Monday 12 February 2024

Review: Red Valentine by Michael Wombat

Red Valentine: Disturbing love stories for grown-ups (Red Wombats)Red Valentine: Disturbing love stories for grown-ups by Michael Wombat
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm a little bias because I love Michael Wombat's writing, and it doesn't matter what he writes, I know I will love it. He is such a master of words and vocabulary and describes things in ways no one else can.

In this collection of love stories, some of which are brief, the reader enjoys all sorts of tales, some comical, some historical, some about new love, some sad, and many deadly. There's something for everyone in this collection.



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Thursday 18 January 2024

Review: The Woman in Me by Britney Spears

The Woman in MeThe Woman in Me by Britney Spears
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've been a fan of Britney for years. She has great energy and I have a couple of her albums. There was always an edge of naivety to her, but the way her own family have taken advantage of that and used and abused her is incredible! And only in America would it be legal to enslave someone!

Her father should be in prison. I can't believe he's not being prosecuted and doing time. How did a judge not see straight through this? Tell a court she's incapacitated so you get power of attorney over all her wealth & also her body autonomy. But then force her to work & go on tour year after year & at a non-stop show in vegas for 3 years using threats and bullying, constant survellance and manhandling by 'security guards'. Constantly use the threat of never letting her see her children to get her to do this. If she acted out or resisted too much he put in a facility. The last time he did that they kept her drugged on Lithium for 3 months.

If she is SO incapacited to need such a 'conservatorship' how come she is able to perform so many shows? How did the judge who agreed to all this not realise that - her shows were worldwide knowledge. And those children, who were taken off her by her ex, who got full custody of them when they were just 5 months & 18months. He'd spent next to no time with them prior to this. How was Britney so wholely unsupported?

And all this came about because she was devastated about a break up and losing her children, and she acted out - unfortunately publically, though for you and I we could have done that - gone and had our heads shaved - and no one would have noticed! The paparazzi are again to blame in another person's downfall because of their inability to respect a person and their privacy. They made her a spectacle, the media judging her, the public deciding she was unfit, thus allowing her father to step in and imprison and abused her for thirteen years. This would be unbelieve if it was written in a ficton novel. If they had left her alone, it might not have gone so far. There really need to be laws put in place over this kind of stalking, pestering and haranguing.

Britney only got out thanks to fans who realised what was going on & fed her info - like that despite what her father said she WAS allowed to choose her own lawyer. Something a judge should have done in the beginning - speak to her and make sure she knew here rights!

Did the judge not look at the family history here? Britney's parents divorced due to her father's violence when she was a child but reconciled when they started benefitting from her wealth - she bought then house & cars. Even her mother was complicit. People have been sent to prison for less.

I'm so glad she is free now, and able to get her sense of self back. I think she's incredible for still being able to share it all with us in this book.

In terms of the actual writing, the first few chapters were badly written, as though someone had been given notes and not made any embellishments to them. It didn't flow at all. I don't know if Britney DID write this herself, but if she had a ghost writer (which is usually the case) they didn't do a great job in that respect - though I did get a sense of Britney's voice from about the third chapter on. But a developmental editing team should have picked that up.

In parts it does feel repetitive, but in some ways I feel it was the only way to give the reader a true sense of the repeated horror of this situation. And there are a lot of people who get mentioned and it's not really clear who they are or how they came into Britney's world.

If she is someone who interests you, definitely worth a read.


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Wednesday 3 January 2024

Review: YellowFace by R F Kuang

YellowfaceYellowface by R.F. Kuang
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have read this for my up coming bookclub meeting, and have to say I was gripped and read it super fast for me! It helps that I'm a writer who used to live on Twitter, so this crosses both worlds I 'lived' in, but this book made me beyond grateful that I'm a self-published author.

It covers the idea of plagerism. The book is written in first person point of view, by the person that stole a book - from a friend, who they witnessed the death of. It's full of moral ambiguity, as it also shows the dirty underbelly of true trolling within the publishing industry as well as by bystanders and also uses the whole 'culture appropriation by white people' narrative too.

It's a boiling hotch-potch of all these topics, and shows how someone can be torn down so easily by those that are jealous of another's success - and yet the person torn down was also jealous of another's success - like the snake eating its own tail.

It also shows the dark underbelly of publishing and the 'next best thing' and how authors have to write to market if they want to make any money. Money is very much alluded to in this book but numbers are never given, which I think is always a shame. Publishing is really about making money off another person's back. An elite set of people in large publishing houses gets to decide who will be successful and rich and who won't. I found it fascinating, but also wondered how much was exaggerated and how much was true.

I'm interested how the other readers in my bookclub found this book being as none of them are writers and never use twitter. I wonder if it might have gone above their heads.

I enjoyed it, others might not. But it's fast paced and well written.

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Review: Nation, by Terry Pratchett

NationNation by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I love Terry Pratchett. I have all his books and read the majority of them - and not just discworld - but I struggled with this book. I found it hard to get into and very slow. It was interesting but felt like a pirate book really.

I wonder at the time of reading it compared to the when it was written. The concept of end of the world from tidal waves and the remaining populous reforming with various cultural differences and how that might look has altered since its time of publication in 2008. The world has taken on a very dystopian feel since 2015, what with climate changes, earthquakes and pandemics, all end-of-the-world scenarios. Also the discourse on immigrants and refugees.

Pratchett also throws in the whole Gods thing too, and a sort of circular concept of this one place being the beginning of all places.

An interesting read but not one I felt particularly inspiring or funny. I was surprised it was turned into a theatre show in 2009. I didn't think it was one of his better stories or commentaries on human society.

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Thursday 28 December 2023

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 319 - The Final Prompt!

This week's - and final - picture prompt is from digital artist Jeffrey Smith. I love his art. I used others of his pieces on Week 245, Week 307 and Week 310. It's definitely something I'd fill my house with. He created this back in 2017 and called it 'I'm never going back.' Strangely apt for my last Mid-Week Flash entry and post. 

I've decided I need more time to focus on other projects and have been struggling to write for this on time or sometimes at all over the past year, so am bringing it to a halt, the end of 2023 being very fitting as I've been running it for 7 years, and life tends to run in 7 year cycles.

I will never say never in terms of returning to it, but for now, it's time to retire it. It's benefitted my writing so much, and I've really enjoyed it. 

Today's is short and sweet as I am still working on Tricky's third book, and this is a snippet. 

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.




Left Hanging

He’d gone and left another one open! What was with him? Did he really think Tricky was that stupid? His big shiny ‘follow me this way’ signs weren’t going to fool her, oh no. She wasn’t going to jump through every open time portal he created in an attempt to chase him, no way, definitely not. He thought she was stupid, clearly, or that she wasn’t as gifted as him - but he was proving he couldn’t possibly be, with leaving these things hanging in the sky all over the place.

Tricky stopped on the path to take in the magnificence of this opening though; portals were truly beautiful to behold, even though they were horribly dangerous – and not just for the individual but for the whole time plane. It was like making a tiny hole in the leg of a stocking, eventually it would tear the entire thing apart, making it unusable.

Tricky narrowed her eyes, or was that his plan? Was he trying to destabilise it all? Or was he trying to play some random game with her that didn’t make sense, other than boy wizards with overblown egos who were crap at setting traps?

Tricky didn’t waste time on trying to work out his mindless ploys to entrap her, she knew better, but she wasn’t just going to ignore what he’d done, instead she had to work to close the portal and return this plane to safety.

It didn’t take her long, being that she’d done it before, and with the swathes of grasslands around her there was an abundance of energy to work with and help her shut it down. It was still scary as it pulled together – also pulling at her - but once it reduced to a certain size it zipped up quickly with a deafening pop, and the pale blue sky returned.

It cleared the pathway ahead, which led in between the fields to a point as yet not visible, but Tricky knew was there. She needed to reach it before dark. She took in deep breaths, calling in her own yellow energy and the lime green of the land around and sped up. This was not a place to be after dark. 


Wednesday 20 December 2023

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 318

This week's new picture prompt was taken by photographer Dec_Des, they specialise in abandoned urban buildings. Their own account Instagram is locked, but manage Abandoned Addiction where they share pictures from other photographers. However, when asked about this picture they confirmed that the image was real and from an abandoned button factory in Athens, Greece. They said, that the photograph wasn't staged, and that the buttons were "all over the top floor in plastic bags decayed and opened with that result and all over the stairs."

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.


A photograph looking down an metal banistered, concrete stairwell in an abandoned button factory, with thousands of different coloured and shaped buttons covering every step. Taken by

Koumpouno

Silvia stood frozen at the top of the stairs. Oh my god! Who had done this?! Someone that knew, that’s who!

She could feel her heart racing and sweat break out on her palms as her trembling fingers gripped the banister while she peered over the edge to see every stair covered in buttons; thousands of them in all different shapes and sizes, and a kaleidoscope of colour trailing down the two flights.

Her mind raced trying to identify who she had told about her phobia; it wasn’t something she usually did, there weren’t many that knew. Most people would cross examine her or tease her or then trigger her by waving them in her face. She hated it.

No, Silvia had kept it to herself for years, so how had it come about that not only did someone know, but they had broken into her house and done this? What kind of lunatic would?

Silvia needed to get down the stairs – something the person that had done this obviously knew. She shuffled forward and pushed some of the buttons along in front of her causing them to topple over each other, some going over the edge of the stairwell and hitting others, causing a cascade.

Silvia took deep breaths. She could do this. They were only bits of plastic with holes in them. She didn’t have to touch them; she didn’t have to feel their slimy texture or funny ridges, and they wouldn’t be coming anywhere near her face!

She reached the edge of the first step, disrupting a pile there, causing them to trickle over it, the sound of them bouncing down the stairs as one hit another like an avalanche putting her teeth on edge.

She lifted her foot and knew she had to put it down on the button-covered first step. She shoved her foot forward, dislodging more of them but at least making room for her feet. She clenched her teeth and took in rapid breaths through her nose as she told herself to keep moving. If she stopped she might not be able to get started again.

Silva kept this mindset as she took each step, encouraging herself and calming herself, until she got into a rhythm. She relaxed at the first floor landing. She could shuffle forward pushing through them, rather than having to feel them under her feet. She felt stronger on the next flight down, and was so focused on her mental coaching she didn’t see the figure standing at the bottom until she took the final step and they started clapping.

The sound startled her, making her cry out. For a moment Silvia forgot about her fear of the buttons even though they were scattered all over the floor down here too.

And there he was, Nigel, standing there, looking all smug.

Why didn’t she think of him? They’d spoken about it recently too; how had she forgotten that? Maybe because she liked him – a lot, so much she’d given him a key, just last week. And maybe because he’d been sympathetic, and their new relationship was still growing and her heart warming to him. But that warmth now turned to fire as she became overwhelmed with anger and hurt.

“How could you! And why would you?”

He stopped clapping, a surprised expression wiping the grin off his face.

“The best way to overcome a phobia is to confront it.”

“You know nothing about my phobia! You know nothing about how it affects me, or what it was caused by! You have no idea what emotional trauma you are triggering and wounds you are opening! You barely know me!”

“But … but … I thought, you know, because you told me and … you gave me a key … that we weren’t strangers anymore.”

“And that would make it okay for you to think you could heal me by putting me through something as horrific as this? And not just all the buttons, but that you snuck into my house and laid this for me like a trap! I think you need to leave now, Nigel, and leave my key too.”

“But, Silvia, baby, I’m sorry.”

He endeavoured to reach out to her, but she took a sudden step back, feeling the buttons under her heel as she did so, making her cringe.

“Go now! I’m not interested in sorry. You’ve shown me your true colours. I don’t want to know. Go!”

Nigel’s mouth opened and closed a few times, but he did as she asked, handing her the key and silently left.

Silvia waited for the front door to close completely, then she made her way through the hallway, the buttons thinning out and dissipating completely by the time she reached the kitchen.

She filled the kettle as though on autopilot, and switched it on, standing there motionless while it began to boil. And then she burst into tears, her sobs coming hard and fast, her hands on her mouth to try and stifle the sound.

The relief of getting down the stairs, and unexpected break up with Nigel – and the thought of having to clean up all those buttons was too much for her, and she sat on the kitchen floor and let it consume her.

But once the flood of tears was over and she caught her breath once more, she realised one thing: he’d been right; confronting all those buttons had made her face it, and although she would never like them, they no longer held such fear.

In fact, as she spotted one by her hand, she picked it up – she could even touch them now. She still hated their slippery feel, her nose flaring with revulsion, but she didn’t shake or sweat with fear. She might not be able to forgive the sneaky, back-handed way of doing it, but he’d gone and bloody cured her!


Monday 18 December 2023

My favourite 3 reads of 2023

Over on Shepherd book website, they asked me what my top three reads for 2023 were so I told them! 

Click on the picture below to find out why 





And if you are an author, Shepherd are always looking for more authors to join, so get in touch with them here. It cost nothing!