Tuesday, 24 March 2020

ENTERTAINMENT FOR STAYING AT HOME

Right now our lives might seem like they resemble scenes from a dystopian novel. We're confined to our homes, either alone or with loved ones, looking for ways to occupy these long hours. So, if you can tear yourself away from the endless streams of newsfeed and the worry about what might happen in the days ahead, let your mind escape to something more stimulating.
Here's a list of books, movies and TV shows that might help:

BOOKS

Thrillers
You can't go wrong with Irish writer, Tana French.




  • THE LIKENESS: Cassie Maddox has transferred out of the Dublin undercover squad. Months later she's summoned to a murder scene. The victim is her double and bears the identity of Cassie's last undercover alias. Cassie is forced back undercover to find the killer.

  • THE TRESPASSER: Tough no-nonsense cop Antoinette Conway has clawed her wayup the ladder against all odds and despite constant harassment, but when a pretty, blonde murder victim turns up and Antoinette feels like she and her partner are being forced to arrest the boyfriend, she senses that a cover-up is in the works. Is police corruption playing a part?
Or Ruth Ware:


  • THE TURN OF THE KEY: When Rowan Caine finds an ad for a well-paid nanny in the Scottish Highlands, she jumps at the chance to work at the luxurious smart-home. She doesn't realize it will end up with a child dead and her in prison. Writing from the prison cell, Rowan tells exactly how she got to this terrible place. A real nail-biter and a fast read full of twists and turns. 
Or Kate Atkinson:


  • TRANSCRIPTION: In 1940 eighteen year old Juliet Conway is reluctantly enlisted into the Secret Service, to help with the wartime effort of rooting out Fascists and Nazi sympathizers. Though at first the work is tedious and routine, Juliet becomes more embroiled in dangerous undercover operations. After the war she takes up work with the BBC, assuming that chapter of her life is over, but when figures from her past begin to appear she realizes she may have made more enemies than she realizes.
 MOVIES
Here's a list of movies to check out on Netflix:


  •  THUNDER ROAD: with a 96% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, writer-director-lead actor, Jim Cummings presents a tour de force with this story of Southern cop, Jim Arnaud, who  tries to raise his daughter as a love letter to his late Mom, while facing a personal breakdown as he deals with grief and the breakdown of his marriage. Hilarious and heartbreaking.

  • IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON: A Philadelphia cop struggles with a lifetime obsession to track down a serial killer whose crimes defy explanation. Compelling movie with a shocking sci-fi twist.

  • STARRED UP: starring Jim McConnell and the brilliant Ben Mendelsohn, this tough, gritty movie tells the story of tough guy, Eric Love, 19 who's locked up in prison. On his first day he assaults an inmate and several guards. He's sent to group therapy, but when his dad—an equally tough lifer in the same prison—steps into the picture, the tension ramps up. Can Eric be rehabilitated? (R rated movie).
SERIES:
  • THE CROWN: lush escapism about the royal family
  • RECTIFY: thoughtful drama about a wrongfully convicted murderer released to his home
  • ANIMAL KINGDOM: heists and hi-jinx among a California crime family.
  • DR. FOSTER: the great Suranne Jones stars as a middle class doctor with a cheating husband and revenge on her mind.
  • LINE OF DUTY: another great British cop series about a team of detectives tasked to root out police corruption.
  • LAST TANGO IN HALIFAX: after 50+ years apart, ex-teen sweethearts Celia and Alan decide to marry. Major family fallout follows. Starring the brilliant Derek Jacobi, Ann Reid and Sarah Lancashire.
BE A MOVIE STAR 
If you're sick of watching movies and TV series, then why not go to this website and star in one yourself:

https://www.nyfa.edu/student-resources/10-great-websites-download-movie-scripts/

Download movie scripts and do a table read with your family! It's fun and you could discover a star in your own family!! 



Also I've been offering some of my e-books for FREE on Amazon. Tomorrow CHASING A THRILL is free for three days. I'll follow that up with some others. Check out my Amazon page to see when.

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

RECIPE FOR A PERFECT WIFE

Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown






In her new novel, Recipe For A Perfect Wife, Karma Brown explores the idea that things haven’t changed that much for women in the last fifty years when it comes to marriage, and the perfect, stay at home wife of the 50’s actually has more in common than we’d like to admit with her counterpart in 2020.

Told from dual narratives of two new wives—Nellie, in the 1950’s and Alice in 2018, the story is a little slow to get going. Brown begins with Alice making a move from the big city to the suburbs with Nate, her husband. Alice as a character is difficult to get a handle on at first and tends to come off as unsympathetic and secretive. But once Nellie is introduced, the story really takes off as she her attempts to fashion herself as the perfect wife for husband, Richard. Perfectly groomed, with seamed stockings, lipstick and cocktails waiting at the door for her work-weary husband she conjures up numerous bizarre (to our modern, health-conscious tastes) dishes in her kitchen, following the recipes passed down by her mother. But we soon learn that all is not perfect in her little slice of suburban heaven.

Alice’s motives, on the other hand, are not quite as clear and she comes across as somewhat scattered and indecisive until she stumbles upon a box of old recipes and 1950’s Ladies Housekeeping magazines in her basement. Though this is a slightly clich├ęd plot device, Karma Brown really makes it work and brings Alice to life as she experiments with Nellie’s old recipes and struggles to write her book while dealing with the pressures of Nate’s expectations. I found the recipes fascinating, though some are pretty gruesome—Hollywood dip for one—and I’m determined to try some of them if I can get my hands on the ingredients.

With the help of her neighbour, the daughter of Nellie’s best friend, Alice dresses in retro clothes and starts to channel the ‘50’s persona as she pieces together Nellie’s sad story. Her relationship with Nate begins to suffer, and soon conflict creeps into their seemingly perfect relationship. Nate’s form of oppression is less obvious than Richard’s, but it still is evident in his attempts to steer the direction of Alice’s life. 

This is also a book about secrets—in Alice’s case, they jeopardize her relationship, in Nellie’s case they save her life. It’s also about how women as wives and partners are inevitably expected to make sacrifices for their husbands and fit their lives around their husband’s needs. Finally, though I guessed the twist at the end of the story, I did enjoy the road to get there. A very entertaining book.
Thanks to Legend Press for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
Karma Brown



Check out these other great blog pages for more reviews of Recipe For A Perfect Wife

Monday, 23 December 2019

THE GIFT OF READING

As we head into the holidays and possibly into a mad frenzy of shopping, cooking, eating and entertaining, it's a good idea to make some quiet time for reflection and most importantly of all—for reading.
This year I've spent a whole lot of my time working on the revisions of my novel THE SAVAGE INSTINCT, which is to be republished in a second, very different edition 2020 by Inkshares, but I've also enjoyed reviewing books for NetGalley and Legend Press, a UK publisher.
I've shared below some of my great reads of the year. Hope you can find the time to read one or buy as a gift for friends or family.
Happy holidays!

FIVE WIVES by Joan Thomas



Local Winnipeg writer, Joan Thomas was the most deserving winner of this year's Governor General's Award for fiction with her novel FIVE WIVES, a fictionalized account of the lives of the real women left behind when their husbands were killed in a misguided attempt to contact the Waorani, a reclusive tribe from the Ecuadorean rain forest. "Operation Auca" as it was called, was undertaken in 1956 by a group of evangelical Christian missionaries, eager to share their faith and 'convert' the 'savages' to the word of God. Their wives and children were left to fend for themselves.
The book moves back and forth in time, from a present-day storyline of one of the grand-daughters who is given the opportunity to star in a movie version of the operation, then back to the past where each woman's story is explored. In this way, Thomas pieces together the events from different viewpoints, which makes for fascinating reading as some of the women are more zealously committed to the operation than others who fear the plan is ill-thought out but—since it's the 1950's—acquiesce to their husband's 'better' judgement.
While the story doesn't dwell on the actual details of the tragedy, Thomas deftly builds in a sense of soaring, almost boyish hope in the husbands as they set out on a great adventure while their wives wrestle with niggling fears of impending doom as they are left to deal with the uncomfortable realities of surviving in a primitive tropical setting with small children.
Throughout the entire novel Thomas's sly sense of humour is ever-present as she subtly reveals the short-sighted arrogance of the evangelical philosophy and its attitude towards third world peoples as well as the strength and foresight of the women who survive the tragedy and ultimately prosper in roles that their husbands could not. Beautifully written, this is a truly compelling read.

DARLING ROSE GOLD by Stephanie Wrobel



Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel is a compelling page turner, surprising since the two main characters are highly unlikeable women. Patty, Rose Gold's controlling mother is a disturbed, damaged woman whose denial of her crimes makes her all the more threatening and dangerous, Rose Gold, the daughter, is a sad, pathetic young woman whose childhood was destroyed by her mother and whose adult years continue to be affected by the trauma. 
The story begins with Patty being released from jail after serving five years for poisoning, starving and reducing her healthy daughter to invalid status until concerned friends help Rose to break free and report her mother's crimes. Strangely, however, Rose meets her mother from prison and invites her to stay. Keen to re-establish her dominance, Patty is surprised and accepts, hoping to slot right back into Rose Gold's life. But is the daughter offering an olive branch and putting the past behind her, or is something more sinister at hand as these two damaged women jockey for the upper hand using an arsenal of weapons—lies, secrets and devious cunning?
Told from alternating points of view, Wrobel ratchets up the tension with some surprising twists and turns until you simply have to find out who wins in the surprising ending. A terrific read.
Thanks to Net Galley for providing a preview copy in return for an honest review.

THE FORGOTTEN HOME CHILD by Genevieve Graham




This heartwarming yet heart wrenching novel deals with a little-known chapter in Canadian history—the shocking treatment received by a large number of British Home Children at the hands of those Canadians who paid UK authorities to employ these unwanted children, using them as indentured servants, slaves and in many cases, treating them worse than the animals they tended.
Genevieve Graham interviewed survivors of these Home Children and unearthed a painful chapter of suffering that lasted from the late 19th century until 1948. Sent from large orphanages like Dr. Barnardo's and other smaller institutions, these children were promised a fresh start in an exciting new country. What they encountered was much worse than they could ever imagine. Graham tells the story of Winnie, friend to siblings, Mary, Jack, Edward and Cecil. Abandoned by their parents, they scraped a living on the streets of London until they were caught and put into an orphanage. Reunited on the ship headed to Canada, they vow never to be separated, only to be torn apart on arrival. The brothers stay together, but Mary and Winnie go to separate farm families. 
Winnie is treated cruelly by her employers, sleeping in the barn with the sheep and slaving night and day to keep the farm going, though her mistress softens her approach much later and takes an interest in her future. Mary, however, doesn't fare as well and it is her tragic story that shapes the remainder of the novel and impacts Winnie's and her brother Jack's lives in an irreversible way.
The story is written with warmth and empathy but doesn't hold back on the shocking and terrible details of the brutal treatment received by some of these children. Graham does, however, provide a balance by recognizing that many children were adopted by loving families and others found opportunities in Canada that they wouldn't have received in the UK and therefore their lives did improve, though they carried a deep burden of shame that they hid from their families. Only recently online support groups have sprung up so that descendants of the Home Children can share their troubling legacy and find some closure to this terrible chapter of Canadian history.

Friday, 6 December 2019

THE SACRIFICIAL MAN






Ruth Dugdall’s new novel, The Sacrificial Man, the second instalment in her Cate Austin series is definitely not a book for the more squeamish reader. Dark in tone and containing grotesque and disturbing details, it tackles the very sensitive question of whether assisting a person to commit suicide is a crime or an act of love. This particular case, however, deals with a very different situation where the main character, Alice Mariani, a brilliant literature professor, obsessed with the Romantic poets, believes it’s an act of ultimate passion.
Cate Austin, probation officer, is called in to question Alice in order to recommend a suitable sentence, and discover why she agreed to help Dave, a young man suffering no apparent fatal illness, to die. As she tries to chip at Alice's icy exterior, she begins to dig deeper into the past of this enigmatic, beautiful though rather unlikeable woman and discovers how a painful, early childhood has shaped her into a lonely, unreachable narcissist haunted by the traumatic loss of her mother.
Told from multiple points of view, I found Alice’s voice the most compelling, though I enjoyed the more pragmatic character of Cate and would like to have heard a lot more from her. The story is fast moving, the plot compelling and the many twists and turns result in a powerful and shocking ending.
Thanks to Legend Press for sending me a copy in return for an honest review.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

CHILLS AND DYSTOPIA

I'm delighted to be reviewing two books this week: OVERDRAWN a thought-provoking dystopia by N.J Crosskey and VIOLET a chilling and suspenseful horror story by Scott Thomas.



Overdrawnby NJ Crosskey is an original and compelling dystopia, based on a chilling but plausible premise.
The novel is set in a near-future UK, where austerity is the rule, national health care is extinct and aging has become such an inconvenience that euthanasia is viewed as a patriotic act. It's a hostile, uncaring place where the length of your life is determined by how much you can afford to pay to keep yourself alive,
 The story follows two main characters: senior citizen, Henry whose beloved wife is gradually slipping away from him due to the ravages of dementia, and Kaitlyn, a young woman who sacrifices everything to keep her comatose brother’s life support switched on.
  The two characters meet and form an unusual business alliance that they hope will produce the funds to keep their loved ones alive. 
Crosskey beautifully develops the growing relationship between Henry, his wife and Kaitlyn, who has been virtually deprived of a loving family.  The bonds they forge are beacons of hope  and reminders that—even in such a cruel world—lost souls can come together and find comfort in their mutual pain.
The world the author brings draws us into is disturbing but unsettling in its familiarity, but I would have appreciated a little more world building, in terms of detail and description, to give a more vivid sense of the place. 
In the end, however, Crosskey delivers a very satisfying and tender story that shows us no matter how bleak our future might be, love will still triumph over all.
A previous reviewer remarked that this book should be developed into a TV series. I second that opinion. Overdrawn would make great viewing! 

Thanks to Legend Press for sending me an advance copy to review!

Nicola Crosskey
VIOLET by Scott Thomas


This exquisitely written second novel by Scott Thomas, author of the incredible horror novel, KILL CREEK, breathes new life into a familiar horror trope, the “imaginary friend” story. Thomas manages to straddle the line between literary and commercial appeal with an intense study of human grief that is also truly chilling.
After her husband is killed in a car crash, Kris Barlow returns with her eight year old daughter to her childhood home, a place of sad, painful memories, to recover from the grief that has shattered their lives. Soon, however, she discovers the town of Pacington is a sick, haunted place and the run-down house holds secrets Kris has tried to forget.

What follows is an intense and detailed journey into the impact of grief as well as the incredible power of the bond between mother and daughter. The author develops fresh, original characters, exposing their flaws and weaknesses and avoiding tired stereotypes. Suspense slowly builds as the narrative flips back and forth from the present where Kris attempts to deal with the trials of a decaying house, a daughter preoccupied with a strange, new "friend", and a town filled with odd, haunted souls—to a past that is lonely, dark and increasingly disturbing . The settings are so gorgeously portrayed in such lush  detail, reading the book is as vivid as watching the movie. I found myself totally immersed in Kris’s world as the story gradually and ominously builds towards an inevitable but shocking climax.
Scott Thomas

















THE TESTAMENTS by Margaret Atwood


 It's tough to step into a bookstore this week without being greeted by shelves filled with the stark green, white and navy cover that graces Atwood's highly anticipated latest novel. I'm looking forward to reading it and will be reviewing it next blog.
Happy Reading!

Sunday, 11 August 2019

GRACE'S TABLE: A FEAST OF A BOOK

I'm happy to review another book sent to me by Legend Press. This week it's Grace's Table by Australian author, Sally Piper.





Grace’s Table 

Set in Australia, this wonderfully insightful debut novel is set over the course of one day in the main character, Grace’s life. But it’s no ordinary day; it’s her 70thbirthday lunch. Over the course of the day, Grace works alongside her daughter, Susan, preparing the meal and slipping into memories about her past, mostly triggered by mundane tasks such as shelling peas or mixing gravy. 

Soon a gentle story metamorphoses into a painful study of Grace’s own difficult childhood, a tragic teenage love affair, a loveless marriage and finally a family traumatized by grief, regret and resentment, resulting from a shocking event in their past that reverberates through the following decades. Soon it’s clear that Grace is not just cooking a birthday meal, she’s fighting to keep her family from falling apart and drifting away from her.

Piper achieves this in a subtle, skilful way using the medium of food. Grace remembers her own emotionally distant mother whose only way of showing her love and expressing her creativity was through her carefully prepared and wonderfully tasty meals. Grace remembers the rare intimacy of those moments when she watched her mother whip up meringues and sponge cakes from scratch, and attempts to do the same with her eldest daughter, Susan, now a tense and anxious mother.

As family members and friends arrive for the birthday celebration, the memories become more vivid and troubling, and the interactions with her own children more bitter and abrasive, until a final family showdown results in all the hurt being laid bare and all the grievances aired.

Piper masterfully creates Grace as an unconventional, humorous and free-spirited character. A strong-willed woman who is finally forced to face her unrealistic expectations of her children and her own shortcomings as a mother. 

This incredible novel is not only a luscious and lyrical tribute to the power of food as a force to bring people together, it’s also an insightful reflection on the dynamic and powerful nature of family relationships. As Grace so aptly states:

Families were like sand dunes…. They shifted shape and position with even the gentlest of forces. Even a tiny puff – a shrug – could bring about change, move a handful of thoughts to a new understanding, a new authority. A gale, like today’s, and whole dunes – lives and futures – were relocated, reimagined.

Sally Piper
Sally Piper is an award-winning Brisbane based writer.  She is a former nurse and nurse educator, specialising in neurosurgical critical care, and has worked in both Australia and the UK.Sally has had short fiction and non-fiction published in various online and print publications, including a prize-winning short story in the first One Book Many Brisbanes anthology, The Sydney Morning HeraldThe Saturday Paper, Weekend Australian and WQ plus other literary magazines and journals in the UK. She has been interviewed for radio, been a guest panellist at literary festivals and delivered many author talks and readings.Sally holds a Master of Arts (Research) in Creative Writing from Queensland University of Technology. During her post-graduate studies she also tutored on the QUT Creative Writing program. She currently presents workshops and seminars for the Queensland Writers' Centre and mentors on their 'Writer's Surgery' program. 
If you want to check out more reviews of this book, take a look at these other great book blogs:
Happy Reading!

Friday, 2 August 2019

A SONG OF COURAGE, INJUSTICE AND TRAGEDY

A huge thanks to Legend Press who sent me a copy of Carolyn O' Brien's touching novel, The Song of Peterloo, to review. I'm delighted to be a part of the blog tour.


This compelling historical novel centres around The Peterloo Massacre, a real life tragedy of 1819, when close to 100,000 peaceable protesters gathered on St. Peter’s Field, Manchester to campaign for parliamentary reform. Nervous magistrates watched from a nearby window, then decided to read the ”Riot Act,” calling on up to 600 armed soldiers from the Manchester Yeomanry to break up the meeting, with the intention of arresting the main speaker, Henry Hunt. The soldiers, brandishing sharpened sabers, rode in among the crowd. Hundreds were injured and dozens killed, including women and children.

Carolyn O’Brien wisely uses the voice of Nancy Kay, a young mill worker, to tell most of the story, giving a distant historical event a much more human feel. Nancy lives with her young son, Walter and ailing mother, Ann, in a permanent state of grinding poverty and hunger, brought about by low wages and crippling prices. The author subtly portrays their dire situation without being heavy handed or patronizing, which often makes for heartbreaking reading. 

Nancy’s voice alternates with friends, relatives, enemies and the two widely different men who share her life that momentous summer. Nancy is an energetic, likeable, well-drawn character with a thirst for knowledge and a strong sense of justice. When she is given the chance to learn to read by her sympathetic employer, Samson, she becomes even more aware of the rampant social injustice that keeps her and her neighbours and co-workers, hungry and impoverished for life. Soon she is inspired to join the reformers in a great movement that calls for social change. Little does she know that the great protest being planned, will turn out to be a terrible human tragedy and not the triumph they hoped for.
Author, Carolyn O'Brien
At first, I found the author’s use of alternating voices a little jarring, as it interrupted the story’s narrative flow. I appreciated that this was intended to provide an interesting mosaic of differing points of view, but I found myself wanting to get back to Nancy’s voice and her absorbing story. Gradually, however, the other voices became stronger, particularly Adelaide, the snobbish social upstart and Samson, her empathetic nephew whose terrible experiences in battle showed him that all human beings should be treated with dignity regardless of social class.
Overall, I found myself rooting for the main character and her fight for social justice at a time when the poor were treated as little better than slaves, and children were forced to work in dangerous industrial situations with no concern for their safety. It’s refreshing to hear the voice of the marginalized and silenced telling the story of such an iconic historical event, especially at the commemoration of its anniversary.

The blog tour itinerary is listed below. Check out some of these amazing book review sites!



ENTERTAINMENT FOR STAYING AT HOME

Right now our lives might seem like they resemble scenes from a dystopian novel. We're confined to our homes, either alone or with loved...