Audiobook Review – The Vanishing Witch By Karen Maitland

I picked this up as part of a two for one offer so was not sure what to expect other than it sounded interesting from the blurb…

The Goodreads blurb says about the book…

The reign of Richard II is troubled, the poor are about to become poorer still and landowners are lining their pockets. It’s a case of every man for himself, whatever his status or wealth. But in a world where nothing can be taken at face value, who can you trust? The dour wool merchant? His impulsive son? The stepdaughter with the hypnotic eyes? Or the raven-haired widow clutching her necklace of bloodstones?

And when people start dying unnatural deaths and the peasants decide it’s time to fight back, it’s all too easy to spy witchcraft at every turn.

First, let’s deal with the facts

I really enjoyed this book, first, the narrator, though many of the characters were female the actor reading the book was able to perform each part in a way which allowed you to differentiate between them and not be distracted by the fact it was a man. He read it was enough passion to draw you into the story without distracting from the actual words and I have to say that is something I am discovering to be incredibly important when coming to audiobooks and have already changed my mind about buying some books based on listening to a sample of the narrator’s voice.

I love the overall all story, which I am not going to spoil by telling you, let us just say it is a nice tale of witchcraft. lust and murder. The balance between historical influence and plot is nicely done, I especially like the snippets of witch lore at the beginning of the chapters. The perspective switches from one character to another as you go through the chapters but at no point do you feel like it is repetitive as it can be telling a story from multiple viewpoints, the fact that the speaker is named at the start of each chapter also aids in keeping the story straight.

So the score, part of my wants to give it full marks, but there is something which holds me back, I think it is in part pacing, there are periods where the story moves slower, then you reach the end and it seems to fly through complex revelations, there is a lack of resolution regarding certain characters, which though not affecting the storyline you do wish you had more knowledge of their fates. I decided, in the end, to log it as a four on Goodreads but for this blog, I am going for 4.5 stars out of 5 and would recommend this in audiobook form.

 

June & July Resolutions

I know I said I would be back to the proper resolutions set up but to be honest the last couple of months have been a nightmare.

First, there were the issues with my son which I discussed in a post you can read here, then my dad was in the hospital.

There have been times the last two months where I have felt like throwing the towel in, my writing has suffered, most of what I have written over the last couple of months has basically just not been good enough which leaves me two months to complete two novels before Darker. Can it be done? Well. yes, but it is going to take a lot of focus

Can it be done? Well. yes, but it is going to take a lot of focus because it is the school holidays on top of everything else. The reality is this means so much to me that I really don’t want to fail. I have worked out if I write 4k a day then I can still do it, this will mean some late nights no doubt, as given the speed I can type it will equate to around three hours a day on top of other things I need to do.

What does this mean, for me overall, first less time messing about doing other things, I am also guessing a build up of house work lol and less chatting on social media, though I will still be around for various events and to promote #Darker. You will probably get shorter blog posts, though there is a good chance you might get more on time as it will be in my interest to be organised and schedule ahead. There are times I find I work better to a deadline and right now life has given myself a bloody tough one.

I have put some weight back on, so that is something else I need to address, when I am stressed I eat or rather I don’t eat properly and nibble on crap, I lose faith in myself and look for comfort in the wrong ways, it is also school holidays so I don’t have the school run for exercise, struggle to find time to swim and dancing is sporadic. I need to make a point of getting up every half hour/hour and walking about even if only a hundred steps or so at a time.

The last few months life has run away with me but now it is time to grab hold of the reins and regain control.

Let’s Talk Clothes!

Okay so you are lucky enough to have got a place at a signing event, you have the books, the swag and are ready, so what is left? Well, what are you going to wear?

So the night do is usually easier, it is normally formal and many times has a theme to help you decide on your outfit this was me with my daughter at the Leeds Event last year…

But it can get expensive, as you start attending more events you will meet up with the same people numerous times which means you cannot invest in one little black dress and re-wear it.  On the other hand, unless the day job pays really well or you have hit the jackpot with a best-selling novel you probably don’t want to be buying new dresses every few months that you can only wear the once or at least only once for now and then put to be rotated in a wardrobe. So the alternative as I have been looking into is eBay,  as I mentioned on Sunday I have found it to be a treasure trove of dresses bought for weddings, cruises and other suave social occasions that one has the excuse to dress up for. Worn once or twice these end up going for a fraction of the price of the new dress, likewise new clothes with tags show up in abundance, I am guessing like some of the clothes in my wardrobe these are bought but don’t fit and kept with the intention of fitting them one day or they just don’t get round to returning them within the correct time frame.

However, it is not just the ball/evening dress you have to consider, let’s start with travelling, you obviously need something comfortable but also some thing that will make the right impression at the hotel when you show up, then the evening prior to the signing you will need to eat, probably meet a few of the other authors in the bar or just hang out with them.

Then the big one your signing outfit, now I am pretty sure smart casual is the standard, it has to be comfortable enough to wear all day and practical, you don’t want to wear linen and look all crumpled after five minutes. There is though a secondary consideration, and that is your brand, does the way you dress reflect your work and personality? I am not for one second suggesting fancy dress, but if you write medieval fantasy would your readers really expect to see you in a floral, floaty dress. just as you work to bring your image together in terms of covers complementing each other, business cards matching other PR materials then you want to present an image of yourself that will both stick and be engaging. In some ways, it seems to me that it is almost like creating your own personal work uniform, it is the clothing you wear to put you in author mode when you are public.

I have bright purple hair, or to be fair this week it is the end of a dye cycle so it is more a mix of lilac and grey, so I am not what you would consider to be conventional, however, being plus size I am also acutely aware that not all clothes suit me or look good on me,  I am also aware that some of the things I might like the idea of wearing would not fit with my writing. While I am not saying that you should role play your characters I do think common sense comes into play, I write medieval fantasy, wearing Steampunk style clothes would possibly send confusing messages even though I love the style.

So what am I going to wear? For me I think it is looking like trousers suits with shirts or blouses, I like the idea of the traditional tweedy look against my purple hair, it allows me to show my personality with my hair but the suit gives a level of professionalism, and, rather than go for plain black, the idea of the tweed or possibly brown pinstripe appeals because it is the twist on the expected.

Of course, I don’t rule out the thought that I am over thinking this, but for me, I like the idea of having separate mix and match type items for wearing to signings.

Book Review – The Couple Next Door By Shari Lapena

This was a book I bought purely based on the blurb…

As always we begin with the Goodreads blurb…

Fast-paced and addictive, THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR announces a major new talent in thriller writing. You never know what’s happening on the other side of the wall.

Your neighbour told you that she didn’t want your six-month-old daughter at the dinner party. Nothing personal, she just couldn’t stand her crying.

Your husband said it would be fine. After all, you only live next door. You’ll have the baby monitor and you’ll take it in turns to go back every half hour.

Your daughter was sleeping when you checked on her last. But now, as you race up the stairs in your deathly quiet house, your worst fears are realized. She’s gone.

You’ve never had to call the police before. But now they’re in your home, and who knows what they’ll find there.

What would you be capable of, when pushed past your limit?

****

‘How well do we ever know those around us? THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR will keep you glued to the pages in search of the answer. Even then, you’ll never guess the truth…until it’s too late’ LISA GARDNER

‘I thought the read-it-in-one-sitting thing was a cliche. Not any more’ LINWOOD BARCLAY

‘Meticulously crafted and razor-sharp. THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR lingers long after you turn the final page’ HARLAN COBEN

***The Sunday Times bestseller***

PEOPLE ARE CAPABLE OF ALMOST ANYTHING.

‘2016’s most talked-about new thriller’ Stylist

‘A twisty, utterly riveting tale that will send readers on a wild rollercoaster ride of emotions. Shocking revelations kept me turning the pages like a madwoman’ TESS GERRITSEN

As you can see this book sounds amazing and has some high profile writers championing it, the blurb fascinated me, but I was dubious, generally I find very few books live up to their hype.

I am going to confess half a dozen pages in I nearly ditched the book. It was something about the style it was written in, if felt a little stilted, disjointed but I was intrigued enough to give it a little longer and I am so glad I did. The style fits the story perfectly, as the storyline unfolds you understand more why the disconnect and slight disjointedness is completely appropriate. I hate spoiling stories so I am going to be really careful here because the plot twists are a total delight, but if you just go from the blurb as I did when I decided to read it the whole idea of worrying about what could be found in your own home is something I have considered before. Okay, I amy have been joking when I have said previously that if anyone ever checks my google search history I would be in trouble but think about it, if something tragic happened what do you have on yours or what books and films do you have in your house that someone could read a different meaning into? Scary isn’t it.

I read this book in a few days, a very rare thing for me these days, so you can tell how much I enjoyed it, I whole heartedly give this book 5 out of 5 stars and say if you pick it up, and struggle in those first few pages as I did, stick at it!

Lazy Sunday #44

It has been a stressful week, my dad is in hospital, am not going to go into the whys on here just know it is one of those weeks where you feel like you are banging your head against a wall. On the plus side, I have won a couple of dresses for really good prices on eBay! You might wonder what that has to do with writing but the fact is that a lot of these author events have an evening do to go with the actual signing, many of them will be ones where I see authors I have previously met and hopefully become friends with. You see the problem here, a girl cannot possibly be seen wearing the same dress each time! Now if I had actually lost the weight I have been threatening to for the last couple of years I might be happy investing in dresses to wear then recycle a couple of years down the line but so far I haven’t, but I still want to, so instead of spending £90 a time n a new dresses I have been checking out ones on eBay and I have to say looks like a lot of others already did it. There are so many dresses bought for weddings, trips to the races, cruises and other events, worn once then selling for a fraction of the price on there so it makes sense for me to  save money and spend it on the accessories, plus after they have been worn if I lose weight I won’t feel guilty trying to alter them because if it goes wrong I am not wrecking an expensive dress. I am going to talk more about that on Tuesday so don’t miss that post.

For today let’s get to the blog sharing…

  1. The first one is something I have been thinking about this week, it is easy when everything is getting to you to doubt yourself, wallow in self-pity and basically give up, this post is about believing your fate is in your own hands https://lindaghill.com/2017/07/22/socs-setting-a-ceiling/
  2. I love the sea, I would love to go diving in various places, so I am really jealous about some of the photos in the post, however, relating back to the first blog post I shared I know there are always going to be physical limits on doing things like this because of my spinal surgery but I love in the hope of finding ways to get round that http://www.tmupchurch.com/2017/07/22/wearing-the-sea/
  3. The next post is a little about pushing your boundaries but this time for me it is about stepping out of my comfort zone. I studied art at college, I love classical art, my favourites are the Impressionists, I can understand modern art often on a conceptual level but it does not grab me and evoke emotions in me, one thing I am trying to do more is to try to see things through the eyes of others and blogs are a great way to do this  https://andytownend.com/2017/07/22/in-wetin-you-go-do/
  4. The next one is an article rather than a blog post as such, when you first start out as an Indie author it is easy to feel overwhelmed and disheartened by the fact everyone else seems so far ahead of you in the game, remember it is a earning curve and evntually you will catch up, I have been lucky tohave a lot of good people will ing to help but sometimes you still don’t want to ask questions for fear of looking stupid but here is something that helped me finally work out one of my questions today https://www.justpublishingadvice.com/promote-your-book-better-with-universal-buy-links
  5. And I am going to change things up from now on and the final link of the day is going to be a FB page or group, usually it will be one I am actively a part of so today I am going to start with the one for my first live signing event, The Darker Side Of Fiction 2017 if your not in the group come and join us, the giveaways are piling up over there plus it will be the place to see photos and videos from the event as it happens https://www.facebook.com/groups/1433818133602201/

Taht is it for this week sorry it is so late I just kept getting distracted lol

Okay so on Sunday this happened…

Tennis – Wimbledon – London, Britain – July 16, 2017, Switzerland’s Roger Federer poses with the trophy as he celebrates after winning the final against Croatia’s Marin Cilic REUTERS/Toby Melville

Well okay, it did but that was not what I really wanted to talk about, what I want to talk about was this that happened afterwards…

We now know who the new Doctor will be and it is a woman!

First let me express my disappointment, not at the choice but at the fact we know! I really had hoped that they might fly in the face of modern convention and kept it a secret until the Christmas special, they could have had closed sets, invited several front runners to the set to hang about to mislead speculation. I would love to have been able to tune in on Christmas day and be surprised by the regeneration, not had to listen to months of debate about the chosen replacement which brings us to Jodie Whittaker.

Going to be honest, other than her appearance in St Trinians I haven’t really seen her in anything, I have yet to watch Broadchurch despite the fact I have been meaning to since it first aired. I don’t think overall the gender of the Doctor will make a real impact on the series, I will be far more concerned with plots, storylines and the character development. Do I have concerns? Of course, I worry they will give her a beefcake for a companion, have him saving her constantly and her fall in love with him, though to be fair male Doctors have frequently been saved by their female companions. I would love to see a non-human in the TARDIS, yes we have just had Nardol and I hope the Doctor will collect him before leaving the spaceship but he is still shaped as a human, I have seen suggestions K9 may return but honestly, let’s have something different and shake things up completely.

We live in an age where we see all male performances of Swan Lake we see boundaries pushed in all directions, I know many are not happy to see a change from the norm in ‘their’ favourite show, and I say that in quotes because I don’t think my view of the show and theirs have anything in common, theirs is an exclusive club, mine is inclusive, theirs is restrictive, mine knows no boundaries, they would rather travel to the past, my show is heading full speed into the future.

Book Review – Hallowe’en Party By Agatha Christie

I have to be honest I struggled to find a copy of the cover to my edition but finally…

Let’s begin as normal with the Goodreads blurb…

A teenage murder witness is drowned in a tub of apples… At a Hallowe’en party, Joyce—a hostile thirteen-year-old—boasts that she once witnessed a murder. When no-one believes her, she storms off home. But within hours her body is found, still in the house, drowned in an apple-bobbing tub. That night, Hercule Poirot is called in to find the ‘evil presence’. But first he must establish whether he is looking for a murderer or a double-murderer…

This book is a little darker than some of the other Agatha Christie books, it also is one of the few that breaks from her formulaic narratives and places the characters in a slightly different position to the normal you would expect. I confess Agatha Christie is a master at blindsiding you at times not always keeping the villain hidden but sometimes the motive or the people who are in collusion are the twists that come unexpectedly. This is one of those cases, you think you have a good idea about half way through about the guilty parties you are right to a point but it is the extra layers that make this a stand out for me in terms of her books. I make no secret of the fact I love Poirot but I also appreciate that for some the books are too quaint and tame, they lack the sex, gore and violence of modern books (my own included)  but they are nonetheless still wonderfully crafted tales and still worthy of reading.

So onto a score well it has to be 5 out of 5 stars for this one.

Lazy Sunday #43 & Vlog Time #103 – Quick Hello!

Everything seems really hectic here at the minute, writing, kids, swag, writing, babies, you get the picture. Part of the reason it is so hectic is I just have not managed to get my head around the time management aspect of my resolutions, I try but get distracted so for the next few weeks I am back to using a timer n the hope I can get back into more of a disciplined routine. The weather here is lovely today just loaded the washing machine again and have a line of clothes already fluttering in the breeze, line dried clothes are a pleasure those in warm countries take for granted, so much fresher than those draped over radiators.

Anyway, we need to get a move on as the tennis is due to start soon and I am hoping to watch Rgerwin another Wimbledon.

  1. First up is a post by a photographer I have featured a few times, I love the photos he takes of the Irish landscape but this I love for another reason, it is the idea of the stories behind ruined buildings, what tales they could tell, even those with mundane histories can become magical places with a little imagination  https://nigelborrington.com/2017/07/14/evening-poem-by-alice-oswald/
  2. The second of today’s posts and the first of the writing themed ones comes from fellow #Darker author Hemmie, who I am looking forward to meeting in just a few weeks. Staring at the blank screen can be incredibly daunting so her advice for those just starting out is well worth making note of https://hemmiemartin.com/2017/07/12/start-small/
  3. The next post is also writing related and I put my hands up that this is something I struggled with the first time I listed a book, it is hard sometimes to work out where your work belongs, to pigeonhole yourself against your own wishes but it has to be done, and if you hope to sell books, done well.   https://susanleighnoble.wordpress.com/2017/07/13/choosing-categories-and-keywords-when-publishing-with-amazon/
  4. Finally a humorous look at the rituals we all create around ourselves, whether it is having a certain playlist on, total silence, sitting in a certain position, https://aviatrixkim.wordpress.com/2017/07/12/on-writing-you-must-perform-the-ritual/

Just four blog shares today as I have a quick vlog for you, confession time I recorded this last week and it has sat waiting to be edited but next week we will be back on track I promise

What’s going on!

Okay let’s talk honestly, the issues over the last couple of weeks have been two-fold, first, the computer failed, then secondly I failed at life, well not really it just feels that way.

The computer did an update which because of my poor internet connection failed to instal properly, the end result was I had to wipe everything, reinstall windows, then find all the various apps I use and reinstall them. Of course, this also meant trawling through emails to find the registration codes for paid upgrades and apps, mental note to self, put them all in one folder next time! It has taken two weeks so far and I am still finding annoying little things that are missing or that I need to tweak but finally I can get back to actually doing some productive work.

Now the hard bit to talk about, life! I have mentioned before that the monster has had a few issues, but I have really not talked about how hard it is to see your son hurting and not be able to fix it. We have been on a waiting list for over two and a half years for my son to be tested for Autism, everyone who spends any time with him agrees he is on the spectrum, where or whether there is a specific category he will fit into we do not yet know. It has also been suggested that if he is not actually autistic his issues may result from lasting brain damage from the meningitis that nearly took his life when he was seven and a half. As he gets older and more is expected of him he is finding it increasingly difficult to cope in the mainstream school he attends, but we have no other choices, without a diagnosis he would not be accepted at one of the schools who cater for those with more complex needs. He is also incredibly intelligent, it is not the work in school he cannot cope with it is the environment, he requires more one to one help but again without a diagnosis, the school do not get the funding for this.

Since just before Christmas he has been struggling, it is so hard to see and hear about you child talking about not wanting to exist, wanting to hurt themselves and at times physically attempting to hurt themselves but be able to do nothing to change their perception of themselves. He hears every negative word and replays it but the positives go by un-noticed. Things were really bad for a while through January, then with a lot of positive reinforcement, it seemed we were getting somewhere. However last week he started a six weeks counselling course with the hope it would help with his self-esteem, instead we are right back at square one.

Yesterday was a bad day, he tried to physically hurt himself, he said a lot of things that once more broke my heart and for the first time I questioned my ability to deal with this, Don’t get me wrong I will of course, you have no choice, there is no magic wand that anyone can wave and make it all okay. But for the first time, I feel tired, weak and alone. I have been crying on and off, day and night for the last 26 hours. I don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for me, but today, I felt it was time to be honest.

I have spent the morning making phone calls and so far have got nothing, hopefully, the paediatrician will get back to me in the morning but the agency that deals with the autism referral are still not answering the phone nor have they called me back yet, I do not expect them to, I have lost track if the number of voicemails I have left over the last 6 months, they never call back. I am however logging the times and dates I leave the messages this time as well as calling repeatedly in the hope eventually someone might pick up the phone. I feel so tired

I feel so tired, and cannot at the minute see a light at the end of the tunnel. I love my son to pieces, that goes without saying, but today I feel like a failure as a parent because I can’t fix this for him, I can’t make him feel better. We find ways to get through one day at a time, do our best to enjoy the good days and survive the bad ones. I felt the need to share this today because I can guarantee there is at least one other person out there reading this who feels like they are struggling today, not necessarily in the same way, but I just want them to know they are not alone, very few people have the perfect lives they pretend to have on social media, and sometimes it is okay to not be okay, it is okay to say I am struggling today. Today I may cry, I may scream, I may very well throw the phone handset against the wall, but I will get through it and get up tomorrow and hope for a better day, one day at a time is sometimes all that we can do.

Lazy Sunday #41

Good Morning!

Well it is morning as I begin posting this whether I get through it all is a different matter, it has been quite a stressful week here in the UK due to politics and people being determined to fall out with each other because of it. It has been a week many have felt the need to dive into something stronger than coffee to get through it. On the plus side, there was the fantastic benefit concert put together by Ariana Grande, my rugby team have won again, and hopefully have turned a corner for the season, that will get them away from the dreaded bottom four. So let’s get on with things and this week I have picked things that have a feel good factor…

 

  1. I love this first post because it imparts wisdom passed down through generations and in this world where so much emphasis is placed on material possessions it reminds us what is important, my dad’s car advice to me was similar, he was talking about speeding and pointed out ‘there is nowhere you need to be so badly it is worth dying for!’ https://lifewithblondie.wordpress.com/2017/06/09/its-just-a-car-baby-girl/
  2. The second post today I also love but this time is it is because this fantastic lady has taken a chance, turned her life upside down, taken the risk to turn her back on the normal jobs and do something physically harder but ultimately more rewarding I hope she will keep posting and share her journey in her new job, I want piglet pics  https://terahvandusen.wordpress.com/2017/06/09/farm-her-new-job-new-life/
  3. A special shout out to all those who attended this year’s Annual bloggers bash, I had hoped to get there but childcare issues made it a no-no, however, I am determined to be there next year http://sachablack.co.uk/2017/06/10/winners-of-the-2017-annual-bloggers-bash-awards-bloggersbash-bloggersbash/
  4. There are some blogs you know when you visit they are going to make you smile and that happens every time I pop over to this one, I especially love the emoticons bit  https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/2017/06/10/bookish-delights-13-memes/
  5. My final post for today is a photo blog but these guys really go out of their way to make sure you know exactly what you are seeing and as a result you experience the places they see on a whole new level as well as learn something new, they also make me want to visit places I had never considered before https://sartenada.wordpress.com/2017/06/07/hanami-in-helsinki-hanami-en-helsinki-hanami-a-helsinki-hanami-em-helsinquia/

As I suspected we are now into the afternoon and it is time for me to head off to the kitchen and stuff the chicken.