Books read in August

Depth of Field by Riley Hart *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Revealed to Him by Jen Frederick *Star**Star**Starw**Starw**Starw*

Entangled by Jessica Sorensen *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Entranced by Jessica Sorensen *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Enchanted by Jessica Sorensen

Blind Faith by N R Walker *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Finding His Place by Nic Starr *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Tanner by Sarah Mayberry *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Hold Me by Talia Ellison *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Unfold Me by Talia Ellison *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

 

Revealed to Him by Jen Frederick
I have to say, I got the audio version of this book, as well as the ebook, and it was awful.  The narrators were so bad.  There was no emotion, no feeling…  It really put me off the book, and I was struggling with it as it was.

The heroine suffers from crippling anxiety and agoraphobia, and yet when she’s outside and totally freaking out, a kiss from the hero overcomes all her fears and they end up having sex in the car.  Um, what?  She’s so agoraphobic that she passed out and threw up just trying to walk to the lift on her floor of her own apartment building, but she’s in a condition to have sex in a car, as they drive to his house?  Whatever.

The worst part for me was after she had a major freak out and had thrown up from sheer fear, and he put his fingers down her pants and commented on how wet she was for him.  Of course, then they had sex.  She hadn’t even brushed her teeth after throwing up.  Ugh.  It was such bullshit.  I’m sorry, but when people are in a state of extreme fear, they’re not thinking about how hot you are, or about sex.  No.  That is not realistic.  It’s ridiculous.  I struggled with her letting him into her apartment and them having sex, when she has such a fear of strangers and meeting new people, but I overlooked it, but the sex at times of extreme anxiety and fear?  Nope.  I almost put it down as a ‘did not finish’ but I detest not finishing a book, so I struggled through.  Kinda wish I hadn’t bothered now.  Maybe I can save you the time though.  There are definitely better books out there.

Enchanted by Jessica Sorensen
I really struggled to rate this.  I enjoyed it, and I would love to read more, and what I read I’d probably be happy to rate as four stars, but….  It wasn’t finished.  It was an incredibly short installment in the series and it didn’t even really feel like a cliffhanger so much as it felt unfinished.  I was very disappointed in the length.  Not the writing, which was fine, but the length.  I’d read more by this author, for sure, especially in this series, but I know now to be aware that I may not be buying a whole novel or even novella.  It’s more like a serial installment than a novella.

Blind Faith by N R Walker
Predictable but sweet.

 

Roses Are Red

But violets are definitely more interesting…

“Surely it’s not true. Imagine the scandal. He’d never be able to show his face again. He’d be ruined.”

The scandalised whisper crept around the edges of the potted plants to reach the interested ear of Mr James Devon. He straightened from his lean against one of the pillars edging the small country ballroom and strained to hear more of the conversation.

“Of course it’s not true,” snapped a matron’s deeper tones. “He’s a duke. And imminently eligible. Such gossip does not become you, girls.”

There was only one duke in attendance tonight, and indeed he was the only peer to grace the ball with his presence. The fact that he lived a mere stone’s throw away (if one had a very decent throwing arm) was neither here nor there. Tonight’s ball commemorating Saint Valentine’s Day hadn’t even drawn a baron, but the attendance of the Duke of Wiltshire had certainly sealed the host’s social status among the gentry.

James felt a sudden chill despite the warmth of the overcrowded room. Society did not take kindly to anyone who deviated from their expectations of what was proper, and they were so careful to maintain appearances. For a man, being ostracised from society would be difficult and inconvenient, but it was the young women like the sister who had dragged James to tonight’s function who would truly suffer the consequences. Her chances of finding of a good husband would be utterly destroyed if scandal broke out and James was at the center of it.

“How can they even tell?” The young lady’s voice was breathless with curiosity. “It’s not like someone caught him kissing another man.” A gasp, and then, “Or did they?”

James narrowed his eyes and swept his gaze across the ballroom. Taking only cursory note of where his younger sister was dancing decorously with another member of the local gentry, he searched for the duke. Tuning out the sound of the matron berating her charges for their indiscreet comments, he watched the duke do the rounds of the ballroom, sending all the other guests aflutter with every dip of his head and polite smile. Unlike the matron, he knew rank and privilege were no guarantee of a man’s preference.

There were no affectations in Wiltshire’s mannerisms, no hint of effeminacy. He wore stark black formal wear, relieved only by the blinding white of his starched shirt and a single violet in his boutonnière. Of course, the same could be said for any of the men in the room, although to a man they all wore red roses to match the ludicrous abundance of draped red silk and velveteen hearts that passed for decoration. James looked down at himself, where he wore the twin to the duke’s boutonnière. It was also a convenient match to the pastel-shaded gown his sister wore.

James monitored the duke’s progress, careful to avoid being too obvious. The last thing he needed was to fan the flames of gossip. He even made a point of taking his sister out on the floor for a dance when the duke’s circuit of the ballroom brought him near. It wouldn’t do for anyone to put two and two together and make four.

It was nearly 11pm when James tapped his sister on the shoulder as she stood in line at the refreshments table, and indicated he was going outside for a smoke. At her nod of understanding, he strolled out into the crisp air. Spring had yet to really show herself this season, and the chill was a marked contrast to the stuffy heat of the overcrowded ballroom.

James withdrew a cheroot from his waistcoat pocket and held it to his lips, the brief light of the flame flaring bright in the darkness as he lit it. The smoke trailed gracefully into the still night, delicate wisps against the vast array of stars strewn across the sky. James enjoyed the view for a moment, glad he didn’t live in London where the smog was so thick one never saw the stars of an evening.

James ambled round to the stables, stopping to pet a horse here and there. The duke’s curricle was ridiculously easy to identify; no one else at the ball could afford such an exquisitely matched pair of horses. He nodded at the groom who had been given the tasks of overseeing them for the duration of the ball, and reached out to rub each horse between the ears.

“Beautiful, aren’t they?”

The deep voice came from behind him as James ran his hand down one horse’s long, velvety nose. He spun to see the duke standing behind him. James withdrew his cheroot and smiled.

“Your Grace.” James bowed in deference to the duke’s status, mindful of the groom who was listening intently. “What a splendid matched pair. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen the like.”

The gas lamps weren’t sufficient to clearly see the expression in the duke’s eyes, but James fancied that there was a relaxed warmth to his smile that had been missing all night.

The duke gave a light chuckle as he stepped forward. “I saw them at Tattersalls, and had to have them. Cost a pretty penny, but they are a joy to drive. I often take them out myself, much to my coachman’s disgust.”

James brushed his hand down the neck of the nearest horse in long strokes. He heard the crunch of gravel as the duke moved, then he felt the heat of the duke’s body as they stood shoulder to shoulder. The duke reached out and stroked the horse, his hand sliding over James’ hand which was frozen in place. James hardly dared to breathe. Then, as if nothing had happened, the duke stepped back, and the cold crept back in.

“Perhaps you might like to come and view my stables, Mr Devon. I recently purchased a rather magnificent stallion which I hope will see some new foals born of my mares next year.” The duke turned away, tugging on one cuff and speaking casually over his shoulder. “Would tomorrow afternoon suit?”

James couldn’t help the smile that lifted his lips. “Tomorrow afternoon would be splendid, Your Grace. I shall look forward to it.”

The duke turned back to face him, and lifted an eyebrow. “Perhaps your sister would care to accompany you? The Dowager is frightfully bored these days, and would love some company.”

James knew that was for the benefit of listening ears, as the duke knew very well that his sister was otherwise occupied the following afternoon. “Unfortunately, she and my mother are attending an afternoon tea. I know she’ll be sorry to have missed the opportunity.” In truth it was his mother who would be heartbroken to know that her daughter had come so close to dining with the dowager duchess at the ducal estate. That would certainly have been a social coup.

“Never mind, another time perhaps. Still, you should come and see the horses. Come prepared for a good, hard ride. It’s been too long since I’ve had one, and I’d enjoy the company.” The duke made eye contact, and James couldn’t resist a smirk at the double entendre, relieved the horses’ large heads hid his expression from the groom. It was rare for the duke’s clever wit to come out in public, and James was delighted to know that he was enjoying himself despite the game of cloak and daggers they were forced to play.

As James took his leave, and the duke made preparations to depart, there was nothing to suggest that anything untoward had taken place. By tomorrow the conversation would have travelled on gossip’s swift feet, and ladies all over the region would be hearing it from their maids as they dressed for their afternoon calls. All would be assured that the Duke of Wiltshire and Mr James Devon had behaved with the utmost decorum, and the proprieties had been observed. Indeed, the duke had invited the man’s sister to dine with the dowager duchess, and surely he wouldn’t have done that if there had been any hint of inappropriateness about the meeting.

James returned to the ballroom and his duty as chaperone for his sister, relieved to see that she was still mingling with the other guests despite his absence. Nothing in the ballroom had changed in the few minutes he’d been gone, but somehow the music seemed livelier and the candlelight seemed brighter. Dresses sparkled and laughter caused his own lips to lift. Even the profusion of red roses and the ostentatious pink champagne didn’t offend to the same degree. Like a child with a secret, the wait for tomorrow afternoon would be both interminable and full of wondering delight. In the meantime, he would daydream of violets and one particular duke.

Portrait in a cookbook

I read your chicken scratch writing
and imagine you in your kitchen,
weak English sun peeping in
through gauze curtains, hideous
wallpaper that dates it so perfectly.
War brings economies,
no butter or eggs, mere housewives
become inventors of recipes
that work with meagre supplies.
And you could never have guessed
four generations later
a girl on the other side of the world
would pore over your cookbook
and imagine you in your kitchen,
weak English sun peeping in.

An interview with author Rachel Peck

How long have you been writing?
I used to write stories as a child. I was a huge Enid Blyton fan, so most of them involved boarding schools and solving mysteries. I never took it seriously, though. When I was thirteen, I received a journal as a Christmas present, and I started journaling daily. I continued until I was in my early twenties, amassing over fifty volumes! As a teenager, I wrote a lot of angsty poetry. I never thought it was any good, though. I never shared it with anybody. I had a long gap after that, when it didn’t occur to me to write. Life kind of got in the way. Then, two years ago, my husband suggested I join an online writing group, and now I spend most of my time writing. When I spend time away from my computer for a long period of time, I actually feel twitchy. I write on my phone’s notepad, or in one of the many paper notebooks I carry with me. I don’t think I could ever go back to not writing again.

What genres do you write in? Do you have a favourite?
I was thinking about this question a couple of days ago. I don’t know the answer. I guess, literary fiction, mainly. I say that because a lot of my stories don’t fit into one specific category. They are stories about people. Real people, going through things that real people go through. I write with a lot of emotion, and I love to put my characters through the ringer. Seeing them survive and evolve is something I find really interesting. My stories always begin with a character, rather than a detailed plot.

I discovered, only recently, I can write non-fiction. Writing, with honesty, about the darkest (and lightest) parts of your life can be therapeutic. It is my ambition to write my memoirs, one day.

My poetry is free verse and, like my stories, packed full of emotion. I guess I’m still writing a lot of angst-ridden poems, if I’m honest. I’ve written my life story through poetry.

Letting Go

I sit next to the
sterile hospital bed and
wonder how she got this ill—
how I never noticed—
I was supposed to look after her.
I watch as the angry mask
furiously forces air into her lungs,
her body slamming into the bed
with every blast.
I hold her lifeless hand
and trace the misshapen
fingers and thumbs;
memories cascade before my eyes, and
I am a grown-up child,
five years old, taking care of my mum,
my precious responsibility,
but I was selfish,
all I wanted was a mum
who could play with me,
run with me,
lift me,
hold me.
None of that matters now,
I just want a mum who can hear me,
speak to me,
but I know I’ll never have that again,
so I turn to the doctor and
nod,
and the mask is removed,
the machines switched off.
I’m terrified as I watch her breaths,
almost imperceptible,
gradually fade to nothing;
she is still,
pain free,
and I am broken.
I look to her face,
in her very last breath
she has smiled,
and I know she has seen my dad—
the love of her life—
they are reunited in death,
and this comforts my shattered
heart.

Rachel Peck

Are there any genres you’re afraid to try, or struggle to write in?
A couple of years ago, I would have said Sci Fi, Fantasy, or Steampunk. I don’t read these genres, and I don’t understand them well enough to write about them. But, now that I have more confidence, there is nothing I wouldn’t try. I think it makes it interesting to try something new, sometimes. I’m sure if I did try to write in these genres, I would still turn my story into one about intriguing characters and their lives.

Do you read in the same genres that you write in?
I don’t read much literary fiction. I do read books with great characters. I also love psychological thrillers. Grip-Lit, your “Girl On A Train” kind of style. I like to read a wide variety of genres. I think it widens your imagination.

You write both poems and stories. Do you have a preference? Which do you consider your strength?
My poetry is more personal. It’s less polished, more raw. I think, poems have always been something I write when I have things I need to work out. They’re written for me, rather than for my readers. Stories are what I want to write more now. Specifically, the novel I’m working on. I think I write stories better than I write poetry. I’ve learned more about writing them over the last couple of years. Although, when my poetry is spot on, it’s pretty good.

The charity shop doorway looked inviting to Charlie. Walking the streets for hours, trying to stay away from J.T., had made his body heavy and in need of rest. His backpack hit the floor with a thud, startling the bundle of clothes lying next to it.

“You don’t mind if I grab this doorway, do you?” He pulled his lips into his most dazzling smile.

Donna was so young. It saddened him when he imagined the things that led to her thinking sleeping here was her best option.

“Knock yourself out.” Her smile had become sharper around the edges since they first met.

Springtime hung in the air, with its warmer weather finally reaching the streets. Even so, Charlie shivered, as he sat with his back against the door. He hugged his knees, and his eyes darted from side to side. He knew J.T. was out there watching him.

Screams drifted through the air, signalling the coming of Crazy Sue. She staggered between bodies, displaying a strange mixture of crying and guffawing. There were stories she ended up sleeping rough because her husband died and she lost her job. There were stories that back then she really wasn’t that crazy. Charlie knitted his brow as he contemplated how pretty she might once have been.

A whimpering sound drew his attention. He looked to Donna, who quivered and cried. Reaching out his hand and resting it on her back, he spoke in hushed tones. “Hey. What’s up?”

His friend gulped air, in an effort to breathe. “It’s C-Crazy S-Sue. She’s gonna k-kill me.”

The laugh had escaped his mouth before he could stop it. “Crazy Sue’s harmless. Why would you think she’ll hurt you?”

“I lay my stuff down in her spot earlier. She said if she saw me again she’d kill me.”

As the frightened girl buried her head in her blanket, Charlie shuffled closer to her. “Donna. It’s okay. Crazy Sue is . . . well . . . crazy. She shouts and screams at everyone. But she forgets all about it five minutes later. Honest.”

Donna peeked at him from under her blanket. “Really?” she whispered.

Holding her eye contact for longer than he normally managed, he nodded. “Really. You don’t need to be afraid of her.” He was tempted to add, “But J.T., well, there is someone you should avoid at all costs.” But it wouldn’t have made any difference. It never did.

Charlie’s Story by Rachel Peck

Do you listen to music when you write? Do you have a favourite ‘soundtrack’ to write to?
I always listen to music when I write. There is no specific soundtrack. I hit random shuffle on my iPod. I have to skip certain songs, as they can be really distracting (like, you cannot write whilst listening to “Stayin’ Alive” by The Bee Gees!). I love music. I listen to it all day long.

Do you have a favourite author? Or perhaps an author you view as an inspiration?
Yes. Marian Keyes. I love her. I first discovered her in about 1997. I was in a bookshop, and I spotted a book with a bright red cover with a pair of lime-green mules on it. It was like a siren, and I made my way over to it. When I saw the title—“Rachel’s Holiday”—I believe I yelped with delight. It was like it was made for me. I bought it, without reading what it was about. As it happened, I fell in love. Marian Keyes writes books about characters. She writes about the darker side of life, with topics such as drug addiction, depression, domestic abuse. But she also writes with humour and oodles of warmth. Her natural storytelling style has me laughing on one page, then weeping on the next. I would love, in my wildest dreams, to be able to write as well as her.

Tell us about something you read that was particularly memorable, for whatever reason.
About three years ago, I came across a book called “The Shock Of The Fall” by Nathan Filer. He was a new author to me, but I saw him speaking on TV about this book, and I had to look it up. It’s about a young man with paranoid schizophrenia, and about his past and his illness. I read it in one sitting, and I wept and felt my heart twist and turn. At the end, I felt like I’d gone through a bereavement or something. But, I realised I could write a story like that. I mean, I didn’t imagine it could be anywhere near as good, but it gave me the idea to start writing again. I had a story to tell. Maybe I could do it. Reading this book was kind of a turning point for me.

What inspires you? Where do you get your ideas from?
My best ideas are always based on my experiences. I change them, play with them, but ultimately, they have events that are part of me at their heart. I also have a tendency to dream vivid, wild dreams. Pretty much every night. So I write them down and draw on those when I’m looking for an idea. Really, though, ideas are everywhere. Wherever I go, I see people who look interesting and imagine their life stories. I spend a lot of time inside my head. I think it comes from being an only child.

Do you think negative experiences are crucial in order to be a good writer? Do you find it harder to write well when it’s a positive experience?
For me, I wouldn’t be the writer I am without my negative experiences. Especially, where my poetry is concerned. I write so much better when I’m feeling unhappy. I always have. My negative life experiences are probably the reason my writing leans toward being emotional. For me, experiencing pain makes me more understanding of how it works. For example, I don’t think anyone who has never experienced the darkness of deep depression can really understand it. They can read about it and understand it on a logical level, but they won’t feel the emotional connection to it. I think that comes across in writing.

With regards to positive experiences . . . I find it much harder to write happy. It is good to do this from time to time, though. Like, sometimes I have an idea for something light and fun, and it feels good to write something happier.

Do you think that as an author you write better when you pour the emotion on to the page, or when you take a step back and refine your work?
Without question, pouring emotion onto the page is what works for me. I always get better feedback for my pieces that are from the heart. I never would have believed it could make such a difference, but it does. It comes back to that question of having a connection to your work. However, that isn’t saying I don’t edit my work. The first draft is pure emotion, and from there, I make it more cohesive and shareable. That’s an important part of the process.

What has been the hardest thing for you so far on your writing journey?
The hardest thing has been, without question, believing in myself. It’s hard to be objective about my work because, no matter how hard I try, whenever I read it, I hear my own voice. So it doesn’t sound very special. But, I’ve chosen to accept that my voice is okay. One thing I’ve learned over the last two years is that most writers also have doubts. It actually makes us better writers. We can harvest that insecurity and turn it into magic.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
I’ve received so much advice in the past couple of years. I’ve learned to always listen to advice, even when it’s tough. The best piece, though . . . probably to write about what you know. I didn’t believe it at first. When I did, my writing improved.

What is your purpose in writing? Do you aspire to be published?
When I stared writing, it was mostly about exorcising demons and validating my feelings. I never dreamed I could be good enough to publish. I never dreamed I would one day want to try. But, now, things have changed. I would love to be published one day. I have a novel I’m working on at the moment that is everything I’ve ever wanted to write about. It’s in the formative stages right now, but the feedback I’ve received on what I have written has blown me away. So, this book has to be published. That’s my dream. After that, my memoirs. This last year, I’ve had two poems and a story published. One of my poems is in www.threelinepoetry.com. The other poem and the story are in the WDC 2016 Anthology. I can’t tell you the thrill of that! Really, though, I just want to write. Every day; forever. That will make me happy.

How do you drawn the line between truth and privacy when it comes to publishing a memoir?
This is a tough one. Writing about people who are still living is difficult, and I wouldn’t write about anyone without first getting their permission. I know the trouble that can cause. I have a distant relation who published a book on my mother’s family. She had so many facts that were incorrect. For example, she made two of Mum’s brothers twins, when they aren’t. She also said one of her sisters was dead, when she isn’t. So, getting your facts right is imperative. Like I say, I wouldn’t write about living people without asking their permission. I know most of them would be happy. People who have died, I would say that as long as you don’t lie, some people may not like it, but they are probably people who aren’t that close to you in the first place. I think honesty is the key. Whenever you write about real people and your own take on events, you run the risk of upsetting others. You have to be prepared for that, if you want to write about true events.

How will you format your memoir? Will it be told as a story, as a sort of ‘letter to the reader’ or will you use excerpts from your journal entries?
I’ve thought about this a lot. I don’t want it to be a long narrative that moves linearly from event to event. I plan to write about certain events and certain time periods in an order that makes sense to me as I’m writing. I think chapters, covering events or time periods would make sense. Some of them short, some longer. Including some journal entries is a great way to show how it felt to be me at different times. So that’s something I will probably include.

Will you include photos, letters, etc. in your memoir? I love books that do that!
Yes! I love books that include that, too. I’ll probably have some photos dotted throughout the book, rather than a section with tons of pictures. But I will definitely include some.

Will you self publish your novel and memoirs or try traditional publishing?
Ideally, I would love to have them published the traditional way. I think most writers would probably say that. However, this is the real world and there’s a lot of competition out there. So, self publishing may be the way to go. Initially, at least. I can always hope I get noticed somehow.

You can read more of Rachel’s work at her Writing.com portfolio.