Pride by Jonathan Hill

I think the book cover for Pride by Jonathan Hill is really eye-catching. It's not often that I'm bothered about a book cover. I belong to the generation that borrowed most of its books from the public library where they were displayed spine outwards with only the title and author's name visible. So the fashion in recent years for artwork book covers has largely passed me by. But on this occasion I've gone back to look at this proud bird several times and think it is truly stunning.

Don't let the simple, easy narrative of Pride lead you into thinking this is a simple book; it isn't and that's because it works on a number of levels.

On the surface Pride tells the story of Liam, an adolescent who is coming-of-age and coming-out. It's a charming story of a young man who meets another and falls in love. There are ups and downs in an ever-changing social whirl but all is resolved in a happy-ever-after ending.

At the next level Pride is an exploration of the difficulties encountered by a young person who has come to terms with their orientation but is struggling to share the news. The author has explored sensitively some challenging relationships between parents and child. The reactions of others, both those who are empathetic and those who are openly hostile, adds depth to the story and provides the conflicts and tensions which make the book so engaging and interesting.

And at a third level author Jonathan Hill has managed to create a story which, although focussed on a young man who is gay, over-arches the emotional development of all adolescents. The values explored at this level are relevant to any situation where individuals from one social group move outside pre-conceived and expected mores. Pride is a paradigm of otherness and the search for inclusion.

There is an interesting juxtaposition of narrative intercut with reflections from the older, and wiser, Liam. And it's here where there are hints that all is not quite as happy-ever-after as the young Liam's story suggests. Maybe there is more of this story yet to tell.

You can find details of all Jonathan Hill's books on his website or his Amazon author page.

219 Cooking Tips and Techniques you might find useful by Suzy Bowler

I'm straying away from my usual reviews of indie fiction to write about Suzy Bowler's free booklet 219 Cooking Tips and Techniques you might find useful. I downloaded this because:

1 I read a review on Amazon a few days ago of Blood-Tied by Wendy Percival written by someone with a quirky pseudonym.
2 I recognised the pseudonym on Twitter and followed the person.
3 She followed me back and I clicked on her Twitter profile and followed the link to her Amazon Author page.
4 I liked the fresh, crisp appearance of the food on her book covers and 
5 even though I don't need any more cooking books I clicked and got myself a free copy of 219 Cooking Tips and Techniques you might find useful.

And I'm really pleased I did.

I thought that by my advanced years I'd got the kitchen department sorted but of the 219 tips and techniques in this booklet there are:

95 I've never come across / thought of / worked out for myself

47 that I did know but had forgotten and

76 that are part of my everyday kitchen behaviour. 

I think I've lost one somewhere but you get the idea. The booklet is a quick, easy read and the author writes in a light hearted, amusing and accessible style so 219 Cooking Tips and Techniques was a pleasure to read. I'm not saying that all the unknown tips and techniques are ones that I will use but they're interesting to read.

I'd got a few minutes to spare so I went straight on and downloaded Suzy Bowler's Easy Ways to Pimp Your Food. As a confirmed slap it on the plate and eat it type of cook I was interested to see what ideas she had for improving presentation. Again, I enjoyed reading the booklet. It's a bit on the short side but the ideas are clearly explained and, more importantly, seem to be quick and easy and I can envisage that next time I have anyone round for a meal I'll be adding some decorative touches. I've already put into practice her suggestion for making rice look better which to some people will seem obvious but it was something I'd never thought to do and it did look considerably more appetising.

I've downloaded Suzy Bowler's Soup (Almost) the Only Recipe You'll Ever Need but haven't tried any yet. Her basic recipe seems easier than the one I currently use and some of the variations seem to me to be amazingly original and unusual. The photos of the soup dishes look really attractive and you almost get delicious smells as you turn the pages so I don't think it will be long before I'm trying some of them out.

Usually I read on a first generation Kindle but realising there were photos included I downloaded each of these books onto the Kindle app on my iPad and I'm glad I did.

If you click this link you can get yourself a free copy of 219 Cooking Tips and Techniques you might find useful and for details of Suzy Bowler's other cookbooks go to her Amazon Author Page.

Crombie's Christmas by Julia Hughes

I first encountered Detective Inspector Crombie in Julia Hughes' first Celtic Cousins' Adventure A Raucous Time

Although he isn't the main character Crombie has a big part to play in that story and he comes over as a kindly but taciturn character with a great deal of potential. I liked him a lot and wanted to read more about him. 

Crombie only has a fleeting part in the second adventure A Ripple in Time but he plays a bigger role in An Explosive Time. I've got An Explosive Time in my WTBR folder and plan to read it soon but was pleased last week to find on Julia Hughes' Blog a link to this D.I. Crombie short story which I'd missed.

There's something about this author's writing style that I really enjoy: there's a sense of fun, of not taking life or the story too seriously. Deftly written with a nice, light touch which entertains and keeps the pages turning, Crombie's Christmas is an amusing short story with an unexpected ending.

To quote from the book description:
Detective Inspector Crombie finds himself spending Christmas in the Italian equivalent of the House of Usher. After picking a fight with the wrong cat, Crombie finds a poetic justice in having the very last word; and finally gets the best Christmas present of all time.

Crombie's Christmas is a quick read but it includes some new aspects to Crombie's character and more back story about his home life. I suspect that Mrs Crombie might become a force to be reckoned with. The book also includes a taster for a new D.I. Crombie series that Julia Hughes plans to publish later this year which is good news. You can get details of all her books on Julia Hughes' Author Page at Amazon and keep in touch with progress on the new Crombie series on her website.

An Interview with Author Luciana Cavallaro

I first encountered author Luciana Cavallaro when I followed links from Twitter to her fantastic blog where I re-discovered an interest in the Classics prompted by her knowledgeable and well-written articles. It wasn't long before I read one of her short stories in the Accursed Women series and then went on to read the whole set. You can read my review here if you follow this link. You can imagine, therefore, how delighted I was when Luciana Cavallaro agreed to answer some questions about Accursed Women for Indie Bookworm.

Hi Luciana! What made you decide to publish Accursed Women?

That is a really good question Cathy. It came about during a writer’s critique session and feedback I received on a manuscript. The story was lacking and someone suggested writing short stories to “find my voice”. At that time I was reading Euripides and one of the plays Hippolytus caught my attention.  Phaedra was a character I didn’t know much about and researched her. There wasn’t a lot on her and from that point on I wanted to write her story. Why did she fall in love with her husband’s son and why did she behave in a selfish manner. I wrote Aphrodite’s Curse to explore these feelings and the role of women in the ancient world.

From there, an idea formed as to the plight of women in Ancient Greece, both mythical and real individuals. Women were treated with little respect despite their power such as Hera. She was a goddess yet the myths painted her as vindictive, the same for Helen. Mind it wasn’t just in Ancient Greece where women were not valued or treated well.

What kind of reader would enjoy Accursed Women?

Any person who is interested in ancient history and mythology would appreciate the short stories and perhaps enjoy the varied telling. I’ve tried to write the stories in a way which is accessible to those who’ve never read mythology. A more contemporary approach to the legends and with my own spin on them.

What was the most difficult aspect of your research for Accursed Women?

I love researching for my stories but I would have to say the difficult part is changing the perspective of the myths, especially in the case of Helen. The research with regards Helen not taken to Troy comes from a very small segment in Herodotos’ Histories. She got left behind after the ship she and Paris were on got caught in a storm and they landed on the shores of Egypt. The Egyptians told Herodotos about a woman who was taken from her husband and the Egyptian Pharaoh at the time made Paris leave her and he sailed to Troy without her.

I enjoy finding unusual facts and using them, such as the myth of Pandora. There was never a box, it was an urn she opened. The Greek word for urn was mistranslated in Latin, and hence “Pandora’s Box” became the catchphrase ever since.

Which of the Accursed Women is your personal favourite and why?

That is such an unfair question, it’s like asking who’s your favourite child. ;D Each of the Accursed Women have aspects I can relate to and many positive characteristics I wish to have. If I had to choose, but you can’t tell any of the other women, they’ll come screaming and shouting at me! It would be Medousa. I feel for her, what happened to her and her sisters and then her ultimate demise. She and her siblings certainly didn’t deserve to be changed, but that is also why I told her story. 

Again, this was a depiction of women at the time. For when a man behaved in a contrary manner, it was the woman’s fault and therefore they had to be punished, even when innocent. Some things never change.

(If you don't mind answering) Are you working on any new writing at the moment?

Not at all. I have a new novel out very soon, the first in a series Servant of the Gods. I am quite excited about it, it has been a labour of love! I have also just received the book cover concepts and they look amazing. I am also working on a novella series based on a short story I wrote for an anthology and edited by my editor of Accused Women and Servant of the Gods. It is premised on a Greek coin. It is a contemporary story, quite different to Accursed Women and the series I’m writing. I have just completed the first draft. I’ve also started writing the second book in the Servant of the Gods series. Busy times ahead!

Thank you Cathy, I enjoyed answering the questions and being a guest on your blog.

And thank you too, Luciana, for taking the time out of your busy writing schedule to share your thoughts and fascinating insights into your writing. I'm really looking forward to reading Servant of the Gods and wish you every success with it.

You can find details of all Luciana Cavallaro's books on her Amazon Author Page and read her fascinating Blog at Eternal Atlantis.

The Lighthouse Pylon by Jeffrey Perren

Jeffrey Perren writes long novels with complicated plots and The Lighthouse Pylon is no exception.

After a dramatic opening chapter set in an historical context, the novel moves between two time frames: the nineteen thirties and the nineteen fifties. Some interesting period details are used to set the scenes along with clear chapter headings that guide the reader between the two eras.

The central character is Curl Hoyer who is introduced as a young man and then re-introduced in his middle age. He is a scientist who struggles to find his place in the scientific community and in society in general. The novel tells the story of his search for love while trying to find his niche in the world.

Over time Curl is involved with three women: Anna, Henne and Silke. The inter-connectedness between the three women is at the heart of the plot. Anna is highly intelligent and principled but much too young for Curl. Henne is manipulative and scheming; fortunately Curl realises this before it is too late but that leads him into a whole lot more difficulty. Silke is an elusive but genuine soul-mate if Curl doesn't muck things up. How Jeffrey Perren weaves these complex relationships together is a mystery but one which is explained, rather unexpectedly, in the end.

An interesting aspect of The Lighthouse Pylon is the juxtaposition of contemporary American English with an almost, at times, Dickensian vocabulary. This creates an effect of timeless commentary on social issues which adds depth to the overall structure of the novel.

The presence of the enigmatic lighthouse of the title recurs throughout the novel like another character. It even stays in the plot when Curl leaves America and re-locates to York, in England. The descriptions of the scenes in York and surrounding area are fascinating. I don't know if the author has visited the place or based his writing on research; either way he's successfully encapsulated the spirit of the place.

I've enjoyed reading all Jeffrey Perren's previous novels and I enjoyed reading The Lighthouse Pylon  too.

You can get details of all his books on Jeffrey Perren's Author Page at Amazon and read my interview with him here if you follow this link. There's also a fascinating interview with Jeffrey Perren on another bookblog: Lizzie Loves Books.

Around the Blogs in February

There just isn't enough time to read everything I want to: newly published indie ebooks; runaway bestsellers; classics I always meant to read (I'm still trying to get through War and Peace); old favourites; books for research purposes; newspapers (on-line, of course); and blogposts.

So many blogposts and so many good ones.

Here are links to a few blogposts I've read recently from some of my favourite indie authors.

Click the author's name to go to their page on Amazon and the other links for their blogs.

Wendy Percival has been untangling more Family History Secrets and also sharing her approach to naming her characters.

Julia Hughes has posted a review of a novel she's read recently. Don't think I'm biased but she's got excellent taste.

I love Jonathan Hill's One Hundred Word Reviews and he's written loads of them since the last time I visited the blog. Films, books, plays, art shows, TV: something for everyone and each takes only a few seconds to read. Brilliant!

If you're waiting impatiently for Mr Hill's next book keep up-to-date with progress on his website.

Luciana Cavallaro has put together a fascinating piece on The Search for Atlantis on her Eternal Atlantis website. Don't miss my interview with Luciana Cavallaro this month on Indie Bookworm.

Saskia Tepe (Surviving Brigitte's Secrets) has gone off to the U.S.A via Australia and is blogging her travels at Saskia and Richard's RVing Adventures. The latest post is a reflection on the couple's time in Australia as they go Into the Blue.

I always enjoy Iridescent Publishing's mix of posts and clippings of which some are related to William Azuski's Travels in Elysium and some are not.

I've only recently started reading Chris Jane's 5 On series but so far everything I've read has been really interesting and highly thought-provoking like this latest piece Hashtag: Kill the trigger warnings.

And, if you haven't seen this Youtube video yet, I hope you enjoy it. Me? I think it's addictive.

Reviews Reviewed: Blood Tied by Wendy Percival

Early last year I read author Wendy Percival's first Esme Quentin mystery: Blood-Tied. My review is here if you missed it.

Blood-Tied is a thriller based on murder and family secrets. To quote from the book description:

Esme Quentin is devastated when her sister Elizabeth is beaten unconscious, miles from her home. Two days later Esme discovers that Elizabeth has a secret past. Desperate for answers which the comatose Elizabeth cannot give, Esme enlists the help of her friend Lucy to search for the truth, unaware of the dangerous path she is treading. Together they unravel a tangle of bitterness, blackmail and dubious inheritance, and as the harrowing story is finally revealed, Esme stumbles upon evidence of a pitiful crime. 
Realising too late the menace she has unwittingly unleashed, Esme is caught up in a terrifying ordeal. One that will not only test her courage and sanity but force her to confront her perception of birth and family.

When I'd finished reading the book I was pleased to join half a dozen other reviewers and give Blood-Tied a well deserved five star review. Since then the book has gained a total of eighteen four and five star reviews which include many accolades such as:

"A cracking mystery story"

"A great story, well researched"

"Family history - family mystery"

"Great plot"

"Keep them coming, please!"

There are lots of great reviews for Blood-Tied on GoodReads as well.

In September 2014 the second Esme Quentin novel, The Indelible Stain, was published and it's just as good as the first. I'm certainly looking forward to reading the third Esme Quentin novel from Wendy Percival. To echo Amazon reviewer Suzy - Sudden lunch: "Keep them coming, please!"

Reviews Revisited: Tales of Johan by David Harris Wilson

I read Tales of Johan by David Harris Wilson in 2012 and found it was one of those novels you can't put down. The novel is still available in the Kindle Store and can be borrowed at no further cost if you have a subscription to Kindle Unlimited.

The protagonist in Tales of Johan is Iain Broderick who comes from Inverdaig, a remote village on the west coast of Scotland and you go with him as he learns about his own family history and that of an old Scandinavian man who has lived in Iain's village for many years. The old man is Johan and he is an amazing story teller; Iain's narrative is interspersed with Johan's stories which are lyrical, magical and enthralling.

Author David Harris Wilson skilfully draws you into Iain's life and you become fascinated by Inverdaig, its people, history and customs. The stories that Johan tells have the authentic voice of true folk tales and you feel the cultural links between Scandinavia, Brittany and Scotland as you listen to them; and that is what is good about this writing: you really feel you are in the room as Johan tells his tales.

There is a large cast of characters and whether their part in the story is large or small each one is rounded and interesting. There is some very good descriptive writing of various aspects of nature, notably the sea, which is poetic and creates evocative images as you read; however this doesn't slow the pace of the novel which is a page-turner right through to the end.

Tales of Johan is a well written novel with a strong sense of place and culture, an interesting and unusual story line and excellent characterisation. It's a lovely story and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

You can find details of all David Harris Wilson's books on his Amazon Author page and read my interview with him if you click this link.

January Books

Click a link to read my review.