Tuesday, July 31, 2012

review: Second Shot by Zoe Sharp

Second Shot (Charlie Fox Thriller, #6)Second Shot by Zoƫ Sharp

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I find all Zoe's work hard to put down and this didn't break the mould. Second Shot is the first of the Charlie Fox series to introduce a child character into the mix. It shows us a softer side of Charlie's make-up. She obviously can't be a parent as well as doing the work she is naturally fitted for, but guarding a mother with a four-year-old brings her maternal instincts to the fore. That they're distinctly tigerish should be no surprise to readers of this series.

The "second shot" of the title hits Charlie when she hesitates to shoot for fear of hitting, or traumatizing, the child who is being abducted. This is also a narrative in which Charlie's brain has to be more important than her physical skill and military training, since the second half of the book has her opting to continue her work while recuperating from two major gunshot wounds - and no, she doesn't grapple with nightclub bouncers or sprint after wrongdoers in impossibly high heels. That's what I like about Ms Fox - she achieves her results in a realistic manner and with believable emotions, convictions and doubts beneath what she does so well.

Bravo Zoe... now I must go and read the next one.

View all my reviews

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The spammers are getting desperate!


Our ref: BRT/3470/IDR
our ref:..20/07/2012


In a bit to actualizing the United Nations millennium development goal(MDG) to
eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by the year 2015; I am directed by the Rt
Hon.DAVID CAMERON MP,Prime Minister British Government to inform you of your
selection as one of the Beneficiary for the on going 2012 British Government
Poverty Alleviation and Financial Empowerment Program worldwide. All
participants/beneficiaries were selected randomly from Worldwide online networks
Directories as a beneficiary of £2,000,000.00 (Two Million, Great British
Pounds Sterling).

So, this letter is to officially inform you that ATM with ATM Card Number
{4800010177555014} has been accredited in your favor.Your Personal
Identification Number is BRT/4741.

As this office will mail you a Visa/ATM CARD which you will use to withdraw your
funds in any ATM MACHINE CENTER or Visa card outlet in the world with a maximum
of £5000 GBP daily.

Further more,You will be required to re-confirm your Bio-Data as stated below to
enable; Rt Hon William Hague MP, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth
Affairs,immediately process your awarded funds.

1) Full names:
2) Address:
3) Country:
4) Nationality:
5) Phone No.:
6) Age:
7) Occupation:
8) Zip Code:
9) Sex:

Forward all your details reply to:
Rt Hon. William Hague MP
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Thank you as we anticipate your prompt response,

Mrs. Elaine Rooker Smith.
Liaison Officer On Foreign Payment


They really do think we are THAT STUPID.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Bag yourself a Clarkson

I haven’t really got it in for Jezza. I blame it on my son. He keeps trawling through the charity shops and dragging home £1 copies of Clarkson’s collected rants under titles like Born to be Riled, which he presents for my entertainment. The trouble is, at 1500 words apiece, those articles from the Sunday Times and Motorworld make perfect loo-time reading, and I have to admit the guy can write. I’m becoming addicted.

His opinions are forthright, so I suspect the ST’s lawyers scan his pieces pretty carefully before publication. I find it amusing that a fellow who started out on the Rotherham Advertiser not only has three cars but a country house with a garage big enough for all of them, especially since one of them is a Ferrari 355. There’s hope in that for us scribblers.

The article title will contain either a personal name or a car badge, like Prescott goes Bus Crazy or Lemon-Sharp Alfa. From him I have learned how to distinguish one model of Mercedes from another, how several cars are the best car ever, and how the Vauxhall Vectra fails to be the worst. I have also learned that what Jezza likes doing best, curiously, is not driving cars. Sure, he likes to drive cars, and he likes to drive them fast, but their mere speed is not of value; as I’ve observed myself, you can do 500mph in an airliner and be bored. Yes, Clarkson likes a good power-to-weight ratio. He likes to drive a lean, mean machine through corners and bends, listening to engine howl, feeling G forces and testing the limits of control. But that’s not his main aim in life.

I’ve also learned, to my surprise, that he’s not a petrolhead of the kind you avoid in the pub, the car enthusiasts who gather in little shoals to compare cam belt wear and track rod ends. He mercilessly lampoons them. Jezza drives cars, it seems, to feed his ultimate passion: writing. He likes to have material knocking on the inside of his woolly skull, keeping him awake at night and demanding to be constructed into words. Whether he’s being begged to drive a new Fiat, a Kia, a Chrysler or a Rolls, it makes no odds. He likes to drive them because it’s writing about the experience that makes him smile.

I’ve given three muffled cheers through the hem of my nightie when he rants against stupid political decisions on our transport systems. I’ve snorted appreciation at his turns of phrase and witty similes. I’ve enjoyed descriptions of drives in far-flung places, in cars I could never afford – because he writes well. If I could find such a niche for my writing, perhaps I too could be paid to gather exotic material. For this glimpse of hope, I can forgive Clarkie his rudeness about vegetarians, non smokers, gardeners, horse riders, bikers, caravanners and Greens.

Only occasionally do I get cross when he attacks the “Rohan Man” who drives a diesel car, prefers mpg to mph, recycles glass and likes the great outdoors (my husband, who wouldn’t recognise a pair of Rohan trousers if they got up and bit him.) However, when I do get cross with Clarkson, I’m appeased by one piece of inside knowledge, and the thought of how I’d use it. You see, one firm poke anywhere higher than his midriff and he’d go over like a felled tree. Bound to. He may stand six foot five and weigh seventeen stone, but he’s only got size nine feet.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fifty Shades of Bay

Oh, THAT feels better.

Fifty Shades of Bay

He sidled up to her by the hedge, and he rubbed on the hitching rail.
He said, ‘Got my eye on you, my sweet,’ and he switched his handsome tail.

Her ears went back and she tossed her head. She whinnied and rolled her eyes,
but she lipped her bit and held back her cries of wonder at his size.

‘Fancy a game, my dear?’ he asked. ‘What’s your name, my pretty filly?’

‘I won’t play games with a stud like you. I’m not so jolly silly.’

‘Don’t fret,’ neighed the horse in melodious tone, as his crest swelled up with pride.
‘There’s a bridle path of delight near here which offers a splendid ride.
So gallop with me, abandon yourself to the search for your Inner Mare
and race with me to my private field. I’ll tie you to me there.
I’ll saddle and bridle you fifty ways and rub you with wisps of hay,
so all your birthdays will come at once, 'cos my name is Christmas Bay.’

Monday, July 16, 2012

Grey or God - no contest - by an atheist

Ohhh I can't resist this one. Radio Cumbria says a local hotel is replacing its Gideon Bibles with copies of Mr Grey's 50 Shades (or 150 shades, depending on how strong your stomach is). Seems good publicity for a book that is already getting far more than its fair share. Well phooey to you, Ms James.

Considering that Grey insists, "Thou shalt do this, thou shalt not do that, I'll get angry if thou dost anything (like speak or look at me) without my command, thou shalt have no other friend than me, oh yes and sign on the dotted line please!" there's not a lot of difference between him and JahWeh (Jehovah), is there? Except that JahWeh doesn't also want to screw you.

I'm not keen on characters who are abusive and controlling. If Mr Grey came within my reach I'd probably want to smack his nose backwards to a midpoint between his ears.

That may sound like I don't like sex or sexy books. I do, but that's beside the point. And whether the Bible is "the word of God" or only the word of a committee translated by another committee - which I'm more inclined to - is also beside the point.

The English is so much more beautiful in the Bible. The advice is better in the Bible. The idea of living by being brave and true to your own internal rules is much better exemplified in the Bible. There is no insistence on one spirit being dominant or submissive to another in the Bible. It contains many instances of comfort and care which don't insist on dragging in sex and a distorted view of BDSM as the only solace.

On balance, if I HAVE to have a book chosen for me by a hotel - I'd rather they offered the Bible.

Of course, neither God nor Mr Grey exist.

New Balls please.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

review: The Young Demon Keeper by Bob Simms

This is a witty romp through the possibilities of demonology. Fictional, I hasten to add, though I'm sure Bob did his homework before setting off. I know this because I read the book in draft form on a writers' forum 18 months or more ago, and I thought then that it was funny and had a really original story. Now that it's available on Kindle I decided to download it to see how it had progressed. Polished and assured, it's now very good indeed.

The characters are richly different from each other and yet all have aspects that I recognise and enjoy. Paul, the main character, has attempted to summon a personal demon to assist him in his ineffectual life. Characteristically, he's managed only to botch the job. His invocation spell, which we later find is a cut and shut effort, has lumbered him with Scarth - a hybrid "chimera" who is not only useless and stupid but inclined to eat anything, from gravel to ice-cream to people. Hell being un-educated about "fitness for purpose" in purchases, Paul finds that both the chimera and his superiors resist all efforts to return Scarth to The Pit.

Throughout, the main characters felt like people I might know or have known - Ess the bright Earth Mother Wiccan, Paul the nerdy IT support technician, Dumpster the pub hard-man (dominated by his tiny wife), the large and ebullient Professor "Oz" who pretends to be a sexual predator and is actually an expert on several subjects. Being myself an agnostic, I found Paul's encounter with the "provisional wing" of the Christian church amusing, but I daresay a churchgoer might be offended, so don't buy this book for your mother if she pours the tea for Bring and Buy Sales at St Jehosophat's.

The actual demons have interesting - and surely satirical - qualities, such as utter seriousness, lack of creative imagination, and a selfish dedication to career oneupmanship. I wonder who they reminded me of? I couldn't POSSIBLY comment. Naturally, in a work of fiction, these qualities are the ones that let them down and allow Paul to free himself from his impulse buy of the spiritual companion from Hell. By the end of the book, I'd got involved enough to worry, as Ess does, about what will become of Scarth - and even the howling, Hell-filled misery of his scream - when his tie to Paul is finally cut.

The writing is witty, without being overdone, and the tone is light despite the dark possibilities of the story. You're never in doubt that Paul and Ess and Oz WILL succeed against the forces of the Pit, but wanting to know exactly how is what makes this a page turner. (Or screen flicker. Whatever.)

The Young Demon Keeper is available from Amazon

PS I wouldn't have bought this for the cover, but the inside is worth twice its price of £1.92.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Turning into Mrs Brown

I believe I'm turning into Mrs Brown. I have spent yesterday and today in the Show Case gallery-cum-soup-shop (great idea!) in Penrith's Devonshire Arcade. I've sat with laptop and huge TV screen, playing photos and music and poetry for three hours non stop each day, and I've come to the conclusion we'd all have been better off with Radio Cumbria. I could have stopped at home and the patrons would have been none the wiser.

In those two sessions I had one enquiry for the pop-up cinema down the arcade (now closed since the projector carked it, and Eden Arts use this space instead); one question as to what I was doing - heavens, a live adult dared to speak to me! astonishing! - two grins from small children, and one question as to the identity of the wool craftswomen whose work adorned the walls - said enquirers having walked past a six foot by three foot poster in the doorway saying "The Wool Clip, Caldbeck".

I didn't sell a book, a pamphlet, or a single page of poems. I didn't even take a single donation to Walking for Wishes (for the Geoff Brown Charitable Trust).

Hence the Brendan O'Carroll urge to say things like #waste-a-feckin-time and #totallyfeckin-useless.

What I did do, to stave off utter insanity, was to read three books; I finished two, and have mentally chucked the third in the waste skip as another #waste-a-feckin-time and #totallyfeckin-useless item. Reviews, handwritten since the laptop was driving the TV, will be posted here shortly.

What I did notice is that of three published full length novels, there wasn't one without a spelling error, a typo, or a punctuation/printing/layout error.

Inattention to detail is poor workmanship - and in two cases, the story itself was very, very good and didn't deserve such silly mistakes. By far the poorest of the three storywise was also the poorest produced item, both in terms of quality of paper/cover and in terms of layout/typographic errors. So bad, in fact, that I might not review it. It was just awful!

If these had been self-publications, these books would be rightly ticked off for writer ignorance, but all three were "published" by other people making it their business. Has the digital revolution in publishing dragged down standards in proofing? Or have we got so used to missing errors on screen that they are not seen any more when the final product goes out?

You'll say, well, if you can do better, go and do it... So, Dragon Bait is out on Kindle... I'm #puttin-me-book-where-me-feckin-mouth-is. Go and have a look.

Jackdaw E Books

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Time to stand up as an Indie - not, not politics, you know I don't have that kind of head. Independent publishing. Jackdaw E Books is now up and running. Pop in and see me tomorrow in Penrith :)

New Writing Cumbria tells all!

Now it must be time to eat... I don't seem to have stopped today.

Only I suppose I'd better feed and stable the wild horse before the midgies start nibbling her. More after tomorrow's excitement.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A good day!

Yesterday was rather a good day writing-wise. I had an article accepted by Best of British Magazine in record quick time (4 hours). I received my copies of "In Memoriam" (and a cheque - don't forget the cheque) from Candlestick Press. See details here: In Memoriam You know how you worry whether an anthology will turn out tacky - well this isn't - it's brilliant.

I am proud to see "Pink" in the company of works by:
Christina Rossetti
Goethe (tr Longfellow)
Michael Rosen
Billy Collins
Anna Wigley
Carol Ann Duffy
Peter POrter
Dylan Thomas
Paul Durcan
Derek Mahon
Wendy Cope
W H Auden
Adrian Mitchell
Jackie Kay
Penelope Shuttle
Robert Burns
Laurence Binyon
John McCrae
Emily Dickinson
Thomas Gray
Mark Twain.

An' ME!
Quite a day, really!