Friday, 22 January 2021

Murder: It’s All in Your Head by Cynthia Hilston + #Excerpt

Murder: It’s All in Your Head by Cynthia Hilston

Published on the 28th November 2020.



Someone has been getting away with murder for over 100 years in the small town of Hurston, Ohio. But the wrong person has been convicted of those murders every time. In 2018, Cassie Meadows is on her way to school when a bright flash comes out of nowhere, and she wakes in millionaire Randy Davis’s body with blood on her hands…the blood of Randy’s wife, who lies in a pool of crimson in the bathtub with her throat slit. Meanwhile, an old man everyone calls Jimmy Williams raves that he’s the real Randy Davis as he lives out his days in a ward for the criminally insane. In 1914, young Helen Hawkins is unloved and repetitively abused by her father, who is also the town’s pastor. Her only escape is in her dreams, where she wakes in others’ bodies, living other lives, but when her dreams turn out to be reality, the tables are turned on her father. In a story where no one is who they seem, how can Cassie, the latest victim accused of a murder she didn’t commit, end the cycle?


Excerpt

Chapter 1
The Davis Estate - South Liberty, Ohio, May 2018
Cassie
Cassie pedaled her bike faster to school as thoughts of staying home alone on senior prom night plagued her. A flash of light blinded her. She shielded her eyes. Horns blared and tires squealed, and the whole bike shook to a stop.
When she opened her eyes, a wall of old books stared back. She rubbed her eyes and blinked rapidly, taking in her surroundings. Gone was the familiar tree-lined street with rows of 40-year-old ranches and split-levels. Sunlight filtered in through parted drapes. Unlike her house, where dust danced in light beams, this room sat still.
Her sweaty hands clenched into fists at her sides, her nails digging into her palms. A chill jolted up her spine and extended down her arms, freezing her in place. She gazed across the room. Marble pillars flanked an archway to another room across the vast library.
A faint noise came from another part of the building. Curiosity claimed her caution as she took a step. Realizing her fingers were wet, she glanced down and nearly fell over. Blood covered her large hands all the way to her thick fingertips!
She gasped. She reached for her throat. A sharp intake of breath.
“What?” she croaked in a foreign voice.
A dream. This must be a dream.
Her voice rang through her mind, but when she opened her mouth to speak again...
“This can’t be happening.”
Cassie’s hands grasped her throat, in a failed attempt to excise the vocal cords responsible for this new voice. When her fingers grazed whiskers, she raked them over the jaw
and cheeks.
“No. N-no.”
What the hell?
She closed her eyes and forced herself to take a long, slow breath.
Okay, okay. Calm down.
When her eyes opened yet again to this new reality, Cassie gave a shuddering gasp.
She felt like she was doused with ice water, the burn throbbing through her body. She tried to step again, but she wavered in this oversized body that wore like a linebacker’s uniform. The
large feet lumbered with a clumsiness contrary to her agile body. For a girl who had taken gymnastics since she could walk, the dragging, teetering movement of this form almost stopped
her efforts. But she willed herself to move. One step at a time.
Just do the best you can.
Her dad’s words echoed through her mind.
Her steps were short-lived as her dad’s advice died. She halted. A trail of red on the spotless marble floor led to an archway. Her nerves fired in overtime, and her head spun. She followed the path and exited the elaborate room into a hallway.
The sound was louder now.
The unmistakable sound of running water.
“What’s going on?” Cassie whispered. She tried to ignore the voice. Really tried.
Something moved out of the corner of her eye. She turned her head to the right and landed on her reflection, only it wasn’t her face.
A tall man of about thirty stared back. She ran her hands through the trim brown beard that contoured the strong jawline, confirming what she felt earlier. Liquid brown eyes under thick, wavy hair and a deep brow held confusion, panic. A sleek black business suit covered her well-built frame — fit for an executive who dined on caviar and champagne and rode in chauffeured limos. But against the black of her suit the blood extended, weaving an unknown horror story.
She shook her head. “This is impossible.” Yet the voice told a different story.
Her body trembled, and her whole being felt different. Her eyes fell on a picture frame below the mirror. Her fingers fumbled to pick it up. A younger version of the man in the mirror gazed out of the photo. He smiled, his face next to a gorgeous auburn-haired woman. The woman’s hazel eyes crinkled around the edges, her freckles standing out against her fair skin in the sunshine. It was a happy couple’s wedding photo.
Cassie returned the picture to its place, the frame now coated in blood. A drop of crimson marked the floor every few inches. This body must have come from the opposite direction through the house, for how else could she explain the blood everywhere? She rested a hand on the railing at the base of the stairway and gazed up the twisting steps. The running water came from upstairs. She took the first step and steadied herself. Something drew her
toward the source of that sound.
She reached the landing and glanced behind her. Her mark was on the railing, another path of blood. The tell-tale trail continued, decorating the floor in a macabre design, as she went down the hallway toward the sound. Her knees wobbled as a dizzy spell overtook her. She steadied herself with a hand to the wall and blanched at the red print she left.
Call the cops.
I don’t know what the hell’s going on.
She pushed herself from the wall and arrived at the bathroom. Water leaked under the door.
The knob slid under her slick hand. She used the end of her sleeve to grip it and pushed the door open enough to peek inside. Pink water flooded the marble floor. Her gaze traveled to the bathtub. Water spilled over the tub’s edge. A woman lay sprawled in the tub, her vacant eyes staring at the ceiling, her mouth open in a scream. Her head lay at an odd angle, her neck nearly cut in two. Blood ran from the gaping gash into the water.
Cassie tried to scream, but her stomach tightened. Bile rose and she vomited into the pooling water and blood. She slammed the door and collapsed against the outside, pulling her knees to her chest. Water soaked her pants, making the fabric stick to her clammy skin. The tall frame of the man’s body convulsed with the sobs of a teenage girl as she cried into her hands.
Hands that weren’t hers.
“I want my mom.”
She couldn’t get the dead woman’s face out of her mind. As the scene replayed through her head, she realized where she’d seen the woman before.
In the photo.
She had been this man’s wife.


Meet the author   

Cynthia Hilston is a stay-at-home mom of three young kids, happily married, and lives in the Cleveland, Ohio, area. Writing has always been like another child to her. After twenty years of waltzing in the world of fan fiction, she stepped away to do her debut dance with original works of fiction. 
In her spare time - what spare time? - she devours books, watches Supernatural and Outlander,
pets her orange kitty, looks at the stars, drinks wine or coffee with good friends, and dreams of what other stories she wishes to tell.

Author links: 

WebsiteFacebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Goodreads




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Thursday, 21 January 2021

The Memory Man by Helen Smith


The Memory Man by Helen Smith
Published by Tyger Books Quick Reads in November 2014.

How I got this book:
Took advantage of an Amazon free download promotion

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The Memory Man is an intriguing new short story from bestselling British author Helen Smith. Two women become friends in an abandoned post-apocalyptic building. A psychic makes contact with a lost soul. His apprentice tries to find news of a man he has lost touch with. Fragments of memories are traded and twisted. Friendship provides comfort, but the recovery of memories brings torment rather than reassurance - until truth becomes secondary to survival.

This review was first blogged on Stephanie Jane in March 2016.

I enjoyed my previous Helen Smith short story, an Emily Castles mystery entitled Three Sisters, so was delighted to get the opportunity to download another via Smith's e-mail newsletter.

The Memory Man is very different to Three Sisters although it does of course share Smith's fabulously descriptive turns of phrase. We find ourselves in a disused canteen with two women and a dead body. The women don't remember anything about themselves or each other and, as readers, we have no idea of their backstories either. I thought The Memory Man had a wonderfully chilling atmosphere and I am still not exactly sure I worked out what was going on. (I have a theory, but don't want to spoil the mystery for you!) I was reminded of the feel of TV series such as Psychoville and think people who appreciated that style of storytelling would also like Smith's story. I did think that the ending was left too open to be completely satisfying, but I would definitely like to read more of Smith's work.


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Wednesday, 20 January 2021

It Will Be Quick by Karl Drinkwater

It Will Be Quick by Karl Drinkwater

Published by Organic Apocalypse on the 1st November 2020.

A Book with Vegetarian Characters and included in my Vegan Bookshop.

How I got this book: Received a review copy via Rachel's Random Resources

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amazon UK / Amazon.com

Kark DrinkwaterThe Book Depository

Waterstones / Books2Read

A single decision can save – or ruin – a life.

An opportunistic baby theft by a young woman in pain. Two strangers shipwrecked on a lifeless rock, unable to speak the same language. An isolated cycling holiday descends into terror. One woman seeks the courage to destroy her life. A miracle unites a community, and teenagers take a stand against hypocrisy.

Karl Drinkwater presents characters to root for – and characters to dread – in sixteen tales of humanity, endurance, and spirit.



Over the past year Karl Drinkwater has become one of my favourite authors as I love his science fiction Lost Solace series, so I was keen to read It Will Be Quick - my first opportunity to discover his short stories. This collection contains a generous sixteen tales which range across genres and encompass a variety of characters and situations. I loved that most are driven by their central character's need to make a choice, with the aftermath of that decisive moment often being very different to how the character envisioned it.

It's rare I give a full five stars to short story books because I generally find them a bit hit and miss. In the case of It Will Be Quick though, I am struggling to find a single story that doesn't feel like a favourite! Each tale has such a strong sense of its own place and atmosphere that, in reading back over the titles to prepare for this review, I was immediately prompted to recollect image flashes and to remember how I felt as I read them. The Potential is such a sad tale and all too true, while Balance is a great piece of misdirection. The title story, It Will Be Quick, was so vivid that I'm glad I've never experienced pregnancy myself, and I frequently found myself holding my breath in Below The Surface. SenSor OS humorously reflected my own frustrations in similar situations, and Miasma, the shortest story I think, is eye-openingly brilliant. I appreciated the brief notes at the end of this book too. It's always interesting to see behind the scenes.

I would just like to finish by thanking Kayla, one of the main characters in the story How I Wonder What You Are for her Twinkle Twinkle Little Star cycling advice. It really does work!

Meet the author   

Karl Drinkwater writes thrilling SF, suspenseful horror, and contemporary literary fiction. Whichever you pick you’ll find interesting and authentic characters, clever and compelling plots, and believable worlds.
Karl has lived in many places but now calls Scotland his home. He’s an ex-librarian with degrees in English, Classics, and Information Science. He also studied astrophysics for a year at university, surprising himself by winning a prize for “Outstanding Performance”. Karl is an active member of the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA), the Horror Writers Association (HWA), and the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi).
When he isn’t writing he loves guitars, exercise, computer and board games, nature, and vegan cake. Not necessarily in that order.

Author links: 




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Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Pedro's Theory: Reimagining the Promised Land by Marcos Gonsalez


Pedro's Theory: Reimagining the Promised Land by Marcos Gonsalez
Published by Melville House on the 12th January 2021.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


One Pedro goes to a school where they take away his language. Another disappears in the desert, leaving behind only a backpack. A cousin Pedro comes to visit, awakening feelings that others are afraid to make plain. A rumored Pedro goes missing so completely it's as if he were never there. 

In Pedro's Theory Marcos Gonsalez explores the lives of these many Pedros, real and imagined. Several are the author himself, while others are strangers, lovers, archetypes, and the men he might have been in other circumstances. All are journeying to some sort of Promised Land, or hoping to discover an America of their own. 

With sparkling prose and cutting insights, this brilliant literary debut closes the gap between who the world sees in us and who we see in ourselves. Deeply personal yet inspiringly political, it also brings to life those selves that never get the chance to be seen at all.

When I first requested a review copy of Pedro's Theory I thought it was a work of fiction whereas actually this amazing book is a blend of imagination and memoir, sociology and history, literary criticism and political insight. It is intense and complex and far from an easy read, but I found it to be utterly compelling from start to finish. Marcos Gonsalez draws together disparate themes and threads, demonstrating how systemic racism and white-centered institutions in America have consistently battered his sense of self throughout his life. However Gonsalez doesn't simply recount his own personal experience, but looks out across the Americas and back through history in support of the valuable points he drives home. I loved his clarity of writing which allowed me to consolidate thoughts I've gleaned from several other books I've read over the past few years: Conquistadores by Fernando Cervantes and Ruby Hamad's White Tears/Brown Scars, for example, show how the systematic suppression of indigenous language and culture by white European immigrants is neither a recent nor a peculiarly American phenomenon.

I appreciated how Gonsalez includes discussions of other literature to explain the points he wants to make. He is a literature professor so some of these sections were so scholarly as to really stretch my comprehension, however having already read some, such as Passing by Nella Larsen, allowed me a deeper understanding of their chapters, and I now also have a jotted list of further books to seek out and read. What I feel will be most memorable about Pedro's Theory for me is the wonderfully effective device of naming each of the men, whose lives we view, Pedro. This dismissive moniker when spoken by whites is turned on its head as each formerly interchangeable Pedro reclaims his own right to space and life. I am grateful to have had this opportunity to read this brilliant work and admire Gonsalez' dedication and bravery in putting his life out there for people like me to read. I highly recommend Pedro's Theory as a challenging and rewarding study.


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Monday, 18 January 2021

The Scent of Leaves by Kathryn Trattner + #Giveaway + #Excerpt

The Scent of Leaves
Kathryn Trattner
Publication date: January 15th 2021
Genres: Adult, Fairy Tales, Retelling

Janet has always dreamed about leaving her small town behind and starting over somewhere fresh. The only thing keeping her going is a photography obsession and her film camera. For her, life is a series of late nights spent working at a local gas station and days earning a final college credit before graduation. But she’s been putting it off for so long she’s starting to feel like it might not happen.

One night Tom appears, charming and handsome, and going out of his way to get to know her. Suddenly he’s everywhere in her small town, appearing and disappearing at odd moments, creeping in on her days and nights. As they spend time together, Janet falling more under his spell each day, she begins to realize that reality is different around Tom. Small things begin to happen, odd occurrences turning into strange events, as Janet is pulled deeper into the mystery surrounding him.

In this modern retelling of the classic Ballad of Tam Lin the world is brought into sharp focus through the lens of a camera. The line between what is and is not real blurs, nature stealing in around the edges, and Janet comes to understand that there is more at stake than just a broken heart.

Goodreads / Amazon.com / Amazon UK

EXCERPT:

Another night came and went, smelling like coffee and glass cleaner as she turned the convenience store over to Gary in early morning. The sun had yet to come up, a thin yellow line growing on the horizon, diffusing, and she eyed it as she walked toward her car, wondering what kind of day it would turn out to be.

“Where will you go now?”

She jumped, turning to see Tom leaning against the building.

“How long have you been here?”

“A minute or two. Ryan dropped me off. I was just behind Gary but didn’t want to come in and give you away. I was worried he’d tell your boss you have company every night.”

“Not every night,” she said, shrugging.

“Close enough.” Tom stepped forward, shoving his hands into the front pockets of his jeans, shoulders coming forward. “Where will you go?”

“Home.”

He smiled, “Would you like to do something besides go home?”

She could not help it, she smiled too, a creeping delight curling her toes. “Like what?”

“You drive. I’ll navigate.” He moved to the passenger side of her car, hand on the door, waiting for her.

Janet unlocked the car and got in, aware of him sliding in beside her, taking up more air and space than the little car had to spare. She turned it on and rolled down the windows, shooting him a look before backing out of the space. At the edge of the lot, where the street met the gas station, and all roads led away, she paused, waiting for the first direction.

“Left.”

She put the blinker on and turned.

Tom half turned to her, already smiling. “So, tell me what you want to be when you grow up.”

“What?” She laughed, glancing at him and away. The town rolled by, flat background to his intense stare.

“What’re you going to school for? I don’t think you’ve told me.”

“Graphic design.”

“And photography is part of that?”

“It can be but mostly I just stumbled into it.”

“And you love it?”

She smiled. “Yeah, I do.”

“So what’s your end goal then? In a year where do you want to be?”

“Not here.” The answer came out so fast, she hadn’t thought about it, just opened her mouth and there it was, hard and solid truth.

“This place isn’t so bad,” he said.

“You didn’t grow up here.”

“I think I would have liked it if I had.”

“You say that.”

“No really, I think it would have been nice.”

“Everyone here is still talking about how my mom left. It’s been twenty years and they’re still asking if I miss her. They still ask my dad if he’s heard from her. It’s like it happened yesterday for them, still gossiping about it. They don’t have anything better to do. To be fair though they’re also still talking about the one year the pickles exploded at the state fair.”

“She left?”

“Yep, when I was one.”

“I’m sorry.”

He sounded like he meant it, but she did not look at him, not wanting to see pity in his eyes. She stopped at a four-way intersection, looking each direction. “Which way?”

“Left,” he said without hesitation. He did not tell her where they were going. The sun touched her rear-view mirror, throwing light in her eyes, filling the car with reflections. The seen and unseen, the shadows and light dancing over their faces, hiding expressions and masking fears.

After a pause she asked, “What about you?”

“Me?”

“Yeah, in a year where do you want to be?”

“Somewhere with a stage.”

She laughed, “Yeah?”

He nodded. “I grew up in a big town with plays and movies rolling around in my head. I was in all the school plays and a few after high school in local venues. I did performance art in college.”

“You’ve graduated?” she asked.

“No. I’ve got a semester left.”

“Why’d you leave when you were almost finished?” She darted a look at him, watching his face shut down and close up, light shifting over his features.

“I had an offer I couldn’t refuse. It was too good.”

“But it wasn’t?”

He shook his head, turning to look out his window, silence growing between them like lichen, slow and spreading. She drove in it, skin prickling, head buzzing. The sun, though rising, seemed suspended above the horizon and they had crossed the town limits a few miles back. He had chosen farm fields and grassy valleys, open areas, instead of the dark closeness of the trees, the Nantahala National Forest in the other direction. Janet was not sure what else was out here, besides fields and woods, and eventually the next town.

“Here!” Tom shouted, pointing to the right.

“Where?” Janet looked around, fields and low hills rolling past, a few trees but mostly knee-high grass and rocks. But she caught sight of a narrow track leading away from the road, overgrown and faded.

“That dirt track there.”

“I don’t think I’m going to be able to get my car down that.”

The track was more of a path, overgrown and rutted, twisting out of sight.

“You can park on the verge and we’ll walk.”

She pulled over, checking the mirrors for traffic, the engine ticking as she rolled the car windows back up. The road belonged to them, the countryside full of bird song and morning light. She wished she had brought her camera last night, so she would have it now, so she would be able to capture the physical warmth shimmering and thrown up by the dewy grass. She held her breath for an instant, pulling it all inside, keeping it tight against her heart.

He looked at her, understanding, and the smile he gave her was swift but sweet.

“Come on.”

He swung out of the car and she followed, smoothing her shirt as she got out. She felt tired and greasy, the scent of stale coffee on her skin. In the already hot morning, sweat prickled along her hairline. She wished she had known he would be waiting, that she had worn a less faded work shirt and not the baggy jeans she reserved for days she did not care.

But he had not shown up the night before and she had wondered if she would see him again. Or if he would be gone just as suddenly as he had arrived, and realizing that, knowing it, made her realize she was hoping he would show up.

He took her hand as they left the paved road behind, twining their fingers together, pulling her toward the track with long sure strides.

“I come here a lot,” he said, looking down at her. “It’s quiet. I don’t get a lot of alone time generally.”

“No?”

She realized she did not know very much about him. As much as they had talked and he had talked, there was not much about his current situation that he shared. But she felt like she knew parts of him, accepting his presence beside her, wanting him with her.

A shake of his head, lips twisting into ruefulness.

They came around the curve, around the hill, and Janet stopped.

“I didn’t know this was here.”

Shielded from the road a clear pond sparkled in the hollow between hills. Water lilies floated on the surface, dark green leaves and brilliant white blooms. The grass was greener, the blue morning sky above the pond clearer.

“It’s spring fed. You can see where it bubbles up from the rocks in the deeper parts.”

“How did you find it?”

“Someone showed me. I had the same reaction you did. My mouth fell open and I just stood there.”

“It’s beautiful.”

“So are you.”

He smiled, pleasure pouring from him, washing over her. In that moment she would have jumped off a bridge with him. And with that feeling deep down inside she knew she would have flown.

Then he pulled her, jogging for the water, without pausing. She let herself go, following, until they ran into the pond, fully clothed, shoes and all, between waving blossoms and rippling lily pads. Janet laughed, throwing back her head, the sound of it bouncing back. It was cold and water up past her knees, chasing away the sweat from the hot morning. The sun felt different in the little hollow, like liquid gold, soft against her skin.

He kissed her, quick like a habit she never wanted him to break, the pressure of his mouth there and gone. He took her laugh with him, releasing it with his own, leaving her breathless and aware of their bodies, so close, and the quiet of the hollow around them.

“I think this place is magic,” she said.

“It must be. Give me your hands.”

She did and he held her at arm’s length, their arms stretched taut. “At the count of three fall back.”

“We’ll get soaked.”

“We’re already soaked,” he laughed, squeezing her hands tight. “Ready?”

She shook her head no but said, “Ready.”

“One, two–”

He fell back, away from her, his smiling face falling. She let herself go, surrendering to gravity, feeling weight and then water rushing in, filling ears and nose. The bottom of the pond was sandy beneath her hands, a little rocky, and not at all slimy like other ponds she had jumped into as a kid. She squeezed her eyes tight, holding her breath, floundering up. She wiped water from her eyes, pushed hair out of her face. She gasped and laughed.

Opening her eyes, expecting Tom and not seeing him, she turned, sloshing, searching her surroundings. The water rippled, like a stone had been tossed in, like a grown man had cannon balled into it. She waited, expecting him to pop up, gasping for air, slicking his hair back. Birds trilled, making her realize how quiet the hollow had been since they had first stepped into it. The water continued to ripple and move.

“Tom?”

She turned, scanning, brows coming together. The birdsong grew louder, grating, filling her head like a buzz saw. She sloshed forward, hands in the water, moving as if she could part it, feeling for Tom. It was so clear she could see the sandy bottom, the rocks, the water lilies.

The pond was empty.


Author Bio:

Kathryn Trattner has loved fairy tales, folk stories, and mythology all of her life. Her hands down favorites have always been East of the Sun, West of the Moon and the story of Persephone and Hades. When not writing or reading she's traveling as much as possible and taking thousands of photos that probably won't get edited later. She lives in Oklahoma with her wonderful partner, two very busy children, one of the friendliest dogs ever, and an extremely grumpy cat who doesn't like anyone at all.

Want to hear about the latest release? Sign up for my newsletter Magical Mundane Madness at kathryn.substack.com

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Sunday, 17 January 2021

The Game by Jack London + #FreeBook


The Game by Jack London
Published by Macmillan in June 1905.

How I got this book:
Downloaded as the ForgottenBooks free book of the day

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


On the eve of their wedding, twenty-year-old Jack Fleming arranges a secret ringside seat for his sweetheart to view her only rival: the 'game'. Through Genevieve's apprehensive eyes, we watch the prizefight that pits her fair young lover, 'the Pride of West Oakland', against the savage and brutish John Ponta and that reveals as much about her own nature, and Joe's, as it does about the force that drives the two men in their violent, fateful encounter. Responding to a review that took him to task for his realism, Jack London wrote, 'I have had these experiences and it was out of these experiences, plus a fairly intimate knowledge of prize-fighting in general, that I wrote "The Game"'.
With this intimate realism, London took boxing out of the realm of disreputable topics and set it on a respectable literary course that extends from A. J. Liebling to Ernest Hemingway to Joyce Carol Oates. The familiarity of London's boxing writing testifies to its profound influence on later literary commentators on the sport, while the story "The Game" tells remains one of the most powerful and evocative portraits ever given of prizefighters in the grip of their passion.

The Game is a short story in two halves, the first of which shows us a young couple on the day before their wedding, picking out carpets for their new home together, and the second half describes a boxing match in pretty vicious detail. The story itself is only about 40 pages, but padded out in the edition I read with lots of line drawn illustrations so the whole book is double the length it needs to be. I don't mind illustrated works, but this felt overdone. London doesn't help the sense of the book being strung out with his frequently repetitive prose either! 

I remember being impressed with London's writing about a decade ago when I went through a phase of listening to lots of his short stories. The Game wasn't one of them then which was why I picked it up now, but I'm wondering if my reading observations have changed a lot over those years or if this is just a weak story. The lead characters, Joe and Genevieve, are more caricature than authentic-feeling people and I was shocked at the blatancy of London's racism. Genevieve lives with an older Jewish couple whose speech is written entirely phonetically with, at one point, a long argument recounted purely to point fun at them for their use of English language. London also really labours the cleanliness and whiteness of his young paramours as positive traits to which readers should aspire, before contrasting their appearance with Joe's opponent in the boxing ring, John, a swarthy man who he frequently describes as an animal. 

The underlying narrative is an interesting story and I did like London's evocations of a certain time and place. The dingy boxing club is memorably portrayed and I even enjoyed watching the fight through Genevieve's eyes which surprised me as I don't watch the sport in real life. However, overall, The Game left me with a rather sour opinion of London now so I don't know if I would attempt reading his work again.

 

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Saturday, 16 January 2021

Truckin' Up by Donna Carver


Truckin' Up by Donna Carver
Published by  Four Pawns Publishing in March 2014.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the author

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


For most of my life I gave little thought to big trucks and truck drivers except for the intimidation I would feel when those big rigs with their loud engines passed me on the road. I had some preconceived notion that all truck drivers were rough, tough cowboy types behind the wheel of a big truck, wearing blue jeans and boots, their shirt sleeves rolled up. It never occurred to me when I went to the store to buy my groceries, clothes or anything else that those things were all brought by truck. Some products are transferred from one truck to another several times over thousands of miles to get to their destination. I married a truck driver about nine years ago, and when I started riding with him he showed me a different side of this country, the side seen from behind the wheel of an eighteen-wheeled semi-tractor truck. 

This review was first blogged on Stephanie Jane in March 2016.
It seems like ages since I have listened to an audiobook so I was happy when Donna Carver got in touch via Twitter to ask if I would be interested in a copy of her memoir, Truckin' Up. She kindly gifted me a copy through Audible.com which took a little help from Customer Services to transfer to my .co.uk account.

Donna's husband is an American lorry (truck) driver and, finding herself at a loose end, she decided to accompany him on his journeys across the country. A Florida native herself, this gave her the opportunity to see far more of her country as well as learning about life on the road. Truckin Up is the resultant memoir - a collection of impressions and anecdotes. Donna expresses her amazement at some drivers' behaviours, empathises with the difficulties truck drivers face, and translates many of the odd words and phrases they use when communicating over CB radios.

Abrupt changes in sound quality were very distracting during the first chapter, but this does mostly settle down as the book progresses. I enjoyed hearing her thoughts about her nomadic life and the CB slang is quite entertaining. The memoir is pretty short though and a significant part of the time is made up with glossaries - an extensive CB slang dictionary and list of police radio codes - that may work well in print, but went on for too long in the audio version. On the whole, Truckin' Up is an interesting glimpse into a mostly unpublicised world.


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Books by Donna Carver / Biography and memoir / Books from America