, and from the Beats I truly felt the sense of the power of how stories can enthral. I wouldn’t want to revisit “On the Road” and its ilk as an adult – these books were important to me when I was a teenager, and I wouldn’t want to find their power diminished to me now – but it is in the promise that they held, in their glimpse of what storytelling can achieve, into which I head onwards.

Beetlebrow is the first book in a fantasy series, is there anything in particular that draws you to this genre?

To tell you the truth, I haven't read many fantasy novels. I've read Frank Herbert’s “Dune” novels, and all of Robert E. Howard’s “Conan” stories, but... that’s about it.

I’m not really a fan of the concept of “genre”: I felt sceptical about anything which might put a limit on stories. But then again, I think an audience wants to know what sort of book they’re about to read when they pick it up from a shelf. I know I personally like to have a vague idea of what I’m getting into before I open a new novel, so “fantasy” is all right with me.

I also feel that some people look down on fantasy books, so makes me want to pursue the genre further. One of my favourite writers in Alan Moore, and he’s always said he doesn’t mind if people refer to his work by the seemingly more prestigious term of “graphic novels”, but he prefers “comic books”. This is an example I try to follow: a book is a book, and doesn’t need to be diminished, but then again, it’s always a con to be pretentious about it – I’m in the entertainment business.

When I started writing “Beetlebrow”, I just thought of the protagonist’s story as an adventure book. For me, the narrative is everything, so when I think up a plot – and the characters in and around its flow – I tend to just follow wherever the people populating its narrative pull me, without really considering whether it fits into any genre or style. I like to keep things organic; I created the book based on how Beetlebrow evolved, and the world emerged around her personality. Character is plot, in a way, and I just let Beetlebrow’s initial goal – getting into the palace – guide me. I do try to be original (with the emphasis on try), so I decided to create my own cities and towns and empires (instead of setting the book in Ancient Rome, or India, or Egypt, or Victorian London, my main inspirations for the city of Stellingkorr), and along the way, the book just sort of slid into being “fantasy”.

I’m only just starting to see the benefits of writing a genre book though, realising within its structure one can do and express things that you can’t in “literary” fiction.

The names used in Beetlebrow (Beetlebrow, Pook) are very unique, where did you get the inspiration for them from?

Quite a few people have complimented the names I’ve created in my book, and that’s been really heartening, because – to tell you the truth – I’m actually not very proficient at thinking up names. And because I know this about myself, I work twice as hard to try to make good ones. Some come from playing around with moving letters in words: “Gozher”, for example, is an anagram of Herzog, as in Werner Herzog, a film director whom I admire immensely. Others came about from their characteristics. “Sellessen” is a combination of “selling” and “obsolescence”: aspects of her being a prostitute. Not that I want to deride sex workers – who are often maligned and dehumanised in our society – but I believe these views on prostitution to be part of the anti-female nature of much of the societies I’m depicting.

With some of the other names there have been some specific instances where they just came to me. I remember exactly where I came up with the name “Beetlebrow”: I was writing a previous, unpublished novel, and I was struggling with the plot, and the idea of a character with that moniker just popped into my head. I think, because of her entrance into my life with this sudden thought, I imagined her breaking into somewhere with such palpable verve, just like her name had broken into my attention.

“Pook” came from the composer Jocelyn Pook, whose song “Masked Ball” soundtracked a scene in Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut”. It’s a piece of music that I listened to as a tried to find the correct strangeness for the character of King Ancissus and his court, and I just thought the name sounded optimistic and hopeful – like someone who would be a counter-balance to Beetlebrow’s somewhat suspicious and cynical character.

Do you have a favourite character that you have written so far?

I think Ray Rez is probably the character I look back upon with the most fondness. He’s partially based on a friend of mine, so that’s probably when I see him with such affection; perhaps I don’t see him in a way a reader might because of this, but Ray Rez is still someone I really enjoy. His monologue about his time in Essum is perhaps self-indulgent – when I try to keep most of my writing pretty lean – but I just wanted to write more about him. I think I’ve depicted characters that are more clearly-defined and more compelling than Ray Rez, but I can imagine writing a whole book about him, just so I could spend more time writing his dialogue.

When you're not writing what would we find you doing?

If I’m not at the keyboard, I’m generally thinking through plot-points, trying to deepen characters and ways to express the experience of new scenes. I try to fit in some sleep and meals in-between....

I suffer from clinical depression, and have a lot of anxiety issues. As with any long-term illness, this takes up a portion of my time. But I try to see the good side of it, that when I return from any bouts of illness, I come back, hopefully, with a renewed vigour to write.

Whenever people ask about my hobbies, I often find it hard to answer. I think because writing – very happily – takes up so much of my life, I haven’t really spare time for other things. Perhaps it would be healthier if I did...

What is your favourite thing about being an author?

I think it’s getting to dream up situations, and then attempting to do them justice in words. One of the best experiences I find when writing is knowing how I want to show a situation in a scene, but not knowing how to convey it to the reader. During this process, I’m writing and re-writing and editing to try to do the scenario justice, and it’s such a thrill when I finally get it right, even if it takes weeks, or months, to get it up to a standard I’m happy with.

I also really enjoy coming up with dialogue. Sometimes I feel a bit like an improvising actor, playing out how it would feel for various people to be a certain situation through what they’ve experienced and where they now find themselves. It is truly exciting to inhabit characters, and finding the ways their particular motivations would lead them towards certain actions or speech.

I’ve also been really gratified to hear back from readers and reviewers. It’s been a great pleasure to hear people have enjoyed my writing in “Beetlebrow”, and I hope they will in my future works.

In Beetlebrow there is representation of some really important topics, POC, LGBTQ+ and hate crimes, what was the inspiration behind all this?

I’m always pleased to see diversity in public life and in media, but with novels I believe there is a certain lack of representation. Most of us grew up on the bedrock of Victorian literature, and so I think people get used to the world of books being expressed by and about straight, white men. The vast majority of writers who have been published are white, middle-class, university-educated men – as I am – and, under the fallacy of “write what you know”, I believe the wider community has been overlooked.

I wouldn’t want to write stories where representation of POC characters are just placed into the narrative to make a point, but growing up in London in the 80’s and 90’s, I was surrounded by people from all different nationalities and religions and sexualities and genders, and this is how I think things should be. One of the things I’m most proud about Britain is our diversity, and it’s something I’d like to celebrate in “The Beetlebrow Trilogy”, especially with current political situation both here and abroad.

However, while I do want to show POC characters in my narratives, I’m aware that I can’t have the mix of cultures that we have in this country. Diversity is always limited by travel, and today we’re used to being able to fly all over the world, and for families to move from the area where their ancestors were born to a place of very different peoples. But in the technological status of the world I’m depicting of “Beetlebrow”, people who live in a neighbourhood would very probably be of the same complexion. Therefore, with my desire to portray people of colour, I can’t realistically show them living side by side with a diverse population, as this would be anachronistic. So, the story does limit the representation I can show in “The Beetlebrow Trilogy”, but hopefully I’m making the best of it.

LGBTQ+ representation is something else which is very dear to me. Again, I wouldn’t like to have LGBTQ+ characters for their own sake, but only where the characters fit my narrative. Thereafter I try to faithfully depict how people of diverse sexualities and genders would fit into the societies I’ve created. Obviously, the main characters in “Beetlebrow” are in a lesbian relationship, but there are a few other LGBTQ+ characters in the narrative, a little more hidden perhaps. One of the aspects of the sequel I’m looking forward to writing most is a greater portrayal of the wonderfully wide spectrum of gender and sexuality.

Do you have a favourite author?

It’s Patrick White, an Australian author who won the Nobel Prize back in the 70’s. He’s sort of faded from prominence in recent years, but I see his books – particularly “Voss”, “The Vivisector” and “The Riders in the Chariot” – as being at the highest level of what a novelist can achieve. It’s to White I turned when I need inspiration; I keep my heavily-weathered copy of “The Vivisector” beside my desk as I write, so I can turn to his prose whenever I feel the need to re-set anytime I feel I’m heading down the wrong path.

If you could give your younger self any advice about your writing journey, what would it be?

I would’ve tried to stress the importance of reading what I’d written as if I were seeing it for the first time. A book is for the audience, and that’s something that took me a very long time to learn – to communicate what’s going on for the reader should be the primary object of any author. This lesson has been taught me this was my agent, editor and publisher James Essinger, who’s been invaluable as a writing coach. He’s taught me so much!

I know that you are currently writing the second book that follows Beetlebrow, can you tell us anything about it or maybe when it may be due out?

I’m a bit superstitious about sharing my work-in- progress! But I will say that there will be more about Pook’s character, showing her motivations and opinions more clearly than I did in “Beetlebrow”. It is part of Pook’s nature to be in the background, being somewhat shy in her actions where Beetlebrow desires only to push onwards, but I’m definitely going to try to place a sharper focus on her during the second book.
Overall, with this middle story in “The Beetlebrow Trilogy”, I’m hoping it’s going to be more in-depth and a little slower in showing the complications in Beetlebrow and Pook’s relationship as they remain in Dalcratty; I say hoping, because I’m never sure how anything’s going to turn out until it’s written.
I’ve also got another novel in the works, part of another cycle of books, which I’m hoping this will come out with the second Beetlebrow story sometime in 2017. This time-line might change however; when the releases come out depends on how fast my work goes. I try not to set deadlines for myself, as the creative process isn’t really in my control – like Beetlebrow and Pook, I’m just toiling away while events thunder on around me, and trying to grab hold of the reins.

If any of your readers are interested in “Beetlebrow”, I’m currently looking for reviewers for Amazon.co.uk, so if anyone would like a free paperback to review, feel free to contact me on twitter – @bjcparker – or email at benparkerauthor@gmail.com.

Thank you so much to Ben for joining me today and giving me such wonderful answers. I thoroughly enjoyed Beetlebrow and am eagerly awaiting the second book in the trilogy!


Beetlebrow

Beetlebrow, the first book in the ‘Beetlebrow Trilogy’, is an intricately plotted, emotional and intensely engaging story about two teenage girls, Beetlebrow and Pook, thrown together in a life or death adventure taking place in a sinister, hostile and threatening world. The two will need all their resourcefulness to succeed in a daunting quest: to deliver a cryptic, vital message to the distant eastern city of Dalcratty. 

The growing love Beetlebrow and Pook feel for each other brings them closer together as they confront challenge after challenge, not the least of which is an encounter with the citizens of Essum, whose morality and culture is founded upon interpreting a half-finished painting. 

After you read Beetlebrow, your life will never be quite the same.