Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Diamonds and Dust

Diamonds and Dust: A Victorian murder mystery by Carol Hedges

Carol's a recent facebook and twitter friend, so I decided to check out her book, and liked the sound of it very much. I wasn't disappointed - this is a great read. It's told using an unusual omniscient narrator viewpoint - we swoop in on characters, watch them for a while, then swoop off somewhere else over the rooftops of grimy Victorian London.

A gruesome murder is the starting point - leaving Josephine King alone in the world but inheriting her uncle's fortune, and his secrets, which she must try to unravel. Detectives are also trying to find out who committed the murder, but the only clues are pointing them towards an answer which surely cannot be the right one...

Beautifully written, funny in places, full of wonderful characters including the minor ones, and absolutely well worth reading.

Monday, 19 May 2014

The Butterfly Collector

The Butterfly Collector by Adam Dickson

I know Adam from novelists' conferences, and attended a talk he gave at Poole library about this book. I'd already bought it for Kindle but decided to buy the paperback from him and get it signed (another one for my buddies bookshelf!)

It has a beautiful cover - self-published but Adam's son is a graphic designer and created such a gorgeous cover I believe it won an award somewhere. Well deserved.

The book is about property developed Peter Calliet who has it all, but wants more. He's strangely dissatisfied with his life, and frightened by the thought of settling down with his girlfriend who's assumed she'll move in, they'll marry and have kids etc. Peter's a womaniser - a collector of pretty women - hence the title of the novel. He has a dark secret which haunts him. He meets enigmatic Natalie and becomes obsessed by her - chasing her no matter what the cost to his comfortable life.

This is an unusual book in that it primarily explores relationships and emotions, which is more normal for a book about a woman written by a woman. Adam's managed to do a man's version. It's deep and introspective, and while there's not much action there is a lot of development of characters and relationships throughout. It's beautifully written and an intriguing read.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

The Ghostly Father

The Ghostly Father by Sue Barnard

Sue bought my two How To books direct from me, and I felt I should repay the compliment and check out her book. Really glad I did, as I loved this book - couldn't put it down!

Juliet Roberts is translating an ancient Italian manuscript for her aged grandfather. It's the well known tale of Romeo and Juliet, but told in first person from the point of view of Friar Lorenzo. But there's an unexpected twist - something happens which is not in Shakespeare's version - and a very different outcome...

I thoroughly enjoyed every page of this book. Very unusual, and a far more satisfying ending than Shakespeare gave. The characters were excellently portrayed and really came to life.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

I bought this from the Bronte museum in Haworth while on holiday there just before Easter. I last read it while I was a student, and bought this copy because I knew I had to wait in a car for a while later that day and had come without my Kindle or other reading material! Disaster! Anyway it was so long since I read it or saw a dramatisation of it that I thought I might as well re-read. The edition I bought had reasonably sized print as well (I'd also forgotten my specs).

What struck me is the way the story is told. I'd forgotten it is all told at second hand or even third hand. You start with Mr Lockwood, and he tells of his night at Wuthering Heights and the spectre of Cathy appearing at the window. Then Nelly Dean picks up the tale and recounts Cathy and Heathcliff's childhood onwards. At times she is reporting what someone else, eg the housekeeper Zillah, told her. It can all be several times removed.

Would anyone publish a book written like this today? Writers are generally advised to think whose story is it (in this case, Heathcliff's) and write from that point of view. Or mostly from that point of view. But Heathcliff is a pretty awful character - cruel, mad, vindictive. Would we take to a story told from his immediate point of view? Maybe the story is Cathy's (first half) and then the young Cathy's (second half). But the older Cathy is not a particularly likeable character either.

Anyway, all that aside, this book is a masterpiece at creating atmosphere and making the setting a character in its own right. Those moors, and that dark brooding house. And it does have a happy ending. Not my favourite Bronte but worth reading if you never have.

Three little writerly non-fiction books

Sell Your Books! A Book Promotion Handbook for the Self-Published or Indie Author by Debbie Young

I bought this months ago for my kindle then it got buried under other purchases, and I have only just read it. A great little book, full of very good advice on how to market your book, either digitally via blogs, facebook, twitter, goodreads etc or in the real world via radio interviews, bookshop appearances etc. I'm ok in the digital world but far too terrified to go out into the real world with my books in my sweaty little paws. But it's good to read about how I ought to do it, and I would recommend this book to anyone who is self-published.

The Business of Writing: Part One: Business Start-Up by Elizabeth Ducie

This is a great idea for a book - writers need to treat what they do as a business and be serious about it, especially if they intend giving up the day job and making their living from writing. And at only 77p it certainly seemed worth the pennies.
However it is a very short book which skims over the subject, and reads rather as though it is the introductory chapter to a longer book. It hints at rather than explains all the considerations a new business start-up brings. I found my appetite whetted but not not satisfied.
It'll be interesting to see what subsequent books in this series are like.

Tweet Right - The Sensible Person's Guide to Twitter by Nicola Morgan

I bought this ages ago when it first came out, but hadn't joined Twitter then, so I only read the beginning chapter at that point. I've now bitten the bullet and signed up, so thought I'd better find out how I ought to be using it. This is a wonderful little book, which makes you feel like the new kid in school who's been allocated a helper to show you round and make sure you know where the toilets are and everything, and that helper is lovely and friendly and very knowledgeable. I found it really useful, have set a few bookmarks in it, and now need to go to Twitter and follow up all the leads.