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review 2018-08-03 21:16
The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir by Lesley Allen
The Lonley Life of Biddy Weir - Lesley A. Allen

I was recently at a writers’ group and shared the fact I’m writing a new novel with a theme of bullying. I was recommended this book by a local author which concerns bullying and started it a few days later.


The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir follows a young girl from primary school right through to adulthood. At the beginning of the novel she’s about to call into a chat show which is discussing bullying. When she eventually does phone she claims that her school bully nearly killed her. We then go back to the past where she’s roughly eight-years-old and follow her through the years until the point where she nearly died. The novel then jumps forward again to when she’s an adult.


Biddy is raised by her father as her mother abandoned her when she was an infant. Her father is emotionally absent and as Biddy has no other family and no friends at school she has no-one at all. She is left alone at school by teachers and students and has no problems until primary-six when a new girl, Alison, joins her class. Alison immediately singles Biddy out and gives her a nickname, bloody weirdo. From this point on the bullying is relentless and gains severity with each passing year. Biddy is constantly on edge, never knowing what Alison and her cronies have in store for her on any particular day. She can handle being shunned by everyone, but the incidents of active bullying are just too much.


Biddy doesn’t tell anyone what’s going on because there’s no-one to tell. She has no one and virtually nothing, except for a love of drawing. Biddy and her father co-exist amiably, but he never asks her anything abut her life and since she is crippled by an inability to say much, she carries her secret alone.


The novel was incredibly sad and while it wasn’t brilliantly written, the characterisation and plot were excellent. I could hardly put it down for any length of time as I was so eager to make sure Biddy was okay. I genuinely cared for her safety and felt unbelievably sad for her. Her teachers, peers and neighbours are deplorable. All I wanted was for Biddy to finally have someone and be okay.


There’s a nice twist towards the end that I really enjoyed and which brought the novel to a very satisfying conclusion. It's quite a claustrophobic novel and is largely just Biddy, but it was excellently done. This is a novel that deserves to be read by all.

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text 2018-07-28 07:45
Ahead of the curve
Beauty and the Clockwork Beast (Steampunk Proper Romance) - Nancy Campbell Allen

I've been listening to a lot of audiobooks recently. We recently moved, so I've been working on the various paint and plaster projects necessary to make this house not be the godforsaken beige that the previous owners thought was a good idea. Which means I have hours and hours of monotonous work that is perfect for audio. I listened to an urban fantasy trilogy I've read before, hit some China Miéville because rwrrr, and then moved on to midlist steampunk. 


Beauty and the Clockwork Beast is one of those titles that promises some stupid stuff. I am not opposed to stupid stuff, per se, and I felt reasonably sure I knew what I was going to get, given my experience with steampunk on the romance end. There would be an inventor's daughter, one of those irrepressibly zesty daughters of the upper class who be impressed upon to find her father's killer / continue his work / fall in love with the staff / automaton / vampire / werewolf. I once read a short story collection of steampunk stories where two thirds of the entries went this way. 


But that is not what I found in Beauty and the Clockwork Beast! Or it is, just a very little, but the bulk of the novel is character study, riffs on Gothic fiction, and well written prose. Jeez, who even does that? 


The plot follows one Lucy Pickett as she goes to stay with a cousin who is more like a sister to her. The cousin, Kate, was recently married to the younger brother of an earl, but has been ailing since she took up residence as the lady of Blackwell Manor. The earl himself, Miles, has a pall upon him, after his wife and sister died within a day of each other half a year ago. The wife died in a manor befitting the Blackwell curse, and the sister was torn apart by wild animals. It's all pretty sketchy. 


Lucy is a botanist herself, and a member of a society that is working towards the usual medicinal uses, but also pharmacology that is useful against vampires. This is a world with magic and animal shifters (of which Miles is one) and vampires. But it's not a world with ghosts, so it troubles Lucy some to encounter the ghost of the earl's sister for several nights running. She and Miles end up playing detective in the earlier deaths, Lucy's sister's illness, and Miles' blackmail. 


While there are many things about the detective plot that make me want to tear out my hair -- there are ONLY TWO OR THREE VIABLE SUSPECTS JFC -- I was so in love with Lucy. She's no inventor's daughter, an appendage on a great man, but a scientist in her own right. This might be a little harder to explain, but hear me out: she's also not gadding about in trousers because she's so transgressive, but a careful woman of her class and station. 


Look, I love me a firebrand, a character who smashes shit and gets stuff done. But I weary of 1) characters who haven't earned it and are just middle class fantasies of rebellion dressed up in pantaloons 2) Strong Female Characters (tm) who do everything in their power to shit on girlishness, the trappings of femininity, and any woman who might still live under its aegis. Lucy is often well and truly frustrated by how she as treated as a scientist and a woman, but she's got good table manners, and knows how perform a perfect curtsey. She has good relationships with other women -- not just one, but several -- and even treats unlikable female characters with kindness and empathy. In short, she is a good person.


Her worth isn't predicated on her father, or her magical powers (she has none other than education and experience) or her anachronistic badassery. It comes from her diligent work ethic, loyalty to those she loves, and innate kindness. Which, whoa. I was well pleased to encounter someone of Lucy's mettle in this sort of steampunkery. 


There are things to complain about, for sure. The detective plot is almost offensively stupid, even while the technical details of this specific steampunk world are careful and considered. Miles holds onto his secrets 80 pages past when he should. People almost never ask the obvious questions when confronted with a mystery, and blithely go about their business like idiots. At a couple crucial points, characters forget important details like wow. 


That said! I feel like this was ahead of the curve. Lucy is such a practical, well drawn character, and she acquits herself with grace. May we all, etc. 

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text 2018-07-25 15:36
Reading progress update: I've read 75%.
The Lonley Life of Biddy Weir - Lesley A. Allen

I'm writing a new novel about bullying and was told about this book, by a local author, that tackles bullying. The writing style isn't that good, but the characterisation is fantastic and I love it.

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text 2018-07-23 12:16
BLOG TOUR; GUEST POST & #GIVEAWAY - Selected by J. Allen Wolfrum
Selected - J. Allen Wolfrum

Former Army helicopter pilot, Susan Turner is Selected as the next President of the United States. In order to avoid a nuclear war, she must overcome personal demons and learn to navigate the murky waters of international diplomacy.

Five years ago, the Dove Revolution changed the political structure of the United States. The President, Senate, and Congress are no longer elected by the public, they are Selected at random every two years. A shadow organization known only as The Board, advances their sinister agenda by taking advantage of their anonymity and Susan's tendency to make brash decisions. Blackmail, espionage and murder are all in play as The Board manipulates geo-political events to spark a war between the Soviet Union and the United States.

With the help of her former Squadron Commander, General LeMae, Susan Turner attempts to lead the nation through these turbulent times while battling her own internal demons. Susan is a battle-hardened war veteran but she must learn what it takes to be a world leader. Nuclear war and the future of the human race hang in the balance.

Source: archaeolibrarianologist.blogspot.com/2018/07/blog-tour-guest-post-giveaway-selected.html
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review 2018-07-19 06:21
The Slave Players - Megan Allen


Megan Allen

Paperback, 336 pages
Published October 1st 2017 by Burn House Publishing
9780999054 (ISBN13: 9780999054819)


What would happen if roles were reversed for white Americans and black Americans in history? Megan Allen takes on this thought and places it in modern day Alabama. While the town's sheriff tries to cover up what really happens to 12 black girls on a bus trip to a camp, the medical examiner sees something different. He and his daughter take it all the way up to the governor, then the President. And chaos starts when the truth comes out in the press. The daughter of the medical examiner I didn't like. She was well written, like all the main characters. I felt she came off as a little bratty. Allen's writing moved along quickly, holding my attention, and making me think. This may be a book that some will either like it or hate it. Will what happened in the book become a reality at some point? I don't know. But the writing does bring out questions, some reality in how the different cultures think (both good and bad), and is very thought provoking.

***I won this paperback copy through a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for a fair review.***

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