Reviews


Hello and welcome to a bit of calm in a turbulent part of the world. Compared to what’s happening to a million people a bit further south, what I have to tell you seems insignificant.

But I wanted to tell you about a book I enyoyed very much.

The Brotherhood

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.The Brotherhood by Jo Fenton is a psychological thriller that had me hooked from the beginning and never let me go.

My review doesn’t do justice to it, but I tried. Basically, I think you should read it.

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This blog will be back with another in the series Letters from Elsewhere on 31st August. See you then!

Miriam Drori

 

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I read a book that hasn’t been released yet. Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Nine Worlds.

Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Nine WorldsIt’s not rare for that to happen. Authors or publishers often give away a few review copies. But more about that later.

I enjoyed the book and wrote a review, which I put first on Goodreads. This is it:

“I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review. This makes no difference to my rating/review of it.

What if…? That’s a question all fiction authors ask many times in the course of writing a story. It can lead to: What if character A met character B? Or: What if X happened to Character A? The premise of this novel is much more unusual: What if two bumbling Victorian detectives found themselves having to solve a mystery in the world (or worlds) of Norse mythology?

Of course, if I’d read the first book in this series, Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab, I wouldn’t have been so surprised by the notion. But I’m sure I’d have found the story just as fascinating and the humour just as appealing. The writing is excellent; descriptions, dialogue and plot are, too. And I was happy to learn something of a world I’ve never examined.

Occasionally, the language seemed unfitting for a Victorian English gentleman, and that would tend to make me award the novel 4.5 stars. For example, Barnabas calls women Ms rather than Miss or Mrs; temperatures are in Centigrade rather than Farenheit; and he uses that annoying (to me) US expression, “off of.” But mostly, I was happy with the choice of words; I don’t expect the dialogue in a modern book to sound exactly as it would in times gone by, and there are enough hints in the novel of the period the detectives came from.

What next? I do hope Barnabas and his assistant, Wilfred, get to India at some stage of their journey.”

And then, as I have often done in the past, I copied my review to Amazon US and Amazon UK… or at least I tried to.

Amazon US informed me that I can’t leave a review for a book that hasn’t been released yet.

Amazon UK informed me that I haven’t bought enough on the site to be able to leave a review. On further investigation, I discovered that I’m supposed to have spent at least £40 in the last twelve months.

Both of these rulings are new and they don’t make sense to me.

If Amazon continue to have a pre-order feature, then they should allow pre-release reviews. Otherwise, how can potential readers determine whether they want to pre-order?

And I wanted to make my review visible to UK customers, who would pay to buy the book, if they could see read reviews. In other words, I don’t think Amazon should only allow reviews from those who buy on the site, because those reviews could influence others to buy.

But the mighty Amazon has decreed and we dwarves must bow to them. END OF RANT.

Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Nine Worlds is released by Crooked Cat Publishing on 4 September, 2018.

There will be two more blog posts this week – on Tuesday and Friday. What a busy week this is! Happily so. I wish you a happily busy week, too!

Running up stairs

 

Salt & VinegarCrispsUntil recently, it was impossible to buy Salt ‘n’ Vinegar crisps here. There were many other flavours, but not that. We missed them and always bought some when we were in the UK. Our children like them, too. I wonder why!

Nowadays, we see them for sale, occasionally, in the familiar blue box. We’ve bought them and enjoyed them. However, after two or three purchases, we’ve noticed a pattern. The crisps sold here have less vinegar than the ones sold in the UK. They’re okay, but they don’t have that specially sharp taste. They don’t make your lips tingle.

We’ve assumed that these crisps are purposely made with a milder quantity of vinegar to suit the Israeli taste. And the Spanish one, presumably. Come to think of it, doesn’t the version for the UK market bear the name “Salt ‘n’ Vinegar”? And isn’t there a “u” in “flavoured” in that version?

Advice on writing always includes tips about writing for the audience. And contrasting tips to write for yourself, because that way you come across as genuine.

I wouldn’t begin to tell other writers how they should write. Each has to make their own decisions. I’ve made mine. I couldn’t write to suit the people I assume would want to buy my books if the writing didn’t first satisfy me. My books aren’t crisps. They’re full of words that I’ve combined and edited and re-edited until I’m happy with the result. Of course, I hope they also satisfy others, but I can only produce products that suit my palate.

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Social Anxiety Revealed has a five-star review that delights me because it shows the book has helped someone. I hope it helps many more. Remember, you can also read the book to discover how to help a friend, family member, colleague or student.

When I ordered this book I didn’t realise it would have the ‘Wow’ factor! I lost count of the amount of times that I thought ‘wow’ when reading the comments from people interviewed and discovering that I am not alone. There are other people who feel and act the way I do. It soon became clear during the reading that the author was offering me a much needed insight into like minded people and although it doesn’t offer a ‘cure’ (possibly the wrong word) it helped tremendously.

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:

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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.

Blurb

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.

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.

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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

17093876_770816756403666_459813296_nFinding 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?

About Ailsa

17092169_770817006403641_724394489_nAilsa 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!)

Ailsa’s Links

Web-pageAmazon.ukTwitterFacebookLinked-In

I’ve chosen two reviews – one for each book – to highlight here. Both are detailed and well-thought-out. Sometimes their authors understand the characters in different ways from me. That’s fine. When interpretations differ, that’s a sign of a book that gives readers plenty to think about.

Neither Here Nor There

Neither Here Nor ThereThis book had such meaning for me- it was, in simple terms, about feeling confined in a lifestyle you no longer agree with: that is no longer right for you. That’s Esty’s story, she doesn’t belong, and feels like an alien- an imposter- so, she decides to leave the haredi lifestyle (the lifestyle of an Orthodox Jew) and moves on. Of course, as expected, there are a number of hurdles she has to first get over: her family doesn’t seem very accepting, her community disapproves and then there’s Mark.

She likes Mark and, believes he may be good for her. But, will she fit into his secular lifestyle? She can’t hold his hand without flinching, she finds it wrong whenever they sit too close. But, funnily enough, it can’t be more right. She’s moving on, independently. But will she be able to keep going?

I liked this story, mostly because I could relate: I don’t always feel as though I’m free to take up certain things- because of my religion, though I’d say it was more to do with culture. And I sometimes battle with my thoughts, when I’m rebelling against what my culture’s principles dictate. It is difficult to leave behind, or ignore, your upbringing- it’s your community. Not only do you face isolation, but confusion- you hardly know what goes on behind the other side of the fence. How the other half live, and the author of this book acknowledges that.

I just had a slight issue with the main character, she was making a big life choice and it seemed weird that she didn’t know what she was getting herself into- then again, she was a young nineteen year old. But I felt that seemed to imply she was too naive to know any better. Then there was how she automatically fell for Mark, describing him to have been handsome and the connection between them. It was too fast, and seemed improper, a stark contrast, from her actual attitude towards men- as is revealed later when she is hesitant towards Mark’s touch. Though, aside from this- the book was a delightful, engaging, read.

This book reminded me of a poem I once read titled, ‘Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan’ by Moniza Alvi. Both this book, and this poem, represent the feelings of disillusionment, confusion of one’s identity and isolation, the idea of being an ‘in-betweener’, neither here nor there.

The Women Friends: Selina

CoverFrontThis book is perfect for fans of historical fiction, with LGBTQ characters as well as an honest depiction of the “just before” Hitler claimed Austria during WW2. It’s an important read for those reasons, as well. We can all too easily forget that it did seemingly happen “overnight” because these were emotions and opinions and feelings that had been brewing in the citizens minds well before Hitler came to power, before he stepped foot into Austria. He came to power because people were already agreeing with him about everything, including the final solution.

We start off with Selina Brunner who has decided to move from the countryside to Vienna in hopes of escaping the destitute conditions world war one left much of the European countryside suffering from. She has experienced sexual assault in her past, and this is immediately brought up as one of the reasons why she was so eager to move; she needed to put her past permanently behind her. She struggles with this at first and it is not until she meets Janika, a Jewish muse of Gustav Klimts, that she is able to put action to her feelings and she falls in love with Janika. Their love is not to be, and after Janika marries a man, Selina is forced to meet other people. We see Selina meet a national socialist woman, but while they live together for a time and she does introduce her to her parents, they do not fall in love nor do they stay together.

In the end, Selina makes a choice between staying utterly true to herself and how she identifies, or marrying a Roma man to help him escape.

The entire book, while simple in some areas that begged for deeper character exploration, is one that I would say is important to read, especially right now with the way politics seem to be turning. It is a lie to say that things aren’t already bad; that’s how things like the Shoah happen. Things that were already bad, were purposely ignored until they had no choice but to come to a head in a way so horrible, there are no words to express. The author does a wonderful job of showing that it wasn’t just Hitler that caused the Shoah to happen, but the people as well. And it was also people like Selina Brunner who helped others during this dark time so that it wasn’t their last; while this story is fictitious, the heart of it rings true from page to page.

I try to write reviews for the books I read. As an author, I know how important reviews are. I don’t usually post them on this blog. I only do that for special books, and the book I just finished reading is special. It’s also very brave, as not everyone would want to reveal such details. I found it fascinating and disturbing. I identified with it and totally disagreed with it. How can I have such disconnected thoughts, and how do I connect them? My review is below.

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This book is one I would not normally have read. The true story of a woman who goes though many traumas in her life, moves from America to Israel and back and forth, and through it all never loses faith in Jesus? That last part would have put me off. Not my thing. No.

But I read it. I read it because I know the author. I met her when we were both technical writers. I knew her as someone incredibly gifted in verbal communication. I didn’t read her technical documents, but I knew she’d won prizes for them. And I plucked up the courage to email her at a time when I was only starting to realise the advantages of electronic communication. There was also a face-to-face conversation. She was extremely kind and understanding. And that’s when she shocked me by telling me about her faith in Jesus. Where had that come from? I couldn’t make it out.

dvoraelishevaNow that I’ve read her memoir, I understand. I don’t agree, but I understand. I suppose that was my main reason for wanting to read it.

Yet, there’s so much more in this book, including plenty I can agree with and even empathise with. There are the difficulties over her name, accepting the associations a particular form of the name brings up. There are the games that the mind plays, or rather that we play with our minds: “I had cordoned off my memories, my feelings, my emotions, and sometimes even my actions.”

But then I read, “If I had space to tell you the stories behind these accomplishments, you’d see that these, too, were all divinely orchestrated from above.” And my reaction was: no, I wouldn’t. As with the stories you did have space to tell, I’d see that things turned out surprisingly well. But God can’t be proved. In my mind, you might be right and you might not. For me, it doesn’t matter which.

I also had a more disturbing reaction to this book, not so much in what was written as in what was not written. Because space clearly was not the only reason to hold things back. I’m sure, as in most memoirs, facts were hidden in order to protect other people. And I felt there was another reason. The author describes a trip to China. For her, a very important part of the trip involved telling people about Jesus. Her message was that belief in the Buddha is bad and they should instead believe in Jesus. I understand her reasoning. Someone who has such a strong belief also believes that she can help others by encouraging them to share her belief.

I find that worrying. Firstly, who’s to say that one belief is better than another? And secondly, while no mention of missionary activity in Israel was made, if it happened on a short trip to China where language barriers made it difficult, surely it must happen in Israel, where there are no such barriers and the sojourn is permanent.

And so, I have a big problem awarding stars to this book. On what level am I judging it? As far as the writing goes, it is excellent, in both vocabulary and content. I am overawed at the way the book jumps forwards and backwards in time, and yet all the pieces hold together so well. I’m also disturbed by the content. For me, it doesn’t provide proof of what can’t be proved; it hints of something almost sinister. But I will go with my first impression and the fact that I read the second half in one day.

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