Books/book review/fiction
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Cultivating What?

The Farm Book Cover The Farm
Joanne Ramos
General Fiction (Adult) , Literary Fiction
Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ)
07 May 2019

THE MUST-READ DEBUT NOVEL OF 2019. Sharp, compulsive and darkly funny, this is an unforgettable novel about a world within touching distance of our own.

Ambitious businesswoman Mae Yu runs Golden Oaks – a luxury retreat transforming the fertility economy – where women get the very best of everything, so long as they play by the rules.

Jane is a young immigrant in search of a better future. Stuck living in a cramped dorm with her baby daughter and shrewd aunt Ate, she sees an unmissable chance to change her life. But at what cost?

A novel that explores the role of luck and merit, class, ambition and sacrifice, The Farm is an unforgettable story about how we live and who truly holds power.

A book that makes you think about your own moral code and just when you might be tempted to farm out a body! Yes, a body – perhaps your own body, or perhaps you might farm someone else’s?

And what would you be cultivating? Why a baby?

So The Handmaid’s Tale with a twist and actually something that is all too likely to be inexistence, and as it would be very secret, we would never know.

We all know that people use surrogate mothers when they can’t have babies for themselves – male couples for instance, or perhaps when they can’t carry a child themselves due to illness or…

But the premise in this book is that the uber-rich may want to use surrogates for other reasons. Perhaps they are too old have a child, perhaps they are too busy, or perhaps they just don’t want to ‘spoil’ their figures? Or just go through the grind of pregnancy?

And how to choose your surrogate? What would motivate them? There are good reasons why in the UK you cannot pay the surrogate expect for reasonable expenses, and also, even with a contract, the child is still the ‘property’ of the person who carries it through pregnancy. In Australia the law prevents commercial surrogacy, and this is the case in most countries. In some even altruistic surrogacy is banned, eg France and Germany; but in the US it is decided by the State. States generally considered to be surrogacy friendly include California, Illinois, Arkansas, Maryland, Washington D.C., Oregon and New Hampshire among others. Both New Hampshire and Washington State have laws permitting commercial surrogacy from 1/1/2019.

So a very timely book on a subject that is very controversial still. Well written and one that I couldn’t put down – I wanted to know what happened to the young women who contracted out their bodies for pregnancy and still think that Jane was badly treated despite what she thought!

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Why being Born is important: the author explains

Born of Nothing Book Cover Born of Nothing
(The Fae Games #4)
Jill Ramsower
Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Jill Ramsower
Publication date: March 5th 2019

It was over before it began. A druid woman and a Fae man—we were two people from different worlds, only by chance did our paths happen to cross. He was beautiful and damaged and totally captivating. If only I could have continued to buy into the propaganda of fear and hate my people had taught me about the Fae, then maybe I would have believed him to be the savage he appeared to be. Instead, I offered the cryptic man my help. The time I spent with him allowed me to see the man he was behind the chiseled, formal exterior. What developed between us was tender, intimate, and totally unexpected. My druid family was not as enlightened as I was. My mom didn’t want me near the Fae; she certainly never would have understood that I had developed feelings for a Fae man. I tried to keep my private life a secret. I tried to keep the peace, but my mother’s threats and intolerance left me with no choice. I had to make the hardest decision of my life. I had to leave the only family I’d ever known. I just never imagined what I’d face when I didn’t make it out in time…

Questions for Authors:

  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 Fae Games Series encompasses a number of genres. The duet that started the series is more traditional Fantasy Romance, however, each spin-off evolved into its own story. When I began to write Ashley and Cat’s books, I wanted to be true to their characters rather than write a story that “fit” in the exact same style as the first two books. That makes my series a bit tricky to categorize because the books vary as the series progresses. Cat’s story in Born of Nothing is substantially more emotional than the other books while her love story is more tender and sweeter than Rebecca and Ashley’s. Similarly, the same action-packed adventure would not have befitted Cat as it did the other ladies. I think this makes my books somewhat unusual because most series tend to stick to a certain formula. Fortunately, as an indie author, I have the freedom to dictate my own path, and I love how the series has unfolded.

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

I haven’t been at this long, but so far, I tend to focus on one story at a time. I do have a collection of story ideas set aside, but I only delve into an idea once I’ve decided on it as my next project. I thrive on organization. Developing multiple storylines at once sounds entirely too chaotic for my taste. I spend a couple weeks developing a story, then a couple more fleshing out the outline and researching. Born of Nothing came together faster than any of my other books; it practically wrote itself. I had the book fully outlined in about a week! I’ve started outlining the next book, but its plot is more complex, and the outline process is taking substantially more time.

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

I don’t have any experience with acquiring an agent or traditional publishing, so I can’t speak on that endeavour. However, I’ve quickly become well-versed at self-publishing. What I would tell a new author is to enter publishing like you would any other business—come with start-up capital. There are so many options out there for readers, you will have to spend money to get your work in front of those readers (not to mention production costs). I’ve been extremely fortunate that at six months from publishing my first book, I am covering my expenses—that is to say, I’m breaking even. While money is coming in, it’s not going in my pocket. AMS sponsored product ads are crucial in my experience, and I would recommend keeping your prices low to encourage sales, which boosts your rank (helps your placement in Amazon algorithms). There’s so much involved in publishing, it’s definitely an art in itself.

  • What do you read when you are ill in bed? What is your favourite genre?

I love all things romance. I often quit reading a book if there’s no obvious romantic thread. I’ll read historical, contemporary, new adult, erotica, paranormal… However, I’m not a fan of insta-love or super sweet romance. I love a bad boy, anti-hero and complexity to my characters.

  • What have you done with the things you wrote when in school?

I had no aspirations of writing earlier in life, so I have no secret manuscripts tucked away from school. That would be nice, but no. My parents were stunned when I called to tell them I’d written a book and planned to publish it myself. At 40, I did an about-face and changed careers from university contract attorney to romance author—who would have thought?!

  • Do you have any pets?
    • If so, what are they?
    • And what are they called?
    • Do they help you write?
    • What is the funniest thing they have done while you are writing?
    • Do you want to add a photo of them to this Q&A?

Golden Retriever—Joker

German Shepherd/Poodle mutt—Harley

Siamese cat brothers—Batman and Robin

(pics below and thanks for having me!!)

The picture below is Joker. He’s a giant baby, always in need of attention—he even carries around whatever he can fit in his mouth like an offering. Look what I have brought you, please love me.


Calico cat—Willow (she’s short so we named her after the movie Willow)

This is Robin, my momma’s boy. He is super affectionate and often interrupts my work for cuddles.

Author Details

Jill is a Texan, born and raised. She manages the hectic social calendars for her three active children and occasionally spends an evening with her dashing husband. Aside from being an author and a mom, she’s an attorney, travel junkie, and voracious reader.

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18150241.Jill_Ramsowerh

https://twitter.com/JRamsowerr

https://www.facebook.com/jillramsowerauthor/

https://www.jillramsower.com/

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Books/book review/Fantasy/Romance
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Find the Prince

Lincoln Book Cover Lincoln
AngelBound
Christina Bauer
contemporary fiction, romance, fantasy, angels, demons
Monster House books
26 Feb 2019

When it comes to fighting demons, Prince Lincoln is the greatest warrior in the history of his people, the thrax. Now Lincoln faces his hardest fight yet...and it's not on a traditional battlefield. Lincoln is falling in love. And the girl is part demon. Between a fated dance at the Ryder mansion...a life-changing walk through a hedgerow maze...and a massive battle with none other than the King of Hell...Lincoln realizes that he wants to share his life with Myla Lewis, the part-demon girl who has captured his heart. However, an evil thrax noble--the powerful Earl of Acca--is prepared to do anything to stop Lincoln and Myla from having a future.

I am very fond of this version of world building and love the idea of demons getting loose and causing illnesses etc – but being invisible to the human eye. And that the Thrax and others like human ice-cream and films. The Ghouls are creepy and the monsters are very imaginative. Don’t read these books if you get nightmares as they will inhabit them!
I have now read all the books so far published in the series and found them enjoyable, but I thought that of all of them Armageddon was rather slow in tension building.
The story of Lincoln finally comes out now – his background and how he courted Myla from his perspective and then we learn about how Maxon got his night terrors in Armageddon.
Better to have read Armageddon before Maxon but this author does not produce books in chronological order so a bit tricky…
However, if you can manage to sort out the storyline in your own mind, then do read the books as they are published.

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I ended very cheerful

Reasons to be cheerful Book Cover Reasons to be cheerful
Nina Stibbe
humour, romance, coming of age
Penguin
(28 Mar. 2019)

'When people in the village heard I was about to start working in the city they tried to unsettle me with tales of woe. The sun, blotted out by the tall buildings, couldn't shine and the rain was poisoned by the toxic fumes that poured from the sock factories. My skin would be covered in pimples from the hell of it all'

So begins a young woman's journey to adulthood. Lizzie Vogel leaves her alcoholic, novel-writing mother and heads for Leicester to work for a racist, barely competent dentist obsessed with joining the freemasons.

Soon Lizzie is heading reluctantly, if at top speed, into the murky depths of adult life: where her driving instructor becomes her best friend; her first boyfriend prefers birdwatching to sex and where independence for a teenage girl might just be another word for loneliness.

In Reasons to Be Cheerful Nina Stibbe shows her extraordinary gift for illuminating the vital details which make us human. She is that rare writer who makes us laugh whilst reminding us of the joy, and the pain, of being alive.

 A story that crept up on me until the life of our heroine Lizzie became so bizarre that I just had to keep on reading. Her mother, her family, friends and in particular her work at the dentist’s – JP Wintergreen -, became part of my fantasy life and dreams too. The discussions were absurd and yet, somehow resonated of the time.

Her mother was described as being a:

Drunk; divorcee; nudist; amphetamine addict; nymphomaniac; shop lifter; would-be novelist; poet; and playwright.

In that order.

And her boyfriend was clearly asexual or gay, she assumed, because he liked having freshly laundered clothes, made fruit salads, and once experimented with lemon in his tea. And most importantly of all, never got his penis out, despite her belief that it was often intended as a compliment.

We never really find out just how many pregnancies Lizzie’s mother had, or affairs, but we do realise, that due to her addictions, as a child, Lizzie and her elder siblings, more or less raised themselves in a rather eccentric and liberal household.

The oddities of Lizzie’s family and her work  and romances, are recounted in such a dry manner that I found it difficult not to become enthusiastic over the life of this town and want now to meet them all in real life please!

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In Which Nick isn’t Trapped

Trapped Book Cover Trapped
Nick Louth
murder, mystery, police, thriller
Canelo
28th January 2019

Two desperate criminals. Something she never saw coming. A searing suspense thriller from bestselling author Nick Louth

In Manchester, two hardened gang members on the run take Catherine Blake and her one-year-old son hostage at gunpoint. She is in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Held in a Transit van, Catherine needs a plan fast. But it means diving into her captors’ risk-drenched world, and playing them at their own game.

Catherine has been through cancer, miscarriages and five draining years of IVF in order to have her son Ethan. He is the most precious thing in the world. She may be terrified out of her wits, but she’d do anything to protect him. Anything, no matter the cost...

Brace yourself.

A nerve-shredding suspense thriller you won’t believe until you have experienced it yourself, Trapped is perfect for fans of Cara Hunter, JP Delaney and Rachel Abbott.

Author Interview with Nick Louth

The book ideas I get flow most strongly in the time when I’m just waking up and I lie in bed turning them over in my mind. Sometimes the ideas come very quickly, almost tumbling over themselves in their hurry to emerge, but sometimes it takes a lot longer for me to see how they would work. For example, I have just been devising a piece of misdirection for a future DCI Gillard crime thriller, one that will send detectives and hopefully the reader in and entirely wrong direction when looking for the murder victim. The course is particularly challenging when the title of my books offers a clue: The Body in the Marsh, The Body on the Shore and so on. This particular idea I’ve been working on in the back of my mind for two or three days, and I’ve yet to write down any part of it. But it’s still there ticking over, like an engine kept warm.

I do write notes, I have a notebook that I have with me at all times, and if it’s an inspiring name for a character, or a place, I need to write it down quickly. But the big concepts, the reversals, the misdirection, ideas that give the book a ‘bang’ I tend not forget.

In the case of Trapped, the basic story on the idea for its creative tension came to me all in one go. It’s the contrast between black and white, not just the evil of the gangsters and the goodness, or at least the normality of Catherine the hostage, it’s a bit extra. I wanted to contrast two ways of living a life. Our heroine is an extraordinarily risk averse woman, who plans everything in her life, even more so now she has been blessed with the child that she took so very long to conceive. For her, nothing is left to chance. But the gangsters are seemingly driven by impulse. They plan very little, certainly not far ahead, and rely on quick reactions drive and energy to live the life they want. I really wanted to smash together these two life philosophies, and pack them into the smallest possible space to see what would happen. That space is the back of a dirty, smelly transit van, surrounded by armed police. Total claustrophobia. For a long time I thought that would be enough, straight story that would have the reader on the edge of her seat, particularly given an innocent one-year-old child was in danger. I had written the book thus far almost 8 months before I got the idea for a very strong twist. I’m particularly proud that I was able to pack in to what is a bit particularly short novel all the action and a series of shocking twists.

I’m a journalist by training, and meticulous research underlies everything I do. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to make contact with a retired senior detective with extensive experience from drugs, murder, Special Branch work and undercover operation, plus a government forensic scientist who has allowed me to come with him to an occasional murder trial. I’m also fortunate to have a very senior criminal defence lawyer who has helped me extensively with work on my next book The Body in the Mist. The role of research isn’t to dump on the page everything you have learned, rather it is to convince the reader that you know what you’re talking about. Approaching those in authority is something I’ve done for many years as a journalist so it doesn’t make me nervous or intimidate me. However that doesn’t mean to say that I was good positive response. PR people for police forces or corporations, for example, often need quite a lot of handholding before they know what it is you really trying to get from them. But others fall into your hands, so delighted are they to be involved in the process of creating fiction.

I have been rejected countless times by many literary agents, amazingly even after I had a number one UK bestseller the previous year. I sometimes struggle to find what it is that agents are looking for, but feel I have a better rapport with publishers. In the case of Canelo, I was lucky enough that they approached me after a former agent of mine, now a non-fiction publisher, recommended me to them.

Author Name: Nick Louth

Previous Books: The Body in the Marsh, The Body on the Shore and Heartbreaker

Genre: Thriller

Links to Book:

Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

Author Bio:

Nick Louth is a best-selling thriller writer, award-winning financial journalist and an investment commentator. A 1979 graduate of the London School of Economics, he went on to become a Reuters foreign correspondent in 1987. It was an experience at a medical conference in Amsterdam in 1992, while working for Reuters, that gave him the inspiration for Bite, which was self-published in 2007 and went on to become the UK No. 1 Kindle best-seller for several weeks in 2014 before being snapped up by Sphere. It has sold a third of a million copies, and been translated into six languages.

The terrorism thriller Heartbreaker was published in June 2014 and received critical acclaim from Amazon readers, with a 4.6 out of 5 stars on over 100 reviews. Mirror Mirror, subtitled  ‘When evil and beauty collide’ was published in June 2016. The Body in the Marsh, a crime thriller, is being published by Canelo in September 2017. 

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