Update Oct 2021

Hi Everyone!

AT HOME:
Went to a local market for the first time in… it’s got to be 20 months at least. Still keeping ourselves as safe as we can (too many seem to have forgotten you can still catch the virus whether you’re vaccinated), but trying to have something of a life. Sounds a simple thing, but it delighted us to buy pasties, sausage rolls (fabulous sausage, cheese, and red onion marmalade flavour!), fresh bread, and a lovely bunch of roses. Time out definitely makes you appreciate the simple things in life.

FILM/TV:
Watching Squid Game on Netflix along with what seems most of the population — a rather brutal live or die dark fiction drama, but Episode 6 was so sad and a real pull on the heartstrings. Episode 7 had to potential to give me vertigo. Only two episodes to go.

Catching up with BBC’s Ghosts, which I watch mostly because it’s so close to something I wrote as a child, it’s almost like seeing my idea come to fruition. Of course, I was too young to pull it off, but the basic idea was the same. Proves timing is everything, and that authors share ideas all the time.
We finally got around to watching No One Get Out Alive. Alas, as I expected, it’s nowhere near as good an experience as reading the book, in part because it’s rewritten and reset for an American audience. Still, the film version had some concepts I liked, but whatever one thinks of the film, I’d recommend the book.

READING:
I have now started listening to audiobooks, a thing I’ve done in the past, but gave up because I often found my concentration wandering. I would need to rewind too often. Fortunately, I’ve discovered I can listen when cycling, when drawing, and when preparing dinner, so I’ve added audiobooks to my ‘reading’ experience again. There are also a lot of dramatisations worth paying attention to. I’ll include and mark any books which I’ve enjoyed audibly.

Night Shift, Charlaine Harris
The last book in the Midnight series, this ties up the loose ends nicely, although I felt the big showdown falls back somewhat on a tired cliche. I felt Manfred was a little under-used, seeing as he’s been the main character from the start. Here, all the characters get their screen time, and it’s the characters that make the books entertaining. Now I’ve finished them, the series almost feels too short. Of course, Mr Snuggly (a talking cat) had to have the last word.

The Ruins, Scott Smith
A book with a slightly misleading title, in that it led me to expect adventurers finding something terrible buried beneath the earth or in some old tomb. If I say it’s about a strange vine, no doubt many will want to move on, but this book’s saving grace and what lifts it above B-Movie status is it’s so well written. There’s no letup, and no doubt left in the reader’s mind. The narrative draws you into the characters’ plight, makes you root for them regardless of their personalities. Makes the reader plead for a rescue. The narrative, sadness, predicament, and dread are simply relentless. This completes for a read of the year.

Imaginary Friend, Stephen Chbosky
This is a tough book to rate. The writing is too basic for many adults, yet age appropriate for the protagonist who is a child. Note: The golden rule used to be if the main character was a child, then it was a book for children because publishers believed adults wouldn’t be interested in what happened to children. We’re somewhat past this now, following on from the success of the Harry Potter books which gained an adult audience. However, there’s not enough to differentiate between the characters in… well, character, or age. And I imagined the children as far older than purported to be. What drives this book — the purpose of the book, if you like — is subtext. I didn’t find the horror in the book all that horrific because of the child-like narrative. The author uses far too many fragmented sentences for every paragraph to be enjoyable. Though I don’t know what I’d cut, this is a HUGE book. Far too long. The subtext covers many things… seems sometimes to talk about how we treat each other, how people operate in society and behave towards their neighbours, our family and friends, as much as it includes religion — a criticism I’ve seen, though I’m left uncertain whether the author is for or against. It touches on the personal note and a bigger picture. The story has stayed with me, but I’m uncertain if I care about that the book offered, and though there was no way I was going to stop reading and I’m an avid and determined reader, the book was too long even for me because it became repetitive in the last quarter. The book has something to say, but the question is whether you’ll want to hear any of it. There are several deliciously creepy parts. There are characters you want to know more about and become invested in, but I’m not sure that for such a long book there was a big enough pay off for the characters I cared about. For every plus, I found a negative. I’m honestly torn. Though the scope is impressive, it left me with a feeling of dissatisfaction. I neither like nor dislike the book.

Get a F*cking Grip, Matthew Kimberley (audio book)
A five and a half hour giggle with the only self-help book anyone truly needs. May also be the only proverbial kick anyone needs. We all know these things — the book tells us nothing new — but it states more than a few home truths many people won’t enjoy hearing and won’t let themselves pay attention to. Yes, there’s some silliness too, but the author puts all the advice you ever knew and didn’t want to listen to together entertainingly, and has the perfect voice to present it.

Ask an Astronaut, Tim Peake
I’ve taken several weeks to read this book, dipping in an out, but having loved, ‘Hello, is this planet Earth?’, Tim’s pictorial look at travelling to space reading this was a simple decision. Tim has put together a fascinating and informative book that answers every question most of us would ever want to ask and answers them in a way most anyone can understand. From training, to launch, to working in space, what a spacewalk is like, and how it feels to return to Earth, as well as what’s coming in the future. A fun narrative and must-read book for anyone who has ever looked up at the stars and wondered what’s out there.

Pine, Francine Toon
I found this story interesting, and the book is an easy read. It’s certainly atmospheric, even mystical, but I found small sections felt choppy. Some conversations likewise, perhaps to lead the reader astray. At first, I thought I was reading a ghost story. Ultimately, as much as some of the book is lovely, other parts feel flat, and the reveal happens too fast. The supernatural elements never reach a satisfactory pay off. As a debut novel, it’s good, but I have to wonder what the editorial staff were thinking; they’re there to work with authors to make sure the book meets its potential, and this book leaves too many threads blowing in the wind. Even down to Lauren’s apparent bullying at school, and her questionable ability to weave some kind of spell to put a stop to it — is this real? Or the desperation of a tormented child? I can only think the author intended to leave such questions unanswered, which would be fine if there weren’t so many of them. Despite this, I enjoyed the read, though the book is going into the charity pile.

WRITING
I’ve sorted out my work in progress and hope to have a finished book by the end of the month. Publication wise, next February might be good timing owing to the subject… providing I’m happy with the finished result. Anything I’m dissatisfied with gets trunked these days. One thing I would like to do is to write some more short stories.

Stay happy and healthy!
Sharon x

Got or Gotten?

Editing requires compromise between editor and writer. Editing shouldn’t occur in one direction, but I’ll likely talk about that another time. The point is edits should be open for discussion, so it may be a surprise to hear me say there’s one word I’ve always insisted not appear in my work. That word is gotten.

In the USA and Canada, gotten is the past participle of got (some say it’s also the past participle of get, but it’s more complicated).

In the UK got is the past participle of get. UK dictionaries list gotten as North American and Archaic.

To put it another way and further explain, the past tense of get is got, but in British English, got is also the past participle. In American English, it depends on the situation. Though it’s a little hard for me to get my head around (seems unnecessarily convoluted), it depends on whether the circumstances are ‘static’ meaning possessing or needing, or ‘dynamic’ meaning acquiring or becoming.

So one might say, I got a new dog, but equally, I’ve gotten a new dog. In both cases, a Brit would simply use got.

Both versions are ancient, but the simple got has been the accepted use for so long in the UK most people don’t know gotten ever existed or even does. For a long time when younger if I came across gotten in a book, I assumed the writer was using slang, particularly when the word formed part of speech. To be fair, for someone who had never come across the word in an English lesson, and for which it sounded so jarring, it’s not an implausible assumption to make.

There are plenty of words which become part of the British language, and I don’t mean those we’ve imported from the United States, particularly by watching an influx of American television shows. Many words in many languages originate from other sources, and even form the basis of words we know today. Many of these enrich our vocabulary, but gotten has never worked for me. Neither does scarf (as in scarf down food — in the UK we would say to scoff down food).

So, why do I dislike gotten so much, especially as it’s one of those words creeping back into the English language? Language everywhere has always been pliable. New words form; equally words drop out of usage. Gotten ‘to my ear’ sounds lazy (and I stress only what I hear, not in criticism of its use elsewhere), because it sounds like slang. Simple as. Also, the UK use is far simpler. But more than that I’ve written mostly English characters based in the UK (or in space and yes, some fantasy settings), but for those contemporary works, I know most British characters wouldn’t use the word, so it makes no sense for it to appear in the narrative. I would argue the same in the scarf/scoff example. If I were writing an American character, I would equally insist on word appropriate language.

Update September 2021

Hi Everyone!

AT HOME:
Been out and about for the first time in almost 2 years. At long last visited relatives, and shortly after we spent a week in the Tamar Valley, Cornwall. We mostly walked around gardens and did our best to stay away from people. Morning and evening we enjoyed the view. Because of needing to book and limited entry numbers, health issues, and the weather, we weren’t able to do all we might usually have done, but it was a much appreciated break. Maybe more on that another time.

FILM/TV:
Watched Hausen, a strange dystopian German drama that I would say fits dark fiction rather than horror. The building is as much a character as any of the people, maybe the lead of this slightly surreal reflection of tenement life. The dark gloop that infests the outrageously tall block of flats seems to be a manifestation of the bleakness in some lives. It’s overlong and a little slow, but worth a watch if you like this type of genre… but ‘only’ if it’s your type of programme.

Sticking to the dark/horror themes, we’re watching Brand New Cherry Flavor, a Netflix original that’s as bizarre as it is interesting.

We want to watch No One Get Out Alive asap — more on that below in Reading.

READING:
This month I read a couple of ebooks that were so odd and somewhat distasteful, I’m not giving them air time. The subjects were peculiar and both could have done with editing. Lesson learned I shouldn’t always listen to group recommendations.

Watchers, Dean Koontz
A re-read for me, and I must start by saying that it’s possible but surprising the author was not aware back in 1987 that human chocolate is poisonous to dogs, but I would hope any reprints of this book would have the scenes where Travis feeds the dog such treats removed. There’s also a flippant remark about washing the dog almost ‘too much’. Dogs should not be washed more than once or twice a year because it upsets the balance of oils in their coats. Short lesson aside, maybe it’s a sign of changing times, but although I remember enjoying this book the first time around, a protagonist who indulges in shooting any living thing for ‘fun’, even if it is a snake, seems a strange choice, although Travis becomes a good lead, with Nora perhaps more so. Of course, the star of this book is the retriever. Again, one has to wonder if some parts of this book work today — putting out a cover story about a medical research dog having gone astray now might have as many people looking for the dog to hide it as to hand it in. The book also has the ultimate antagonist (more than one), which is to be as pitied as feared. Though a great thriller, this speaks to anyone who has loved a dog, has had to show the greatest loyalty in return by being there in times of heartbreak. This remains one of Koontz’s more famous novels with a following of dog lovers everywhere. Touched me as much now as it did when first read.

Quite Ugly One Morning, Christopher Brookmyre
I have to admit some of the Scottish colloquiums escaped me, though I got the gist. This humorous thriller set in the shady world of the NHS is so perfectly plausible and entertaining, it’s almost a must-read. I loved the character of Parablaine and would definitely read more work by Brookmyre if not for my to-be-read mountain. Highly recommend.

Day Shift, Charlaine Harris
We learn more about the strange community living in Midnight in this book, with Manfred especially facing threats from outside which endangers them all, including the peculiar reopening of an old hotel. This is a fun fantasy, and while I enjoyed much of Harris’s work, I think I like this series most of all. Although it’s not the fastest pace, this makes for comfortable reading with characters interesting enough to capture attention. They all have strengths (some supernatural), and yet very human weaknesses. We particularly learn more about Olivia’s past, the Rev’s nature, and Joe and Chuy in this one. There’s one more book, which is a relief considering my to-be-read mountain. Yet another part of me is sorry there’s only one more to go. Not every plot point is perfect, but the characters carry this through.

The Great Mordecai Moustache Mystery, Kyril Bonfiglioli
Although I dithered whether to read this one, it’s the novel which features the disagreement over Mordecai’s moustache, so I went ahead. A little disappointed Jock didn’t have more time on the pages, and though this book finished well (completed after Bonfiglioli’s death) I could tell the difference; something about parts of this feels like an easier read than previous books. Either the reader gets the Mordecai dry humour and appreciates it, or doesn’t. I can see it’s not for everyone. Reminiscent of many a classic and a blend of many. Incidentally, the film took a little from all the books to create a mash-up.

No One Gets Out Alive, Adam Nevill
I would plough through Adam Nevill’s work if not for my to-be-read mountain and the fact that would leave me waiting for him to write more books to devour. In anticipation of the upcoming Netflix adaptation, I wanted to read the novel first. This is a horror story of two worlds, urban despair and cruelty wrapped up with supernatural dread and distress, and it’s difficult to know which contains the most terror. The story also takes a necessary tangent towards the end that piles on more anxiety, questioning the main character’s sanity. Much of the story is relentless, and now I’m waiting for the husband to finish the book before we watch the film… which I’m sure will be nowhere near as good as the reading experience. So far this is my read of the year.

WRITING:
I’m halfway through the first round of edits on a work in progress, which I confess I should have finished long before now. I feel catching Covid a few weeks ago sucked away not only my imagination but motivation.
Stay happy and healthy!
Sharon x

Update July 2021

Hi Everyone!

AT HOME:

Not a lot to report, unfortunately. I finished my initial acupuncture sessions, though it’s hard to tell how much they helped. I’ve seen some intermittent improvement and will probably have the odd ‘nudge’ as my acupuncturist put it to see if it makes a difference. At some point, if it doesn’t, I’ll stop, but at least I will have given it a fair go. Alas, at the moment, he’s had to stop for a short while for personal health reasons, but at least I got the initial 8 sessions in. The best thing was the side excursion to the sweetie shop on my way home.

FILM/TV:

Finished re-watching The Good Place for the second time, and oddly I’d forgotten how much a box of tissues is necessary for the finale episode.

We’ve moved on to re-watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, just reached the end of the first season. I remember the show got better after the first series, so it will be interesting to see if I feel the same way this time.

Watched the third season of The Rookie and though I mostly began watching because it stars Nathan Fillion, it quickly became enjoyable. That finished, we started Prodigal Son, primarily because it stars Michael Sheen, but the first episode was captivating. Hope the standard continues.

Worked through the Fear Street trilogy which has had mixed reviews, but really for the genre and style of film, we found them highly watchable with blunt but less gratuitous in your face violence than some non-horror movies. I’d like to try at least a few of the books. Of course, these are by R.L. Stine, most famous for the Goosebumps children’s books.

But what we’ve enjoyed the most are the Rurouni Kinshin films. Originally a manga series, the live-action movies certainly live up to the ‘action’. Blink and you’ll miss something. Staring Takeru Satoh in the role of Hitokiri Battosai (aka Himura Kenshin), the series contains five films: Origins (2012), Kyoto Inferno (2014), The Legend Ends (2014), The Final (2021) and The Beginning (2021). Kinshin, originally a kill-sword, fights with a reverse-blade sword, having vowed never to kill again. The actor does his own stunts.

READING:

The Last Guardian (a Jon Shannow novel), David Gemmell

At last in this book, the sometimes wandering feel of the first novel comes together into the story Gemmell wanted to tell, making more sense of the timeframe. I’d say it’s definitely necessary to read the first two books of the trilogy as a single book to understand the whole, and while there is a book three, these first two read almost like companion books, complete in themselves. I found the second volume easier to read than the first, perhaps because Shannow comes more into his own. He’s the perfect quasi-essential anti-hero because of his imperfections and culpable past.

Bloodstone (a Jon Shannow novel), David Gemmell

This last book in the trilogy clarifies the timeframe used in this trilogy and expands upon it. As I liked the second book more than the first, I liked the third book more than the second. The arcs of many beloved characters tug at the heartstrings in this one, and leave the reader with a sense of the complexities of Gemmell’s plot. Most importantly, Shannow is an unforgettable character.

The Corset, Laura Purcell

Written differently to Purcell’s first book (The Silent Companions) in first person so with a different ‘voice’, still, this drew me in immediately. How best to describe Purcell’s work? Victorian gothic thrillers with supernatural slants, perhaps. Some books only reveal how well the plot works at the conclusion, and this murder mystery connecting two women from opposite sides of society is one such novel. This tale didn’t disappoint and pulls at the heartstrings. Despite not wishing to take on new authors adding to my To Be Read Mountain, I’m sorely tempted to continue reading more work by this author.

Shadowfires, Dean Koontz

A re-read for me as part of a book clearance.

Perfectly plotted with an antagonist worthy of the Resident Evil franchise, the one flaw in this supernatural thriller of the kind Koontz is best known for is its length. I would call it well-written but also over-written. Although there’s nothing wrong with all the information, there’s too much of it. I can’t help feeling trimming a few passages of character background would make for faster pacing. It’s like Koontz including all the details an author needs to know but a reader doesn’t. This didn’t bother me too much as I’m used to reading epic fantasies, but I can imagine some readers finding it a bit of a slog. Plenty will love this, though, for it’s still a tense thriller with some wonderful characters.

The Elijah Tree, Cynthea Masson

There’s a poetic quality to this book that makes me want to love it, but I don’t. It’s too abstract, scenes flitting between the players in non-chronological order. The human stories at the depth of the book, the triangles within triangles of love and loss are as despairing as they are touching, yet the mystical beliefs of the various characters and which supposedly carry the plot didn’t gel for me. As much as I felt there’s something beautiful about the writing, the story is painfully abstract, so I found it a slog. I neither like it nor hate it.

Survivor Song, Paul Tremblay

If looking for your average apocalyptic disaster infection outbreak story, this isn’t it. Instead, I stumbled into what the first-rate stories of this genre do best — focus on the survivors, this being the tale of two women connected by the shakable bonds of genuine friendship. While I wouldn’t call this book scary, it’s more effecting than that, containing true horror of a possible reality, not your average fairy-tale monster, reflecting light on the madness of humanity and the horror we watch and read in the safety of our darkened living rooms versus true adversity. Well-paced with ingenious ‘breaks’ in the narrative (gaps on the pages) that work on the emotions. The story of ’Nats and Rams’ is unforgettable. Painfully, tearfully, sorrowful.

WRITING:

I returned the galley proof to Cosmic, and got the initial draft of something I’ll simply call ST for now ready to work on — I don’t reveal titles until books are contracted, and though I seldom change titles, with this one I have once already. I have edited Cosmic and added to it, especially to increase the emotional aspect, though the story remains essentially the same.

Stay happy and healthy!

Sharon x

Update June 2021

Hi Everyone!

AT HOME:

Took a break from the DIY this month, though there’s no going out and about for us. We don’t want to mingle, and at the moment I’m still not up to it. Faced with a reason to celebrate, alas we could do nothing more than enjoy a good home-cooked meal. I always cook with fresh ingredients but made more of an effort. It’s not like I can even enjoy a bottle of wine these days, as that irritates my condition. Good news on the exercise bike I mentioned last month. I love it, and am cycling 10 miles 4 times a week.

FILM/TV:

Coming to the end of the last series of Parks and Recreation having enjoyed it, and two other series I recommend that I’ve revisited while cycling, is Schitt’s Creek, and The Good Place… a comical series that explores ethics in a way no show has done before or since. I advise sticking with both as they get better with time.

We’ve also gone through the original episodes of Star Trek, not having watched them for years, though, of course, they’ve revamped it a little, using better tech to make the planets and ship more ‘real’ touching none of the interior shots except for what the crew sees through the viewing screen. I’m sure there are some purists but I can see that this makes the Original Series more accessible for a new audience. As much as I love some of the Star Trek series, and the original will always remain my favourite, seeing it with an eye of living in a modern era is a strange exercise. Even worse, the writer in me can’t help but pick up on inconsistencies and questionable decisions. In some scripts, I couldn’t help feeling they had characters working against their own well-established personalities. Still, nothing plays as well as that Kirk, Spock, and McCoy trinity.

Thoroughly enjoyed The Nevers on NowTV, described as a science fiction drama, made better as they filmed it in London. Although the last episode of the first series seemed bizarre and completely out of sync with the Victorian steampunk feel of the episodes which had gone before, I kept watching, and I’m pleased to say it circled around until it made sense. I had no clue this was a Joss Whedon project when I started watching, though it has his mark all over it, serving as writer, director, and executive producer. It seems to have received mixed reviews but I hope this isn’t a series cut short before its time like Firefly was, even though it’s not as compelling.

READING:

Firefly: The Magnificent Nine, James Lovegrove

Book two in the Firefly novels. Not as enjoyable as the first, but primarily featuring Jayne Cobb it’s still fitting, like watching an episode. Not as rewarding, but the next best thing and the closest fans are likely to get to their beloved Serenity and its crew these days. I wasn’t sure I believed one of the plot points, but am inclined to be forgiving to the books of my favourite series. I also love how they present these paperbacks and hope the quality in both writing and presentation continues.

The Walking Dead, The Fall of the Governor Part One

Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga

Whereas I felt the first two books in this series (The Rise of the Governor) added something to The Walking Dead universe, for most of this book I felt as though I didn’t need to be reading this. Having watched the series and read the graphic novels, this book offers yet a third version of the same world, that of Woodbury and the zombie fights that take place in the arena within Woodbury’s walls. In some ways, it’s bad enough when a beloved book series gets an adaptation to screen (or vice versa) and the fanbase must juggle two timelines in their minds when the stories differ. Why would I want a third? All I can say is this book as one of the most bloody revenge outcomes I’ve read in a long time. Definitely not a scene they would have got away with on the small screen or graphic novel.

The Walking Dead, The Fall of the Governor Part Two

Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga

Having come this far in reading the first three books, I had to learn what happened to the Governor. The buildup of this felt rather slow, though that’s in part because a story visited both in the graphic novels and on the show, makes this feel like traversing the same ground… though the outcome leads to a major battle sequence that’s worthwhile.

The Silent Companions, Laura Purcell

This gothic chiller takes off slowly but picks up once the ‘companions’ make an appearance. I love the idea of them in this well-plotted gothic mystery. Alas, it’s impossible to tell why without giving away the creepiest part of the book. I’m pleased to have stumbled across this book. The only (small) negative is the sound the author describes as a ‘hiss’ does not appear to relate to the cause of the noise. I would liken it more to a rasp, and the narrative does indeed call it a rasping hiss at one point, which made no sense to me, and didn’t seem to relate to what the protagonist experiences. That slight discrepancy aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the story.

Wolf in Shadow (a Jon Shannow novel), David Gemmell

The book which introduces us to Gemmell’s compelling protagonist, Jon Shannow. More western at the start than fantasy, the book blossoms in a bizarre conglomeration of fantasy, western, politics, and religion which doesn’t quite seem to blend. The idea of a world changed 300 years ago, yet reflecting a life of guns and horses, farmsteads, corrupt townsmen, and tribes with little evidence of a technological age mentioned by characters leaves one feeling as though the author was feeling his way as much as the reader does. Took me longer to read than it should have; still, this makes for a intriguing and entertaining story. I’ve two more to work through.

WRITING:

I have finished the draft of my Work in Progress and have lined it up for an edit in the weeks to come. And I’ve now received edits for Cosmic ready for its re-release. Although the edits were basic and few, me being me I re-read the entire book at every opportunity, so am currently going through it line by line, hoping to return it before the end of the week.

Stay happy and healthy!

Sharon x

Update May 2021

Hi Everyone!
AT HOME:
After finishing our bedroom on the first May Bank Holiday, we moved on to sorting out the hallway. Moved one unit, got another with drawers, changed storage in the ‘coat cupboard’ near the front door and everything looks so different and welcoming. After that we took a break on the decorating/DIY, though there’s more we need/would like to do indoors and out. I started some appointments which I hope will make me feel better and got myself an exercise bike! Delighted with it. Never seen a compact bike with so many design features that folds up so easily to stand as an upright column and with a fairly comfortable seat. Maybe I’ll let you know how I get on with it.

FILM/TV:
We’ve been watching the American comedy series Parks and Recreation for several weeks and are now in season five. It’s amazing they kept the momentum going for so long and though madcap it’s a fun series. Also pleased to watch The Librarians from the start. We saw season one some years ago, but at the time our Sky box melted (seriously, we returned home one day to the terrifying smell of melting plastic), and as they wouldn’t give us a deal on a new box, we cancelled our subscription. Have been watching to see if all the seasons would appear on one of our streaming services, and at last got our wish.

READING:
Brilliance of the Moon, Lian Hearn
Book 3 of the Otori
These books certainly walk the spectrum of love, hate, hope, grief, despair, subterfuge, cruelty, destiny, and prophecy in this sweeping action series set in a medieval Japan, though I had to remind myself of this when I tired of people over the course of the books being told to, or thinking of, killing themselves to regain their honour even though it’s fitting for the marvellous world Lian Hearn has created. This world feels real, as do the characters. Though the books don’t recount all the warfare, there’s enough action for the reader to visualise an immense battle and although I felt distanced from the brutality, this is understandable when considering this series is for the YA market. Still, there’s plenty here for adults to enjoy; indeed, some may prefer the simplistic storytelling, which still ignites the imagination.

Doc Hollywood, Neil Shulman M.D.
Originally titled, What? Dead Again? first, I should stress the only similarities between the book and the film are minimal — names, doctors, some plot basics, and a few quirky stories and eccentricities of the patient cases. The romance here is toned down to the point of almost non-existence, so if anyone is looking to read this for the same experience, they’ll at least feel surprised. Both versions have their own charm, and this rare book remains delightful because of the situation — a doctor out of his depth in a rural community. It’s a sweet read, not as funny as the film.

Mr Cables, Ronald Malfi
What can one say about Mr Cables? This story about a book which an author denies writing yet appears to scare everyone except said author starts off with a more sinister note than it ends, yet there is a chill factor here. In the beginning, it’s caused because the reader isn’t told why the book is scary. The answer is unexpected and, though bad, not as dreadful as the story initially promises. Still, something about this tale sticks in the mind. A well thought out ‘haunting’ plot.

Strangers, Dean Koontz
This book was my introduction to Dean Koontz, first read in my teens, and now, several years later, which makes it feel like a fresh experience. It’s easy to recall why this led me to be a long-term reader and how Koontz can be when writing at his finest. One warning — this a door-stop of a book, not necessarily a bad thing. While it’s true that this could edit down, as much of the story involves strange and slowly unfolding events through several characters’ viewpoints, leading to a languid revelation, I found none of it boring. After a time there are perhaps fewer surprises leading to a questioning resolution, despite being heartfelt and warming; sadly, the reality of such an outcome would lead to an overcrowded planet, even more so than it is now, so I find this tale of hope a little tainted. This is an epic book in both length, and optimism, but it may not be for those who prefer only a simple vocabulary, fewer descriptive details, and a sedate pace.

WRITING:
I’m just about at the end of a first draft for my current Work in Progress, which I shall call ‘ST’ for now, as I don’t reveal titles until I’ve contracted them. You could say I’ve been winging it, though I’m extremely pleased how it’s turned out. I’m sure I’ll add even more substance on the first edit round, but it’s reading like an almost complete book. Meanwhile, I hope to re-release Cosmic asap, and return to editing ST in a few weeks with a fresh eye. Someone has also contacted me with the possibility of writing a short story — more news on that as and when, though there are no determined dates at present.

Stay happy and healthy!
Sharon x

Update April 2021

Hi Everyone!

AT HOME:
I’m a little late with April’s news this time because of two reasons, the first being that for our May Bank Holiday we were extremely busy completely redecorating and moving furniture around in our bedroom. At least we’re delighted with the result, just waiting on a couple of finishing touches.

Most of April we spent refurbishing the garden, and this previous weekend we cleared out the garage and put up new racking. As we’re choosing not to mingle and I presently find travelling difficult (waiting on some appointments which I hope will improve the situation), and the weather is less than delightful, we decided these weeks were better put to good use getting various jobs completed.

FILM/TV:
We watched Your Honor starring Bryan Cranston; always a fabulous actor and a series with a intriguing plot — that of a judge’s son who knocks down and accidentally kills the son of a mobster so they try to cover it up. Recommended with reservations; be aware the pacing is quite slow.

Finished Black Mirror the series, which we thoroughly recommend, though found the ‘choose what happens’ film, they created a painful experience and boring. Was also a little annoyed that for some peculiar reason Netflix ran the seasons backwards and we didn’t realise until halfway through. The stories got better as they progressed, so watching in reverse we got the opposite experience. Not that any of the stories were especially weak, and all threw up disturbing questions regarding the advancement of technology.

READING:
End of Watch, Stephen King
The last of the Hodges’ trilogy takes a paranormal twist which for an average thriller might be one leap too great, but this is a King novel, so expect the supernatural. This begs the reader to accept a world of possibilities or impossibilities, depending on one’s point of view. The strongest parts are the fully fledged characters (especially if the reader comes to know them over the course of all three books), something King is renowned for. The weakest point for me was I’m still uncertain about the flow of tense changes. It’ll be hard to forget Hodges, or Holly, or even Jerome. Even Brady, an evil man you love to hate. All three books walk a sad, dark line, but the right tone of sadness becomes memorable.

If It Bleeds, Stephen King
Four decent offerings starting with Mr Harrigan’s Phone, a ghost story with a difference. Not exactly scary, yet there’s a little chill when that number rings… The Life of Chuck is a strange tale which may well garner split views. Still, I felt there was a fine sliver of fear at the end, touched with a sweet sentiment. If It Bleeds adds to the story begun in The Outsider. While not ‘necessary’, it’s always good to spend time with Holly Gibney, especially if one has read the Hodges’ trilogy. Like King, I love Holly. Rat concludes this quartet of stories, but will stick in my mind the most. Though not chilling, there are ‘moments of madness’ that, as a writer, likely creeped me out in a way for obvious reasons, the madness that is part of writing. I was expecting a darker ending, but perhaps subconsciously (either King’s, or mine, or both), there seems to be more than one subtext here reflecting the process of writing itself. There are not the most spooky of King’s tales, but made for an overall pleasant and well worth read.

How to be Human, Ruby Wax
Told with undisguised humour, Ruby still throws an ugly light on modern day living within the first chapter, moving on to why and how we can and should be less self-critical. On the subject of Shame (page 49), she reveals with a few choice words how ridiculous our reaction to modern life and social media is now. And I think there’s a lot to be said for the thought that happiness is something less aggressive than pain, so much so, we don’t notice it much of the time, leading to the belief we’re lacking in some way, leading to a state of discontent. I was glad to see a section on compassion and the differences between that an empathy. The section on relationships is simply hysterical. I love what she says about teachers and learning. The last passages in the book also give us an enlightening insight into the author’s background. As one endorsement says, a book that makes the reader think about thinking.

The Bird Eater, Ania Ahlborn
The book truly takes off from Chapter Two because in Chapter One I felt the opening pages threw too many names and too much background at the reader, but once I got close to the end of what read like a prologue, I fell into the story. Once I got to the end, I realised how well plotted the story was, all the threads interwoven. The odd grammatical redundancy jarred me out of the story but it’s otherwise superbly written with a proper sense of a descent into madness as someone’s psyche unravels, tormented by evil spirits perhaps of the supernatural world and of one’s own making. My first book by this author, but it won’t be my last.

Across the Nightingale Floor, Iian Hearn, Book 1 of the Otori
Listed as Young Adult Literary fiction, this certainly fits the bill. The Japanese world contains enough flavour to make it vivid without being too heavy for the intended age group. This is a good adventure tale with plenty of secrets. That the youngsters in love are so young fits a society where they are old enough to be passed over into marriage for political endeavours — such things have and still happen in the actual world. The romance again written for the intended readership is well done, though reading this as an adult I couldn’t help wincing at the ‘fall in love with a glance’. Fall into an intense attraction is the reality, an attraction that could become love in time. I also found it too easy to forget how young they’re meant to be, but by necessity put this down to their upbringing, and what life and training had thrown at them. Perhaps not perfect, but an enjoyable book for the intended age group and older.

Hello, Is this planet Earth?, Tim Peake
Although essentially a photo album, I include this in my reading list as a must-have book. This is the closest most will ever get to seeing Earth from space (aside from documentaries and news items), and it’s a fabulous keepsake and reminder of our place in the universe. I bought this book when it first came out, but aside from flicking through, hadn’t had the time to study seriously the photographs and share a glimpse of Tim Peake’s journey. It’s amazing that even from space, I could easily spot areas of the world I would love to explore and those I would prefer to avoid. At night, the dark areas drew me more to places with fewer inhabitants and less light pollution. The photographs reveal amazing patterns it’s hard to believe are spottable from such a distance. Breathtakingly beautiful and a precious revelation of our most priceless and abused commodity.

Grass for his Pillow, Lian Hearn, Book 2 of the Otori
Certainly interesting, and one can’t help but feel for the various plights of the characters. Although not sold on the romance between Takeo and Kaede in the first book, I still felt for them in this volume, especially Kaede, whose role in life is subordinate owing to the simple fact she is female. This is a good exploration of a different culture that rings alarms for all women on a visceral level that elevates this read. This sings of women who want to be more than the society and customs they are born into. Not that the battles and ruthlessness of the males take second place. The second in the series, this book picks up pace as it continues and is a wonderful blend of conflict, combat skills, and magical ability. If one likes Japanese films or even Manga, this series may be an interesting read.

WRITING:
I at last started a new project and in the first week I was delighted with my word count. Alas, in the second week I didn’t do so well, simply because tidying and sorting the house took priority, but I hope to be on schedule to finish a new first draft around the end of this month.
Stay happy and healthy!
Sharon x