Tag Archives: Fiction

Treet yourself to something sweet

Sweet bliss

by

Helena Rac

A very sweet (strawberry icing with chocolate) cupcake but sizzling hot hot story. Often quite graphically sizzling…

Funny that we still get a lot of cupcake stories as here in London they are not doing so well now – and the sugar treat has lost its appeal.  And so it has in the USA as well it seems, with the largest chain cupcake makers – Crumb – closing up in 2014. Or has it?

In 2015, Crumbs was bought and began again with different cupcakes. No longer simple chocolate, now they are flavoured rather differently with peanut butter or carrots or hazelnut Frangelico, pink Champagne, spiced pumpkin, vegan, gluten free, and with less colouring, and fresher baking and ingredients – some will even bake to order in front of you – if you have time to wait of course..

But in the UK we have seen a rise in national specialities – the Portuguese egg custard tart is very popular as are French patisseries – we now have several French chain bakeries – themed cakes and those with more unusual ingredients especially vegetable or fruit eg a lime drizzle cake with courgette; and of course the cannoli has made it here big. The cannoli comes with many different flavoured fillings including pistachio and there is even a cannoli cupcake with ricotta cheese filling/cream.

The Italians are now in London in force again especially the Sicilians and their delicatessens are springing up all over, and then of course there are the doughnuts with fillings such as rhubarb, peach, and salted caramel custard.

And no, I haven’t sampled them all! I just look and drool…

So in London there is no real trend setter unlike the cupcake. Is there a reason why cupcakes are not quite as popular? Is it the calories? Are we becoming more weight conscious? Certainly the latest report from our Chief Medical Officer says that some 75% of middle-aged women are obese or overweight – but for me it is the frosting. The frosting just got piled higher and higher and higher. More and more bright and yet brighter colours and much much too sweet. In fact strawberry with chocolate sounds like my least favourite combination. So if you remove the icing, you are back, as she says in the book, to a muffin and a very plain muffin at that.

Would I read more by this author? Probably not. It was, for me, a sweet treat (pun intended) away from crime and thrillers and fantasy and science fiction my more usual fare.

Xmas by the SeaSide

Winter Street

_ The inn

by

Elin Hildebrand

A NetGalley Review

Winter Street inn is in Nantucket.  This was once a whaling town and island and rather boisterous in its past life. But now is very sedate and even boasts a private resort. nantucket

It is normally considered a summer holiday resort with sandy beaches  and a population of less than 11,000 and as of April 2015 an unemployment rate of 5% as many of its inhabitants are involved in the tourist trade.

However, there is a lot of competition amongst the tourist accommodation – and looking on the ‘real’ visitor site there are over 40 places offering B&B or calling themselves Inns or Hotels on the island, not to mention the privately rented homes and now of course Airbnb will be available. With a US economy  that is struggling, taking holidays that are expensive, is one option many families are willing to forgo.  Reuters state that consumers now expect deals and discounting for most products that they purchase and this must surely apply to holidays as much as any other purchase.  And with the  discounting, travel abroad may become more viable and additionally, in Nantucket the island is very quiet indeed at Xmas and of the 40 plus places I found on the island listing only 2 or 3 were open at Xmas. It thus is perhaps not a place to spend anything other than a very quiet indeed break.

Note here. My husband and I have often gone away just after Xmas to seaside resorts in the UK and it is almost impossible to find somewhere to eat or to spend time in out of the bad weather. We much prefer to go somewhere warmer!

So back the fictional Inn.

There are a cast of characters that represents what one might call a ‘normal’ family now in the US. A family of many parts where there have been divorces and children mixed from many relationships. Siblings, half-siblings and step siblings all mingle together. Fathers, mothers, step mothers and aunts, uncles, step aunts and so it goes on.

Each of the chapters in the book is written from a different character’s viewpoint but not repeating the action – moving the story along from their vantage of here comes Xmas Eve – can they come? Do they want to come? Who turns up anyway because of what else happens in their life – and so the Inn collects its family together.

And then Xmas Day comes along and there are traditions from the first family and then the second family and which shall be enacted? And thus what food should be cooked?

I found that the writing style just carried you forward in time and space and characters and their lives as each time a character ‘spoke’ their chapter you knew their musings and emotions as events took place.

I found this a very appealing book.

4 stars

Can you Fix a Psychopath?

Fixed in Fear

By T.E. Woods

Review for

NetGalley and Alibi

Now this book set me wondering – psychopaths – are they born or are they made? Can PTSD cause a person to become a psychopath?

And then there is the whole issue of revenge killing. Do we really believe in an eye for an eye? And you kill one of mine and I’ll kill one of yours? If so, then we can expect far more of the scenes such as recently in Paris and the US and even in the London where the cry comes – ‘This is for what you have done in Syria’. With France declaring that they were at war with so-called ISIS as a result of the Paris bombings and shootings.

So I read with great relief and empathy the article by Caitlin Moran in The Times Magazine. She muses on what you tell your children about the terrorist attacks. How you explain what is happening and why. And why we should, here in London at any rate, and in most if not all of the Western World, not be afraid. And why? Because we have lived through worse.

She lived through the IRA bombings as did I in the UK. Where they bombed busy shopping centres, where they bombed Regent’s Street and where there were no waste bins in case they hid a bomb, and where your briefcase or sports bag or even shopping carrier, if left unattended in a train station, was blown up by a nifty robot. As was your car if left in a route of importance –  I remember watching out of our office window as the police did just that when we were expecting the Queen to pass by our block. Even now, we get plenty of warnings about not leaving our baggage unattended or telling staff of a ‘suspicious package’, and even when they regularly stopped trains as someone had done just that – usually a shopping bag someone had forgotten. I remember this on one train when the American tourists in our carriage were having kittens and we were very blasé as it happened so often to us.

This doesn’t change anything. You are far more likely to die on the loo than being killed by a bomb or a bullet even in a country where there are 88.8 guns per 100 people such as in the US. See the table on the most common cause of death.

causes of death

As Caitlin Moran says, there are certain things that cause psychopaths (back t that word) who want to kill: an unhappy combination of humiliation, bereavement, and fear. She believes that terrorists are psychopaths who simply want to kill and their purpose in life is to find a reason that they can use to justify that want.

Fear can be weaponised, she said, some people want us to be afraid and scared and angry and that can turn us into terrorists too.  And so the war continues.

SO I did my research and it seems that there is some conflict as to how you can become psychopath and just what is the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath. psychopathhttp://hubpages.com/education/The-Four-Basic-Pillars-of-A-SociopathPsychopath

diffs psycho

The four Pillars are:

1.People with Anti-social Personality disorder whether psychopath or sociopath have a great deal of pride. They demand respect and they will ensure that they get it, whatever it may take. They believe that they are better than anyone else, and others should treat them as such. Rules of society and norms are not for them to respect. They are above them.

  1. They are spiteful. They have low tolerance and this can lead to outbursts of aggression or violence. They find a little irritation a major nuisance.
  2. These are sex addicts with high levels of testosterone – which also increases aggression. They need the sexual experiences even if they receive little satisfaction from them and cannot have relationships without sexual intimacy.
  3. They are self-centred, self-absorbed, and very selfish. Everything they do has a benefit to them. They lack emotional sensitivity or empathy and always bored and seeking stimulation though risk or excitement. They don’t care about others or what others need.

For a Psychopath all these attributes are very high but pride and lust are the highest with insensitivity to others coming next and anger being the least prevalent in them.

So we come to the book. Is the Fixer either a psychopath or a sociopath?

I noted a number of interesting points in this book and the first the one about body memory. The concept that trauma is retained in muscle memory. The body of an abuse victim will remember to cower or protect itself when triggering circumstances occur. Interesting as I have just started watching Bone and flesh on Amazon and the girl, who is clearly a victim of familial sexual abuse immediately turns and hits a man with a bottle when he touches her without her seeing. An instinctive behaviour or a muscle memory? More likely the latter I should think.  According to http://www.survivormanual.com/ we do indeed have a ‘mind’ in our muscle that retains moves – in my own case I often move into Tai Chi poses because I learnt it for so many hears when undertaking a gym workout. My legs remember this shaping. And n addition we have the idea that instinct tells us to behave in certain ways under certain circumstances. The Police Chief says a running animal always turns right when trying to escape. This is muscle memory. However, it can also be conditioned in by past experience so here I am not sure of the accuracy of this statement. But it is an interesting thought. Turning left requires the instinct to be over-ridden and thus the brain has to come into action was her theory.

I also looked up the village/town that the murders took place – and yes, it is a real place in the States. Enumclaw is a city in King County, Washington, United States. The population was 10,669 at the 2010 census.

The Enumclaw Plateau, on which the city resides, was formed by a volcanic mudflow (lahar) from Mount Rainier approximately 5,700 years ago.

The name Enumclaw is derived from a Salish Native American term that translates as “place of evil spirits”, apparently referring to Enumclaw Mountain, located about 6 miles (9.7 km) to the north, and referring either to some evil incident that occurred there or to the frequent powerful windstorms that affect the region. Native American mythology tells the story of two Pacific Northwest Native American brothers – Enumclaw and Kapoonis – whose father turned them into thunder and lightning respectively. The City of Enumclaw says the name means “thundering noise” [Wikipedia]

I was also interested in the idea of each religion have a ritual for forgiveness and the Professor having drawn up a grid. This is just the sort of thing that I would do… as a Jew I like the idea that you only confess sins that have offended God, and that if you have offended a person you confess that to them. This makes society operate well I think. What is also interesting of course, is that the 3 Abrahamic religions have such similarities in their rituals about forgiveness and other religious practices. Which of course, brings us back to why are we fighting each other? Perhaps it is that very similarity that we fight in order to define ourselves as different?

So these are some of the very interesting points that I picked up from the book regardless of the story. The Fixer has come out of her ‘retirement’ and tries to over-ride her innate instinct to act as a psychopath and give an eye for an eye but her instinct to help in circumstance where something unjust has happened still operate.

Is this book as good as the previous ones in the series? I think by a hair margin not quite. It is getting difficult to find a scenario under which she will operate in her role as a Fixer. And so I needed to find interest in elements that were not perhaps as key to the story-line. I will still give it 4 stars though, as I do intend to read the series as it continues. I am not yet bored by her, and the story-telling is good stylistically and contains a lot of interesting ideas.

 

 

 

 

 

Cross the Borders and Deceive

For the Dignified Dead

By

 Michael Genelin

A NetGalley Review

A tensely written story that crosses Europe and cultures. A female detective makes the links across multiple crimes, deaths, and countries, that culminate in a most unexpected outcome.

The writing style impressed me as it felt Eastern European in its cadence and grammar and the preciseness of a detective whose mind could make these links across so many clues and occurrences, in so many different countries.

This book did not read like an American novel. It read like a translation from a Baltic or Slavic language, which, from a western writer, was I thought impressive.

The story was complex and complicated and involved many disparate countries and police authorities. The detective amassed an enormous amount of travel miles – she hopped on planes like they were buses, in her quest to find the truth and to help find a lost boy.

In the end, she was surprised by the truth or the crimes and who committed them and just how far the conspiracy spread and who was involved and who was the mastermind, and thus just what her own role in the conspiracy turned out to be

Enter the city and lose yourself

City on Fire

By

Garth Risk Hallberg

This is New York in 1975. Go there and escape the small town dullness and suffocation and head for the bright lights where you can be yourself, find yourself, or be true to yourself.

In this book, this means, admit to everyone that you are homosexual.

This should have been a good story but I found it very slow and by 25% of the way through it seemed to have progressed very little.

I therefore gave up.

I give this 1 star as it just couldn’t hold my attention. I did try twice to read it though…

Cats multiply – Universal Coons

Danger in Cat World

By Nina Post

A review for the publisher: Curiosity Quills

When asked to describe what Danger in Cat World is about during an interview Nina Post replied:

Danger in Cat World is a procedural murder mystery about a homicide detective who feels isolated by his work and investigates the murder of a reclusive heiress. When he discovers a window to another universe and dozens of cats begin appearing out of thin air, he must embrace the unknown to solve the case.

Now this is a different take of course on the idea of Schrodinger’s Cat – I must assume – mixed up with the latest physics about we are living in only one of many multiple universes – each of which contains the same matter but has deviated in its pathway due to a different decision made at a crucial point.

It seemed to me that I’d better explore this theory more and so found a ‘for Dummies’ site:

The multiverse is a theory in which our universe is not the only one, but states that many universes exist parallel to each other. These distinct universes within the multiverse theory are called parallel universes.

Every single possibility exists somewhere and has happened somewhere – thus Hitler won WW2 in several and /or invaded Britain and so on.

If there are multiple universes then it stands to reason that at times our universe may interact with other or cross over or… thus if you are clever enough you can build a machine that can make these interactions take place. And a Coon cat can therefore multiply in our universe as all these other universes all have such a cat, and they can all cross over into ours – every hour if the rather clever machine is still operating….

A Coon cat is an American breed that is rarely seen here in the UK, so I needed a picture of one and to learn a little more about them – being a cat lover, of course.

Maine Coon cats are among the top 10 breeds in the US I read. It weights between 12 and 18 pounds and is very large looking at the photos, and shaggy, and a good mouser apparently. It is hardy too and thus very much an outdoor cat I would assume. You can buy them in the UK of course but I personally have never seen one.maine coon

So what did I think of the book? Well Nina has a rather zany imagination as evidenced by her book titles.

And this zaniness is reflected in her writing style which I thought refreshing and different and amusing. I thoroughly enjoyed this book in a very light-hearted way and loved the detective named Danger and his

I think I need more about Danger to read and I see he a new book will come in February next year. I am definitely going to check out her other books too as she seems an author worth following.

5 stars!

An interview with Elizabeth Patterson

Elizabeth Patterson author of Bonners Fairy

1.) I have always enjoyed fairy stories ever since I was a young child. I often fantasized what it would be like to be tiny and able to fly like a bird. There are not a whole lot of fairy stories out there and since I share a kind of “kinship” with fairies, I chose to create a story about them. I think the uniqueness would be the fact that my fairies are guardians, warriors of their realm.

2.) I have only written one topic and that is the Bonners’ Fairy series (so far). I hand write all my books.

3.) I usually only do research when I come to a part in the scene in which I am not so familiar with (what is proper, what is correct). I will go online and check out the available information.

4.) My resources are: My own mind, and the internet

5.) I work for a Sheriff’s Office, so I have 10 years experience in that field.

6.) I am self published.

7.) I am still self published.

8.) Absolutely I would recommend self publishing. The company that does my books is phenomenal. Finding a traditional publisher is almost next to impossible. There are tons of submissions and tons of rejections unless you get really lucky. I think self publishing is the way to go at the beginning. Once you get some good sales and reviews, traditional publishers “may” take notice.

9.) Writing doesn’t usually provide sufficient income unless you are fortunate to write a best seller. Hopefully I am on the way

10.) I haven’t really had anything “funny” happen on a book tour, my first book signing in the real Bonners Ferry, I found out the reporter that did the story on me was born and raised in the town I live in. Coincidence?

I don’t think so. Also, my tent almost blew away in the wind at a book signing.