Tag Archives: GoodReads

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.

Advertisements

Enter the nosy artist and lots of guns!

The Body in the Landscape

By

Larissa Reinhart

A Netgalley Review

Just who is this all so nosy artist who just keeps encountering crimes including murder? And why is her brother in jail? And who is Tod? Luke? Max? And what are her relationships with them? How did Max hurt his knee?

For me, whilst this was a light-hearted romp through crime and murder, it was clearly not at all aimed at people who had not read the previous books in the series. There were a lot of complicated relationships. Family rivalries and past incidents that affected how people behaved that remained sketchily explained and then not as one first encountered them. Whilst I don’t mind this in a series, it does make it more difficult to give a critical review of a book when many of the links and much of the background is not explained.

That said, by 30% of the way through, enough was explained about some of the characters to encourage me to read on. I had considered giving up because I had been only peripherally drawn into the scenes and storyline.

But by 50% in I was irritated by the gun and hunting culture that permeated the story. And was not sufficiently concerned about the outcome to continue.

I agree with the reviewers of the author’s previous books that the style of writing  has amusing elements, but I was never inclined to smile let alone laugh – mainly I think due to the hunting and guns!

My New Year’s ‘Commitments’

It is that time again when every good person tries to make a list of all the things they intend to do differently in the new year that has just started.

No, I’m not going to list here all the physical and mental challenges I intend to take on – ‘cos there aren’t any.. other to try and keep as fit as I am now and to continue to lose weight and to keep on blogging as well as maintaining all the other things that I do…

I am just going to tell you about my reading challenges.

I have decided to go back to undertaking some Challenges from GoodReads this year. I last did this in 2014 when I ‘promised’ to read 125 books and actually read over 150.

This year I am going to it slightly differently though. I am going to participate in the:

Genre Challenge
January: Contemporary/Literary Merit
February: Romance/Chick Lit
March: Mysteries
April: Fantasy
May: Historical Fiction
June: Minority Studies/LGBT
July: Science-Fiction/Dystopian
August: Poetry/Plays
September: Travel
October: Horror/Thriller
November: Manga/Graphic Novels
December: Humour

And the To Be Read pile challenge.

Now you can have several levels of this but I am going to be cautious here and just say I shall read 10 books from my TBR pile.

I was also extremely brave this last weekend when I went into a bookstall and also a  Waterstones store on the same afternoon and didn’t buy one single book! Oh, the strength of will it took… The piles were laying there so temptingly and with so many new authors I wanted, but no, I must try and get through the TBR pile first and when that has been reduced I can buy. So 5 books from my physical pile and 5 eBooks must get read – at least. [Note my TBR pile is designated only as those books I have deliberately purchased at whatever cost].

I shall tag all these books under categories so you can check my progress, but also check out my GoodReads feed.

Enter the Queendom of the Red Academy

The Rise of the Red Queen

By

Bourne Morris

An interesting title for this novel, as reading  it you might assume the book was fantasy or YA in genre. But no such thing. It is a crime novel set in a university.

The Red Queen of the title is an academic whose rise is chronicled through the faculty management structure to being Assistant Dean in this university set high above Lake Tahoe in the Nevada Hills, and who has red hair.

She is thus commonly known as ‘Red’ and many of her colleagues see her as their born leader and that they are members of the court of her faculty.

However, not all members of the university appreciate her qualities and there is still a significant misogynistic element  amongst them. Especially in the higher management echelons.

Prejudices and academic rivalry abound and are very intense and even lead here to murder and criminal behaviour.

And then there is the warped mind of one of the community who abducts a young girl. So within this story, other stories intertwine here there are mysteries and suspicious behaviours and suspicions that leave you guessing.

A note here on academic tenure in American universities (generalised).

Tenure in American universities is extremely hard to achieve.

It requires not only a PhD but a significant body of publications, grants, and conference appearances achieved; and then you have to be liked by all the members of the faculty committee that will review your record and award you tenure – or not.

Tenure, is effectively for the rest of your life. It is almost impossible to be fired, and it is very much your choice as to when you retire. Only about 2% of tenured Professors are fired each year – and then it has to be for ‘due cause’.

And: “As a tenured Professor, you are free to do your own work, your own way” (quoted in the book).

The probationary period averages three years for community colleges and seven years at four-year colleges. This is a period of employment insecurity almost unique among U.S. professions. People denied tenure at the end of this time lose their jobs; tenure is an “up-or-out” process.

During the probationary period, almost all colleges can choose not to renew faculty contracts and terminate faculty without any reason or cause. Throughout this time, senior professors and administrators evaluate the work of new faculty-teaching, research and service before deciding whether or not to recommend tenure. The most recent survey of American faculty shows that, in a typical year, about one in five probationary faculty members was denied tenure and lost his or her job.

No more than one-third of all college and university faculty members are tenured. The reason? More and more colleges are relying on part-time or temporary nontenure-track faculty to teach undergraduates — part-timers constituted about 38 percent of the professoriate in 1987 and grew to 43 percent in 1992.

http://www.nea.org/home/33067.htm

Craving something sweet for Xmas?

Xmas Cravings

By

Emma Hamilton

A very sweet and quite short story.

If artificial sweeteners were definitely never used by ‘Greedily Yours’, one might even say saccharine sweet.

That said it is full of humour. I read a short piece out to my book group from her ‘blogging’ excerpts and they all giggled and confessed that they could visualise very clearly the happening described. 10 random people, including 2 librarians, a GP and a dental surgeon all liked the excerpt which shows that the author speaks clearly to a woman who has ever tried to bake a special cake and failed. And also, that her style of writing is clear, humorous, and well written that our visual cortices were engaged.

Now whilst I appreciate that Mia, the heroine of this story, likes her running and exercise, I am still very concerned for her cholesterol level and arteries. There really is no need to roast a duck and then baste the potatoes in the fat AND add the fat to the vegetables. Too much similarity of flavour surely and far too much fat… try a little butter and sugar and red wine vinegar in the red cabbage and try roasting potatoes in extra virgin cold pressed organic if possible, rapeseed oil, and taste the difference!

Cold pressed rapeseed oil is a ‘good mood’ food. It contains essential fatty acids and these will boost brain power, stabilise moods, balance hormones and reduce inflammation. So an excellent oil to use and can be cooked at a high heat as well as drizzled over salad etc and has a lovely taste to add to stir fries.

I enjoyed this short read especially the ‘blog’ excerpts and the chatty style of writing.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Scarlet Women: An author explains

 

An interview with:

Scarlet Risque 

 author of:

Red Hour Glass

  1. Can you tell your readers something about why you chose this particular topic to write about? What appealed to you about it? Why do you think it is different and your approach is unique?

The Hourglass series is a sociopolitical discourse about capitalism and how top down decisions affects the lives of ordinary people. I am fascinated with financial centers and major property acquisition players. My approach is unique as I do not state the obvious but let the reader decide what is obvious to them.

  1. How long do you think about a topic before deciding to write about it? Do you have a set of notes or a note book where you write down topics that appeal before making a decision as to which topic this time?

The Red Hourglass took four years to write and I was actively writing the book in five different countries. I research different topics that interest me on a daily basis through a combination of Wikipedia, news, YouTube, books and talking to people who are in similar positions or characteristics to those I write of.

I visited New York twice (2011 and 2013) and wrote the subway scenes by spending a long time observing homeless people begging for change. It was a novelty to me, and I was immediately drawn to that. I wrote the first scene of the White Queen finding Mary in the subway back in 2011 as I was inspired by the subway stations of New York City when I first visited.


  1. How long does it take to research a topic before you write? And for this book?

I believe that we write based on what we know over a period of many years and try to condense it in a novel form that is easy and enjoyable to read. Most of the research literature I read are academic and non fiction, they hold no interest to most people.

I wanted to write something I would love to read and still have something to think about. I prefer reading books that allows me to question and find out more answers for myself. In this sense, I try to do just that.

  1. What resources do you use? In general and for the last book that you wrote?

Interviews with famous actors on YouTube is my favourite resource as I can play back and study their word choices and way of thinking, to get into their “heads”.

  1. How helpful do you find authority figures such as the police when you say you want to write about them? Is there a good way to approach them in your experience?

I would prefer to casually chat with anyone no matter what their position or authority as they give inspiration to different things. I don’t believe in stereotyping. A good way to approach someone is always to get a referral from a friend who knows that person, so that he would speak as naturally as possible instead of putting a professional front. I prefer the realness to my character development sketches. I don’t sketch my characters just based on one person but a few different people usually.

  1. How many times have you been rejected before your first novel was accepted or before this book was accepted?

I went directly for self publishing.


  1. Did you need to self-publish on e-books before a publisher took you up?

Above answer.

  1. Would you recommend self-publishing and building an audience before approaching a publisher? If so, what benefits do you see that it might have for the aspiring novelist?

I haven’t reached this stage yet, it is something to consider to reach a different target market. It would really depend. From where I am at, most physical book stores and music shops had closed down as they are unable to meet the rent. I believe the trend is towards virtual publication and virtual outreach.

  1. Does writing provide sufficient income to live on? And how long did it take before this happened?

Definitely not. My previous income was much higher as I used to do consultancy. I felt dead inside. Despite the external achievements and materialistic acquistions, it gave me no sense of fulfillment. I gave up my shadow life to pursue writing. I had cut back on my expenses and traveling. Some rewards cannot be measured in monetary terms. I used to dread waking up, but since I turned full time as an artist, I wake up before my alarm and I feel energised to take on the world. I receieve fan mails daily and I feel that is the greatest reward that my work has impacted others.

  1. What is the funniest thing that happened to you on a book tour?

I am on a YouTube “book tour” at the moment on my own channel. I am surrounded by my Knights and minions. What is funny is one of my Knights commented he was waiting for me to do a Sharon Stone Basic Instinct move by crossing my legs. But I didn’t. Haha!
Red Hourglass Available Now: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Kobo International, Barnes and Noble
Weekly YouTube Episodes: The Scarlet Queen YouTube

Follow Scarlet Risque: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, Amazon, Wattpad
Website: http://thescarletqueen.com

 Red-Hourglass-3D

Scarlet Risque Releases Her New Romantic Thriller: Red Hourglass

Singapore – A POWERFUL, MYSTERIOUS woman finds a homeless girl in a New York subway and adopts her. Janet swears loyalty to the White family and they train her at their Academy as a secret agent. Before long, her transformation into the Red Hourglass—an assassin—is complete. She is ready to start her missions in service of the White Queen.

In order to learn the whereabouts of her real mother from the White Queen, the Red Hourglass must stop the planned expansion of Wilmar Enterprises. She goes undercover to infiltrate Wilmar, and she is hired as the executive secretary to the Chief of Security, Conan Casey.

Janet works diligently to uncover all Wilmar’s secrets. She soon learns that Conan Casey, her target, is heir to the billion dollar Wilmar organization. She falls prey to his dark seductions and twisted secrets … and they leave her gasping for more.

About the book:
Red Hourglass by Scarlet Risque
ASIN: B0179EKC70
Publisher: ScarletCorp
Date of publish: October 2015
Pages: 249
S.R.P.: $0.99

About the author:
Scarlet Risqué stars in Scarlet Queen YouTube with over a million views. She is the author of the Hourglass (Romance/Thriller) Series. She holds a degree in business. She uses writing, dance, and theater to explore her dark and light desires. She’s a poetic soul where pain and pleasure meet and East collides with West. She is passionate about traveling, dancing and kink. She loves her cat and crystal collection.

Each book in the Hourglass Series has a female lead searching for her identity and truth in today’s world. Set against a backdrop of globalization, these stories of intrigue and espionage are full of undercover agents and themes of dominance and submission.