Update June 2020

Hi Everyone!

AT HOME:

As the world reopens, we’re buttoning down all the more to avoid the inevitable second wave. We’re lucky in that we can buy veg locally without risk — it’s a business unit on the outskirts of town and they put a table across the door. We go to the door, tell them what we want while those inside scurry around packing it up with gloved hands, then we step back, they place it on the table; we step forward to use the card machine to pay, pick up our veg and leave. No contact with anyone. I can see why many have resorted to more local sources, though we’ve always tried to use ours.

Our weekly routine has changed little (except that this time of the year we would have gone for some evening walks) but the weekends have started to drag a little. With that in mind, we’re thinking of tackling a couple of DIY jobs. I’ve had to order 4 tins of paint to redo our front door and the frame from three different outlets. Struggled to get a suitable colour, and it seems many shops still lack stocks.

FILM/TV:

Dipping in to series old and new. Watching the most recent season of The Black List and picking up Brooklyn Nine-Nine where we left off ages ago. Started Altered Carbon, definitely an interesting concept. Just watched Hereditary, a film proclaimed to be something incredibly original when it hit cinemas. Alas, I can’t decide whether it’s slow and dull, or insidious and disturbing. The horror is at times overly melodramatic, at others subtle, perhaps scarily so if you’re easily scared. I neither liked nor disliked it. I think they promoted the film inaccurately, especially when it first came out leading the viewer to expect something quite different which always harms the experience. On a side note, having a dog in the film was entirely pointless.

READING:

Another great month.

Forward Collection, Amazon Original Stories:
While I felt none of the stories were perfect, and often that they were a mere glimpse into a larger concept, I can see where the various subjects create a balance with this collection of six stories available together or individually.

The Last Conversation, Paul Trembley
Though I didn’t like the second person narrative, this may be my favourite of the ‘Forward Collection’ possibly made apt as it concerns loss during a pandemic. There’s a lot left to the imagination, and perhaps that’s why it will fail for some readers. The big reveal is not as grand as perhaps we’d hope it to be. Still, this story is multilayered asking many uncomfortable questions. I couldn’t help feeling there’s a longer story hiding within this shorter work.

Ark, Veronica Roth
Enjoyable, but I found this to be the weakest of the 5 Forward Collection stories. An evacuated earth requires too much suspended belief and though the narration is beautiful, there was no true forward momentum and the ending proved a disappointment. This reads more as a vignette rather than a full story.

Summer Frost, Blake Crouch
An exploration of artificial intelligence that perhaps offers few surprises and yet does so with style, asking all the right questions and offering a variety of conceivable answers, all excellent reasons to suspect the development of A.I.

Emergency Skin, N.K.Jemisin
I greatly loved the concept of this story of an explorer returning to Earth long after those who destroyed their planet having fled from it, to find things are not quite how it seems. Oddly enough, this is another timely story being that we’ve all seen during the recent pandemic how the Earth can regenerate without human interference, though any one group being at fault is subversive and plainly fallacious.

You Have Arrived at Your Destination, Amor Towles
At some future point should humans be able to choose not only the sex of their child but perhaps their life, too. And in doing so, does that parent abandon that child to a life that requires no guidance to a path already mapped out? For one man, it’s a question that makes him evaluate his own existence and choices. Alas, I didn’t find this drew me in deeply enough to more thoroughly explore this excellent concept.

Randomize, Andy Weir
This story made me smirk the most. While the technical jargon may fly over most heads, it’s easy to understand what’s going on here, leaving the question of what makes a crook and what part does technology play in the modern world. A reflection on techno highway robbery.

The Witcher: Season of Storms, Andrzej Sapkowski
A prequel to the first two Witcher books, reading much like a standalone book. I would advise to read this as the third instalment, otherwise the story may confuse as there’s little to no introduction of the main established characters. I enjoyed this as the story takes the form of political intrigue and the theft of Geralt’s swords. I’ve seen some criticise the writer’s style. The only thing I find slightly annoying is the repetitive ‘was’ — it was raining; they were walking; it was dark in the alley — style, though this writer is not the only one who over uses this type of narrative, and I don’t know whether it’s in part owing to the translation. The world of The Witcher remains rich and absorbing.

The Doll Who Ate His Mother, Ramsey Campbell
This is a tough book to rate, but when you understand this is Ramsey Campbell’s debut novel, the good and bad points fall into place. If you love Campbell’s work this is a glimpse of a fledgling writer. If you’ve never read Campbell before, don’t start with this for the author went on to bigger and better things garnering recognition well deserved. The story is also dated — understandably, written over 40 years ago. What people expected, accepted, and found frightening was entirely different back then. So was depth required. Both a horror story with satanic elements, and a thriller involving a disturbed boy perhaps corrupted by the perverse beliefs of those who raised him, alas, the book’s greatest flaw is the lack of menace (for a modern audience). I also spotted what should have been a surprise, but such is an annoying habit of mine. Some will dislike the surreal sauntering sensation the book invokes, but this lends a strange uneasy appeal to the narrative and can be forgiven as a writer finding his voice — and a distinctive voice it now is to those who appreciate his work. Still, there were moments when simple everyday things came across as overly described to where I had to read a sentence twice. Ultimately, the book fails to fall into the horror category for me, and it lacks a depth that left me feeling there’s more to explore, leaving characters shallow. The best and spookiest scene comes toward the end and takes place in a basement, and something about this still lingers, like seeing only the surface of a story through a murky window pane.

What Britain Has Done 1939-1945, Richard Overy (introduction)
Possibly glamorised considering its purpose, but What Britain Has Done was originally published in May 1945 by the Ministry of Information. Even if the facts and figures were half true, they are staggering. This is history as they never taught in school, and which should have been part of such education.

The Muse, Jessie Burton
When writers who can write this well receive such mixed reviews, it must frustrate all creatives. The book is multilayered taking place over two time lines. Jessie Burton excels with a rich, sensual vocabulary that makes her easy to read yet brings to life people, places, and the world of creativity without the reader being aware of it, blending it into the narrative seemingly without effort, though a great deal of effort must have gone into this work for the research alone. This book is about the impediments women face both practically and psychologically. It’s about the inspiration of creativity. When I purchased the book, I read a few reviews; some pronounced Odelle and Olive — the principal characters of the book separated by three decades — as irrelevant and unlikeable, but there’s much more woven into this story than we see immediately on the page. Odelle’s experience in unravelling the mystery behind a mysterious painting gives her the foundation to be herself, to push onwards against all obstacles. Olive is also a woman of her time, equally restricted because of it. Olive chooses secrecy; Odelle to claim what is hers. These women are bookends, the opposite of each other and of how society wants them to be as the times dictated, adding more depth. I’ve loved both this and The Miniaturist, but, if I had to choose, I would opt for The Muse. It is by no means a weaker second book, as some noted critics have suggested.

Orcs First Blood Trilogy, Stan Nicholls
Bodyguard of Lightning, Legion of Thunder, Warriors of the Tempest
Read back to back these books seem oddly poignant in today’s climate being that the not so subliminal subtext is one of racism and the environment. The author has tried to turn classical fantasy tropes on their head by making the orcs the protagonists. To an extent, he succeeds, although I’m left feeling these books could have been far deeper than they are. For the most part, they are a light, entertaining read. In other spots they are possibly overly violent, though in a world populated by magical beasts and humans perhaps the brutality is not so surprising. I’ve few problems with the author trying to get down and dirty, but I’m not so sure the lighter passages aren’t at odds with the darkness of the story, the writing akin to Young Adult novels in places. Still, I liked this not-so-merry band of orcs; sadly, they’re too humanised, and I often forgot they ‘were’ orcs, with the pacing uneven and the ending a little anticlimactic. Still, I enjoyed the read.

WRITING:

The re-release of An Act of Generosity took place, and I saw the cover to an upcoming edition of Night to Dawn Magazine which contains a poem and short story of mine.

Stay Well and Happy Reading!
Sharon x

Update May 2020

Hi Everyone!

AT HOME:
As the weather turned nice, we reorganised part of the garden. We now have three seating areas, one on the terrace, one under the pergola. We also moved the roses (in pots) to a more secluded area where they seem to do better, and put a bench on the outside of the pergola (where the roses were) in case we want to sit in some late afternoon sun, by which time most of the sunshine has gone to the front. Not terribly exciting, but then life isn’t at the moment for those of us keeping safe and waiting out the second wave of this pandemic.

FILM/TV:
Finished watching everything we started last month and delved into the last season of Peaky Blinders, and the second season of Sex Education, which is worth watching for the views of the Welsh countryside alone. Watched the last season of Ash Vs The Evil Dead on DVD. None of my friends would understand my love of this B-movie style horror comedy films or series, but my love of Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi’s work is enduring for which I make no apologies.

READING:
It’s been a good month reading wise.

The Tent, The Bucket and Me, Emma Kennedy
A sometimes funny, a sometimes cover your eyes and peep through your fingers cascade of family holiday disasters, this book is also a nostalgic ride for those who lived through the 70s especially if your parents ever dragged you camping. Fortunately, my memories aren’t as horrendous as Emma’s but none have ever made me wish to go sit in a field in a tent again. At times, I really felt for her and recollected that moment when parents become embarrassing.

The English Monster, Lloyd Shepherd
Written with more tell than show, and the omnipresent head-hopping and change of point of view meant the style didn’t quite work for me but this is the only negative. A shadowy murder thriller in dark shady alleyways of old London, at others a swashbuckling adventure on the high seas. Best described as a historical thriller, this is a detective story told over more than one century following two separate paths that join strangely, but I love a different way of storytelling and in this the author has excelled.

The House of Thunder, Dean Koontz
A strange story of a woman caught in the possible grip of madness, trapped in a real or personal Hell. A reread for me and I’d completely forgotten this story so didn’t know the outcome, although I partially guessed the direction in which it was heading. This is one to read for the buildup, especially if you love creepy tales, which, in this instance, Koontz weaves well. Though I found the horror a little cheesy in one spot, I sped through this book in two days. An easy, absorbing ‘fun’ read.

After You With the Pistol, Kyril Bonfiglioli
The second Mordecai novel is easier to read and funnier than the first, though I struggled to overlook a distasteful account of what should be a woman’s response to rape. I can attribute this to other times as I’m not one to judge people from the past by today’s standards, but it spoilt an otherwise entertaining read.

Tainaron, Leena Krohn
First, the copy I have is of a small hardback book that’s a delight to hold with an eye-catching slip cover, and drawings dotted throughout; a fast read at only 124 pages. The story from this Finnish prize-winning author is a fantasy told in a series of letters written by a foreign visitor and sent from an insect city. There’s no plot. We never know the recipient of these letters and only get to know the writer obliquely. I’ve heard the character writing the letters is female, but I never picked up on that and saw the letter writer as male, lost and adrift, having travelled to Tainaron seeking a promise that may never be fulfilled unless it’s found within. The most obvious nuance is one of change. There’s something visceral in the narrative, making this a book with an amorphous emotional impact. I’m sure many will find this nonsensical, bizarre, maybe pointless, yet there’s something memorable and almost poetic about the book. And, like a poem, will have significance for some, be meaningless to others.

The Shepherd’s Crown, Terry Pratchett
A strange experience reading the last Discworld novel, though it’s not the last Discworld novel I have to read. I’m in the dubious position of knowing there are no more books than those I have on my shelves and I should finish them. But once I do, there are no more. While I will spend time before getting around to the last few, there are still Discworld books for me to look forward to. Terry Pratchett was without doubt my most beloved author and reading his last work would always be difficult, which is part of the reason I procrastinated. The four Tiffany Aching books aren’t my favourite, though I love the Feegles and own a Rob Anybody. This is a poignant end to the Discworld series and as a farewell from Terry.

Big Damn Hero (Firefly), James Lovegrove
I want to start by saying I found this a lovely paperback. The cover has an excellent design and texture with flaps like a dust jacket. There are even small touches such as an image of Serenity similar to a watermark on the pages at each chapter. Alas, there were half a dozen typos within which pull me out of the story somewhat, but it’s worth overlooking those slight errors to enjoy another episode of Firefly. And that’s how this book reads — like a missing episode, particularly as we get to know more about the characters, especially Shepherd Book. Maybe a hard one to recommend, and no, it will never be like watching the series, but as a die hard Firefly fan I’ll take the novel over nothing and will pick up more as they’re released.

WRITING:
I received edits and the cover for An Act of Generosity, which re-releases in June with JMS books. I’ve also been writing and plotting for another book in a series (not romance) that I’m unable to talk about yet. I’ve yet to run the idea by the publisher to see whether they’ll be interested.

Stay Well and Happy Reading!
Sharon x

Why I love Joss Whedon

I make no secret of loving Joss Whedon’s work. My appreciation started with Buffy, went on to Angel, includes Dollhouse (which really needs time to admire) and soared highest with Firefly. I adore Firefly. More accomplished in one season than some shows achieve over several years. Impressive story threads, wonderful casting, fabulous camerawork and editing. Then there’s his feature film work, which I won’t bother to list here. I’ve yet to discover something of Joss’s I don’t at least like. I understand his storytelling, what he’s trying to achieve even when he doesn’t convey all he sets out to do. What writer or creative artist ever does?

And then there’s his fight for equality. If I never thought Joss could go up in my estimation, I was mistaken when I realised his views on equal rights. Not clued in? Then sit down and watch the following when you have 8 minutes to spare. This is one man likely to put a smile on many a woman’s face for all the right reasons.

Dragon #6

The last dragon I posted was my smallest, though this one isn’t much larger. It’s nothing fancy, just a minor item I picked up one day in Tintagel because I wanted to bring another dragon home and they weren’t selling the HUGE one in the window (which I probably couldn’t afford and definitely couldn’t house).

It’s supposed to be the stone of our anniversary month, but I don’t know in what universe because I’m sure it’s wrong. Still, it’s hard to say no to the dragon hoard.

Update April 2020

Hi Everyone!

AT HOME:
This would usually start with ‘Out and About’ but as none of us who are sensible are doing much if any of that I’ve not much to share. Most of my ‘out’ was related to food shopping and a couple of local walks for fresh air, exercise, and to post a birthday card. Truly hate shopping at this time, not just because of the need to be careful but because we can’t shop the way we like: together and doing a large monthly shop with a small top-up. We’re having to shop more than we’d like and it’s costing a little extra because we can’t always go where we want, which makes it more annoying. Still, we’re doing our best to remain safe, especially as my other half is a key worker. We’re feeling lucky right now to have some small local suppliers, a front and back garden, and somewhere to walk; not the best — I’d really appreciate being more coastal right now, but there is a view well worth seeing when things get too much.

FILM/TV:
We’ve started watching The Rookie and so far so good. Not through the first season yet, but they’ve kept the stories going. Been watching, or I should say, re-watching an old British favourite: Only Fools and Horses. Some great lines with memorable characters and comments, references, and slang only a Brit might be likely to laugh over. I quite enjoyed October Faction but, seriously (and this is a note to all writers), when someone has a massive knife shoved into their gut or side unless you’re healing them by supernatural magical means don’t have them walking around within minutes or even hours. I’m so tired of programmes supernatural or otherwise where someone is stabbed or shot and they shake it off as though it’s nothing. You might — only ‘might’ mind you — keep going a short while in the heat of the moment in a life-threatening situation with the help of an adrenaline rush, but that won’t last long and the pain is liable to be crippling.

READING:
The Eyes of Darkness, Dean Koontz
A re-read, this book reminds me of why I’ve been a longtime reader of this author whose work is best described as supernatural thrillers. Though sludgy in places plot-wise with a few coincidences this is solid plotting. More than that, Koontz must be one of the first in this genre who regularly started producing drop-kick heroines. More recent reviews seem to connect this book as being precognitive considering the troubles of 2020, but this is simply coincidence, and a subject written about by many authors; would be a pity if this happenstance puts anyone off an excellent read, although this novel is one to read for the journey more than the outcome. My only negatives is a wish to have connected to the character of Danny more and the ending feels a little abrupt after the investment of a great build-up.

The Last Wish, Andrzej Sapkowski
After watching the first season of The Witcher, I understandably wanted to read the books. Though the writing isn’t fancy the narrative works well for this story making for a warm, comfortable read that lends itself to the creation of a world that feels real from the outset. There are storylines that will be familiar for those who watched the series, and others that diverge from what they know but they all work. Like the non-linear story telling of the show, the book breaks up the various storylines making for especially interesting reading, and the first leaves on a perfect cliffhanger of note. I read a review calling the characters soulless and perhaps seeing the show makes me feel otherwise but I wouldn’t call reserved the same thing as soulless and find the details and inventiveness of The Witcher and the world he inhabits captivating enough to make up for anything the book lacks. While some depth may be lacking this still brings the world of The Witcher to life and I’ll read the rest in the series.

The Siren, Tiffany Reisz
This is a difficult book to review without spoilers. First, the writing and plotline is superb, yet, while I far from dislike this book the BDSM elements were unexpected from the simple blurb but it pleased me the erotic content is far from lascivious and often not even graphic. The story tears the reader apart in so many places, pulling in so many directions, it should win hands down. But it’s toward the last quarter of the book the story lost me. I couldn’t see what there was to love about Soren, though I see this is now part of an 8 book series and hear we learn more about him as the story progresses. And when I thought one or more character should be content with a chosen path, they surprised me. I’m unsure whether I was satisfied with any of the decisions and I ultimately found the character of Nora frustrating, even fickle, though some might view her way of loving more forgiving. Perhaps too forgiving. I felt this is really Nora’s story and I would have preferred she were the first introduced to make this more obvious. I’ve read the blurbs for the series and, though I doubt I’ll commit to reading more, this works as a standalone novel and was worth the time spent with it. I couldn’t fault the world this author weaves or her writing.

WRITING:
I signed a contract with JMS books to re-release my (personally re-edited) novella, An Act of Generosity. I still cannot believe how much my writing and editing has changed. I also completed a few minor edits on a short story that will appear in an upcoming edition of Night to Dawn. Meanwhile, I’m working on another project I’ve been asked to write for, but I’m unable to say more at this time.

Stay well and Happy Reading!

Sharon x

Dragon #5

At this time I thought to share something a little brighter so chose another of my dragons. In this instance, my smallest dragon. He’s maybe an inch long made from natural stone. At the time I bought this one from a gift shop in Boscastle, there were many available in various types of stone and I considered buying a few more then the next thing I knew they seemed to disappear. Plenty of other animals are still available but the dragons appear to have vanished back to myth and legend.

My smallest dragon.