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text 2017-08-21 00:04
Edinburgh - Bookfest Mini-haul

As I know that some of you are awaiting an update from Edinburgh, I've spent much of yesterday and most of today at the Book Festival - because Simon Callow and Ali Smith. OK, mostly because of Ali Smith. You all know I love Ali Smith, so I don't need to go into that again. Except, that I will do exactly that ... but in a separate post.

 

Anyway, for those of you rolling their eyes already at my fangirling over Ms Smith, below is a picture of my (very restrained) efforts at the Book Festival this weekend. They are all signed by the authors, tho, so extra credit for that. (Tho, Thin Air and Unspeakable I managed to just pick up - no queueing for autographs.)

 

 

 

And, ahem, "Autumn" is a fantastic book. I've read it when it was released last year, but got it as a kindle version (because who can really wait for their favourite author's work to arrive by post?!). This new little treasure is just so I can love looking at it on my shelf at home.

 

"Unspeakable" looked really interesting: It is a novel based on a real event: the last person in Britain to be tried and executed for blasphemy. It is set right here in Edinburgh.

 

"Thin Air" is one I have read lots of reviews (rather mixed) about. It also is a ghost story, which means that I will have to re-shuffle my Halloween Bingo plans already. But as one of the local(ish) bards has proclaimed "The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men 
Gang aft agley,"

 

Lastly, who can resist Simon Callow? This looked really interesting and Callow's talk at the Fest yesterday just meant I wanted to know more about Wagner. So, friends, prepare yourselves for some upcoming posts that may feature some pompous and extravagant musical accompaniments. :)

 

Other noteworthy sightings were Tracey Chevalier and Roger McGough, but I didn't get to see either of their events. :( I was booked to see a discussion with Jackie Kay and Margo Jefferson, but Ms Kay was not able to attend at the last minute.

Still, it has been a great trip. (Even for meeting Ms Smith again...but you might have already guessed that, right?).

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review 2017-08-12 03:58
Virtue
Virtue (Sons of Scotland Book 1) - Victoria Vane

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Title: Virtue
Author: Victoria Vane
Publisher: Dragonblade Publishing
Series: Sons of Scotland # 1
Reviewed By: Arlena Dean
Rating: Five
Review:

"Virtue" by Victoria Vane

MY SYNOPSIS

As always this author gives her readers another well written read that will keep one thrilled and intrigued with a story that also keeps one turning the pages to see what will happen next in this Highlander Scottish Romance series. The story features two main characters...Sibylla Mac William and Alexander. It was very interesting that when these two meet you will be able to feel the connection that is their between them. We find Alexander not really knowing of his heritage, left to leave as a monk but goes as a teacher to help a Highland family that needed a Tudor. After arriving and seeing and meeting Lady Sibylla his finds that his heart is conflicted. Now, why is that? This is where I say I don't want to spoil it for you so, you will have to pick up this read to see if these two will get their HEA.

I liked how the twist and turns, fast pace and surprises that were feed into the story that really keeps the reader on the edge of there seats wondering how this story will come out in the end. Be prepared for a little bit of it all from... 'secrets, betrayals, danger, passion and love' that will take the reader into the next series of 'Sons of Scotland.'
 
 

 

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review 2017-07-28 20:19
Sunset Song - Canongate Books Ltd,Lewis Grassic Gibbon,Eileen McCallum
Why did I read it? Sunset Song is supposedly regarded as an important Scottish novel, and is (sometimes) studied in secondary schools, because it touches on important themes from the time period in which it is set. I thought I might enjoy it.
 
What is it about? Sunset Song follows the life of Chris(tine) Guthrie from arrival in Kinraddie (north-east of Scotland) as a young girl in the early 20th century. The Guthries' lease a croft, and we follow the fortunes of the Guthries, and other families in the rural community through to the end of the first world war.
 
What did I like? Very little. Kudos to the narrator, [Eileen McCallum, for her vocal skills, both as a speaker, and singer when required. Ms McCallum created unique voices for each character, and her Scots accent was such that the dialogue will still intelligible. If there had been a duller narrator, I might not have been able to finish the novel at all. The one star rating is entirely for Eileen McCallum.
 
The author used some very interesting, and unique similes.
 
What didn't I like? From the start, this novel strained to keep my attention. It opens with a description of every family within Kinraddie, and tells quite a bit of their history, some of which occurs after the novel's actual end, as I was later to learn. This opening section of the novel felt interminable. I kept waiting for some semblance of a plot, and, after quite some time, began to wonder if there was one, or if this was a collection of short stories.
 
The descriptions of people, and places seemed to stretch on, and on, too. I like rural settings, I like descriptions of rural places that can evoke a character of the land itself. Other authors manage this beautifully, and elegantly, without devoting paragraph, after paragraph to the description of a single character before relating their part in tale.
 
The inner thoughts of Chris were far from cheery, which is not a complaint in itself, but Chris's sombre, morbid musings were just too much to bear for this listener. I found myself turning the volume down, waiting a few minutes before turning the volume back up, and then hoping that there was movement in the time line. I don't think I missed much by doing this. I got quite depressed listening to these sections of inner dialogue, and there were too many of them in my opinion.
 
Lewis Grassic Gibbon constantly jumped forward in time, and then would proceed to reflect on the events between the last point at which he left the tale, and the point to which he had just jumped. Why not just progress in a linear fashion? I am of the opinion that nothing would have been lost in the telling by doing so. I have seen this time jump technique used to great effect in other novels, but, in Sunset Song, it was pointless.
 
Other thoughts: My sympathies go to any secondary student for whom Sunset Song is required reading. I get it: There is no such thing as the rural idyll; it's a tough living. It is not necessary to cram your story with as many instances of human defect as you can recall into one novel.
 
Would I recommend it? No. Nor will I be reading the remaining two books in the trilogy, because I cannot face any more dark, depressing navel-gazing.

 

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review 2017-07-28 16:58
I continue to be drawn in by beautiful cover art
The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle - Janet Fox

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox is another prime example of an eye-catching cover which I couldn't resist. It evokes a certain gothic mysteriousness which I'm happy to say was delivered. From the very beginning,  the reader is launched into a tale of magic, wickedness, desperation, and all-consuming power. The story follows a family of children who are sent to stay at an estate in the country during the Blitz of WWII. However, all is not what it seems at this country school as the oldest daughter, Kate, quickly realizes after meeting the lady of the house. Much of the drama is tied to a chatelaine (a chain decorated with different items used around a house and usually worn by the woman in charge of the household affairs) worn by this woman. There are a lot of different threads to follow in this narrative which made it a little challenging to follow at times. The reader is sent back in time to follow this woman's history and then suddenly we're back with Kate in the present. That was a bit jarring but easily overcome. I'd say that the book's biggest strength was its originality in using magical artifacts of an unusual sort (I don't want to give it away entirely). If you are a fan of boarding school mysteries with a healthy heaping of dark magic then you'll most likely enjoy this book. It's a 6/10 for me but it would have been higher if the narrative thread had been a bit tighter.

 

I mean how could I have turned down this cover?!

 

Source: Amazon

 

What's Up Next: Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet

 

What I'm Currently Reading: The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-07-20 22:34
Too Good to Be True - Ann Cleeves,Kenny Blyth,Macmillan Digital Audio
Why did I read it? I have listened to most of the Shetland series, so, naturally, I was interested in this short, crime story featuring Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez.
 
What's it about? Jimmy's ex-wife, Sarah, asks him to come to the borders, to Stonebridge, where the local teacher has died. Although the police think Anna committed suicide, rumours have it that Sarah's husband, the good doctor was Anna's lover and he murdered her. Jimmy just wants to get home to Shetland; instead he reluctantly agrees to look into the matter because Sarah is so distressed.
 
What did I like? Well, the audio recording was clear, and without error. Kenny Blyth did an excellent job as narrator. A very short listen, with quick character development of both the people, and the village of Stonebridge. Jimmy is very much on his own on this one, and that makes a nice change. He also seems a little sharper in this story.
 
I did like the shorter chapters, and the writing seemed tighter in this story, compared to the longer books. It was a pleasant way to pass a day's commute.
 
What didn't I like? Oh dear. One particular line gave the whole thing away, so there was no real revelation at the end. I'm wondering if this is becoming a habit with the author, as I found the same thing in the last offering Cold Earth.
It wasn't the best crime storyline, if I'm honest, as the motive/reason for the teacher's death has been employed by many a crime writer, and it felt a little tired.
 
I did wonder if perhaps this was just an exploration of Jimmy's past, with a death thrown in, to set up some future book?
 
Would I recommend it? If you a reader of the Shetland series, then, yes.
 
If you're a fan of crime fiction, have read widely in the genre, and haven't read any of Ann Cleeves's other books, then don't start with Too Good To Be True, as it's not her best.
 
If you've not read much crime fiction before, would consider yourself a bit squeamish (no graphic descriptions here), and are thinking of a quick dip into the genre, then you may enjoy Too Good To Be True, as it certainly doesn't require knowledge of the other books in the series

 

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