Hundreds of Tiny Threads: #BookReview of The Howarth Family Trilogy by @JudithBarrow77 #Family #HistFic #TuesdayBookBlog

Barb Taub

Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years.—Simone Signoret

In my last post here, I talked about why I could never do a generational family saga like the epic miniature tales and historical sweep of Judith Barrow’s Howarth family trilogy. But it wasn’t until I read the title of the prequel, 100 Tiny Threads, that I really started to understand what she was building wasn’t so much a generational epic, but an examination of the things that tie families together even as they drive them apart.


SERIES REVIEW:  5 out of 5 stars for Howarth Family Trilogy, Prequel, and Anthology

Mary is a nursing sister at Lancashire prison camp for the housing and treatment of German POWs. Life at work is difficult but fulfilling, life at home a constant round of arguments, until Frank Shuttleworth…

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The quiet ones…

Thought for today from Sue

The Silent Eye

The computer decided to play the fool, doing unmentionable things with no provocation. I’d only just sorted the email that had blocked me from answering anything, even though it let me see all the emails piling up. And, to make matters worse, I have one of these horrid winter bugs that turn your brain to mush. By the end of the day, I had tried everything I could think of… it was time to ask for help.

That can be a difficult thing to do sometimes… not for a technical problem like mine, when we are all too ready to scream for any help we can get, but for the real things that affect how we can live our lives. My son and I have been talking about this a lot since his return from India, where the kindness and compassion of the people he met there allowed him to…

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My Review of The Usurper King by Zeb Haradon #RBRT # TuesdayBook Blog

 

The Usurper King by [Haradon, Zeb]

I was given this book by the author as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team #RBRT in return for an honest review.

 I gave The Usurper King 4* out of 5*

Book Description:

The Usurper King takes place in an alternate universe where the serial killer Ted Bundy was never apprehended and is now running for president in 2016.

Jim, a sufferer of a hybrid computer-biological virus that causes premature aging, tries to pay for his treatments by winning money on the game show ‘Guts!’, which has contestants competitively predict the future by reading animal entrails.

As Jim begins to find omens in the entrails of Bundy’s victory, and details of Bundy’s murderous past are uncovered, Jim and another contestant take it upon themselves to stop his ascent to power before it’s too late

 My Review:

For once I’m stuck on how to review a book. Not only because I’m not sure how to describe the genre; The Usurper King crosses both fantasy, humour and political thriller; all mixed up together with some humour that more than borders on satire. The author has a quirky writing style that I admired and there are some brilliant observations on the human condition. Yet parts of the story did make me cringe and skip small sections; those parts were the descriptions on extispicy: (the practice of predicting the future or reading omens by reading the entrails and liver of animals. And yes, it did exist; I looked it up. And yes, I do know I’m a wimp.

But here I’m reviewing the book itself so I’ll break it down. As I said Zeb Haradon can write, it’s a fascinating, slightly convoluted plot told in the protagonists’s first person point of view,  Jim Galesh; a forty year old, divorced alcoholic who has contracted a disease called TAP: Technologically Acquired Progeria, that is ageing him  quicker than normal. This character jumps off the page, he is so rounded and believable, in what is otherwise a fantastical scenario. And, generally, the other characters are multi layered as well.

 The dialogue is good and more than fills out the protagonist’s character.There is a good sense of place throughout. And I found the ending clever and a total surprise,

A couple of problems that occurred in places: the pacing of the plot was slightly erratic, and there are punctuation and syntax errors throughout.

 But, to end on a positive note and to emphasise comments I made earlier; Zeb Haradon is an author to watch out for. I recommend The Usurper King for its originality, its sardonic observations of life and a great writing style

Links to buy:

Amazon.co.uk: https://amzn.to/2Iys7FM

Amazon.com: https://amzn.to/2KHBTlB

 

Changing Relationships #MondayBlogs #families #relationships

olive

It’s twenty years today since my auntie left our home for the last time to go into care; eight years since she died. I wrote some of the following on each of those occasions. Now it seems almost unbelievable how much time has passed. I remember …

During our lives, Auntie Olive and I had three different relationships.

When I was a child I was told she was ‘someone very important in the civil service.’ She was a spinster in every way. I think I was as much a mystery to her as she was to me and we avoided each other as much as possible. But there was one occasion when we united in gleeful rebellion and it caused the only quarrel I can remember between her and my mother.

 For a long time, when I was a child, my mother insisted on my having ringlets. Every night my hair was twisted into rags and my scalp lifted from my skull. It was sheer torture. Auntie Olive hated those ringlets as much as I did and one day, when I was ten, she put a pudding basin on my head and cut round it. I was overjoyed and imagined that I looked like George out of the Famous Five books. My mother was less impressed. She didn’t speak to my auntie for a whole month.

 As I grew up my auntie took it upon herself to educate me in classical music but gave up the day she caught me gyrating to the Beatles. She then changed tactics and taught me ballroom dancing. We whirled up and down the hall of the tiny terraced house, where she lived and I can still do a mean waltz and quickstep, but only in straight lines; I never learned to turn corners. She showed me how to sew which came in very useful in the 60’s; it was surprising how many mini skirts a couple of yards of material could make. Most useful of all Auntie Olive taught me to drive and trusted my skills enough to lend me her car; which gave me a lot of kudos in our village (even if it was just a little blue Ford Popular). And, although we still didn’t understand each other’s ways, we were fond of one another.

So it seemed natural that, when my Nan died, Auntie Olive came  to live with us in Pembrokeshire.

By that time I was married with children and she was not just my aunt; she had become a dear friend. Even so, with little patience for trivial pleasantries and the possession of an acerbic tongue, she demanded respect wherever she was and I was sometimes a little wary of her. 

This made the adjustment to my next relationship with her very difficult.

                                                ***********

 Thirty years later Aunt Olive lives in the apartment, attached to our house. As she walks past my kitchen window she waves a peeled banana at me, which she intends to eat on the way to the shops. She does this every morning, perhaps to let me know she’s eating properly, perhaps as a joke. But, probably, she doesn’t even realise she’s doing it. All I know is that at one time my aunt would not have done something so ‘unseemly’ as to eat in the street.

  As she walks down the drive I realise she has no skirt on.

‘You can’t go out just in your knickers, you’ll stop the traffic’ I joke and we go back to the house. We laugh. She and I laugh a lot these days; it’s the only way to cope. We both know she is trying to keep some control over her life and, more often than not, fails. When she stubbornly insists on wearing her vest over her cardigan; when I find her washing her soiled pyjamas in an overflowing bath, wearing a woolly hat because she can’t find the shower cap she thinks she should wear; when, for the tenth time, the smoke alarm shrieks because she has burned the toast, again, and we both run to waft at it with a tea towel, we laugh. Who cares?

I do, it’s heart breaking.

 In our discussions on current affairs she pretends that she has read the newspaper, yet I know she can no longer read and after less than five minutes conversation I am repeating myself and she is the echo. She remembers her school days, her work in the War Office during the Second World War, a lover killed at Dunkirk. But she forgets that she has already had lunch and insists that I make her another; I feel chained to that damn cooker. Her nights and days are muddled and I am getting used to grilling bacon and frying eggs at three in the morning. It’s easier than trying to explain.

 Sometimes she calls me by my mother’s name as we sit in the garden, and wonders where her own mother is. I have learned to play the game.

  She loves the sun these days.

  ‘Warms my old bones.’ She says, wearing a floral sun hat, which she wouldn’t have been seen dead in ten years ago.   

 She has the same route around the village each day, paper shop, chemist, Post Office, Co-op. Not that she needs anything, I shop for her, but it’s her routine and at each place they are good enough to make sure she is heading back in the right direction.  Sometimes she walks down the road as far as the cross roads. I watch from an upstairs window. She has begun to wander. She’s very clever at slipping out of the house without me knowing she has gone. I drive around in the car looking for her or I get a telephone call from some kind soul who has ‘captured’ her and is supplying tea and biscuits. And safety.

She’s started to flash her knickers at the man who takes her to the day centre once a week.

                                                ************

 Now there is a third relationship I have with my aunt. I am a visitor. We no longer laugh at the silly things she does. I no longer help her to dress or eat. Someone else does all that now. They do it with love and care but it doesn’t stop the guilt i feel. Our conversations are a monologue. She sits and smiles at me. We hold hands. Sometimes she squeezes my fingers and when I look into her eyes I see the fear. I wrap my arms around her and whisper, ‘you’re safe, I’ve got you. It will be alright.’

 Against my shoulder I feel her shake her head.

© Judith Barrow 2018

The Grim Reaper by Judith Radbourne. #MondayBlogs

Some of you may know, as well as holding private creative writing workshops, I also tutor creative writing for the local council. Tutoring adults can be  rewarding (discovering wonderful writers), chaotic (my lesson plans are rarely followed – someone will inevitably take things off at a tangent) hilarious (the undiscovered comedian/ the completely unaware comedian) and thought-provoking (especially with memoir writing) Every now and then I like to share some of their work. This week I asked the classes to write three different personas of The Grim Reaper. Here is a set of brilliant pieces on the subject written by Judith Radbourne

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Images courtesy of Pixybay

The Grim Reaper

1-VACANCY- WANTED a Grim Reaper. Are you looking for a stable and reliable career option?

Previous experience not required. Immediate start available

Role summary; This is an extremely demanding role, with unpredictable hours. The successful candidate must be available at short notice and use their initiative when dealing with difficult situations. The ability to ‘think on their’ feet essential to successful outcomes. Effective decision making and timely interventions are key.

Uniform provided- Black cloak with hood must be kept clean and tidy. It is company policy that candidates provide their height to ensure length of cloak meets trip hazard standards. Under current Health and Safety regulations, Section 3, paragraph 2a subsection 6c, candidates must ensure that their scythe is appropriately covered when not in use to avoid accidental injury to self or others.

Terms and conditions; Zero hours contract, Unsocial hours guaranteed.

Travelling expenses negotiable depending on mode of transport.

Must be willing to master a varied range of skills to succeed in this role including horse riding and boatmanship.

Moving and handling, training will be provided.

Must be mindful of the religious and cultural perceptions of the diverse populations you are likely to meet.

Candidates must be flexible, adaptable and have no sense of humour whatsoever.

Able to deal with the unexpected (previous job holder still recovering from post -plague traumatic stress).

To be patient, be discreet.

Be able to work by yourself without supervision. Lone working rules apply. You may face increased or additional risk from:

  • Inadequate provision of rest, hygiene, and welfare facilities
  • Violent thoughts and verbal abuse from members of the public
  • Sudden illness/emergencies.
  • Effects of social isolation – friends will probably drift away.

If interested please submit your CV.

 

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 2- The Grim Reaper

 I have come to accept that most people dislike me, some fear me. Must have something to do with my rather foreboding presence. For to know me you must have death. I can show no mercy? I make no judgements, can’t love or hate, emotions unfamiliar to me. I merely assist those who find themselves ready to travel to another place. I wait like a silent yet faithful companion taking your hand when you are ready to hold mine.  My touch may be cold but I steer your path as you need. Neither fair nor unfair, unmoved by pleading and prayers, no heart that beats or tears that fall. Neither ghost nor god. Tasked with lighting the way of infinite paths, no-one gets lost. There is none blacker than death that does not mean that I am evil. Shielded by my hood and cloak, not to hide but to be the same for everyone, anonymous yet enduring.  If you are looking for me and see a familiar face, you may understand me, you can put aside your fears. It maybe that you can find a terrifying countenance when you look, yet I will wait patiently in the shadows — and come for each of you in the end. Hourglass in hand, waiting for the last grain of sand to fall. When it does, I will collect your soul with a well-practiced cut of my razor-sharp blade to sever the ties that bind, no longer needed, another space and time awaits.

 

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3- The Grim Reaper

I relish the many images that illustrate me, The Grim Reaper, swinging my mighty scythe through a crowd of people, mowing down souls as if they were grain. The popular notion that I am the face of death mystifies, death leads and I follow, black-cloaked, scythe wielding. Sometimes we work together interacting with the living tempting them to the grave. When we dance the Danse macabre, dancing and cavorting with people from all walks of life possibilities abound. I am diligent yet I view mankind with an impassive simplicity. People talk, tell me of their regrets, their wishes, their memories. So, this is what I have become, I am your pain, your sorrow.

I know that the things you can’t see frighten you so much more than the things you can see, so I hide within the shadows of your fears playing off your misgivings of the unknown. To make sense of dying and your mortality, you humans have relied on giving death a form that suits you. You have turned the abstract invisible phenomena that is death into something real and tangible. You have made me Grim, instilling the never-ending fear of death and departure, so why should I behave in any other way? Just as you harvest your crops, so do I harvest souls for their journey into the afterlife.

©  Judith Radbourne 2018

 

 

My Review of Long Shadows: Tales of Llys y Garn by Thorne Moore #TuesdayBookBlog #Histfiction

long shadows

 

I gave Long Shadows: Tales of Llys y Garn 5*

Book Description:

Llys y Garn is a rambling Victorian-Gothic mansion with vestiges of older glories.

It lies in the isolated parish of Rhyd y Groes in North Pembrokeshire. It is the house of the parish, even in its decline, deeply conscious of its importance, its pedigree and its permanence. It stubbornly remains though the lives of former inhabitants have long since passed away. Only the rooks are left to bear witness to the often desperate march of history.

Throne Moore’s Long Shadows: Tales of Llys y Garn comprises a trio of historical novellas that let us into secrets known only to these melancholy birds.

The Good Servant is the story of Nelly Skeel, loveless housekeeper at Llys y Garn at the end of the 19th century, whose only focus of affection is her master’s despised nephew. But for Cyril Lawson she will do anything, whatever the cost.

The Witch tells of Elizabeth Powell, born as Charles II is restored to the English throne, in a world of changing political allegiances, where religious bigotry and superstition linger on. Her love is not for her family, her duty, her God or her future husband, but for the house where she was born. For that she would sell her soul.

The Dragon Slayer tells of Angharad ferch Owain in the early decades of the 14th century. Angharad is an expendable asset in her father’s machinations to recover old rights and narrow claims, but she dreams of bigger things and a world without the roaring of men. A world that might spare her from the seemingly inevitable fate of all women.

In these three tales the rooks of Llys y Garn have watched centuries of human tribulation – but just how much has really changed? If you enjoyed the kaleidoscopic sweep of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas you will appreciate Long Shadows.

My Review:

I have long been an admirer of Thorne Moore’s work and have not been disappointed with these three novellas in  Long Shadows: Tales of Llys y Garn

The first, The Good Servant is told from the point of view of the housekeeper, Nelly Skeel; the protagonist, living at the end of the nineteenth century.  Well rounded and well portrayed in her actions, there is a vulnerability about this character; as the reader I found myself both can empathising and sympathising  with her and yet being exasperated. Yet should I? She is of her time and  of a certain status in her world.

And, so, on to The Witch. This story, set in the seventeenth century,  takes the reader through the early years of Elizabeth Powell to her adult life. Told mainly from the protagonist’s point of view with the occasional insight to one or two of the  other characters from a third person narrator, the emphasis is on the restrictions of the religion at that time. and the class struggles; land versus money. I liked Elizabeth, which is something I cannot say about Anthony, her brother. Always there is hope that all will be well but there is an all encompassing darkness to her story…

The Dragon Slayer is the story of Angharad ferch Owain, living during the fourteenth  century. Also told from the protagonist’s point of view we read of her fear of her father, of her future. This protagonist I liked the most. The ending is satisfying. I don’t know why I was surprised, but I was. As with the first two novellas, this tale is dark with themes of the women being mere chattels to be bargained with, used for the progression in society of their families.

I enjoyed the way the women were portrayed as having a strength and internal rebellion. But yet there was always the conflicts of status and money, of land and possessions, of greed and thwarted love. Of patriarchy.

In all three novellas, both the internal and spoken dialogue the author has the tone and subtle dialect that I imagine Rhyd y Groes in North Pembrokeshire to have been in those eras.

And, in all, the descriptions of the buildings, of Llys y Garn and of the ever-changing Welsh countryside are evocative and easily imagined.

Just a comment about the style of the book:  

The intriguing Prelude, giving the history of the “rambling Victorian-Gothic mansion” that is Llys y Garn,  is fascinating.  And I loved the short explanations of the after-years of novella. And  then we have the Interludes; told in a conversational tone these are filled both with historical details and those pertinent to the story,. Finally, the Epilogue, giving the continuing, ever-evolving history of Llys y Garn through the following centuries. 

It is apparent that the author has researched thoroughly for each of these stories; the themes of Welsh legends, myths, superstitions  and tales are woven throughout the history of the decades.  

Watch out for the ravens

This is a collection of novellas I can thoroughly recommend to any reader, especially those who enjoys historical literature.

Links to buy:

Amazon.co.uk: https://amzn.to/2rDFQj7

Amazon.com: https://amzn.to/2Iap5Hr

About the author:

Thorne Moore

Thorne was born in Luton and graduated from Aberystwyth University (history) and from the Open University (Law). She set up a restaurant with her sister but now spends her time writing and making miniature furniture for collectors. She lives in Pembrokeshire, which forms a background for much of her writing, as does Luton. She writes psychological mysteries, or “domestic noir,” and her first novel, A Time For Silence, was published by Honno in 2012. Motherlove and The Unravelling followed, also published by Honno. She has also brought out a book of short stories, Moments of Consequence. Her last novel, Shadows, was published by Endeavour in 2017. She’s a member of the Crime Writers Association.

Praise for Thorne Moore and her novels:

“Thorne Moore is a huge talent. Her writing is intensely unsettling and memorable” – SALLY SPEDDING, AUTHOR

“Totally had me hooked from page one… Highly recommended if you love a good psychological thriller” – BROOK COTTAGE BOOKS

“I devoured this book. Beautifully written, frighteningly real” – CHILL WITH A BOOK

“A compelling blend of mystery and family drama with a gothic twist… The author’s ability to create an atmosphere is exceptional” – JUDITH BARROW, AUTHOR

“Beautifully told, this really did have me captivated” – CLEOPATRA LOVES BOOKS

“Moore has created a figure who reaches out across the decades and grabs our sympathy… Her character transforms the novel” – BOOKERTALK

 

My Review of The List: Volume 1 (A Jonah Greene Thriller) Graham H. Miller

the list

I gave The List: Volume 1 (A Jonah Greene Thriller) 5*

Book Description:

D.S. Jonah Greene’s police career is at a dead end. Following three months of stress-related sick leave, he is sidelined from his C.I.D. team and transferred to the Coroner’s Office. His first body is that of a homeless man who froze to death. 

What should be a straightforward case takes an unexpected turn when Greene is handed a list, containing seven names, in the dead man’s handwriting. Greene investigates the names and discovers a tale of greed and murder which stretches back to the mid-1990s.

His career, his marriage, and his life may be threatened, but he will not give up until he has found the truth and brought the guilty to justice.

My Review:

 I’m getting hooked on crime thrillers and The List is no exception. The author presents a complex and, for me, a baffling plot that kept me guessing right up the end. Wonderful!! The reader learns very early on that the protagonist, Jonah Greene, has many problems, both with his career and in his marriage, And the character is so rounded, so multi- layered that it’s impossible not to empathise with him. 

Unlike some of the other characters! Well written, equally rounded, but with motives and actions that there is little to empathise with. Still fascinating though.

 The action moves from the story’s present to the past, with sections interspersed and told from the four antagonist’s viewpoint, and the rest from Jonah Greene’ s point of view.

 Both the internal and spoken dialogue is first-rate; there is no doubt who is speaking at any time, even without dialogue tags. 

 And the settings, both domestic and those of the crimes, described well, using all the senses so evocatively it is easy to imagine being right in the scene, which isn’t always comfortable. Just the reaction a crime thriller should have, in my opinion.

I have thought long and hard about the star rating with The List;=Normally, if there are errors with punctuation, words incorrect or missing, grammar, I tend to mark lower. And all these are present in this book; it really does need another proofread. But I enjoyed the story so much I decided to ignore these and just give a heads-up to the author for reference, So hence the five stars.

This us a book I can thoroughly recommend to all readers who enjoy a good crime thriller 

Links to buy:

Amazon.co.uk: https://amzn.to/2Ke4GxK

About the author:

Graham H. Miller

 

Graham H Miller has been writing since his teenage years when he had a scenario printed in a role playing magazine. Since then he’s written articles, guest posts and a book on pagan subjects. His brain is always at work, with more ideas than time. He is a house-husband proudly perpetuating the stereotype by writing books while his three boys are at school. He has two blogs that are erratically updated – one about life as father to three special boys and the other covering his thoughts on writing and the publishing process. His interests include prehistory, classic cars, anything Viking and learning Welsh. Fascinated by everything, he lives in South Wales and is older than he thinks he is!