March 31, 2017
I’ve just finished reading an amazing book. Books that I mention on this blog are all special, but this one is extra special and I’m shouting about it from every rooftop I can find.
Here’s my review:
I was in Liverpool, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland – not now, but nearly two hundred years ago. Actually, I’ve only been to one of those places and what I saw in no way prepared me for what I read in this book. The descriptions are so vivid, the scenes so real that I felt I was there with the characters, through all their hopes and suffering.
I’ve never read a historical story that has held my attention as this one did. Most historical fiction has sections that are less interesting, that I have to struggle through to move on to more appealing parts. But this novel captivated me throughout.
I’ve read Jo Carroll’s travel memoirs, but never realised she was capable of this. I salute her and sincerely hope she’s planning more novels like this one.
It’s 1848. And Sara, aged fourteen, must leave her family in the stinking potato fields of Ireland to seek a better life with her wealthy aunt in Liverpool. But her uncle has different ideas.
Will she find solace among the dockers? She finds love, but becomes embroiled in the unrest of the Irish men and women who live in squalor in the Liverpool slums. Yet her efforts to help them only enrage her uncle further.
Her escape takes her to the other side of the world. But there is no comfort in the dusty outback of Australia nor the gold fields of New Zealand. For she has left behind something more precious to her than life itself.
March 17, 2017
This is one of several posts about my recent trip to Ethiopia. The others, so far, are:
The Black Country | Anecdotes | Transport | Religion | Danger
The post on transport was updated recently.
I haven’t looked up statistics about animals in Ethiopia, but there are, without doubt, more than I’ve seen in any other country. Cows, goats, buffaloes. You see them on the roads. The driver gives a hoot and the animals inch away until there’s just enough room for the jeep to get past.
Camels and donkeys carry salt – for internal use only, we were told.
We spotted a baboon
and a monkey
and a dik-dik.
We saw vervet monkeys.
That’s right – blue.
But most of all, I remember the birds. Our guide and driver for part of the tour (Milli) was very knowledgeable about birds and knew all the names. He’d spot them while driving and stop for us to take photos. When said bird was on my side of the jeep, I’d let the window down and sit back for hubby to lean on me while photographing. The results were definitely worth the slight discomfort.
All photos in this post by David Drori
March 10, 2017
Today is a special day for us all and especially for one special person: Ailsa Abraham. Today is the launch of her new book, Attention to Death. You’re invited to join today’s launch party.
I have read and loved both of her previous Crooked Cat books and am looking forward to reading this one. The story leads to an issue that has also arisen for Emma Rose Millar and me regarding The Women Friends: Selina.
And Ailsa herself is here to tell us all about this book, which is new in more ways than one. Over to you, Ailsa.
Hello, Miriam, and thank you for inviting me to talk about my latest release today.
You’re very welcome, Ailsa, as always.
This is a departure from my previous series in magical realism. Here I take off on murder mystery. Why? Erm… limited attention span? Love of variety?
Attention to Death is available from Amazon: http://mybook.to/AttentionDeath
“In Attention to Death, Ailsa Abraham pulls off something I wouldn’t have thought possible – a steamy romance with a twist of murder and a splash of social conscience. A remarkable book that will have you turning pages as quickly as you can to find out what happens next.”
~ India Drummond, author of the Caledonia Fae series
Finding a murderer among a group of killers is not going to be easy for two Royal Army Military Police investigators, Captain Angus Simpson and Staff-Sergeant Rafael ‘Raff’ Landen, whose Christmas leave is cancelled for an investigation into a suspicious death on a base in Germany.
The case is further complicated by unhelpful senior officers who make pre-judgements on colour, creed, race and sexuality. Yet the insight of the investigators helps them uncover a sinister plot, although they too have something to hide: their own fledgling relationship.
Will Angus and Raff be able to solve the murder without giving away their secret?
The best and worst of human nature is represented in this story, which is why it is suggested for over 18s only.
I delved into my past life as an officer in the Royal Air Force and my lifelong friendships with gay men to research this book. Coming right after LGBT History Month in February, it highlights the problems that men who have to be “in the closet” and the sort of bigotry that causes people to refuse to read a book just because there are gay characters in it, although this doesn’t stop them leaving reviews. Me? I’ve never been too sure. I’m gender-neutral which is why the first thing I wonder on meeting new people isn’t “What do they do in their bedrooms?”
Read it for yourself and decide. Is it an honest portrayal of two men doing their job who just happen to have started an affair?
Ailsa Abraham is the author of six novels. Alchemy is the prequel to Shaman’s Drum, published by Crooked Cat in January 2014. Both are best-sellers in their genres on Amazon. She also writes mystery romance.
She has lived in France since 1990 and is now naturalized French. She enjoys knitting and crochet and until recently was the oldest Hell’s Angel in town . Her interests include campaigning for animal rights, experimenting with different genres of writing and trips back to the UK to visit friends and family. She is also addicted to dressing up, saying that she is old enough to know better but too wise to care (pirate gear is her favourite!)
Web-page, Amazon.uk, Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In
March 6, 2017
This is one of several posts about my recent trip to Ethiopia. The others, so far, are:
The Black Country | Anecdotes | Transport | Religion
Before travelling to Ethiopia, we read warnings about visiting the country. Ethiopia has good relations with some of her neighbours and not such good relations with others, notably Eritrea. Terrorism is well known in Ethiopia.
Consequently, security is high. At every airport, there are two security checks – one to enter the building and another before boarding the plane. You have to take your shoes off twice. Large hotels also have security checks outside their entrances. Soldiers and police were often visible where we went. I was surprised to see them at tourist lookout points. I felt as if they feel tourists are more important than their own citizens. Fortunately, we saw no signs of terrorist activity.
Driving, in Ethiopia, from what I saw, is good. Our drivers kept calm and didn’t take risks. The roads were not always good, and some busy junctions would have benefited from traffic lights, but I didn’t feel in danger there. This is in marked contrast to India, where my heart was in my mouth each time we overtook.
Danger on our trip came from more natural places. One was Erta Ale, the volcano in the Dannakil Desert. We’d been expecting to be taken to the lava lake, where danger would have come from breathing the sulphur, but views would have been spectacular. Unfortunately, just before we arrived, there was a rare eruption and we weren’t allowed near the lake. We did make the climb, however, and saw the new activity from afar.
Erta Ale (Photo by David Drori)
Then, instead of spending the night at the top and walking back down in the morning, we had to return to the camp at night, due to the danger from the volcano.
All that came after what for me was the most frightening part of the trip, but I did it. I climbed a vertical cliff to reach the Abuna Yemata Guh Church. Here is the proof:
Climbing to Abuna Yemata Guh Church (Photos by Mira Weinstein)
I got help, as you can see, from above and below. “Left hand here. Right foot here.” You see where my right knee is resting? I had to get my right foot there, and somehow I did. Yes, we took our shoes off before that stretch. They told us that was because all the ground near the church is holy, but I wouldn’t have been able to climb with boots on. I could barely squeeze my feet into the spaces as it was.
The pictures above were not taken by David, who decided not to go up. He made a wise decision; it’s not a place for someone who’s afraid of heights.
I made it! I took pictures from inside the nearby cave and of the church.
I even lived to tell the tale!
Descent from Abuna Yemata Guh Church (Photo by David Drori)
March 3, 2017
Fifteen years have passed since the day that changed my life. It seems like yesterday and it seems like a century ago. So much has happened since that day – good things, although there’s plenty more I hope for. And yet, I remember that day so well, and the months that followed.
To celebrate, I’m repeating my post from five years ago.
On 3rd March, 2002, I received an email. It began: “Hi, it’s Gill Balbes (as was) here. Was talking to Jane the other night and she was telling me about how she’d been in contact with you and that you remember me (as I do you) so I thought I’d say hello. Schooldays seem a long way off but it would be nice to hear how you’re doing.”
Schooldays certainly were a long way off. It was over thirty years since I’d walked out of the school gates, vowing never to have any connection with any of the girls I’d known over the previous seven years – a few even longer. It was only recently that I’d added my name to the Friends Reunited site, opening up the possibility of contact, although I didn’t expect anyone to write to me.
But Jane did write and I made a decision: that if I was going to correspond with anyone from school, I would make the relationship meaningful by being open about what happened to me there. If they didn’t want to discuss it, there wasn’t much point in reuniting.
Fortunately, Jane did agree to discuss it. She also apologised for what she did to me, although I didn’t hold her or any of the former pupils to blame as adults for their actions as children. I always knew the bullying (which I called teasing then) had had a bad effect on the rest of my life, but never thought the children were mature enough to understand what they were causing.
Jane soon put me in contact with Gill, who had more time to write. Gill and I corresponded almost daily for a long time, and she became a very special friend to me. It was Gill who told me about social anxiety. I didn’t realise the significance of it at first, but gradually two things became clear. I was not alone in being this way and it’s possible to improve. (I don’t think it makes sense to say there’s a cure, and I don’t think there needs to be one.)
Gill has been the catalyst for many changes in my life – for starting to write, for starting a blog, and much more. We have now met several times. After ten years, I still count Gill as a very special friend.
Actually, Gill and Jane are both very special friends. Do you have a friend story you want to share?