Thursday, 22 August 2013

Children of Our Time

My youngest children, like most of their generation, love their electronic entertainment but, unlike some, they don't live for it. They communicate with their friends and the outside world quite happily and, for them, electronic games are a form of occasional entertainment.  I am grateful for this. I have heard about children who play on Xboxes from dawn to dusk at weekends, chatting away with who knows who from the other side of the world. Then there are the online computer games, also played with others whose only real identification is their nickname online. I find this worrying. Of course, the pressure on parents to let this go on because 'everybody else's parents let them' is immense.  If you have children, you will know of the conversation I speak of!

The balance between letting your teenager find their 'identity' (including helping them get streetwise) and keeping them safe is hard. Really hard. I don't know if it is harder to do with girls or boys as I only have experience with girls but this is one area I am immensely grateful for mobile phones. I can let my girls go out knowing they are a phone call away and so am I.

In the 1970's we could wander miles from our parents at a young age. School holidays were spent leaving home in the morning and heading out to the river or woods with friends and coming home at lunchtime when we were hungry or in the evening if we had been given money for chips. Nowadays, parents are less inclined to allow that and who can blame them. The internet is a wonderful tool but it can also be used for darker purposes and it is this which has changed the way a parent views the world when it comes to their child. Rightly so, as we have all heard the horror stories so there is no need to highlight them here.

Children are growing up faster because they don't have the chance to BE children for long. Their world is flashing images, high speed information, adult expectations of success, the impression that money is everything and fame is a matter of looking good. The pressures on them to become mini adults are huge. There is no time to 'play', to 'be' or to use their imagination when bored. Some children want entertainment provided, they expect it. It's not because they are selfish, it's because everything they see on TV, in video games, in magazines celebrates excess, beauty, money and power. Basic values are lost. They learn what society teaches them. For some parents, the battle to keep their babies playing with Lego and dolls is soon lost as they start school and become immersed in a faster world.

So as a mother of five, I say this. Cherish those times between birth and when they start school. Show them the world of imagination by teaching them to read and sharing books with them. Let them see the beauty of nature in the glorious Earth we live on. Help them grow the ability to think things out for themselves, to question the world around them and to want to change it for the better. Show them the value of money, the satisfaction gotten from working hard to achieve a goal. Give them something tangible to achieve and praise the effort not just the outcome.

The best gifts you can give them aren't material, they are your time, your love, your counsel and the ability to see that other people and their feelings matter. Show them the gift of what compromising and discussion can achieve. Give them a sense of worth in themselves and others. These things are much more use 'out there' than anything which needs electricity to function and will never be discarded because they are out of fashion.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Godhead by Ken Mooney

This book really grabbed me and, as a debut novel, it impressed me. To start with I found Megan slightly irritating with her lack of 'get up and go' but I warmed to her in the end. Karl comes across as a rather befuddled bloke who doesn't know what day of the week it is but I still liked him for it. Made a change from the usual male hero.

The story itself is a fabulous tale involving gods most of us are familiar with (who knew Aphrodite was such a vixen? Ah...) and their descendants. Megan and Karl are thrown together by different circumstances towards the Circle, who are there to protect the descendants of the Gods.

The description and destruction of Olympus is graphic and believable. The bits in the book which touch on the mythology and describe events from that era are really striking in the way they fire up imagination. I could see the whole scene clearly.

This book is action packed from start to finish with descriptive writing which let me taste the air in this story. It's well thought out, never loses momentum and, as you can tell, I really loved it.

I want to know what happens next!

Twitter: @kenmooney

Monday, 19 August 2013

The Tree in the Front Yard by Kimberly J Biller

This novella is written with a real Southern twang to it. Once I got my mind around the spelling etc it was a treat to get that involved with a character. Something quite unique, as writing like that is not an easy thing to get right. Kimberly Biller manages it.

Sissy tells you the story from her perspective as she sits in her tree spying on the neighbours. The world is seen through the eyes of a child whose home situation is hard but there is no self pity, just acceptance to a degree and wishful thinking. Her father drinks and sleeps around. Her mother, hardened by the life she leads but still in love with her man, reminded me of the song 'Stand by Your Man' to an extent. Slightly whimsical on my part, perhaps!

I won't give an idea of the story here as I don't like spoilers and this is a book which is a snapshot of a young girls life there and then rather than an epic tale. But it works and it works very well.

If you have a couple of hours to spare then this is your book.

Kimberly's books can be found here

Twitter: @kimberb1

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Solstice by Debbie Christiana

Sofia and her family are Strega, Italian witches. The power of the Diana dagger is to be passed down to her as the Strega of her generation who has been chosen for the honour. She is not sure she wants it but when Armend Zogu comes into her life she realises it could be the only thing to save him. Both of them become caught up in an ancient curse which threatens Armend's life. Together with their families, they fight against an old age curse and a psychotic witch who is intent on destroying everything they have.

This novel could come across as a bit samey from the good and evil aspect but actually this book is very well written and the tale itself is absorbing.

Sofia comes across as a strong role model and the Strega ways as morally good.  Strega or Stregheria is an actual form of witchcraft which has aspects of Wicca and is a real nature appreciative religion, worshipping multiple gods. It wasn't something I had heard of until I looked it up once I had started reading the book and I found it really interesting. I enjoy a story with a little fact behind it and the author has done her research, with a little writer's prerogative thrown in, naturally ;)

This novel is fun. It has all the ingredients of a good story; intrigue, love, mystery, murder and more. It was an easy read and I liked it a lot.

Twitter: @DebChristiana

Terry Tyler and Susan Buchanan - Writers with Heart

Terry Tyler and Susan Buchanan are two of the most consistent indie writers I have come across since mingling with the online indie community on Twitter. When you buy one of their books you know the standard will be excellent and the tale absorbing.

At the start of this year a conversation with Terry about the difficulties an Indie author has to overcome with self publishing started me on the road to book blogging in my spare time. Terry has given me so much advice and help and I am not alone. She shares her experience with anyone in the community who asks and, despite being very busy with a new book, her blog and writing for various websites, she still manages to find the time! She is rather modest and upfront so I won't praise her up too much here and embarrass her ;)

Instead I will simply revisit four fabulous books by two indie authors who lead the field in successful indie publishing. The reviews below are from a post I wrote back in March of this year.

Terry Tyler's "You Wish" and "Dream On"

"You Wish" was a book I just couldn't put down and I was still reading it in the early hours of the morning. It's an engaging, well written story which brings together believable characters with hopes, dreams and fears everyone can recognise. From a teenage girl's need to belong to a woman disillusioned with her marriage, Terry Tyler's characters come to life. She shows how our past can sometimes end up ruling our present. It's a feel-good book which I can thoroughly recommend.

"Dream On" is a good read but left me slightly frustrated at times as some of the characters were those stereotypes I personally want to feed salted tea to but I carried on regardless and was glad I did. There is also the simple fact that if a book brings forward emotion from the reader then the author has done their job so I can't hold it up as a negative aspect. The story was well written and packed with Terry's observational skills.

Terry Tyler gets really into the heart of her characters and has great insight into what makes people tick. She can present you with stereotypes who may normally annoy you (such as the would be rock star who won't grow up in her book "Dream On") and then show you a side of them which you can feel great empathy with. Her books are not just for women, anybody who loves to 'people watch' will enjoy Terry's take on human nature.

You Wish -

Dream On -

Twitter: @TerryTyler4

Susan Buchanan's "The Dating Game" and "Sign of the Times"

"The Dating Game" is a fabulous book, which had me laughing at the character Gill, whose quest for a decent man through a dating agency was hilarious and so recognisably true for those of us who have tried it. (Yes, I have and it was awful haha). It even had the man-who-is -married-but-pretends-not-to-be in there and I felt Gill's embarrassment. Susan's characters draw you in, with just enough background information to build up a clear picture and have you rooting for the characters and their situation. This is a book for when you are snuggled up on a cold day and you just want to relax and get away from your world and into someone else's. Within the first few pages, I could tell The Dating Game was going to be a book I would love and would want to re-read at a later date.

"Sign of The Times" is a complex weaving of many characters which many authors would find hard to pull off but Susan Buchanan does it. The lives of twelve people, each with a different zodiac sign, are presented with solid individual stories and then brought together at the end. It was  slightly difficult two thirds in to remember whom everybody was and how they related to the others but it was worth it and I think it worked. For me, "Sign of the Times" wasn't quite the page turner "The Dating Game" was due to looking back and checking relationships occasionally but I really did enjoy it.

Susan Buchanan's writing just flows and she draws you in, making you care about what happens next. You can see yourself and others you know in her characters, which are well thought out and have substance. Susan isn't afraid to break a few 'writing rules' in her work and she gets away with it well.

The Dating Game -

Sign of the Times -

Twitter: @Susan_Buchanan

Saturday, 17 August 2013

The Squirrel Who Dreamt of Madness by Craig Stone

A while ago I read a rather strange sounding book I decided to purchase by a writer who had followed me on Twitter. This was before I had begun book reviewing on my blog and just wrote posts as it was more socially accepted than talking out loud to myself on the bus ;)

With that in mind, let me reintroduce you to my take on Craig Stone's slightly barking book!

"I came away from chapter five questioning my own sanity and rushed downstairs to resume the routine of normality and throw open the windows on this sunny day in the hope I might start to feel right again. A cup of tea and two slices of toast later and the feelings of living in the mind of the slightly unusual are starting to fade but not half as quickly as I would like. This search for myself is all very well but I keep reading about people who left it all to live in a park and escape from their reality and routine of life. What an escape. Unsurprisingly, they all seem to be men. I can't imagine a woman purposely leaving the safety and sanctity of her home to go and live with her bags and a sleeping bag between herself and other human beings. The thought of doing it myself terrifies me and I have been known to do some stupid things in my time. However, I do like a bit of control and, for me, living in a park and exposing my mind to itself, isn't something I can really recommend to myself as a 'good idea'. The thing which gives me pause, (and I also pause to admit to it), is that, like him, I could write like that. Unlike him, I would probably not let anyone else read it. What a brave man!

Having come to the end of the book, which incidentally kept me reading all day, I can say I enjoyed it. There are moments in there where the writer has written down thoughts many of us have had but probably wouldn't admit to for fear of sounding a bit barking. However, I think therein lies the joy and meat of this book. I may have to visit a park, find a tree I feel comfortable naming Enid Blyton and see what comes from the pen."

If words alone can touch the sanity of this particular woman then they have to be pretty powerful, just don't read it when you have PMT...

Twitter: @robolollycop

Friday, 16 August 2013

Rough Magic (Gnomesaga Series) by Kenny Soward

Rough Magic is one of those fantasy sagas which is difficult to put down. I found the first couple of chapters slightly taxing due to a rather drawn out description of Niksabella's background but after that the action took off and the writing really flowed.

Niksabella Nur is a tinkerer, an inventor who fights against the system to get her work appreciated and seen. Persecuted by the establishment, she is determined to stand by her work but there are people who want what she has. Her brother, Nikselpik is a good time man who likes a pint of brew and the odd beetle induced high. Niksabella despairs of him but behind the facade is a gnome of great talents, can he show her he is more than he looks to be?

For a debut novel, this one is a bit special and I loved the flaws of the characters and the way the author brought this world to life so effectively in my mind. I will be waiting to see what happens in the next book.

This book is part of the GnomeSaga series and the author has brought us a world full of gnomes, gnome magic and characters which grow and surprise you with their eventual morality and values.

Twitter: @kennysoward

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Leap the Wild Water by Jenny Lloyd

This is a fabulous story about what life for women was really like in the early 19th Century, made even more poignant by the author's research into her own grandmother's life. It's a story which was so very true for women of the age and even now there are still hints of it running through a society we like to believe is civil and just on a good day. To read this story is to be reminded of what it 'was' like but the second thought is one of uncomfortable realisation that for some women in other parts of the world it is still no better.

Alongside the message is a story which carries you along and is beautifully descriptive. Megan is tied to the family stove whilst her brother Morgan runs the farm and her Mam holds the purse. She yearns for freedom and, when the opportunity comes to sell produce at market, she grasps it quickly and discovers what life could be like.

This tale is well written and flows with historical fact, honesty and family friction. This is a must read for the modern woman, if only to remind ourselves of how far there is to go even now.

Twitter: @jennyoldhouse

Thursday, 1 August 2013

It's Just Four Times Round the Village by Helen Stothard

A special mention has to go to this book by Helen Stothard. Helen has M.E. (or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome as it is otherwise known) and this is the journal of her inspirational journey to compete in the London Marathon. M.E. is a chronic health condition which is often misunderstood. The sufferer can look fine in between flare ups but when it hits, and it can hit at any time, they can be left washed out and barely functional. So this lady has accomplished something to be very proud of and I wanted to highlight her story here.

The book itself is written as journal entries and tells of her triumphs, mistakes, improvements and set backs. It would be a fabulous companion for someone who is just starting out in the world of running. It tells of the common pitfalls from family perceptions and mental attitude to having the right running shoes and gives good advice for those whose only previous experience of running is for the bus.

As she says herself, she is a Yorkshire lass with a lot of grit and, against difficult odds, she kept going and prevailed. 

Twitter: @HelenStothard