Thursday, 21 January 2016

The Tea Planter's Wife - Book Review

While trawling through the endless Kindle titles for my next read, I was attracted by the cover design for The Tea Planter's Wife. That, along with the title, had me intrigued enough to take a closer look. So ten out of ten to the publisher for winning me over. The ocean of fiction titles is bottomless it would seem.

So I tried the sample. I wasn't sure at first if I liked the writing style; it was slow and a bit stiff but in those first few pages there was enough of a plot for me be tempted to buy it.

Dinah Jefferies' story about a newly wed couple in colonial Ceylon, who are only just holding it together despite a web of secrets and lies, is quite compelling.

The characters and settings were my favourite aspects of the book. The players were well formed and the author had a winning way of making them jump off the page. I found myself liking or loathing them because the writer wasn't wishy washy about them. They made an impact and that was good.

The dialogue was realistic and flowed well. I can imagine the lines staying in the screenplay if this book ever became a film. I could see this as a film, actually.

Her descriptions of places and of the times were wonderful and, I felt, well researched. I was ready to overlook the fact that in places the story was a little drawn out. She successfully had some real page turning moments that compensated for times when I wished she'd just get on with it already.

I would strongly recommend that Jefferies steers clear of trying to write sex scenes, though. They say to write what you know, so I sometimes wondered if a nun was writing theses scenes. And, quite frankly, the book didn't need any more than a suggestion to make the intimate scenes work.

Sometimes the author would tell and not show, almost as if she was afraid to make the book too long. But had she taken out all the places I thought the book dragged, she wouldn't have had to gloss over a couple of places where I wish I could have been shown what happened rather than told.

I'm tempted to see what else she has written and will end by saying that I spent the day finishing the last third of the book all in one sitting because that's when it really picked up.

All in all, an okay read and I'm glad I picked this one as I was quite moved by the impact of the story as a whole.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Fake It Until You Make it!

I went to a writing masterclass with the above title. It was all about giving yourself the power to call yourself a writer, to brand you and your book and develop a writer platform, preferably long before you've even written the book.

The two hour class was given by writer Clare Mackintosh, author of I Let You Go.
Because I knew it was to do with online platforms I thought I might gain insight into some neat ways of conquering Twitter, Facebook and having the worlds best blog and website. Sadly that isn't what I took from this masterclass; I didn't learn anything I didn't already know. In fact I left there a little disappointed. You see, writers like me can spend a fortune learning how to be a better writer, how to get agents and publishers to notice us and how to be an online genius as well as write brilliant books.

When my husband picked me up from the station, he hit the nail on the head. He asked me how the author got her big break and I said it was from a chance meeting and conversation with the right person. "So," he said. "You just spent money listening to someone for two hours telling you how they got their lucky break!" Was he right? Was the masterclass really nothing to do with Faking Until You Make It?

I went to bed deflated. All I want is a book deal. Is that so much to ask? I know that luck can play a big part in success, surely I can get lucky too?

In the morning I reflected on the masterclass again. When Clare first "faked it" as it were, it wasn't in order to get a book deal. That all came later. She was published as a result of her "faking it" as a writer, but the "faking it" bit takes time. It was years before her chance meeting happened and it may not have happened if Clare hadn't persevered. Maybe there is something in this "faking" business after all. But more importantly, no matter what, Clare wouldn't have gotten a book deal if she hadn't written a great book. The reviews speak for themselves.

I Let You Go is now on my reading list. (Someone at the masterclass highly recommended it).

During the masterclass Clare asked us to stand if we called ourselves a writer, to continue to stand if we considered ourselves a good writer and, of those remaining on our feet, stay standing if we thought we were brilliant writers. I had the courage to say I was brilliant - well, Clare did say it was all right to blow our own trumpets.

Now that I have proclaimed I'm brilliant - I need to prove it! So it's back to the editing for me, until When Skies Are Grey is brilliant. And I can't Fake that.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Book Review - Shadow Child by Pamela Vass

I had the pleasure of meeting author Pamela Vass at a writing event last year. At the time she was deciding on a book cover before publishing her forthcoming novel, Shadow Child.

I read the book just before Christmas and wanted to share my thoughts with you.

The Blurb
Some secrets should never be told.

Nine year old Paul wakes to find his mother standing at his bedroom door. 'I'll just be a minute,' she says. And disappears. He fights against a future decided by others, certain of only one thing - his mother's love. But why did she leave? Where did she go? He never stops searching. Not as a child. Not as a man.

Finally he has answers. But the right ones? The past casts a long shadow - ensnaring in a relentless search for the truth - whatever the cost.

Set against the dramatic backdrop of North Devon and the Island of Lundy, Shadow Child draws the reader into a world of loss and longing, a world with a deadly secret at its heart.
English: The sun sets behind Lundy Island.

My Thoughts 
Pamela won me over with her descriptions of the location. I had no problem seeing the setting she provided and the time in which the novel is set.

I enjoyed the characterisation. Pamela has a good sense of giving us rounded characters, who are consistent, sometimes flawed and who stay with us long after the last page is turned.

There are lots of references to the mechanics of Social Services. Sometimes I thought they slowed down what was already a slow moving story, but having said that some readers might appreciate the insight into the practices of Social Services. One of the characters is a Social Worker and we not only delve into her work but her feelings about her job too.

As with many of her characters and plot lines, there is more to this story than meets the eye so there is always an element of intrigue.

My main criticism (probably because I am a writer and this is what I would have done) is that I might have started the story from a different place, giving more emphasis to the Paul as an adult and drawing on his past to explain why he is the way he is. Just a thought.

This is one I would recommend  - and I don't do that very often!

For your copy of Shadow Child by Pamela Vass click here and happy reading.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Does Your Writing Have the X Factor?

After my recent post, which talked about how hard it was to knuckle down and keep on writing over a long period of time, (and thanks for the great advice by the way), I'm going to be facing even more pressure concerning my writing!
Creative writing class-fine arts center (40269...

At my next Creative Writing critique group there will be a literary agent at the meeting, checking out new talent. The facilitator of the group sent a note telling us to make sure we brought our finest writing. I was immediately thrown into that place in my head where I judge myself so harshly, I can't let anyone see what I've written.

Now I'm asking myself: Does my writing have the X Factor? Or even a regular 'Wow' factor?

Luckily, today, I had to give a blood sample. Well, not lucky because no one really enjoys having sharp instruments being jabbed into their arms - do they? But, it just so happened, the phlebotomist was someone who'd come along to an author event I did last year and bought my first novel, Holding Paradise . She'd taken it on holiday and read it on the beach and loved it!

How cool was that to hear on a chilly, and eerily quiet, January morning?

So, while I know I'll be nervous reading my work aloud with a literary agent in the room, I'll imagine that the alternative is being jabbed several times in the arm by sharp instruments. Surely then, reading aloud in front of a talent scout won't be so bad.

I just hope the literary agent is nothing like Simon Cowell.