Reviews


In my novel The Wings to Fly there is a scene in which heroine Midge is hauled over the coals by her Commanding Officer for reading “an obscene book”. He is furious that she should be reading The Well of Loneliness in full view of other young female pilots where they might be corrupted. His anger is something hard to understand in a modern context. It borders on extreme over-reaction, but is representative of the public attitude towards homosexuality before the long, slow ride to acceptability began – a journey that still continues in some societies. Midge is given the book by Rose the Land Girl after their “brief encounter” and I included it in my story as a historical artifact. The Well of Loneliness plays a role in my novel – almost that of a character – because in the past it was handed to female friends as a hint that there could be something more than friendship on offer. I also thought it was about time I reviewed the book. I read it about ten years ago and found it profoundly upsetting. It is a book that, like Marmite, is either loved or despised by modern readers. Here is my take on it:

It is quite a while since I read this book and I am still trying to understand why it was banned and why the ending left me so very angry. Angry, desolate and gutted to be honest. This book is a classic of LGBT literature and, once banned, I gather it was passed from woman to woman as a clue to sexual identity rather than a simple book loan but if you are looking for erotic content you will be disappointed. It is totally devoid of explicit content and the sentence “and that night, they were not divided” was cited as the reason for the ban. Wow! How much society has changed! On the level of literature, the heightened language is full of romantic yearning and tragedic musings that will not speak to many born after, say, 1985. That is an arbitrary date of course but I think it was not until the mid 90s that the stigma went out of being LGBT for young people. For those who are older, some will still be conflicted about sexuality and gender identity issues and that is something recent reviews about this book fail to take into account. In some communities it will never be acceptable and those who escape those communities will always seem quaint to young people today.

Firstly, I didn’t mind the flowery, old-fashioned language. Just as I enjoy Shakespeare and the good old King James version rather than Eastenders and the Good News Bible, I enjoy heightened and poetic language and this book is full of it. So, spoiler number one, if you don’t like poetry, cryptic language or romanticism you are not going to like this book at all.

Secondly, if you despise anyone struggling with a gender binary you consider no longer relevant, you are going to dislike Stephen intensely. I am not sure whether Stephen is trans or butch but in all honesty I don’t think that matters. She could never be happy as a woman at a time when being female had such particular expectations of dress, manners, behaviour and so few opportunities other than marriage, spinsterhood or teaching girls. When you get angry with Stephen, remember she does not live in this modern world where, it seems, any expression of gender is valid and when the restrictions on women no longer apply.

Thirdly, the ending is sad beyond belief and if you are looking for a lesbian happy ever after you should avoid this book. Seriously. There is little point in reading a book you are unlikely to understand with an ending that is depressing beyond belief. In its defence, the ending is sadly believable. People actually DID think that way. Some sick individuals still think that is the way it should really be for gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people and that is where The Well of Loneliness STILL has a voice and a role to play even in our permissive world. It has a role because not everyone is inclusive, even those who say they are open-minded often fail when it comes to the crunch and it is not that long since the mere mention of homosexual love would have made most people’s hackles rise.

Bearing that in mind, you SHOULD read this book, if only to understand how the mildest allusion to sexuality could instigate a ban. You should read this book and wonder how the author could bear to live at a time when this discrimination was completely normal. You should read this book to remind yourself that in places the battle for acceptance has not yet been won and that nobody should ever be complacent about the changes that have taken place since the book ban was lifted.

Advertisements

Escaping Barcelona (Mad Days of Me #1)Escaping Barcelona by Henry Martin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I came to Henry Martin’s book following a discussion of literary fiction in the modern day. I mentioned the cult novel Trainspotting and pointed out that difficulties with the heavy Scottish dialect did not override the fact that it was totally realistic in its handling of drug addiction. Escaping Barcelona also has a form of gritty realism dealing as it does with uncomfortable and unpleasant issues like statelessness, homelessness, exploitation and homosexual rape. It is however a much more approachable book.

The quality of the writing here is excellent and it is not written in dialect or the vernacular which makes it easier for the general reader to get into. To me, the language of evocation and description is vital. One of my favourite poets, for example, is the war poet Wilfred Owen because he brings a talent for visual description to things we don’t consider poetic subjects. In this way Owen gives the horror of war a striking and vivid reality. Henry Martin, for me, achieves something similar on a smaller scale in Escaping Barcelona from the trilogy Mad Days of Me.

In an era where increasingly readers have little time for description, characterization or exposition, he allows us more than just a glimpse of his protagonist’s world. The author is not just content with what his character does and what happens to him; you feel Rudy’s initial sense of awe and excitement on arriving in Barcelona, you smell, taste and see his surroundings. Later the same skills are applied to his physical deterioration, how the fabric of his unwashed socks becomes embedded in the skin of his feet for instance.

Rudy starts out, as many young people do, by feeling trapped at home. He longs for freedom and adventure and leaves the safety and security of his home to seek that freedom on the road. Ironically his search leads to virtual imprisonment in a world where everything is reduced to the absolute basics of survival and where it is hard to trust anybody. His interactions with young women on holiday draw attention to this irony. They too seek freedom and adventure through travel, but unlike Rudy they have not been victimized; they have not lost the physical means of escape and they are still in control of their own destinies. He envies them and he fears for them too. His eventual escape is almost a very final escape, the significance of which was not lost on me.

The novel Escaping Barcelona deals with issues on the underbelly of society; issues of criminality, exploitation of the weak, powerlessness, hopelessness and the all too convenient invisibility of the poor and the homeless. Its premise that this can happen to anybody young, innocent and trusting is sadly built on truth. Your hopes rise and are dashed along with the young protagonist, you see life at its most fundamental, learning survival skills and dealing with frustration and fear along the way.

View all my reviews

india-adams

India R. Adams is author of Serenity (Forever Book 1) and this week I was privileged to meet up with her online and to ask a few questions about her work and ambitions.

Please tell us a little about your background, hobbies and homelife.

I used to be a professional dancer who never had any intentions on writing. Then I became a drama instructor with children, which was a lot of fun. Kids rock. They really do. My first marriage was not the “dream come true” so I had to relearn some things. And as I aged, my childhood past kept creeping up on me. Trying to move past it and grow, brought me to writing, healing my past and loving the future. Now I am remarried with three kids, a loving true dream husband, and I am reaching others—victims—through stories of understanding and compassion because I understand, I’ve been there.

How long have you been writing?

Over nine years but February 2017 is my one-year anniversary of being a “published” author. I started with writing Serenity, the first novel in the Forever series. Oddly enough, it was my last release last year. I released 6 books in 6 months. Fun, but CRAZY!

How many books have you published so far?

I will be having my seventh release, Destiny, the second novel in the Forever series, in April 2017, so six.

Are you a multi-genre author or do you specialise?

Multi and then some! Hahaha… YA and NA. Contemporary/Paranormal/Fantasy/Metaphysical and the list goes on… I even have a MC book in the works.

What do you think is best, and why, to be a published author or an independent?

I’ve only been under my own publishing company but, from what I hear, being traditionally published you lose some of the freedom I have now. I love my job, and it would take a decent offer for me to change over to another publisher.

What projects do you have in the pipeline for the future?

Whooee! I have four releases planned this year. Destiny, Scar Me, River, and Red Waters. I might squeeze one more in (they are all mostly written) but may just wipe my brow and say, “Enough, girl. Stop the madness!”

Next year I plan on releasing the rest of the Forever series, which be four more novels, Mercy, Liberty, Hope, Trinity. I know, I’m a bit insane to be in editing with so many at once. Then I will get back to finishing my other series, A Stranger in the Woods, Haunted Roads, My Wolf and Me, Tainted Waters, then I will finish other books in the works. There is approximately twenty so far. For eight years I wrote 12 hours a day. My imagination insisted on it! My poor kids starved, haha.


Serenity (Forever Book 1)

An Interview with Serenity

I asked India for an interview with Serenity Dowell so that we can get to know this interesting character more closely.

• Tell me a little about your family and what it is like at home.

Oh gosh, my home life? Well, I usually don’t talk about it. I don’t want my friends to worry because they’re young too. If the adults in my life can’t protect me, how can other high schoolers? Ya know? But, this is a special occasion so I will try to give you a little insight. My mom is what you call a binge drinker, a type of alcoholic where, when she drinks, she doesn’t stop—drinks right through the night and day. She has a good heart, she really does, it just has been lost somewhere along the way. My Dad? He’s more complicated. He used to be great. That is why, what he has become now, is so incredibly painful for me.

• Is there someone special in your life and if so what attracted you to them?

Yes, Ma’am. Dereck Hamilton. And what attracted me to him was our past lives. There have been many, and with each one he has been what I can only describe as a dream. And this life? He’s fighting for mine, with all his heart.

• What do you do for a living and what is your ultimate ambition?

My only job at the present is high school, and it works me plenty, hahaha…

• What are you most proud of?

I would have to say surviving. No matter what, I somehow keep pushing forward and not giving up.

• What, if anything, would you change about your life?

If you asked me this a year ago, I would have said my home life. But, now I’m starting to see that it has made me stronger. Was it worth it? I think so. And it’s my life, and life goes on, right?

• What do you like to do to relax?

There is a spring behind my house, in the woods, and it calms my soul. Let’s me escape till the sun goes down…

• What do you dread most in the world?

This question is easy. I’ve had to witness Dereck die before… It was… awful. Something I fear, daily.

• Do you have any pets?

Nope. I’m still working on taking care of myself, hahaha.

• If you were stranded on a desert island, what one thing would you take as a luxury?

As someone who has lived without such things, I have no idea how to answer that. Monetary objects seem to hold no value for me. If it’s an okay answer, I would like to pick my journal. May not be worth much to others but to me, it is my link to the woman I get to visit in my dreams. Her heart is all the gold I need.

LINKS TO INDIA AND HER WORK

Serenity (Forever Book 1)
India’s Blog
India R. Adams on Author Central – See all her books here
India R.Adams on Goodreads
Follow India on Twitter
Keep up with India on Facebook

Well the easy answer is because that is her nature. Life as a writer would be infinitely more easy if our characters were less complex. If Midge were heterosexual that would throw open a much larger readership for me for a start. Schools and Christian readers would not be taken aback by her love for another woman for example. Yet she would blend unseen into the infinitely large pile of boy meets girl romances. If she were to be a lesbian on the other hand that would make her life much less complicated for her and for my novel too. There would be a ready made niche audience of lesfic fans who I suspect would be somehow much more comfortable with her sexuality. There would be fewer triggers in the story although, for me, it would be less true to life and less interesting. Midge is neither gay nor straight and that shapes her life in unexpected ways. Although she is obviously drawn to women emotionally she enjoys the company of men as likeable human beings and has a strong sex drive which is modified by the era in which she was born. There will be those readers who say she always was a lesbian and just had to discover her true self; there will be some who castigate her for marrying a man just as there will be those who condemn her for being unfaithful to Richard. So why did I write her this way? Was I trying to be trendy?

In answer to the first, my writing tends to be character driven. I believe that our characters exist in some hidden dimension of space or time waiting to speak to those who will be most attentive to their needs. Maybe some will see that as paranormal; I think it more likely that it is a product of our own psyche, our conscious beliefs and our unconscious dreams. When a character like Midge is “born” she takes over the writing of the story and leads it down paths a little different possibly from those we had planned. I could no more force Midge to be gay or straight than I could force myself to eat melted blue cheese on cornflakes! She has a voice of her own and her scenes were almost dictated to me, as distinct from scenes I wrote for other characters after in depth historical research.

Was I trying to be trendy? Absolutely not. The concept of “bisexual being trendy” is really limited in my experience to the young and famous. For most honestly bisexual individuals it is not an easy label to take on or live with. The ideas many people have about bisexuals derive from sources that have a strong agenda. I won’t go into that now, but I will reference a superb book that addresses many of the misconceptions about bisexuals. This comes from my review of Purple Prose on Goodreads:

“Bisexual is not a “one size fits all” label. Being bisexual is not about being confused, trendy, greedy or dishonest. Bi-phobia and bi-erasure are institutionalised everywhere. Bisexuals are often, but not always, monogamous. They might identify as straight or gay/lesbian their entire lives but they know they have romantic feelings towards both genders and indeed sometimes to people whose gender falls outside the binary norm. A bisexual friend once said to me “I love a person, not a gender.” For those individuals who fall into the “monosexual” category gender assumes an overwhelming significance in partner choice. For bisexuals it does not – a person is loved for more than their intimate parts, their masculinity or femininity. This should be liberating. Often it is not.”

So I was not trying to be trendy and by being honest rather than reductionist in my writing I was probably always going to limit my book’s audience but if one person reads The Wings to Fly and says “I know that girl, she is like me” or “she is like my friend” then it will have been worthwhile. Sometimes life does not fit into convenient pigeonholes and neither do heroines in fiction.

Today’s post is actually a guest post by author of After the Fall, Carissa Lusk. I invited her to tell us about her book and this is her article. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

afetr-the-fall

Why I Write: You Only Live Once

Hello fellow readers and writers.
We’ve all seen the tee shirts or Facebook posts displaying a mantra for teens and hipsters: YOLO. You Only Live Once. I remember when the acronym was at its peak of popularity. In my thirties already, I’d roll my eyes at the expression and think, “Well, duh.” Yeah, a totally mature response, I know. But then I realised these kids were on to something. I’m not one of those immortal characters in the novels I love to read. I’m just a mundane, a Muggle.

I’d been working a social services job for twelve years, and although I loved my co-workers, I hated the work. The job sucked so much out of me that I had no energy to do what I really wanted—write. The biggest thing on my very own mental bucket list, bigger than seeing the Northern Lights or going on a Shiprocked Cruise, was to be a published author. So I just went for it… because I’ll only live once. I published After the Fall, a new adult paranormal romance novel, in July. Check one off my bucket list.

About After the Fall


· New adult paranormal romance
· Available on Amazon, IBooks, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo

Amity cries out into the darkness that surrounds her, hoping for a solitary voice to provide direction; she hears two…

Her love for Alexander is epic, yet the loneliness brought on by the miles that separate them can only be curbed by the cryptic affection of Marcus Riley. Amity can’t understand the strange familiarity she finds in the wild blue of Marcus’s eyes, but she will soon learn his secret.

Plagued with dreams and memories of lives beyond her own, a tragic fate will emerge from the ashes of a love scorned. Eventually, she will discover the dark truth that will leave her running for her life, and she will learn who sacrificed everything to save it.

About Carissa Lusk


Carissa Lusk grew up in a small town in West Virginia and never moved far from home. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Concord College. She credits her love of reading and writing to Kate Chopin, Emily Bronte, and her mom. After the Fall is Carissa’s debut novel.
Check out After the Fall here.

Connect


Carissa Lusk on Facebook
Carissa Lusk on Twitter
Carissa Lusk on Instagram
After the Fall on Goodreads
After the Fall by Carissa Lusk | BookShop
After the Fall – UK link

editor-cat

Author Kyra Halland writes some great books, but best of all she loves cats so she deserves pride of place here today. Thank you Kyra. I asked her the following questions:

1. What is your routine as a writer?

Writing is my full-time job. In the mornings, I take care of social media, correspondence, blog posts, finances, stuff like that. My writing workday starts late in the morning or early in the afternoon. I spend the first half writing on a new project; right now my aim is 1300 words a day. The second half I spend on revising and editing my next book to be released. I take breaks about every half hour to move around, do some chores, play a non-verbal game to clear my mind.

2. What is it that drives you personally as an author?

The need to tell stories. I have these characters living in my head demanding that I tell their stories. I have to give these characters life by writing their stories and releasing them into the world, or else they’ll never leave me alone.

3. I see you have an ambition to be a crazy cat lady. As someone who has already achieved said status, may I ask do you find your cats help you with your writing?

I have two cats, Kumo (Japanese for cloud), a longhaired gray cat, about 11 years old; we think he’s a Turkish Van (he was found as a stray or feral cat). And Sawyer, a shorthair tabby on top, white underneath, about 7 years old. They make sure I don’t sit down for too long (which is bad for your health) by asking me to feed them or let them out into the yard. And since I’m alone in the house all day (my kids have grown up and moved out, and my husband is at work all day), they give me someone to talk to. And, of course, any manuscript can be improved by the addition of a little cat hair.

4. Who is your favourite character to date and why?

Oh, goodness, that’s like asking me to choose my favorite of my kids and grandkids 🙂 I love all my characters, each for different reasons. Probably one of my most memorable characters is Roric Rossony, the professor of magical theory from The Lost Book of Anggird. He’s an extraordinarily complicated man; I was stuck on that book for years until he opened up and told me all about himself and his appalling past. Once I understood who he was and why he was the way he was, the book fell into place. And then there’s Silas Vendine, the bounty-hunting, gunslinging mage from my most recent books, the Daughter of the Wildings series, and his wife-student-sidekick Lainie Vendine, the rancher’s daughter who goes from being terrified of her magical powers to being a hugely powerful mage – maybe even more powerful than Silas!

5. Please say a few words about your latest book and why we should read it.

noblebright-cover-sm-1

My latest project is actually a multi-author boxed set that I’m very excited to be part of. It’s called Light in the Darkness: A Noblebright Fantasy Boxed Set. Basically, as C.J. Brightley, the coordinator of this boxed set, says, “Noblebright fantasy has at least one important character with noble, idealistic motives who does the right thing out of principle. The character is flawed, but his or her actions are generally defined by honesty, integrity, sacrifice, love, and kindness. The story upholds the goodness of the character; the character’s good qualities are not held up as naiveté, cluelessness, or stupidity, but rather shown to be worthwhile. Good characters can make a difference. Noblebright characters can learn and grow. They can deliberately choose to be kind when tempted to be unkind, they can choose generosity when it hurts, and they can influence their world and other characters for the better.” My book Beneath the Canyons is part of this set along with 11 other full-length novels and a handful of short stories, a great value for the price of $1.99. It releases on Tuesday Oct. 18, at these stores:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Kobo
iTunes
Smashwords

Kyra’s Website
Kyra’s book catalogue
Follow Kyra Halland on Facebook
Kyra Halland on Twitter
Kyra’s Google+
More about Kyra on her Goodreads page

I was lucky enough to win a copy of this delightful book in a Goodreads Giveaway. To be honest, it is outside my genre as a reader (and certainly outside as a writer) but I have catholic taste and had entered thinking the blurb was intriguing.

So, These Days of Ours arrived without fanfare on my doormat one sunny day this Spring and I put it on my to be read pile. When I got round to reading it, it was a hot summers day and I was looking for something gentle I could enjoy between bouts of watching Wimbledon. (Whew! Is that exciting or what?) I thoroughly enjoyed this cosy romance, became increasingly angry at the jealous, vindictive and shallow Becca, found myself wondering how on Earth Kate could always be so kind, forgiving and wimpish and yet could not put the book down. (Except to enjoy Roger Federer of course).

The book is a delightful series of vignettes written around social occasions that outline the past history of Kate, Becca, Charlie, Julian and a varied supporting cast. It is actually beautifully written and the characters are very lifelike. Towards the end Juliet Ashton drops some real bombshells and without giving too much away (don’t you hate reviews that rewrite the story?) These Days of Ours has a very happy ending.

I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys old fashioned romances without too much sex or for anyone who is a sucker for long slow build ups and happy endings.

Next Page »