Wednesday 30 August 2017

Can't Wait Wednesday #190 - The Crow Garden

Can't Wait Wednesday is a new weekly meme hosted here to spotlight and talk about the books we're excited about that we have yet to read. Generally, they're books that have yet to be released as well. It's based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine
This week's choice is -

The Crow Garden - Alison Littlewood
ISBN - 9781786485250
Publisher - Quercus
Release date - October 5th, 2017

Susan Hill meets Alfred Hitchcock in Alison Littlewood's latest chiller: mad-doctor Nathaniel is obsessed with the beautiful Mrs Harleston - but is she truly delusional? Or is she hiding secrets that should never be uncovered...? 

Haunted by his father's suicide, Nathaniel Kerner walks away from the highly prestigious life of a consultant to become a mad-doctor. He takes up a position at Crakethorne Asylum, but the proprietor is more interested in phrenology and his growing collection of skulls than the patients' minds. Nathaniel's only interesting case is Mrs Victoria Harleston: her husband accuses her of hysteria and delusions - but she accuses him of hiding secrets far more terrible. Nathaniel is increasingly obsessed with Victoria, but when he has her mesmerised, there are unexpected results: Victoria starts hearing voices, the way she used to - her grandmother always claimed they came from beyond the grave - but it also unleashes her own powers of mesmerism and a desperate need to escape. 

Increasingly besotted, Nathaniel finds himself caught up in a world of seances and stage mesmerism in his bid to find Victoria and save her. But constantly hanging over him is this warning: that doctors are apt to catch the diseases with which they are surrounded - whether of the body or the mind.

Alison Littlewood has joined my list of favorite authors thanks to her previous five novels and some fantastic short stories. The Crow Garden sounds as beautifully creepy as usual so can't wait to get started on it, hopefully in time for my October Horror/Halloween shenanigans!

Sunday 27 August 2017

#ShelfLove - August Update Check-In

It's August! And I'm almost caught up, sort of!!! Here's my TBR Challenge update for July. I read more of my own books this month than I realized, a lot of the books I was reading for #YALC were from last year so that was a pleasant surprise! What was also a surprise was the fact that I didn't read any books on my Kindle this month, not a single one. My sister and I were talking about how we have both stopped reading that way recently and I must say, I didn't really notice I hadn't used it. Maybe next month I will...

My #ShelfLove total increased by 10 in July, taking me up to 88 books from the TBR pile so far this year. As the end of the year rapidly approaches I don't see how I'm going to reach my target of 180.I don't want to adjust my final target but I also don't want to feel like I'm hugely disappointed in myself either. Decisions, decisions! Here are the facts and figures for July's Shelf Love.

  • Read at least 15 of my own books a month - they have to have been on my shelves up to and including December 2016
  • For every 15 books read I'm allowed to buy 3 brand new books
  • For every 20 books donated to either charity or the library, I can buy 2 new books

Monster - C. J. Skuse
The Subtle Knife - Philip Pullman
The Graces - Laure Eve
Pantomime - Laura Lam
The Falconer - Elizabeth May 
  The Square Root Of Summer - Harriet Reuter Hapgood
Fen Runners - John Gordon
The Midwinter Watch - John Gordon
Alice Jones: The Impossible Clue - Sarah Rubin
Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot - Horatio Clare

TBR July Highlights

Read - 21

Own - 20
Kindle - 0
Library - 1
TBR Challenge - 10
Review  - 3
 #ShelfLove Target - 88/180

Wishlist - 2684
TBR (Still not accurate) - 1525 (It changed! It went down...)
Goodreads Challenge Update

Friday 25 August 2017

Let Her Go - Dawn Barker

Could you share your child with someone else?
Zoe wanted a baby more than anything. But her dreams will come at a price…

After years of struggling to conceive, Zoe and her husband face the prospect of never having a family. When Zoe’s stepsister, Nadia, offers to be a surrogate it presents the perfect solution. A healthy girl, Louise, is born.

But no one imagined just how hard it would be to know someone else was also mother to your child. As the pressure on Zoe and Nadia mounts, they make choices that there is no going back from.
Years later, Louise is in desperate need of her family’s help. Can they put their painful history aside to save the child they love so much?

This was a tough read for me, knowing it was about infertility and surrogacy but I wanted to know just how Nadia and Zoe cope with this momentous decision they've both made and how both sides of the story were portrayed.

Zoe has Lupus, a disease that means that a lot of sufferers cannot have children. Step forward Nadia, Zoe's step-sister who already has 3 children of her own but is willing to be a surrogate for Zoe so she can have the child she so desperately wants. At first, things to go to plan but Nadia soon realizes that giving up Louise is not what she wants and starts trying to find ways to get her back. Zoe is fully aware of how Nadia feels but she's dealing with a disintegrating marriage and her husband Lachlan won't talk to her. When things come to a head Nadia decides that the baby is no longer safe with Zoe and Lachlan and takes them to court to try and get custody.

The story of Zoe, Lachlan, Louise, and Nadia jumps back and forth between two different time periods, with Lou as a baby and then as a struggling teenager. While I was drawn to Louise and felt such sorrow at what she was going through I found it hard to like either Zoe or Nadia. They were quite unlikeable characters a lot of the time, unable to have an adult conversation about the situation and instead choosing to run away from what had to be the most difficult thing in their lives.

Let Her Go is just that, the story of letting someone go. Whether it's the right thing to do or not and what the effect of that decision can have on a family for the rest of their lives. It's powerfully written, at times heartbreaking and an incredibly emotional story but what I liked best was the depiction of Zoe's illness. It wasn't just mentioned once, at the start of the story as a plot device and forgotten about. It was mentioned consistently throughout the story and how it affected Zoe and her way of thinking, the desperation she felt of becoming seriously ill again and the possibility of Louise being taken away from her.

If you enjoy stories about family, how major choices can affect family members and people trying to find their way back to each other then do read Let Her Go.

Let Her Go - Dawn Barker
Publisher - Canelo
Release date - May 22nd, 2017
Find - Goodreads | Amazon UK

Thursday 24 August 2017

#ShelfLove 2017 - July Check-In

Welcome to July! I'm writing this in August, after having spent weeks without a computer, in hospital or both! I'm posting June progress today and July's progress on Sunday/Monday. I've got so much to catch up on that I'll probably be behind for the rest of the year.

My #ShelfLove total increased by 12 in June, taking me up to 78 books from the TBR pile so far this year. Not good at all, I don't see how I'm going to reach my target of 180 by the end of the year. Both June and July were hit and miss on the TBR thanks to traveling, #YALC, and other assorted things sent to try my patience. I think August is going to be the best month for my challenge as I've had nothing to except read but I'll discover that next week!

  • Read at least 15 of my own books a month - they have to have been on my shelves up to and including December 2016
  • For every 15 books read I'm allowed to buy 3 brand new books
  • For every 20 books donated to either charity or the library, I can buy 2 new books

The Gifts of Reading - Robert Macfarlane
Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher
Appointment With Death - Agatha Christie (reread)
Circus Shoes - Noel Streatfeild
Dancing Shoes - Noel Streatfeild (reread) 
 Theater Shoes - Noel Streatfeild (reread)
The Girl In The Steel Corset - Kady Cross
Monster Slayer - Chris Riddell
The Song From Somewhere Else - A F Harrold
Northern Lights (aka The Golden Compass) - Philip Pullman
Siege and Storm - Leigh Bardugo
The Mysterious Misadventures of Miss Clemency Wrigglesworth - Julia Lee

TBR June Highlights

Read - 23

Own - 15
Kindle -3
Library - 5
TBR Challenge - 12
Review  -4
 #ShelfLove Target - 78/180

Wishlist - 2683
TBR (Still not accurate) - 1531 (No change again...)
Goodreads Challenge Update

Thursday 3 August 2017

5 Writing Commandments to Live By - Mike Thomas

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Unforgivable by Mike Thomas! Unforgivable is the second in the Will MacReady series, about a detective working in Cardiff and following on from Ash And Bones. Here's Mike to talk about some excellent writing commandments and don't forget to look out for my review coming later on today.

5 Writing Commandments to Live By

Every writer has Things That Work For Them. Y’know, those rituals and self-imposed guidelines and downright oddball things they do just to get a couple of pages out during a working day. Some author chums don’t wash much and live – surrounded by coffee cups and cigarette butts and a cat – in their PJs. Nabokov and Hemingway used to write standing up. Hell, Dan Brown whacks on a pair of gravity boots and hangs upside down just to get in the right frame of mind for typing about stolen maps and Jesus and old stuff with dusty clues on.
Personally, I like to wear as little clothing as possible, but we won’t get into that too much as it involves skimpy underwear, nipple tassels, and mood music. Instead, here’s five slightly more palatable suggestions for successful writing…

  1. Get Those Pesky Words Out
Your magnum opus ain’t going to write itself, so aim for 1,000 words a day, minimum. Sit down, stop being all tortured artist – ‘I can’t work in these conditions!’ *checks Twitter for the 37th time that morning* – and do some work, because that is what writing a novel is: work. It is your job. Even if you don’t hit that magical 1k (and why not?) at least you’ll have something on the page. Something is better than The Flashing Cursor of Uselessness on its lovely, empty white screen. As Stephen King – you may have heard of him – says: ‘When asked: “How do you write?” I invariably answer “One word at a time.”’ But you shouldn’t really listen to other writers too much. We’ll come to that in a little bit.

  1. Stuck in the Middle with You
It doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s a proven method for me: I always, always finish my writing day in the middle of a paragraph or sentence or at the very end of a scene where there’s a hook that gets me more than a tad excited about writing the next part of the story. I just stop. Word count reached, or more than reached and you’ve run out of time because you have to iron the dog or make the kids massage your back after such a terribly trying day typing and drinking fizzy drinks? Stop. This is just so I know exactly where I am going to start the following day, and I cannot wait to get back to the keyboard.

  1. Save, save, save
A very personal one this, and a strange, paranoid habit that I just can’t break. I have my documents set to auto save every five minutes. And… I also click on the save icon just about every time I finish a sentence or a decent paragraph. I am obsessed about it because a long time ago I was on fire while writing a previous novel, had got close to eight thousand words in a marathon writing session… and my computer crashed. I lost all of it. Every. Single. Word. So I vowed never to let it happen again. I may have gone a little overboard: as well as the auto saving and clicking the little ‘save’ icon every three minutes, I religiously back everything up to cloud and then email myself whatever documents I’ve been working on that day. If I added up all the seconds spent saving and emailing and saving again – just in case – it would probably be enough time to write an entire novel. But I’ve not lost a word since so that’ll do me.

  1. Delay the Fun
See those fun things over there? The kids, the PlayStation, the Twitter account? Ooo, those mentions! Those notifications! Hard as it is, ignore it all. And be selfish. You have to write – this is your job, remember? – and that can include the mental space to work through a plotline or decide what a character is going to say (or, whisper it, stare out of the window and laugh as you remember that really funny bit in the last episode of Family Guy). Anyway, shopping, cleaning, cooking, remembering you have a husband or wife – it can all be done later on. And social media: turn off your notifications completely. I have no alerts on my phone, laptop or tablet. Nada. I enjoy making new friends, making jokes and chatting with those friends. But I will get back to you when my work is done. If that’s too late for you, then tough.

  1. Be Yourself
Don’t focus on other people, especially other authors. It achieves nothing and can make you feel worthless. Who cares how many Twitter followers they have, or if they haven’t followed you back, or have unfollowed and blocked you because you kept sending them excerpts from your new7,000-pagee fantasy/fetish hybrid novel ‘Gundar the Vikingdwarf IV: The Ice Realms of Smashfist’ (actually, never do this)? Just do your own thing. In fact, don’t listen to any author advice whatsoever. Including this. Do what works for you. Don’t emulate, or in any way try to copy, otherwise how are you going to find your own ‘voice’? If you’re really going to read those ‘How to Write a Bestseller’-type self-help books just take the little from them that you’ll need and ignore the rest. And when you are published ignore your Amazon sales rankings. Nobody in the entire universe understands their algorithms – not even the smart dudes at CERN – so stop refreshing the page and get on with your work.

About The Author

Mike Thomas was born in Wales in 1971. For more than two decades he served in the police, working some of Cardiff’s busiest neighbourhoods in uniform, public order units, drugs teams and CID. He left the force in 2015 to write full time.

His debut novel, Pocket Notebook, was published by William Heinemann (Penguin Random House) and longlisted for the Wales Book of the Year. The author was also named as one of Waterstones' 'New Voices' for 2010. His second novel, Ugly Bus, is currently in development for a six part television series with the BBC.

The first in the MacReady series, Ash and Bones, was published in August 2016 by Bonnier Zaffre. The sequel, Unforgivable, was published in July 2017.

He lives in the wilds of Portugal with his wife, two children and an unstable, futon-eating dog.

More details can be found on the website
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