Monday, 30 September 2019

Writing Fiction: a user-friendly guide by James Essinger


Writing Fiction: a user-friendly guide by James Essinger
Published by The Conrad Press on the 1st August 2019.


Add Writing Fiction to your Goodreads

‘Writing Fiction is a little pot of gold… Screenplay by Syd Field for film, Writing Fiction by James Essinger for fiction. It’s that simple.’
William Osborne, novelist and screenwriter

Writing Fiction – a user-friendly guide is a must-read if you want to write stories to a professional standard. 
It draws on the author’s more than thirty years of experience as a professional writer, and on the work and ideas of writers including:
Anthony Burgess
Joseph Conrad
George Eliot
Ken Follett
Frederick Forsyth
Dan Harmon
Ernest Hemingway
David Lodge
Norman Mailer
John Milton
Ben Parker
J.K. Rowling
William Shakespeare
Martin Cruz Smith
J.R.R. Tolkien

The twenty-four chapters cover every important matter you need to know about, including: devising a compelling story, creating and developing characters, plotting, ‘plants’, backstory, suspense, dialogue, ‘show’ and ‘tell’, and how to make your novel more real than reality.
Also featuring special guest advice from legendary screenwriter Bob Gale, who wrote the three immortal Back to the Future movies (1985, 1989 and 1990), and novelist and screenwriter William Osborne, whose many screen credits include the co-writing of the blockbuster  Twins (1988), this highly entertaining book gives you all the advice and practical guidance you need to make your dream of becoming a published fiction writer come true.


Meet the author

James Essinger has been a professional writer since 1988. His non-fiction books include Jacquard’s Web (2004), Ada’s Algorithm (2013), which is to be filmed by Monumental Pictures, and Charles and Ada: the computer’s most passionate partnership (2019). His novels include The Mating Game (2016) and The Ada Lovelace Project (2019).

Author links: 
Facebook ~ Twitter



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by Candelabra Crafts in
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Sunday, 29 September 2019

Becoming Mama by Yvrose Telfort Ismael


Becoming Mama: How I Found Hope in Haiti's Rubble by Yvrose Telfort Ismael, with Craig Borlase
To be published by Harvest House Publishers on the 1st October 2019.

One of my 2019 New Release Challenge reads

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


When Yvrose fled her native Haiti for the United States, she couldn’t imagine she’d return. After suffering multiple miscarriages, she struggled to build a new life. In a desperate moment, she finally met Jesus—uttering her first “yes” to God. That one yes became many when she couldn’t forget the faces of the children she saw in a recurring dream. Finally, a trip to Haiti brought her dream to life when she became Mama to the many children left with no home after a catastrophic earthquake devastated the nation. Becoming Mama tells the incredible story of one woman who had the courage to lay everything aside in answer to God’s call.

You will be encouraged by God’s overwhelming faithfulness to Yvrose’s every yes to God, and learn you don’t have to sell everything or travel to far-off places to make a difference. All you need is an open heart ready to say yes to His call.


Becoming Mama is the inspirational memoir of a Haitian woman, Yvrose Ismael, who gave up her prosperous life in America in order to undertake a new role as a mother figure to dozens of underprivileged children in her native country. At the time of choosing this book from NetGalley I was intrigued by the idea of an American immigrant choosing to leave again as the majority of immigration memoirs I have read tended to focus on settling in America as an end goal. (In fact the only other similarly directional one I can recall is Unexpected America by Wanjiru Warama.)

Ismael begins her memoir in the midst of the massive January 2010 earthquake which wrecked much of Haiti. It's a terrifying event as seen through her words and the reality of actually having being there is beyond my imagination. To then not take such a disaster as one's cue to flee back to the relative safety of her American life seemed to me to be incredibly brave! Instead Ismael relies on her Christian faith to pick herself up, help as many other people as she can, and look to the future. I found her absolute belief in her religion quite difficult to comprehend because it is very different to the half-hearted Christianity of my childhood which never really took hold. Ismael talks openly about traumas in her teenage years and twenties which led her to follow a number of self-destructive paths before finding God and totally changing her life. Her stark honesty really drove home to me how much of a personal journey this woman has made.

Becoming Mama shows just how much of a positive difference one person can make to many lives if they really put their mind to it. Ismael  has perhaps gone to further extremes than most of us would like when it comes to renouncing personal belonging, but I think her self-reliance and openness to opportunity are a wonderful example. Ismael does pepper almost every sentence with her Christian faith, but I never felt that I was being hectored to join that. Instead I have come away from reading Becoming Mama with an immense respect for Ismael and her work. So much so that I would put this book forward as a We Need New Stories recommendation.


Etsy Find!
by Shop Haiti in
Massachusetts, USA

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Saturday, 28 September 2019

The Case Of The Demented Spiv by George Bellairs


The Case Of The Demented Spiv (The Inspector Littlejohn Mysteries Book 13) by George Bellairs
First published in the UK in 1949. Republished by Ipso Books in 2016.

One of my Classics Club reads and my 1940s book for my 2019-20 Decade Challenge

How I got this book:
Received a copy for signing up to the Crime Classics Review Club

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A mad man’s outburst about a body in a mill calls Inspector Littlejohn of Scotland Yard to a sleepy English village. 

It’s a rainy, uneventful evening in the Oddfellows’ Arms until a man bursts into the pub, clearly unstable, and ranting about a body in Fennings’ Mill.

The police investigate and stumble upon a body — the face smeared with theatrical make-up and a false moustache pasted neatly over the lip. Once the national news descends, Inspector Faddiman calls in Inspector Littlejohn to help him uncover the dark, hidden secrets in this quiet, provincial town. Soon it becomes clear that a lot of people can’t, and won’t tell the truth…

About Inspector Littlejohn 
Inspector Thomas Littlejohn of Scotland Yard is a shrewd yet courteous sleuth who splits his time between quaint English villages, the scenic Isle of Man and French Provinces. With a sharp tongue and a dry sense of humour, Littlejohn approaches his work with poise and confidence, shifting through red-herrings and solving even the most perplexing of cases.


My second Inspector Littlejohn novel after A Knife For Harry Dodd and folks who only read series in the right order should probably glance away now because A Knife was book 20 and this is book 13. Fortunately my scattergun approach to reading them doesn't seem to matter because we hardly see anything of the recurring characters personal lives so there's no overarching storyline to spoil and each novel has been an entirely self contained story.

I loved this mill town mystery with its class clashes and neighbours twitching their net curtains at every opportunity. The Case Of The Demented Spiv gives us a convincing portrait of post-war England with rationing still in evidence and most people living pretty austere lives. Of course, the time period does bring a few problems with examples of dated attitudes. I was surprised by how modern Bellairs' portrayal of his female characters is - one is even a dab with a sword! But the mental health representation isn't ideal - you might already have guessed that from the title - and I found examples of casual antisemitism to be offensive. The eponymous Spiv of the early chapters morphs into The Jew later on for no reason I could see other than its derogatory implications.

If you can look past those issues though, I would recommend The Case Of The Demented Spiv as a good period piece. The mystery itself is wonderfully intricate with a good mix of red herrings and genuine clues. The varied cast of characters are great fun and the opening scene in the Oddfellows Arms pub is perfect. If you've never visited a traditional English pub, this is what you're missing! I'm looking forward to reading more Inspector Littlejohn mysteries in due course. I know I've got at least six more to catch up to Harry Dodd and hope they will all be as satisfying as The Demented Spiv.


Etsy Find!
by James Heimer in
Pennsylvania, USA

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Friday, 27 September 2019

Past This Point by Nicole Mabry + #Giveaway + Excerpt


Past This Point by Nicole Mabry
Published in America by Red Adept Publishing on the 3rd September 2019.


Add Past This Point to your Goodreads

Karis Hylen has been through the New York City dating wringer. After years of failed relationships, she abandons her social life and whittles her days down to work and spending time with her dog, Zeke. Her self-imposed exile ends up saving her life when an untreatable virus sweeps the east coast, killing millions. Alone in her apartment building, Karis survives with only Zeke, phone calls to her mom, and conversations with two young girls living across the courtyard.

With the city in a state of martial law, violence and the smell of rotting corpses surround her every day. But her biggest enemy is her own mind. As cabin fever sets in, vivid hallucinations make her question her sanity. In addition to her dwindling food and water stash, Karis must now struggle to keep her mind in check. When a mysterious man enters the scene, she hopes she can convince him to help her make it to the quarantine border. With the world crumbling around her, Karis discovers her inner strength but may find that she needs people after all.




Excerpt

“Loneliness was a different kind of claustrophobia. Knowing there were people on the other side of my walls going about their business had made it much more bearable, as though only my world had stopped. But it had started suffocating me, closing in more every day. I missed the intrusive hum of traffic, voices from the street below, and even my vibrating building, which no longer shook because the trucks had all gone. Those signs of life that I had often cursed for invading my seclusion had grounded me and kept me sane. Without them, I found myself getting stuck on irrelevant conversations I’d had with friends, with co-workers, or with Jack, my mind spinning around them until I had to shake my head and return to the present. I did a lot of sighing as I tried to fill my space with fictitious companions.”



Meet the Author 


Nicole Mabry spends her days at NBCUniversal as the Senior Manager of Photography Post Production. Her nights are reserved for writing novels. At the age of seven, she read The Boxcar Children, sparking a passion for reading and writing early on. Nicole grew up in the Bay Area in Northern California and went to college at UCLA for Art History. During a vacation, she fell in love with New York City and has lived in Queens for the past sixteen years. On weekends you can find her with a camera in hand and her dog, Jackson, by her side. Nicole is an animal lover and horror movie junkie.

Author links:

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

The prizes is a $25 Amazon gift card + an ebook copy of Past This Point by Nicole Mabry.
Open internationally until the 3rd October.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



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Thursday, 26 September 2019

Protecting Yourself From Emotional Predators by Steven J Wolhandler + #Giveaway


Protecting Yourself From Emotional Predators by Steven J Wolhandler
Category:  Adult Non-Fiction
Genre:  psychology, self-help, relationships, divorce
Publisher:  Amare Press
Release date:   January 2019



Steven Wolhandler, JD, MA, LPC knows how abusive and manipulative people prey on the emotions of good people - and how good people can protect themselves. He offers a radically different view of these Emotional Predators and provides practical effective solutions. For Emotional Predators, life is a strategy game to dominate and control, and you are either a player to be defeated or a game piece to be used. Without empathy or remorse, they’ll ruin your life, and traditional approaches will make things worse. You’ll learn 5 essential steps for protecting yourself, valuable guidance for safe relationships and over 30 specific defensive tactics for:

Distinguishing romance from intimacy
Restoring your self-esteem
Removing your emotional triggers
Using gratitude and humor
Playing their games better than they do - without becoming like them
Screening professionals to be sure they can help
Regaining control in family court
Breaking an addiction to an Emotional Predator
Re-balancing power in your favor
Adjusting beliefs that keep you trapped
Responding strategically, instead of reacting emotionally




Guest Post for Literary Flits, by Steven Wolhandler

Distinguishing Romance from Mature Loving
Emotional Predators make powerful use of our romantic desires when they seduce and hypnotize us.  Most people I know want to feel cherished, valued and loved.  Much of our economy is driven by selling romantic hopes for getting these things.  When she is laying a trap for you, an Emotional Predator will appear to completely adore you, to deeply share your world, to give you shelter from the storm and to be everything you’ve always dreamed of.  Once you’re hooked and committed, your dream person will become your worst nightmare.  This is a good reason to distinguish romantic love from mature loving.
Emotional Predators see the world and other people as either with them or against them.  They’ll idealize you as “all good,” which can be almost unimaginably seductive; who doesn’t want to be seen as perfect by someone else?  But without warning, they’ll flip you from “all good” to “all bad.”  An Emotional Predator will seduce you with messages about how great you are, which hooks into your romantic fantasies, only to attack you when they don’t get everything they want from you at the moment they want it.  After the romance has you hooked, they end the honeymoon, blaming you for almost anything.  Flipping you from “all good” to “all bad” is a form of what psychoanalysis calls “splitting.” 
Despite the relentless advertising and marketing messages of our mercantile culture, romantic love can be very dangerous.  Some years ago, a therapy group I ran called me the “romance dream killer” because of my concern about the dangers of romance.  It’s said that “love is blind” for good reason.  Emotional Predators prey on the blindness of others, particularly the blindness induced by romantic love.  To protect yourself, you need clear vision, not blindness.
The dangers of romantic love become clear when we understand that the romantic experience of “falling in love” is a form of blinding ourselves in order to try to master painful experiences from childhood.  I call this the mastery theory of romantic love.  As I describe in my book, Emotional Predators tune into your unmet needs from childhood that you seek to fulfill in adult relationships, and they hook you with a facade that they’ll deliver those things.  So it’s important to understand the mastery theory of romantic love to recognize what you unconsciously seek when you fall in love.
The mastery theory of romantic love holds that there are no perfect childhoods.  Everyone I know had some negative experiences with parent figures in childhood.  The common element in all of these negative childhood experiences was that, because we were children, we had no power to change them.  The mastery theory of romantic love says that, as adults we unconsciously seek out relationships that will re-create some aspect of those negative experiences.  This sounds pretty dismal, but the mastery theory also says we do this not to relive those negative experiences over and over, but to overcome them - to gain mastery over them.  Trying to change, fix or heal an Emotional Predator is a sign of the dangerous unconscious operation of the mastery theory of romantic love.
Understood in light of the mastery theory, falling in love is the process of seeking out a partner who will re-create negative childhood experiences (so that we can eventually overcome those experiences).  In order to get into an adult relationship that will re-create something negative from your childhood, you have to blind yourself to the negative traits in the other person that remind you of your childhood - traits that you’re actually there to try to overcome.
Suppose Julie’s father always told her that she had nothing worthwhile to say.  As an adult, Julie attends a party where two men talk to her; one’s a great listener and one’s a lousy listener.  Although it seems backwards, if Julie hasn’t resolved her childhood wound of being told she had nothing worthwhile to say, she’ll be captivated by the poor listener and will hardly notice the good listener.  This is romantic “falling in love” starting to operate.  Julie’s unconscious blocks out the negative traits of the poor listener, leaving only positive traits in her awareness.  In this highly filtered experience of him, he seems perfect and the honeymoon stage of romance begins.
Julie’s unconscious continues this selective attention - this blinding - until she’s gotten involved with the bad listener.  She needs to get involved so she can try to overcome his poor listening trait that recreates her childhood wound.  The honeymoon begins to wear off as her unconscious slowly lets that trait into her awareness - a trait that was in him all along.  And that gives her the opportunity to stand up to and master her childhood injury, using him as a surrogate for her father.  In this example, after Julie has been involved with the poor listener for some time she’ll start demanding that he listen to her and take her seriously, and will be frustrated when he doesn’t.  The point for purposes of protection from dangerous and toxic relatoinships is to be aware of how romantic love blinds us in ways that make us vulnerable to Emotional Predators.  An Emotional Predator will tune into your un-mastered childhood wounds, and pretending to be the person who’ll heal them, will feed your blind romantic fantasies.
By contrast with romantic love, mature loving isn’t something we feel, it’s something we do.  It’s a way of selfless acting toward another who can reciprocate (unless they’re a child or other innocent).  Sadly, too often when someone says “I love you” they mean “I’m getting what I want from you,” not “I want you to have what you want and need even if that means I won’t get what I want and need.”  You can be confident that when an Emotional Predator says she loves you, no matter how desperate you are to hear that, what she’s saying is that she’s getting, or thinks she can get, what she wants from you.  Remember, no matter how intoxicating it feels, romance is not mature intimacy.  Cynical as it may sound, when you’re involved in a passionate romance it’s a time to be particularly vigilant about noticing signs of an Emotional Predator.  Not all romance involves an Emotional Predator, but romantic love is a favorite stalking ground for Emotional Predators.

Please freely copy and distribute this post, but be sure to include that it was written by Steven Wolhandler, author of Protecting Yourself from Emotional Predators.  (It’s copyright, Steven Wolhandler, 2019) Thanks!


Meet the author:
Meet the Author: Steven Wolhandler, JD, MA, LPC is a psychotherapist, mediator, arbitrator, custody evaluator, national consultant and retired attorney. He has decades of experience dealing with, and learning from, difficult and manipulative people, and helping their victims with penetrating insight, effective solutions, warmth and humor. He lives in Colorado, consults with people internationally through www.creativeresolutions.org.

Connect with the author:
Website  ~  Facebook

Enter the Giveaway!  

Win one of 3 ebooks (mobi) of Protecting Yourself from Emotional Predators, or one $25 Amazon Gift Card, or the GRAND PRIZE of a 30 min FREE Consultation with Author (phone or video) (Open Internationally) (five winners)

Note: The GRAND PRIZE is transferable. This means if the winner knows someone who could use the free consultation, then they may transfer the prize to him/her.

Ends October 4, 2019






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by Jess Sharp in
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Wednesday, 25 September 2019

A Woman of Firsts by Edna Adan Ismail


A Woman of Firsts by Edna Adan Ismail, with Wendy Holden
Published by HQ on the 8th August 2019.

One of my 2019 New Release Challenge reads

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Imprisonment. Mutilation. Persecution.

Edna Adan Ismail endured it all – for the women of Africa.

Edna saw first-hand how poor healthcare, lack of education and ancient superstitions had devastating effects on Somaliland’s people, especially its women. When she suffered the trauma of FGM herself as a young girl at the bidding of her mother, Edna’s determination was set.

The first midwife to practise in Somaliland, Edna became a formidable teacher and campaigner for women’s health. As her country was swept up in its bloody fight for independence, Edna rose to become its First Lady and first female cabinet minister.

She built her own hospital, brick by brick, training future generations in what has been hailed as one of the Horn of Africa’s finest university hospitals

This is Edna’s truly remarkable story.



I first heard of Edna Adan Ismail through reading Half The Sky although I admit I had forgotten why her name looked familiar until she gave that book a mention in A Woman Of Firsts. Edna is a truly amazing and inspirational woman who has used every opportunity open to her throughout her life, and forced opportunities to open up when none were forthcoming due to her gender or her Somaliland nationality. I was reminded of Dr Hawa Abdi's similar struggles in neighbouring Somalia. As a Somaliland woman, Edna spent much of her early life being exactly the opposite of what her very conservative society expected from its female population. I loved how she portrays this clash to readers especially as her encouragement to continue being her natural self came from a desire to emulate her father, a doctor, and his willingness to allow his daughter firstly to be educated and then to actually have a job.

A Woman Of Firsts is written in an engaging style so I was able to learn a lot about Somaliland since its independence from Britain (and our subsequent poor treatment of our former Protectorate) without feeling like I was studying a history book. I loved glimpses of different places such as Borama and Hargeisa. Edna's is a story of amazing changes with extreme highs and lows. Coming from an influential family and marrying into another seems to have caused as many doors to close as to open, yet I loved how Edna repeatedly picked herself and carried on fighting for her patients. This is truly a story of dedication to duty. Now in her eighties and still working at the hospital she was finally able to build, I am in awe of Edna's energy and the legacy she will leave, both within Somaliland and much further afield, of changing attitudes towards women's health and maternity care.
I highly recommend A Woman Of Firsts as a We Need New Stories read.


Etsy Find!
by Handmade By Alex Jane in
the United Kingdom

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Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Custard Tarts And Broken Hearts by Mary Gibson


Custard Tarts And Broken Hearts by Mary Gibson
Published by Head Of Zeus in May 2014.

How I got this book:
Swapped for at a campsite book exchange

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Britain, 1911.

Strikes and riots erupt countrywide as the shadow of the Great War looms over Europe. But in one small corner of London, factory girl Nellie Clark's wages are all that keep her younger brothers and sister from starvation.

And, as the young women of Pearce Duff's custard factory watch their menfolk prepare to march off to war, Nellie is forced to make a difficult choice: between the family who depend upon her, and the man she loves...

Following Nellie and her struggle through the hardship of life in First World War London, Custard Tarts and Broken Hearts is an outstandingly moving novel full of tenderness and drama.

This review was first blogged on Stephanie Jane in December 2015.
I found Custard Tarts And Broken Hearts in the book exchange at Broadgate Farm CL campsite in Lancashire. It is set in a similar time period to We That Are Left, but instead of focusing on the upper classes experiences of the First World War, this novel examines the lives of working women in Bermondsey, London.

Nellie, a young Bermondsey woman is one of the 'custard tarts' of the title - a worker at a custard powder packing factory. The women work eleven hour days with scarcely a break for half the pay of male staff and the beginning of this novel shows their struggle for basic working rights and equitable pay. Mary Gibson has incorporated a lot of her grandmother's experiences into her book and its historical aspects feel genuine and well-researched throughout. As in the recent film, Suffragette, Nellie suffers ostracism from her family for 'daring' to cause trouble by striking and attending rallies. However a strong sense of community and sisterhood amongst the women wins the day and this is a repeated theme throughout the book.

A love triangle for Nellie's affections is used to show different aspects of Bermondsey life. I wasn't so convinced by this as it was pretty predictable and got very saccharine in places. The incredible hardships faced by Nellie and her family were fascinating to read about, but trivialised by their apparently simple overcoming. Anything can be surmounted by the putting on of the kettle and a brief 'all in it together' inspirational speech. Custard Tarts And Broken Hearts is an easy read which does give insights into women's lives in the 1910s, however it wasn't gritty and real enough for my tastes and I did find the writing too repetitive. The novel would be fine for a light holiday read, but I would have preferred stronger characterisations.


Etsy Find!
by Rebecca McConnachie in
Hitchin, England

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Monday, 23 September 2019

Evangelista's Fan and Other Stories by Rose Tremain


Evangelista's Fan and Other Stories by Rose Tremain
First published in the UK by Sinclair-Stevenson in 1994.

How I got this book:
Borrowed from a friend

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


In Rose Tremain's teasing and brilliant title story, Evangelista's Fan set in a disturbing dreamlike version of Regency London, a young italian clockmaker contrives a magical means, not only of repairing time, but also of unlocking the mechanism of sexual happiness. This collection demonstrates the enormous range of her talent and imagination. Here is history - Agincourt as seen by the herald who rides between the two camps - alongside such contemporary issues as mortgage debt and medical error. Here are stories set in Cornwall, Corsica, Nashville, Niagara and an unidentified city which conjures up any and every Western European capital. Here are the obstinate dreams of the old and the passionate struggles of the young; here is heartbreak and humour; and here, above all, is love in its many and varied forms.

This collection of eleven short stories by Rose Tremain is absolutely brilliant! Usually I find such collections can be somewhat hit and miss, but I think I can confidently say here that every story is a gem. I loved their dark tinges and mysteries as well as the variety of locations and characters. Tremain completely understands human nature so I felt connected to each of her utterly believable characters, even though I only had a limited time in which to get to know any of them before their story ended and another began.

My favourite stories were the Agincourt one where a Herald riding between the French Dauphin and the English King Henry is reminded of a similar ride, three years before, to see his beloved; The Unoccupied Room where a woman wakes up alone in an apartment which she soon realises is no longer hers; and Niagara where an elderly couple struggle to cope with the husband's increasing anger at the world.I did love all eleven stories so picking just three to highlight was tricky and I'm already wondering whether to change the choices! If you have been disappointed by short stories in the past then Evangelina's Fan and Other Stories will hopefully rekindle your enthusiasm for the genre, and if you're already a fan then this collection is a must read.


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by Steelman 24DE in
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Sunday, 22 September 2019

Fate by Mary Corran


Fate by Mary Corran
First published by Millennium in March 1995. Republished by Endeavour Venture in October 2015.

One of my 2019 Mount TBR Challenge reads

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Hope. Horror. Heartache. There’s a little of each fated for all of us…

Asher’s world is a small one, bound by the conventions forced upon its people by an oppressive invader. But not everyone is content with their lot… A number of rebellious and independent women have grouped together, struggling against the might of the Grey Men. Asher is fearless but often it is too late once she realises danger is near. 

Women have always been secondary citizens in Venture, but under their new rulers Venture’s menfolk too, and even the Oracle — the fantastic phenomenon at the centre of the city’s life — and its adherents are subjugated. Everyone will be forced to work harder and harder against injustice merely to pay the tithe that their ruthless oppressors demand. People are driven to terrible actions and suffer insurmountable struggles…

Asher is deeply suspicious of the Oracle but it still speaks and on Fair Day she is called to hear its message. Reluctantly she confronts her greatest fear — that the course of her life may have been mapped in stone — and a spectre from her past. But now, what she has always feared may present an unexpected chance to salvage her country’s future. 

Asher must learn to listen to her instinct and face her fears if she is to save herself and her friends. She strives to set a new precedent not only for herself but for women everywhere, running against the tide of opinion and daring to challenge the authorities. Yet great sacrifices are made if the world is to be changed for good…

Fate is a spellbinding fantasy tale about one woman’s chance to save her people from the darkest throes of oppression.


I featured Fate in a Books From The Backlog post in June last year, having bought it in November 2015 and not read it. Now, nearly four years after its purchase, I finally read this book and I did enjoy it! Despite its cover art, this is not a Red Riding Hood retelling, but rather a fantasy quest novel with a delightfully strong feminist slant. Our heroine, Asher, is living under a double oppression firstly within an occupied country and secondly from social conventions with have reduced women's roles in her society to either mothers or decorations. Asher's railing against both subjugations makes for a good story with a lot of oh-so-true observations on British society too. I did feel that Corran was a bit heavy handed with her philosophical arguments at times, and Asher's initial refusal to learn from her mistakes was exasperating although very believable. What I did like though was the way we saw her grow into her potential as her quest progressed.

I'm not a big reader of fantasy stories - which is the main reason why it took me so long to get started on this one. I did feel that Fate's main narrative went pretty much where I expected to, albeit in an interesting way, and I didn't like the city names - Fate, Omen, Venture, and especially the misspelled Kepesake. What's with that?! I did like Corran's writing style and could empathise with her characters. Perhaps the physical settings and world-building could have done with a little more refinement because I felt some were overdescribed with others not benefiting from enough attention. This could be my lack of fantasy-reading experience showing though with me not picking up on genre standards or tropes. Overall though, Fate is a fun adventure novel and I have no regrets about spending time in Asher's world. I'm not sure that I would pick up another of Corran's fantasy stories, but I have added her mental health memoir to my TBR.


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by Lisa Ferrante Studio in
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Saturday, 21 September 2019

The Blazing World by Margaret Cavendish + #FreeBook


The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing-World by Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle
Published in the UK by A. Maxwell in 1668.

One of my Classics Club Challenge reads

How I got this book:

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Blazing World is a utopian kingdom in another world (with different stars in the sky) that can be reached via the North Pole. A young woman enters this other world, becomes the empress of a society composed of various species of talking animals, and organizes an invasion back into her world complete with submarines towed by the "fish men" and the dropping of "fire stones" by the "bird men" to confound the enemies of her homeland, the Kingdom of Esfi.


If you read my Monster, She Wrote book review a few days ago you'll know that it inspired me to get reading some of the women speculative fiction and horror authors Kroger and Anderson presented. Their hint that I could find possibly the earliest female-authored scifi story still in existence for free online got me searching and it didn't take long to stumble across a transcribed copy of The Blazing World. By coincidence, we watched the Simon Schama History Of Britain episode about the downfall of King Charles I while I was in the midst of reading The Blazing World. The book was written within a couple of decades of the tumultuous English Civil Wars, mentioned by Cavendish in the story, and this really brought home to me just how long ago 350 years really is! And how different Cavendish's England was to mine.

I've given The Blazing World a 3 star rating which is unfair on pretty much every level. Had I read this story as a modern-day effort it would undoubtedly have been a DNF 1 star! The plot is bonkers and I have several problems with its ideas surrounding colonialism and tolerance. Characterisation is practically non-existent, explanations of the hows and whys of the new world are sorely lacking, and the interminable philosophical and scientific question and answer session goes beyond tedious. That said though, I could see how Cavendish was using those scientific discussions to poke fun at the scholars of her time. In an era when most women were not even allowed to be literate, this woman is not only openly engaging in the debates, but doing so in a published story. I understand too that this scifi-fantasy tale was published alongside a serious philosophical work of hers. I'm not sure if that still exists?

I did love Cavendish's insertion of herself as a leading player in the story though. Also wonderfully appealing is the premise of every woman being an Empress in her own inner world - one just has to imagine its structures and governance to one's own satisfaction! I am aware that I would probably have got a lot more out of reading The Blazing World if I had a greater knowledge and understanding of named men such as Plato and Hobbs. Cavendish was obviously very familiar with their works and seemed to expect a similar educational level from her readers. Its lack is to my detriment (and that is probably not going to change any time soon), but I am still delighted to have had the opportunity to read this ground breaking story. I am also grateful that science fiction writing has progressed dramatically in the intervening centuries!


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by Minouette in
Toronto, Canada

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