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

 

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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

death-2865060__340

 

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.

 

 death-2024663__340

 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.

 

tunnel-965720__340

 

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 The Yellow Bills by Michelle McKenna #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlogs

 

the yellow bills
This book was submitted to Rosie’s Book Review Team#RBRT  and, as a member of the team I was given a copy of The Yellow Bills in return for an honest review.

 I gave The Yellow Bills  4* out of 5*

Book Description:

Mya loves planes and wants to be a pilot when she grows up. As luck would have it she comes across a flying school run by lieutenant Drake who awards his pupils splendid pilot hats when they graduate. Mya wants to join the class but there’s just one problem. She’s not a duck! Could Goose the little duckling with big flying ambitions be the key to Mya getting her pilot’s hat? Or will Mr Sour the teacher who never quite made the grade have other ideas…Inspired by authors such as Lewis Carroll, Roald Dahl and Angela Sommer-Bodenburg, Michelle weaves a story with the humour and invention of Nick Ward’s ‘Charlie Small’ series meets Dick King Smith’s wonder of the animal world

 My Review:  

This is a children’s book, suitable for around six to nine years. It’s a well written story of perseverance and friendship told with gentle humour, the text interspersed with lovely ink-drawn illustrations.

Mya is a strong well-rounded female protagonist with Goose as a great side-kick. Ill matched in appearance they may be, but bonded together with one aim, they make a good team.

The steadily-paced narrative is easy to follow, with just enough descriptive passages ,and the dialogue is straight-forward.

I really liked the author’s style of writing. I should imagine that many children will as well.

 And I love the brightly coloured, comical cover.

 The Yellow Bills is definitely one book I would recommend. 

Links:

Amazon.co.uk: https://amzn.to/2K3kP9U

Amazon.com: https://amzn.to/2F7Gnyy

 

A Collection of Shadorma Poems #poetry (And One Other Thrown in for Good Luck!!) #Friday #Pembrokeshire

As some of you may know, as well as holding private creative writing workshops, I also tutor creative writing for Pembrokeshire County 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.

 Last week I set the task of writing  a  Shadorma poem .

Below are Alex  Abercrombie’s versions. 

However, this first poem, written by him, was taken tongue in cheek by me… yet, I suppose, is one I could even blatantly use as promotion for Pattern of Shadows

REPEATING PATTERNS

for Judith Barrow

Poor Nelly:

She tried so hard,

But both her sons

Turned out feral.

 

One of them

Raped a woman.

Someone drowned him,

Then worse followed –

 

His brother

Randy for revenge

Traced and murdered

The wrong man.

 

Hang on, though –

Haven’t we heard

This tale told far

Better before?

Same story,

Same characters,

Same web of dark

Motivations?

 

Writer’s cramp’s

A piffling excuse

For pilfering

Judith’s plot!

 

Oh, Judith –

You try so hard

To make even

Scum seem human,

 

But (unless

I’ve totally

Misread you) your

Refined fury

 

At things folk

Do to each other

Is what really

Drives your pen.

                                                               ***
 As I said above, these are Alex’s versions of  the Shadorma.
 The Shadorma is a poem made up of a stanza of six lines
(sestet)  with no set rhyme scheme.
 It is a syllabic poem with a meter of 3/5/3/3/7/5.
It can have many stanzas, as long as each follows the meter.
Little is known about this poetic style’s origins and history
but it is used by many modern poets today.
This variation of the haiku, which is evident by its syllable pattern,
can be seen in use in many writing venues.

 

HACKNEYED

This are Alex’s. In the following first stanza these are his words not mine!!

So-called

Shadormas. 

Most of them

Following

A well-worn rut (the last one’s

Not quite so hackneyed.)

*

I wonder:

Why is it so hard

To extract

Poetry

From social tittle-tattle

And the day’s routine?

*

Housekeeping, Cleaning

Why is it

That washing dishes

And weeding

And putting

The bins out never kindles

The Muse’s candle?

*

Comic Characters Hello Man Smile Hello Hel

Why doesn’t

Saying Bore da

To neighbours,

Or strangers,

Or builders, ever evoke

Interesting rhymes?

*

Options Choose Life Menu People Decision A

If Larkin,

Patiently rubbing

His boredoms

Together,

Could burn holes in people’s hearts,

Why can’t I do it?

My Review of African Ways by Valerie Poore #memoir #TuesdayBookBlog

 

african

 

Book Description:

This is the story of a young woman’s first encounters with rural South Africa. Coming from the all-mod-cons society of Britain at the beginning of the 1980’s, the author is literally transplanted to a farm in the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains in what is now Kwazulu Natal.

Once there, she finds her feet in the ways of Africa
with the help of a charming, elderly Dutch couple, 
an appealing but wily African farm hand, his practical and motherly daughter and a wise and fascinating neighbour who has a fund of local knowledge.

These are tales of a different kind of life, which
include living without electricity, hand-milking cows, drought, veld fires and mad-cap adventures into the unknown.

They are stories told with deep affection and respect, and above all a liberal dose of tongue-in-cheek humour.

 

My Review: I gave  African Ways 5*out of 5*

Valerie Poore’s African Ways is a brilliant memoir that draws the reader in from the first page.

It is obvious from the beginning how much this author opens herself to people, places…and adventures that most of us would back away from.

I was enthralled throughout by her wonderful descriptions of the land where she made her home with her husband and two young children for three years in the 1980s ( a farm in Natal, South Africa). The love she has for the country and for the neighbours and friends that surrounded her (some with such fabulous names!) shines through in  her writing.

Despite everything: the droughts the families endured, the fires ( I was riveted by her portrayal of the unbelievably brave way she, her husband and friends battled against one fire and then, though exhausted, continued their BBQ), the venomous snakes, the swarm of bees that invaded her home and the lack of electricity, it is obvious she embraced the whole experience. 

And, threaded throughout the author reveals her superb  sense of humour; there are some great ‘laugh out loud’ stories and even some chuckles, despite the dangers, recollections.

African Ways is a memoir I can thoroughly recommend. In fact I would say, you should…really you should…read this book. 

Buying Links:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2mYreIN

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2mWSp6Y

 

Valerie Poore

 

Val Poore was born in London, England, and grew up in both north London and the west of Dorset. After completing her degree in English, History and French at Bournemouth, she took a further course in the conservation and restoration of museum artefacts at Lincoln College of Art which qualified her for nothing at all really. She then spent two years doing furniture restoration before going to South Africa in 1981 with her husband and small children. 

Valerie left South Africa permanently in 2001 and has settled in the Netherlands, where she shares her time between a liveaboard barge in Rotterdam and a cottage in Zeeland. She teaches academic and business English on a freelance basis and still writes in her spare time, although she admits there’s not enough of that at the moment. In fact, she has been writing since childhood and wrote stories, articles and radio plays for years before embarking on her first book in 2005. Val loves travelling especially when it involves roughing it a bit. She feels that she has better adventures and more interesting experiences that way. 

She has written six books altogether: the Skipper’s Child (teen/kidult fiction), How to Breed Sheep, Geese and English Eccentrics (sort of grown-up, humorous fiction), Watery Ways and Harbour Ways (memoirs of her first years of living on a barge in Holland), Walloon Ways (three years as a weekend Belgian) and African Ways (a memoir her life on a farm in South Africa). Her seventh book (another novel) is in progress but is taking rather longer than she had hoped. This is simply due to real life getting in the way.

 

AND THIS IS THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED #thursdaythoughts @Pembrokeshire #humour

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. Here is a piece written by Trish Power (you may remember her as one of my students whose previous work, Enigma, I posted here

As you will see, this is the same exercise that inspired  Alex Abercrombie’s poem  here .

mansion-160425__340

 

AND THIS IS THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED

We study the expansive hall, wood buffed to a mirrored finish reflecting the framed dignitaries set at precise intervals around the walls. At the start of the tour we had chatted and laughed in between our guide’s flawless documentary. But a hush has fallen over us now as we take in the enormity of the events leading to this point. Joleen assesses us. Practised as she is in her art, she is attuned to our mood and knows when to intervene.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, shall we move on?’

She walks ahead towards the end of the hall, stopping at one of the wall panels. When everyone is assembled and she has our attention she reaches out an immaculately manicured finger and pushes on a piece of the gold scrolling.

There’s a collective intake of breath as that section of the wall swings silently inwards exposing a carpeted stairwell lit by bright, rectangular lights recessed into the edge of the ceiling.

‘Please hold on to the rail; the treads are quite steep.’

She takes a step back and ushers us ahead with a sweep of her arm.

We arrive at an area where the lighting is dimmer. Six doors lead off from a central square. There is a shuffling as we make way for Joleen to move through us to the middle door on the right. This is what we’ve been waiting for.

We enter in total silence.

In front of us is a large, rectangular table surrounded by leather chairs. In front of each chair is a file of what appears to be documents. Behind us is a huge, wall-mounted screen.

At the head of the table is a taller chair with a studded back and embellished on top with a golden eagle. There are four phones in different colours set in an arc around a rectangular metal box containing a keypad and a large, red button.

There are other things in the room but for now our focus is on that button. The red button.

‘As you all are aware, ladies and gentlemen, this is where the Secretary of Defense and a united cohort of military advisors attempted to dissuade him from his plan of action. They pointed out the likely consequences for the world but were silenced by his declaration that he was Commander-in-Chief and outranked them all. He wasn’t going to stand by and let someone say things like that about him, even if they were an ally.

‘The video cameras were checked to make sure that they were still running as he insisted on the codes being tapped into the keypad.

‘Again, he was urged not to carry on.

‘But, like a child determined on having his way, he gave a triumphant grin and stabbed a stubby finger down on that button.

‘There were sighs of resignation but the way forward was clear now. He had failed their test and proven himself to be a danger to the free world. The Secretary of Defense gave a nod and two men approached, one of them carrying something rolled-up under his arm. They slipped behind the still-smirking president, reached forwards and slipped his arms into the straightjacket.

‘And so, ladies and gentlemen, the president of the most powerful country in the world was taken into protective custody in order to safeguard our planet – and this is the room where it happened.’

 ©Trish Power 2018

AND THIS IS THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED #thursdaythoughts @Pembrokeshire #poetrycommunity

As 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.

Here is a piece written by one of my students after I set them an exercise which ended with the last line, “And this is the room where it happened.”

This is a poem by Alex Abercrombie. 

owls

 

You’re shaken awake from a jittery nap and

The mantelpiece clock shows a quarter to two.

The dog on the mat and the cat on your lap and

The owls in the attic are wakeful too.

There’s a rattle of chains and a loud ringing rap and

A creak of a door and a hullabaloo –

By the light of the moon on the cold foggy dew

A leathery, whiskery, rogue of a chap, and

A girl in a plain cotton smock and a cap and

A red woollen petticoat, float into view.

 

They say the wench brought the man down with one slap and

A knife in the ribs – though whether that’s true

Or a tall tarradiddle, I haven’t a clue.

But there are some things’ll make anyone snap and

Commit bloody murder and all – and I do

Say it’s not very nice of a toff to entrap and

Abandon a poor village lass. Don’t you?

When all that she got was a dose of the clap and

A bun in the oven (which turned into two)

And this is the room where it happened.

 © Alex Abercrombie 2018

 

 You may also like to see a prose piece on the same subject written by another student,  Trish  Power   https://judithbarrowblog.com/2018/01/17/and-this-is-the-room-where-it-happened-thursdaythoughts-pembrokeshire-humour/here