Update March 2022

Hi Everyone!

AT HOME:

Started and finished a decking project. Nothing too fancy but welcome, as we can now step out of the living room on a clean, flat surface. We’ve also booked a couple of breaks for later this year. Will try to keep ourselves safe, and I will struggle through with health issues as best I can. We need something of a life. Still carrying on with acupuncture, though learned it could take weeks or months to help, which has eased my frustration somewhat as there’s still hope.

FILM/TV:

At long last finished Castle, then dipped into the last series of Peaky Blinders, and the 4th season of The Rookie. Can’t say there’s been much in the way of films. I’m not up to sitting through an entire film at the cinema (don’t know if I ever will be able to again), and what with the pandemic still very much running wild, I’m not overly interested in sitting in a closed room of any kind with people I don’t know.

READING:

Hell House, Richard Matheson

I usually love Matheson’s work, but feel rather disappointed in this. Although I didn’t expect the book to be scary — what scared people fifty years ago differs from what scares them now — I was unprepared for the sexual content and violence against women in this. Some sentences, dialogue, and character reaction also come across as clunky, though a few became clearer as the story progressed. It’s amazing how much incredible detail four candles reveal in a ninety-five foot room. I enjoyed much of this, but it seems largely a story of possession rather than a haunting.

The Only Good Indians, Stephen Graham Jones

I want to like this book. It’s got a plot with potential; a blend of an ill-conceived elk hunt, a vengeful spirit, and generations of faith and heritage, though I’m not sure I’d classify this as horror. Sadly, I feel I had to drag myself through its pages, so I took weeks to read this in small snippets, and skimmed most of the basketball sections, which is one of the many passages that go on too long. Many of the sentences are ropey, and, at first read, aren’t clear, requiring they be read as a whole to guess or piece together what’s happening. Many scenes are simply muddy owing to the convoluted style, which made the book rather boring. I’m sorry to say this writer’s style simply isn’t for me, but it seems to garner polarising reviews, so I’d suggest trying a sample and making up your own mind.

What the Lady Wants, Jennifer Crusie

Not Crusie’s best, but her work is always good, and this one is as fun and witty as others. This time, the relationship is between Mae and Mitch, who couldn’t be more different. Mae, a niece to three questionable characters, and Mitch a Private Investigator… or is he? The best thing about this book is the banter, which Crusie never seems to get wrong.

The Thursday Murder Club, Richard Osman

I thought I should get around to reading this as someone bought it as a present for me, shortly after I had bought a copy for someone else who I knew wanted it. Which makes it sound as if I didn’t really want to read this… and I have to confess I was at least on the fence. Richard Osman seems like a nice guy, but so many celebrities were penning books and obviously having little or no trouble getting them published during lockdown, it became a little depressing. Still, this is a light, fun, and well-plotted read. Not usually my kind of book, but perfect for those who like a lightweight, humorous murder mystery. And there’s one chapter in which we learn Bernard’s story that’s entirely heartfelt.

Fan Fiction, Brent Spiner

Apparently fiction despite the ‘men-noir’ line on the front suggesting otherwise. What strikes the reader is Spiner’s ability to poke fun at himself as well as his co-workers/friends, though never meanly. Ultimately, the book seems to be about the dividing line between actor and character, and a person and fandom. Enjoyable and unexpected.

Hex, Thomas Olde Heuvelt

This book may well be unique in terms of a haunting. The setting is not a haunted house but an entire village, and the ‘ghost’ is that of a witch which has corporal form yet the ability to wander at will. Something of a slow burn in places it’s received a few mixed reviews, though fans who love not to be rushed and like Stephen King, might get on well with this. I hated every moment I had to put it down. Written in mostly omnipresent head-hopping viewpoints, the novel suffers from an overuse of cliches, but the story blows these minor issues aside. There’s so much subtext here, dealing with all we know about violence and fear, and of how humans don’t need true evil to misbehave. The revelation of evil is inspired, and the ending is a simply perfect conclusion, pulling all threads together. I’ve seen reviews from those who feel otherwise, but it comes down to what the reader wants from a horror story. I’ve yet to find such a book that truly scares me. Some have come close to disturbing me, but for me, that’s not quite the same thing. Hex does neither, but I loved this book, found it insidiously fascinating. This story will always be with me, as will my copy, and that’s what the best books have — an unforgettable quality. Would make an excellent film if done well.

Charlie All Night, Jennifer Crusie

Light summer reading, but a great deal of fun. I enjoyed the characters of Charlie and Allie, the rest of the cast, the little town they’re living in, and especially the puppy. Not sure all their disagreements were perfect, but then that reflects life. People say things they don’t mean, and can be misinterpreted, and that shows well here. An enjoyable read, perfect for a holiday or a lazy weekend. Though not as deep as some of her later works, there’s nothing wrong with that. This is another book showing an author’s developing style. Worth it for Crusie fans.

WRITING

Good and bad news.

Sweet Temptations released, and I also had a lovely surprise in the post — my contributor’s copy of Operation Wildcat featuring my short story, The Gift. So, this should be a wonderful month.

Alas, with Amazon’s refusal to do anything about the return of ebooks, they’re becoming more of a lending library than a seller, resulting in an active campaign on TikTok telling readers to read and return, that it’s an author problem, not a reader problem. Writers I know are reporting higher and higher returns, sometimes the same reader returning a whole series, so clearly reading and enjoying. Although the notion that if a reader isn’t 100% delighted with a book, the book is somehow faulty goods must stop. We (being publishers and writers) tried to talk Amazon into refusing returns once a percentage of a book has been read. Some are even happy for this to be 50% of a book.

The Kindle format allows them to know what page a reader has reached. They also allow for a sample to be downloaded before purchase, so there’s no excuse. As one writer said, you can’t buy a coffee, drink the liquid and return the empty cup for a full refund. The same should apply to a book. In short, right now, many of us are having half the books we ‘sell’ returned and making so little that many are thinking of giving it up. One author reported her average of returns going up from 1 to 3 copies to over 60. The idea of it not being a reader problem soon may be if the writers stop writing. Of course, what we really need is for it to affect the big names enough that Amazon has to listen. Either that or authors need to find another platform that doesn’t have to include Amazon.

Stay happy and healthy!

Sharon x

The Gift (Operation Wildcat)

Had this little beauty turn up at the weekend.

Join  the Brigadier and Benton in nine short stories looking at life in the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce.

Ever wondered what happened on Benton’s first official day in UNIT, or why he left to sell used cars? Ever wondered how Benton earned his sergeant stripes? Or what he got up to on his days off?

How Does UNIT select new recruits? And what happens when the clean-up after an alien incursion goes wrong? In Operation Wildcat and Other Stories, you’ll find these things out – and a lot more.

Features stories by Tim Gambrell, Simon A Brett, Iain McLaughlin, Sharon Bidwell, James Middleditch, Baz Greenland, Sarah Groenewegen and Jonathan Macho.

Sweet Temptations Excerpt

Sweet Temptations released this weekend. A new, never before published LGBTQ romance. I hope you enjoy this excerpt:

“So, you’re Mister Delvaux.” Sounded more like Jack took the declaration on board than questioned the fact. “The mystery purchaser.”

“Yes. And you are?” Not as he wanted more details, but knowing as much about this man as possible might prove useful if Jack became a real problem.

A defensive expression passed over Jack’s face. “Jack…Brewer.” The slight hesitation didn’t pass Brinley by, though he didn’t know what to make of it, or the way Jack scanned the room again. The man still seemed unhappy, and about something more than Brinley skipping out, or leaving him a biscuit. “So, you’re opening a bakery?”

An attempt to change the subject? That suited Brinley. “Of a sort. Selective goods, one might say. All sweet. No savoury. At least, not right away.” Locals might want more variety, but once they tried his sweets, he doubted it. “I don’t intend to compete with any local pasty bakers.”

“Think you’ve picked the right spot? I mean, this is mostly a holiday crowd. They’ll be on the lookout for pasties, sausage rolls, chips. Fudge. They eat their share of cakes and cream teas—”

“No cream teas here,” Brinley declared, the reason he volunteered the information beyond him. “Only cakes. Cookies. Specialties. But trust me, the holiday crowd won’t resist. Neither will those in this parish.”

“So, you’re actually moving in? To work and live.” Gaze flicking over the ceiling, down to the windows, Jack appeared to absorb this information. He peered around, taking everything in. A confusing expression of regret appeared on his face. “I didn’t think the kitchen here would—”

“I’m changing all that. Changing everything.”

Jack took to nodding, slipping his hands into the back pockets of his jeans, hands pressed against the luscious curve of his arse cheeks. An unwanted shiver passed through Brinley.

“Still, it’ll take time. Cost a lot.”

“Jack, what’s truly going on here?”

Colour infused Jack’s face, though Brinley couldn’t tell if the cause was embarrassment or anger. “What do you mean?”

“The fact we’re here is a surprise to us both, but you seem angry with me. I’m sorry if you expected me to stick around to wake you with a kiss…” Though he wouldn’t have minded doing so, he couldn’t take the risk. Romance with the non-Gifted didn’t mix. Brinley gave himself a mental kick, finishing with, “I’m not the sort to pause long enough to lay roses on pillows.”

“No, only cookies on tables.” Jack grinned, but the gesture didn’t stretch to his eyes, his tone a blend of disgust and annoyance. “But why are you here at all? Why wander on in here? Can’t be a coincidence. Either you learned I arrived, though I can’t imagine how, or…” A flash of insight came to him. “You’re interested in the building.”

Jack’s eyes narrowed. He made chewing movements with his jaw. His hands, removed from his pockets, fisted. Long seconds stretched out, calculations speeding through Jack’s eyes, until he apparently settled on being honest. “You beat my bid. I stopped by to check who took the house, which should rightfully be mine.”

“What on earth are you talking about?”

“I bid on this place.”

“As did others.” Scanning the auctions, Brinley had spotted this building in an ideal location. “Anyone might have outbid you.”

“But you did. You’re the one. An anonymous bidder. On the phone.”

“I couldn’t get down here in time. I needed an agent to—”

“I put in the second highest. The most I could afford. You put in a jump no one could outbid. More than the place is worth refurbished.”

Jack sounded accusing and perhaps with reason, but his antagonism struck Brinley as excessive, not merely a pissed local angry with someone from outside coming in and taking over the place. This showed all the signs of something personal.

“It’s not listed as a commercial property,” Jack added. “So how you got by regulations—”

“The building was once a business venture. Many years ago, when first built. Because someone once used the premises for trade, planning gave the okay. How did you not know?”

Jack blinked, a frown and twitches running over his face. “I wanted this house for a home. Maybe to create an annex to rent to help finance the running. Not as…as…”

“As what, Jack? What’s so wrong with a bakery?” Not that his place would be any old bakery. “Once used as an apothecary, this is ideal for my needs.” Out back, a large apothecary cabinet covered one wall, a fine antique Brinley fully intended to utilise for his own supplies, the multiple drawer unit part of the house’s charm.

“You wouldn’t understand.”

“Enlighten me.”

Brinley Delvaux loves to bake tempting treats that can change people’s lives. But when he moves to a quaint seaside town in order to alter his own, the last complication he needs is falling for Jack Brewer, a man whose sudden appearance messes up Brinley’s timetable to renovate the old Holberton place, as well as his plans for a quiet future.

Worse, Jack is a normal human, whereas Brinley is one of the Gifted, with powers most people cannot comprehend and which Brinley isn’t at liberty to share. Spending time with Jack is potentially dangerous for at least one of them, and Brinley’s seeking a quiet future separate from his past with the Gifted community.

There’s only one answer… to use his powers to solve the problem of Jack. Aside from some personal trauma, what could possibly go wrong?

Available now directly from JMS Books for those in the US (please buy direct from publishers where possible), and from reputable publishers everywhere else. Currently in ebook. Print to follow.

Sweet Temptations Releases

Though I usually keep mention of my romance titles to a subsite of mine, I do mention releases on here, and I couldn’t be more pleased than to announce Sweet Temptations hits the market on the 12th in ebook form. The printed copy usually arrives sometime after.

Brinley Delvaux loves to bake tempting treats that can change people’s lives. But when he moves to a quaint seaside town in order to alter his own, the last complication he needs is falling for Jack Brewer, a man whose sudden appearance messes up Brinley’s timetable to renovate the old Holberton place, as well as his plans for a quiet future.

Worse, Jack is a normal human, whereas Brinley is one of the Gifted, with powers most people cannot comprehend and which Brinley isn’t at liberty to share. Spending time with Jack is potentially dangerous for at least one of them, and Brinley’s seeking a quiet future separate from his past with the Gifted community.

There’s only one answer… to use his powers to solve the problem of Jack. Aside from some personal trauma, what could possibly go wrong?

Available for the US market directly from JMS books and for other regions with reputable retailers from the 12th. News of the print version will follow as soon as possible.

Update Feb 2022

Hi Everyone!

AT HOME:

Looking forward to spring with the first signs cropping up. Planning to make a couple of changes in the garden. I’ve restarted acupuncture, but I’m not too hopeful. We survived the storms with only a bit of screen coming loose and a few garden ornaments lying down. As to what’s going on in the world, there’s nothing I can say about Ukraine that everyone else isn’t saying. Clearly this world will never be free of its Hitlers. Save us from the fanatical and lunatic fringe in charge.

Ended the month with the washing machine busting on me. Big bang. I went running and turned it off, first on the machine and then on the main switch as soon as the drum stopped. Soon as I could open the door, a tiny amount of smoke came out (from the drum rubbing, not an electrical fire). Everyone, please never leave the house with appliances running. I know some people do, but I never do, and this is why. It’s about 7 years old, which is probably a good life for a washing machine.

FILM/TV:

Still got to finish watching Castle, and Star Trek Next Gen, and the US version of The Office.

There’s not been a lot of offers film wise, but two I could mention are Nobody, starring Bob Odenkirk, which some may know from the incredible Breaking Bad series, and the Saul spinoff. It’s macho action but fun if you take it for what it is, and a delight for me was seeing Christopher Lloyd as the father.

Watched the critically acclaimed The Power of the Dog. This may not be a popular opinion, but I thought the acting superb, but the story a little blah, but that’s likely because I knew how it was going to end less than halfway through the film, so the shocker of an ending wasn’t there for me as it has been for others. I can’t help wondering if I would have guessed the outcome so easily, and whether I would have enjoyed the story more by reading the book. Or is this the writer’s curse?

READING:

Thud, Terry Pratchett

A less humorous book than many other Discworld novels, but so intelligent. There’s a lot of subtexts here covering government, racism, human nature, among others, with all the stupidity that comes along with these failings. An education in erudition with Sam Vimes, the teacher of the decade. And most of all, a book where every reader will root for Sam to get home on time to read ‘Where’s my Cow?’

Manhunting, Jennifer Crusie

Crusie is one of my favourite romance writers. Though not her best, this is a light and fun read. Crusie knows how to write the most witty banter and even makes arguments entertaining. And although the idea of a woman ‘on the hunt’ for a man may seem dated, she solves this by making Kate Svenson strong and independent. Crusie has written much better books than this, but it doesn’t feel like this deserves to be completely overlooked.

Howl’s Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones

I’ve owned the sequel (middle book) to this trilogy for years, so when I realised it wasn’t the first book, I picked up books 1 and 3. Although it’s essentially a children’s book, I’m not above re-reading books I loved as a child or reading famous ones which I missed out on and this is one of those. I loved this. Yes, not all the characters are exactly likeable, but I could name more than a few characters from my childhood books that are far from perfect. There’s a lot of plot here, surprisingly so. The story gets a little snarled up in its own cleverness, but had I come across this as a child, I’m sure it would have been one of those I kept all these years. Howl is a bit of an egocentric, but not as clueless as he first appears to be. The castle is perhaps the best character in the book. I will say I’m uncertain what age group this is for. I could have read it aged around 8, but there are long words, some dated, that I’m unsure children today would know. A book some children may need help with. But this is a fabulous story that will stay with those who love it for years. (Side note: there are some notiable differences between the book and the film; I prefer the book.)

Castle in the Air, Diana Wynne Jones

At first, I was a little confused why this is a sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle. It’s a completely different story and doesn’t directly feature any characters from the first book until about two-thirds in. The language is sophisticated for today, meaning there aren’t many adults let alone children who would know what mulct means. Some of the content I’m sure will seem a little stereotypical as it features a poor carpet seller, a rich sultan’s daughter, and a flying carpet. Yes, it’s somewhat generic of Aladdin, but characters known and loved from book one appear before the end with an interesting outcome.

House of Many Ways, Diana Wynne Jones

This features more new characters, though Howl and friends appear more heavily than they did in book two. Sophie and sidekick Waif (a dog) make a welcome appearance, though the strange house with its ‘two’ rooms and magical ways of twists and turns to find others is a fabulous character itself. Well worked out, and great fun. I felt the ending seemed a little too fast; still, this is not one to miss out on, though this is better than the second, but not as good as the first.

Strange Bedpersons, Jennifer Crusie

Wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy this at first. Like Manhunting, it took a few pages to get into the story, but I like the juxtaposition of views and opposing lifestyles in this. It’s somewhat amazing the author makes a romance between such disparate people believable. The plot resolves well, and some disagreements leading up to a wonderful scene at a very public dinner table are a delight.

The Incredible Journey, Sheila Burnford

I’m revisiting some older loves, including childhood favourites, and remember devouring this book as a child. I freely admit I went through a phase of reading almost nothing but animal adventures, including this understandable classic. Although the references to using dogs as gun dogs were something I had to set aside then as much as now, the overall story of three animals overcoming adversity to reach home is one that touches many animal lovers, and remains unforgettable.

WRITING

Have done the edits on Sweet Temptations. Release still planned for March. Just waiting on the galley proof to read. As promised, here’s the first look at the blurb, which I’m really pleased with:

Brinley Delvaux loves to bake tempting treats that can change people’s lives. But when he moves to a quaint seaside town in order to alter his own, the last complication he needs is falling for Jack Brewer, a man whose sudden appearance messes up Brinley’s timetable to renovate the old Holberton place, as well as his plans for a quiet future.

Worse, Jack is a normal human, whereas Brinley is one of the Gifted, with powers most people cannot comprehend and which Brinley isn’t at liberty to share. Spending time with Jack is potentially dangerous for at least one of them, and Brinley’s seeking a quiet future separate from his past with the Gifted community.

There’s only one answer… to use his powers to solve the problem of Jack. Aside from some personal trauma, what could possibly go wrong?

Stay happy and healthy!

Sharon x

Read for Ten Minutes

Way back in 2014 (yes, I remember as I’ve blogged this before), Breakfast Television annoyed me not because of the disastrous news that usually occurs daily. Oddly, I wouldn’t often watch television in the morning, or stop to take notice if someone else had a programme on. But when I heard a recommendation to read for just ten minutes a day, it caught my attention. The presenter was saying how difficult it is to find ten minutes a day to read. The guest speaker was trying to agree, but to stress how important it is.

Ten minutes? Hmm… I can’t help feeling, except for extreme circumstances, everyone should have ten peaceful minutes. If they don’t, they need to reorganise their lives for their own sake.

Note: I said, except for extreme circumstances, so please don’t jump in with a chorus of disapproval. I’ve known carers who, yes, would find ten minutes difficult without falling asleep, but they still deserve ten peaceful minutes. Ten minutes to be transported out of their daily lives to another universe, and that’s what books can do for everyone. We all deserve time for oneself. We need it for physical and mental wellbeing. Reading has helped me through some truly stressful times. It’s been a lifeline, support, a close friend. I wish everyone could experience the same solace from reading that I do, but I understand that for some, that’s not possible. Still, I’d encourage reading for other reasons.

First, let’s get back to the subject of finding ten minutes. I’m referring to many people I know who come home from work to spend three hours watching television, so have no excuse finding time for ten minutes of reading. For those with children, please read to them for ten minutes at bedtime. Seriously, try it, even if they moan. There’s nothing better than books to stimulate their learning and the amount of pleasure gained in those quiet ten minutes may surprise the adults more than the children. An adult reading me to sleep is one of my favourite childhood memories, and I would feel all the poorer for not having that experience. An experience, I add, which has remained with me throughout my life. Even when life was at its most bleak, someone reading me a story was a constant treat to look forward to. Time spent together. Time spent well.

We talk about leading busy lives, but my grandparents’ generation worked far harder and still found the time. They had few chances simply to sit. Little time for fun. Little time when there wasn’t a chore that needed doing, and they had no home help such as washing machines (not even a launderette), but they still read to me, and I still read at bedtime as an adult, almost nightly. I’ve read at bus-stops, on trains, in cars, in a queue, during adverts, when ill, waiting for a phone call. If I read two pages or twenty, I read.

What made the argument even worse is the presenter said for adults who have reading problems that makes finding ten minutes even more difficult. That’s even more reason they need to be reading, which brings me to my other motives for encouragement.

I keep saying this—reading is the basis for all learning. If you can read, as long as you have access to the library, then you can teach yourself so many things. Good reading and writing skills will help throughout life. Reading helps to turn young people into more successful adults. It makes them more literate no matter what they do in life. I bet many who say they don’t have time to read still find the time to play with something else, such as a computer game, or browsing on their phone. I’ve read studies linking reading to better health, particularly with conditions like Alzheimer’s, but of course, in the news item I saw, no one mentioned that.

Can’t read for ten minutes? My brain flips and has to ask, “How can you not?” No time to read for ten minutes? How can anyone stand not to read for that or longer?

Update Jan 2022

Hi Everyone!

As always, I’ve set this out so you can read the sections you want to read. I have publishing news, so note the writing section.

AT HOME:

It’s been a fairly quiet time, though I’ve been busy writing. We’ve got out to walk locally, but nothing to impart on the home front this month.

FILM/TV:

Right now we’re still re-watching Castle (Disney) as we never got to the end originally (Sky box melted; not kidding — came home to the smell of melting plastic one day and we gave up as they refused to give us a deal on a new box).

We are now watching The Discovery of Witches on NOWTV (only ever read the 1st book, though I thoroughly enjoyed it, so may need to get around to the 2nd and 3rd).

We’re still re-watching Star Trek Next Gen on Netflix, and the US version of The Office, which, I said last month, has pleasantly surprised me. I liked the UK version and often when there’s a remake elsewhere, it’s never as good. This time it feels as good just different. The US version has a surprisingly British feel to it, no doubt because Ricky Gervais was involved.

And we watched Around the World in 80 Days on BBC iPlayer, which is surely one of the best things the ‘Beeb’ has made for some time. Have to admit we seldom watch anything from the BBC these days, and would happily see the back of the TV Licence because of it — sorry, but it’s time we stopped paying for things we don’t use, and one or two programmes isn’t enough to warrant the cost. Glad to hear there’ll be a second series and it would be wonderful if they keep to Jules Verne stories, but even that wouldn’t make me subscribe. As for another series, we’re keeping up with Death in Paradise.

READING:

Jan

Lightning, Dean Koontz

A re-read for me, though I’ve never forgotten the heart wrenching moment following the fire which I first read on a train journey when I had to put the book down. Times have changed. Knowing what was coming, I wasn’t so affected this time, and the story of publication success seems farfetched in these turbulent times of the industry, though in rare cases it happens. This is a tight supernatural science fiction thriller, and I enjoyed it as much now as I did so many years ago. What I realised during this reread is the sorrow in these pages is as important as all the other aspects to make the work enjoyable. Without conflict, there is no story, and this book has it in bucket loads.

The Hapless Child, Edward Gorey

I can’t really claim to have ‘read’ this book, as there’s not much to read. Each page contains a simple statement and one of Gorey’s quirky drawings, which is really what makes the book. Warning: if you don’t already know the story and don’t want to know the details, then don’t read the book flap because it gives the facts away. Fortunately, I had some inkling. When finished, which I did in under five minutes, even taking time to study the pictures, the bleakness left part of me harrowed, and part of me wanted to laugh. That could be partly a dark, twisted sense of humour, or a coping mechanism. I’m sure it’s both. One of the dreariest tales, this is perfect to dig out when anyone moans about their lot in life because you can remind them of poor little Charlotte Sophia. The type of book Jack Skellington would mistakenly give out to children for Christmas. This makes me think of the original fairy tales, which are darker than many people who haven’t read them believe. There’s something oddly interesting about this little book.

Tender is the Flesh, Agustina Bazterrrica

The subject of humans being used as meat is not a new one, and I could mention another book which I feel has approached it better. I wanted to feel for the main character in this novel, but I couldn’t connect with the story mostly because of the way it’s written. Many authors seem to adopt present tense recently, but it took several confusing pages for me to realise ‘he’ almost always means the main character. For example: “El Gringo steps away from Egmont and approaches him, just as he’s thinking there must be more than 200 in the barn.” Read as is, this sentence is very confusing. How can someone both step away AND approach? And who is doing the thinking? When you realise the ‘him’ and the ‘he’s thinking’ are both Marcos (the MC), the sentence becomes clearer, but I’m surprised any decent editor allowed the book to go to publication like this, and would take it as a self-published book. The entire basis of the story — the almost non-existent animal population because of a virus — would present a far great ecological disaster than humans being unable to find meat for their dinner plate. Then there’s the scene of animal cruelty which adds nothing to the story. I dislike animal cruelty in books, though will tolerate it if I feel it is important, but here it struck me as entirely unnecessary. I hate sounding negative. The author tells a decent story, and aside from the lack of a personal pronoun for the main character can clearly write. However, the book is neither frightening as a horror story, nor does it work as a great allegory, except, perhaps, to show human nature at its most bleak and appalling.

Cunning Folk, Adam L.G. Nevill

Having experienced bad neighbours, this book contained some personal horror for me, so much so, I found it hard to switch off after reading one section. Yes, this is supernatural horror, but the twin joys of moving in a money pit of a house next door to the worse neighbours one can imagine makes for a memorable folk horror. I must admit, the ‘folk next door’ presented a greater horror than what might be out in the woods for me. Maybe disturbing more than scary, but, though horror is a favourite genre for me, I’ve yet to find a truly scary book. I found a few of the descriptive sentences a little too much, perhaps excessively flowery, needing to read them twice, but I find Nevill’s style of work compelling, so even an occasional awkward sentence would never deter me. Opinions are just that, anyway, with no true right or wrong. I’m a reader who appreciates an author who takes me on an unexpected journey, and I also appreciate Nevill has an extensive vocabulary. The descent into madness (neighbours driving a person crazy), is spot-on and disturbingly delightful.

The Butterfly Garden, Dot Hutchinson

I started reading this book against my better judgement upon recommendation. Written in both first person sections and others in present tense, I was immediately uncertain, but it works to tell this story. The educated way the main protagonist speaks also threw me, a rather sophisticated way for such a young woman. This is a horrible rape thriller (though there are no portrayed rape scenes), and (horrible) is what it should be. Maybe it tries to play psychoanalyst to both victim and criminal, but it doesn’t quite succeed. Some readers find this book disturbing. Others hate it and blame the victims for not fighting back, and, to a point, I agree with both observations. I have to wonder when faced with an impossible prison, and a worse ‘caretaker’ if one killed one’s keeper, what might many people do, even if eventual death is unavoidable? Still, I find it unrealistic — there’s not enough covered in the book for those who fell apart; they’re almost a footnote, pure observation. We’re not shown those who perhaps sought a way out, even if they paid the ultimate price. We don’t hear their screaming and crying, only weeping… and there would be more variations of reactions, emotions, and personalities, loud and quiet; subdued and violent. Disturbing? Though I shed a tear during a couple of moments, I read most of the story as an unaffected observer and when trying to work out what’s wrong with this book, I feel there I have my answer. There’s a lack of emotional investment. I felt sorry for the plight of the women, felt a natural disgust for the perpetrator, but aside from wanting them to escape purely sympathetically, as any decent person would, I wasn’t rooting for anyone. I think I understand the author’s intent — to keep the main character telling her story dispassionately, because it’s the character’s upbringing and way of coping, but it also leaves the reader in a rather dispassionate place. You can’t sink to the depths of depravity without making the reader feel the anguish. I also couldn’t help reading this without thinking of The Collector, by John Fowles, as this seems to be the same story taken to a more extreme level.

The Ghost Machine, James Lovegrove

When I started this book, I immediately felt this was going to be my least favourite of the first 3 Firefly novels, and in some ways, it is. I think this is because at first the threat didn’t feel genuine enough, but as the conflict ramps up, there’s reason to root for the crew’s survival. In that way it feels like a book of two halves, but it still finds its place in the Firefly universe, although I cannot imagine some of these scenes would ever have made it into an episode. This is in some ways possibly the most brutal story to date.

I’ve started Thud, by Terry Pratchett, so more on that next time.

WRITING

I at last subbed the book I talked about last month. Pleased to announce JMS Books has contracted Sweet Temptations. Release still planned for March. I’ll share the blurb next month.

Stay happy and healthy!

Sharon x