Four on Fact and Fiction

Sharing reviews helps all writers, especially Indie Authors. Here are four books I’ve recently read on my Kindle and reviewed on Amazon. I also put reviews on Goodreads, a site popular with many readers looking for a good book, it also acts as a digital library so I have a record of all the books I have read.

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At home I have a pile of paperbacks waiting to be read and on my Kindle lots of TBRs I have downloaded after reading reviews or author interviews on line. Part of the fun of reading is deciding what to read next and I like to choose a different time, place or genre from the previous book.

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Long or short? Personally I like reading and writing short reviews; I don’t want to return to school days writing long essays on the book we’re ‘doing’!  But others will like reviews that tell them plenty about the book and the author. What do you think?

 

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The Neighbours  by  Hannah Mary Mckinnon

on 27 April 2018
I enjoy stories where we go back and forth in time, especially if we are told when and who is talking. This is a good story to keep you on edge; the unthinkable has happened to Abby and then a new unthinkable event occurs to ensure the past cannot be forgotten. Nate and Nancy have each married on the rebound, though they don’t know it yet, that is a poignant second story line. How well do we get to know the characters and how well do they know each other? Secrets abound and I only half guessed the twist at the end. I’m not sure I actually liked any of the characters, except Nate. One aspect that jarred in the novel, I didn’t get a sense of place. As soon as I read neighbors with the US spelling in the early chapters I assumed we were in the USA and any English names mentioned could have been their US namesakes. It wasn’t till Wales was mentioned I realised we had been in England all along! This is a story that could be set in any modern suburb in any country, so perhaps that doesn’t matter.

A Kiss In The Dark  by Christine King

on 27 April 2018
Deliciously scary, what an assortment that leads us up the garden path, turns fairy tales upside down, gives us a very unreliable narrator and leaves us alone in the woods… and that’s just the first three stories. And then a poem, I loved ‘Click’. Enjoy ghosts, dragons and the gods of ages, a train journey and of course a graveyard.
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Living In The Past   by Jane Lovering

on 27 April 2018
I have never been on an archeological dig and I’m sure I would be as lacking in enthusiasm as Grace… This is an enjoyable read, as you would expect of a Choc Lit. Time Travel? Why not, people do disappear off the face of the earth and who’s to say they haven’t gone back in time? What would we find if we arrived in the past and how would we get on?
Duncan’s life has been blighted by his girlfriend going missing without trace and never being able to prove his innocence.
Grace has had her happiness cut cruelly short.
Two people who have nothing in common are brought together on the muddy Yorkshire Moors and dislike each other as soon as they meet; the stage is set for an unusual romance.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/review/RR03X4IAHQPGY

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African Ways  by Valerie Poore

on 28 April 2018
I really enjoyed reading this book. I have never been to the African continent, so my knowledge of South Africa is limited to people I have met and new friends on the internet. These are the memories of one family’s three year experience living in Natal, in the most beautiful place they will ever live. Bringing up two very young children was very different from the experiences I and my friends were having in the same time period! This is not a linear story, each lyrical chapter describes an aspect of their lives and the rich characters they became close to; the author obviously embraced her new life and the reader enjoys the humour and drama of a country so different to ‘back home’. Poignantly this chapter of their life had to close and I would love to read about the family’s further adventures.

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Silly Saturday – Wet and Windy

1Taking a trip to the seaside? No holiday is complete without a rainy day or several…

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Looks like it’s brightening up, should be fine by the time we get there.

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There’s a nice pub by the river we can stop for lunch and sit outside if…

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Looks like it’s set in for the day, tomorrow’s forecast is better.

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At least someone’s smiling.

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Holiday time!

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No holiday is complete without battling against wind and rain along the promenade.

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Don’t forget to post on Instagram and Facebook so your friends will be envious.

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Look around and take in the views.

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This is exhilarating.

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Wonder if anywhere’s open for a hot chocolate.

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Looks like we should be able to find somewhere to sit…

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…and a window with a view.

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Looks like it’s brightening up.

Friday Flash Fiction 330 – Sunny Story

                                Guy and Harriet     

 Guy stood on the terrace, looking down upon the descending jigsaw of red, grey and black roofs that hid the town’s narrow twisting lanes. Then he gazed out towards the white flecked turquoise of the Atlantic Ocean and felt on top of the world. Spring had arrived at last and with it the visitors, business was looking up. Harriet had been right; living at the top of the town suited their family perfectly. A noisy family he thought ruefully, always squabbling and why did they always look so untidy? Guy himself was always immaculately turned out in his trademark grey and freshly laundered white.

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Immediately below him a woman was hanging out washing, a lot of washing, she ran a bed and breakfast. It was a long trek for her guests, down to the smooth beach, especially if they didn’t know the way; they didn’t realise that when they booked up on the internet. Guy chuckled to himself; he could have told them the best way to get around town. He’d lived here all his life and wouldn’t dream of living anywhere else; beaches, grassy headlands, the harbour, art galleries and best of all restaurants and cafes that catered for every taste.

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Harriet’s shrill call interrupted his thoughts. He called back.

‘No of course I’m not going to stand in the sun all day, yes I know I promised to go into town and get some food.’

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He stretched his limbs, felt the sun on his face, sniffed the sea air then stepped forward and launched himself into the air. The first flight of the morning always felt good. He soared high, circled to test the currents then glided gracefully towards the beach, where he spotted his first business of the day, a happy family picnic. Stunned by his sudden appearance, a toddler held his arm outstretched. Guy swooped skilfully, then flapped his wings for a sharp ascent, a whole sandwich in his yellow beak.

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Guy and Garriet is one of the flash fiction tales in Someone Somewhere; stories from 75 to 20,000 plus words, short stories and two novellas.

 

 

ANZAC Day

Today is ANZAC day and what better way to mark it than with these poignant words from a special guest blogger. In the first of an occasional series my Sister Down Under writes about a unique island.

A Very Humble Monument   by Kate Doswell

Some thoughts for ANZAC day   25th April, 2018.

 

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I’m not sure what it’s like in other Commonwealth countries, but in Australia we take our war memorials very seriously, and rightly so. “Lest We Forget” is inscribed on most of them, and as we read down the long, alphabetical lists of names, we are reminded of the truly terrible cost of war. Even in tiny outback towns, the list seems far too long, far too many of the youngest and strongest of the community taken from those that are left behind to carry on.

Most of these monuments are made of stone, imposing obelisks in bluestone or limestone or granite, depending on where they are situated. They are usually in the centre of town. Running around the monument and integral to its form is a ledge wide enough to sit on. People may sit and contemplate awhile, or simply pass by on their daily business or as a visitor to the town. How many, I wonder, stop and read the names and wonder at the fate of these lost men? Do the locals become so used to it that they just pass by?

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However, not all monuments are as striking or as prominent, and last week I found one that was truly humdrum. It was on the Island of Rottnest, 20 km from the West Australian Port of Fremantle. For many years this Island has functioned as a much loved holiday playground for the people of Western Australia, and the tourists who come to our isolated part of the world. It has a rather grand Roman Catholic church high on a hill, but the Anglican church is represented by a much older, but more modest chapel of limestone and whitewashed render.

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I visited the chapel late in the day, as there were other tourist activities that had claimed my attention. The door was stiff to open, and the interior gathering the gloom of the impending sunset, so the first thing I noticed was the distinctive smell of very old (to our European Australian eyes) limestone buildings from the early settlement era. Above the altar, I could see a simple, but attractive stained glass window depicting The Annunciation. Turning from there I looked at the pews, some thought to have been made by the Aboriginal Prisoners for whom this Island acted as a prison for 60 years. There were brass plaques on the wall in memory of various European families who had played important roles in the Island’s history, but the one that caught my eye was one on the door of a storage cupboard at the back of the chapel. It looked relatively new – certainly not crafted by the Aboriginal men in the 18th century – and I guessed it had been built and installed after the chapel was reconsecrated in 1965. It was utilitarian – capacious and solidly built but without ornament or distinctive features. Except for the plaque. A simple paper notice, its words carefully handwritten in Old English script, and framed with a plain wooden frame, so small it could be covered by two hands.

“This cabinet is dedicated to the memory of those Rottnest Islanders who served their country in times of war and peace.”

I have never seen such a monument before, if I can even use the word monument. Is this the only place in the Commonwealth to have such a homely reminder of the dead?

 

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I didn’t open the cupboard, I had no business to do so, but I imagined it containing vestments for the visiting priest, the chalice and paten, hymn books and orders of service, all the paraphernalia of a functioning chapel. I thought of those remembered by this most humble of monuments, and wondered if they would have been disappointed, aggrieved, or even angry that they had nothing grander built in their memory? But then again, maybe they would have been pleased that, having it placed on an object that was in regular use for the worshipers, they would readily and frequently come to people’s minds. These people, no doubt, would have attended this chapel, maybe some even came in the week before they left to sail away to war. Now, each time someone opens the cupboard and sees that little plaque, they are back here again. Back home to stay.

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Observed on 25 April each year, Anzac Day was originally to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli against the Ottoman Empire during World War I. It is one of Australia’s most important national occasions. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War.

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Happy Birthday Shakespeare

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Stratford-upon-Avon was a busy town long before William Shakespeare was born. In 1196 King Richard I granted Stratford the right to hold weekly markets. A lively town in the heart of the country, trading wool, with many craftsmen such as blacksmiths, carpenters, shoemakers, brewers and bakers. By the 13th century Stratford also had a small grammar school.

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The town is full of interesting old buildings which must have seen many transformations over the centuries, ending up as hotels or designer shops.

In 1557 a glover from Stratford Upon Avon named John Shakespeare married Mary Arden, the daughter of a well-to-do farmer. Their son William was born on or about 23 April 1564 in a house in Henley Street. And it is this house I had the chance to visit recently. After a varied history the house was purchased by a charitable trust in 1847, sponsored by well known names such as Charles Dickens.

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Luckily it was a fine day when I was there; the gardens are very pretty and you can sit and listen to costumed actors who will take your requests for speeches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Inside the house costumed guides are there with plenty of snippets of information or domestic details. Dinner was eaten at 11am; as the son of a middle-class citizen William would have attended the grammar school. He went to school at 6am then came home for his dinner. Sumptuary laws in Tudor times aimed to keep class distinctions and prescribed what people could eat. The Shakespeare family were allowed two courses, but each course included plenty of dishes.

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Upstairs you can see the marital bedroom where William was born, even the likely spot near the fire, with his mother probably using a birthing stool. Younger children shared with their parents, a truckle bed being wheeled out from under the parents’ double bed and did not sleep in a separate room until they could be trusted with a candle. Wooden houses with rush floors were a great fire hazard. For the same reason all domestic fires had to be put out at sunset; the risk of a spark while everyone was asleep was too great. Doorways were small, not because people were much shorter, they weren’t, but to keep the heat in. The long nights of winter must have been uncomfortable, especially as people slept sitting up with a bolster and pillows. They believed if the Devil saw them lying down he might think they were dead and take their souls.

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Read more about my trip here.

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/chapter-four-travel-diary

 

 

 

 

Earth Day 2018 The Shore of the Cosmic Ocean

Planet Simon on Planet Earth…

Beyond the Infinite

Today is Earth day! Happy Earth Day 2018! Now more than ever we as the inhabitants of spaceship Earth need to think about how in our every day we need to look after ever aspect of this planet and everything that lives on it.

Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean – Carl Sagan

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Planet Simon

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Agrihoods: The rise of new neighbourhoods built around farms

Environmental heroes of the week. Would you like to live in an Agrihood?

Life & Soul Magazine

Agrihoods – a new type of neighbourhood which serves up farm-to-table living in a cooperative environment – are emerging across the USA where people are embracing local food production.

These suburban housing developments are centered around a farm, where neighbours can work on fully-functional farms and bring fresh produce home.

This movement, which is now present in more than two dozen states across the US, encourages sharing, collaboration, sustainable living, and a healthier, more environmentally-friendly diet.

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea

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Silly Saturday – Little to Large

A clever corvid who knows there is something in the pipeline.

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Pigeons of the Tudor period.

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May look sweet, but sought in connection with criminal damage to plants.

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Too sweet to eat.

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Too fluffy…

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Designer coats.

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Smart dog about town.

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Litttle and large

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Field with a view.

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Choosing a new coat.

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Friday Flash Fiction 369

Trapped

So this was it, what I had always dreaded; this was what it felt like to be paralysed, trapped in a useless body completely at the mercy of others. I wanted to say Well I’ll be off then, but I was going nowhere. I could move my head and arms, I could speak, but I was flat on my back and the rest of my body felt like a trussed oven-ready chicken. No amount of concentration could make my leg move or my body lean over. How dreadful for those left totally paralysed or struck down by a stroke; unable to speak, left to listen fully aware while doctors discuss whether you are a vegetable, alive or dead. I tried to cast these dark thoughts from my mind and concentrate on my own predicament. I had such plans for this year, only this morning I had been strolling in the sunshine, but after tonight my life would never be the same.

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I breathed slowly, taking it all in; bright lights, murmuring voices, figures in green moving calmly around, equipment with buttons and red numbers. Perhaps I was experiencing the ultimate human nightmare; the figures all wore masks, everything felt unreal – I could be on an alien spaceship. Had I lost minutes, hours, days of my life?

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One of the figures was talking to me. ‘Can you feel that?’

‘Feel what?’ I replied, relieved that he sounded human.

He turned to speak to another figure. ‘No sensation in lower body, blood pressure okay.’ He turned back to me. ‘This is Doctor Campbell, we’re ready to proceed, how are you feeling?’

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My surroundings closed in on me. A screen went up, there was only my head which the masked face was talking to, my arms which he was poking things into and a machine above me with its bleeping and flashing numbers. I tried to make intelligent replies, hoping to be seen as an individual not a lump of meat strapped to the table.

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The murmurs beyond the screen were getting louder and more excited. Another masked face spoke to me ‘Nearly there now.’

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There was a general sigh of relief and satisfaction. ‘Here we are, it’s a Boy!’

Visiting Jane

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On Monday we paid a long overdue visit to Jane’s house; Jane Austen’s House in Chawton, Hampshire. I had always imagined the little cottage under siege by coach loads of tourists, timed tickets and queues. Perhaps a Monday school day, arriving soon after opening time, made it a simple and civilised visit that Jane would appreciate.

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We parked in the free car park as instructed on the website; all was quiet, rain threatened, but never happened. The wet winter has left the gentle Hampshire countryside lush and green.

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Jane’s friends were cheerful and welcoming, the tulips and primroses in the pretty gardens were at their best. It was a bit early to call on the Misses Austen so we roamed the gardens, looked around the bakehouse, enjoyed a moving picture of family life and admired the beautiful quilt given to Jane for her anniversary last year. Everything was seemly, nothing tawdry presented to visitors.

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We felt immediately at home when we stepped inside the red brick cottage. The Austen ladies do not own this house, but I would never let on that I knew this. What does that matter when Jane feels so at home here, at peace to write while Cassandra and their aptly named friend Martha take care of the housekeeping. Left an orphan, with just a little money I gather Martha Lloyd became part of the family long ago, not in a position to be independent or find a husband.

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The Drawing Room is newly papered in a pretty yellow pattern, Chawton Vine. It was here we met a relative of Jane’s brother Edward, Jeremy Knight, who invited us up to the Great House, as Jane calls it, for lunch later. Who could have foreseen when the Austens sent their son to be adopted by the Knight family that he would be instrumental in making sure his sister’s novels were published.

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Upstairs the floorboards creaked and Jane will not have the creaky door fixed as it is a warning of someone coming so she may hide her writing. Mrs. Austen’s room is the largest and is newly decorated with a pretty ribbon trellis pattern wallpaper. The ladies have stitched a beautiful patchwork coverlet. Every window sill had a pretty cup with a posy of spring flowers, testament to how beautifully the ladies keep the cottage.

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We didn’t stay too long, Jane’s health has not been good and like all authors she probably can’t wait for visitors to leave so she can return to her writing.

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Back outside the rain still held off and we walked up the road in Jane’s footsteps to Chawton House, the merry sound of the local children at playtime ringing in our ears as we passed their school. With fields all around one can see why Jane and Cassandra enjoy two hour walks every afternoon. Up the long driveway to the house it was very quiet, we rang the doorbell and it was quickly answered; we were welcomed inside and shown into the cosy kitchen. We only had time for a scone and tea, as we had another appointment, but promised to come again when we return to see Jane.

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