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Hubble, Bubble, Boil and Trouble

I was recently invited by NetGalley to review a book by Susan Boyer called Lowcountry Boneyard.

I read half the first chapter and realised that if I really wanted to understand the character’s motivations, reading book 1 was required, plus the reviews of book 1 were excellent and book 3 started well so off I went and bought book 1. Not a bad result for Susan!

Anyway, this is my review of book 1 which is called Lowcountry Boil.

Now what the title meant was interesting so I did some research. The area we are looking at geographically is the Charleston Low Country – ie the river delta and the offshore islands – of which there are several that appear in this book under pseudonyms. Not knowing the area at all I assume that we are reading something approaching reality and certainly from what I hear, the Charleston area is boiling hot in the summer so that is one possible meaning for the title. The barrier islands  vary in size and capability to support homes, many are just beaches and others are nature parks. The main islands seem to be: James Islands. Johns Island, Sullivans Island, Kiawah Island, and the Isle of Palms.

charlesislands

The unknown to me food I discovered when I read the book – the Lowcountry Boil is a speciality of the Islands called in the book ‘Stella Maris’ or Star of the Sea. According to http://charlestongateway.com/lowcountry-boil/ the boil was created by Richard Gay, of Frogmore, S.C., this one-pot wonder was used when this resourceful cook, a National Guardsman, needed to prepare a meal for 100 soldiers. This is a real mixture of ingredients according to the book and includes a combination of boiled smoked sausage, potatoes, corn and shrimp; seasoned with seafood boiled and cooked in a big pot. Crab, onion and butter are frequent additions. Ideally all the fresh summer ingredients of the area.

The other food specialities mentioned in the book include fried chicken, cabbage and collards, lima beans, okra soup and corn bread. This type of food is called Soul food or Gullah food. Gullahs being the slaves from West Africa who worked in the plantations and later settled in the Charleston low country. But all very fattening indeed…

The book has all the usual motivations for murder and corruption including:

  • Greed
  • Hate/love
  • Envy
  • Disappointment

There are several murders. Some blackmail. Lots of hidden motivations and secrets. A veritable boiling cauldron of seething emotions.

Great fun and 4 stars for sure..

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Keeping You Safe: Away from Harm?

A Review of No Other Darkness by Sarah Hilary: a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘keeping you safe’. Net galley review. 4.5 stars.

Keeps you wondering just what can happen next. Some notes about Post Partum Depression (PPD) follows – don’t read this if you are pregnant

  • For the mother, PPD may result in sleep disturbance, feelings of worthlessness, diminished concentration, recurrent thoughts of self-harm. Mothers with PPD can become withdrawn, socially isolated, and have difficulty caring for themselves and their children. Severe cases may feel helpless, despair and shame, even leading to suicide attempts.
  • The PPD can exacerbate her social isolation (which may also have contributed to its development in the first place). The birth of a child often entails leaving work, narrowing the mother’s social network.
  • Postpartum depression can also significantly strain relationships within the family, and is associated with the father developing a depression or other psychiatric problems (Condon, J. Australian Family Physician 2006;35(9):690).
  • http://www.med.uottawa.ca/sim/data/Depression_postpartum_e.htm
  • No one single cause of PPD has been identified; a number of biological (e.g., hormonal changes), social and psychological factors have been implicated. Plausibly social, psychological and biological factors need to be linked in a causal chain.
  • Puerperal psychosis is more severe and involves fluctuating extremes of elation and depression with delusions and hallucinations. This rare condition may affect about .01% and requires extensive medical intervention.

Looking at the issues highlighted in this book and the evidence presented about the mother it is clear that this is not a normal case of post partum depression but rather puerperal psychosis. (I checked this with my handy clinical psychologist just to be sure that I was identifying everything correctly.) Puerperal psychosis can be associated with late onset bi-polar and in this book we see a dissociative personality split – the before and after of the behaviour and person. We also see a mother who is unable to set and keep to appropriate boundaries.

One major issue highlighted in this book is the lack of support for the husband who does not reach out himself. Whilst there are a number of online support groups for the husbands of wives suffering from PPD there seems to be little intervention from health care officials for these husbands. Additionally, most of the internet support groups are aimed at wives whose husbands are not sufficiently supportive. Many husbands do not know how to be supportive of their wives.

What happens though to the self-worth and emotional and mental health of a husband whose wife actually kills a child /children through PPD is seems to have very little written about. They are survivors and must suffer survivor guilt as well as the guilt that comes from not keeping their children safe from their wives. The depression must be severe and the over-compensation if they start a new family must be expected though as in this case, if this mental over-compensation – obsession is not dealt with then it can in itself turn into a form of mental illness with associated problems as is shown in this book.

The book threw up for me a lot of points – I shall write about the Thames and what lies under London in a different blog as it would take too many words to add to this review. But the book really gave me a lot to think and ponder about and to look into. One of my childhood-friend’s sister had PPD and was hospitalised with both children she bore, which must have been devastating for the family I now realise though at the time she was somewhat older than me, although living still in the same road – presumably now to keep close to her parents to look after the children whilst she was away.

This book raises so many good points that perhaps there is too much to think about? But it all links in so well and fits like a glove in the story which is told in such a way that the true horror only hits you part of the way through when you read the characters’ stories. Overall a well crafted novel and I look forward to reading more in this series.

 

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Springing through childhood

Springfield Road by Salena Godden

This unlike most of the books I read was not only non-fiction but also a memoir/autobiography written not by someone famous, or at least not very famous even though they do perform. In most ways this was a memoir about the childhood of what appears at first instance to be an ordinary girl. It is based largely around her memories of a house she lived in – in Springfield Road – hence the title.

She is the daughter of a quite famous white jazz musician who played with most of the bands and stars of his era and a black dancer – a go-go dancer at the time of their marriage.

salena1 salenagodden_8

She therefore has a mixed heritage, although it was her mother’s family who had most impact on her.

Her father deserted her mother when she was quite small – he was fairly typical I suppose of musicians of that time who were promiscuous and in many ways it is more surprising that he actually married her mother than that he left and had many affairs.

Salena now has a career as a poet and musician herself and her poetry often came through in this book as much of the text was quite lyrical. However, as this book was published by Unbound publishers – a sort of cloud-funding site for publication there was insufficient editing and this book needed a stronger line of story. It jumped around rather too much and was confusing. The first chapters were also off-putting and you needed to read well into the book to want to continue. Once you did, you got fascinated by, what for me, was not reminiscent of my childhood and foreign to me as I lived in a very different area of the country – a ‘safe’ London suburb where we ran riot in our cul-de-sac and each other’s houses. Another difference is that she was always looking for her father, and believed as a child, he would come home to her soon. As a child I lost my mother to an illness and so knew she never come home to me.

Memory of childhood is often patchy and yet Salena’s seemed very strong indeed and you just wonder how much was filled in by guess or desire when memory missed. Certainly her family helped her a lot, but again our memories are skewed by what we want to believe. Can we really remember everything? Especially what it was like to be a child? The racial issues that she would have encountered then must have been ones that remained strong in her memory though as such a mixed marriage was rather uncommon in the 1970s though it was becoming more common it’s true.

I was given the opportunity to read this book through the website for women called forbookssake which specialises in encouraging female authors.

Salena says about her book:

Springfield Road is a journey into childhood. My childhood, maybe your childhood too. I set out to capture a snapshot of the seventies, a world without health and safety, a time of halfpenny sweets, fish and chips in newspaper, cassette tapes of the Sunday night top ten, scrumping apples and foraging for conkers, through the eyes of my child self.

It is the memoir of our family home on Springfield Road in Hastings, but it is also a memoir of the journey I took writing this book. These are my memories of my attempts to understand the beauty, the brutality and the contradictions of the adult world; why my Irish jazz musician father mysteriously disappeared from our lives; how my mother’s transitions from her Jamaican girlhood to her teenage dreams to represent Britain in the Olympics, to her life as a go-go dancer and then single-parenthood affected us all. It’s about discovering that life is unfair and that parents die. Its also about seeking the good in the world, the humour and the tenderness, this book is not a misery memoir.

Springfield Road is peppered with daydreams, a poetic and universal child’s eye view from the cracks in the pavement to the faces in the clouds. This book is a salute to every curly-top, scabby knee’d, mixed-up, half-crazy kid out there. We had afros, we had free school dinners and hand-me-downs.

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Belated Festive Tales

Book Review of Kiss of Christmas Magic: 20 Paranormal Holiday Tales of Werewolves, Shifters, Vampires, Elves, Witches, Dragons, Fey, Ghosts, and More

I actually ‘bought’ this book just after Xmas for the grand sum of 99p which I thought was good value for 20 books – even if some were very short. The book is now no longer available on Amazon as it was intended for a specific time period and snow! Well, we didn’t have that snow here in the UK at Xmas – it came later in January and never was it anything like as deep and cold as it was in the vast majority of these books. However, the lure of xmas and fairy lights and mountains and countries where we get the Xmas card scenery proved irresistible and so I persuaded myself to buy it. Also it has  a range of fantasy ideas in it, some of which were new variations on the theme.

snowy mountain

I shall list all the titles and authors here but not review all 20 books! That would take far too long. I shall just comment on a few that I liked best. But I shall claim 20 in my GoodReads count as I have been informed that novellas count as a book and when does a novella become a novel? Anyone got a cut-off? Is it words or pages? And how long is a page on an e-Reader anyway?

  1. Caribou’s Gift by Eve Langlais

Part of the Kodiak Point series. The caribou shifter  is persuaded to act as Rudolph in the annual Xmas parade because he has the biggest set of antlers (aka rack). And other reasons too of course including romance.

  1. Hunted Holiday: A Vampire Romance by Mandy M. Roth

This is about Paranormal police work in Chicago. The ‘slayer’ is in love with her Vampire boss.

  1. Lost in Winter by Viola Rivard,

As the name indicates – someone lost in the mountains in really bad weather and how they were rescued.

  1. Kissed by Temptation by Deanna Chase,

The Coven Pointe Universe. A sex witch! Witch is partnered with an incubus but both are good and are charged with protecting an angel-to-be.

A sex witch obtains her magic by copulation – and their pheromones spill over to the people around them!

  1. Bear Witness: Pearson Security #1 by Michele Bardsley

Alpha male protects woman and baby from baddy. Classic tale.

  1. A Heart in Winter by VM Black

Vampire wants a human. Human loves her husband. Human falls ill. Can she resist vampire when he offers a cure – but one that means she has to reject her family?

  1. Alpha’s First Christmas by Aubrey Rose and Molly Prince

Wolf shifters who are the runts of the litter form a pack and although poor need to find a way to band together through a celebration.

  1. Witches Shall Rise by Terah Edun

Sarah Web series. Witches and a small town inhabited by fae and witches as well as humans and other magical species. Town ruled by a witch and a teenager with unusual magical powers.

  1. A Christmas to Bear by Carina Wilder

Polar Bear shifter! In N. America’s snowy mountains. Rescues maiden and falls in love.

  1. Shadows beneath the Falling Snow by Cristina Rayne

Elven king prequel.

  1. Home for the Howlidays

Wolf shifters. Familial disagreements. Lovers’ quarrels etc.

  1. Everlastingly by Michelle M Pillow

Snowy mountains again. Ghosts and time re-cycling.

  1. Hunter’s Moon by Shawntelle Madison

Wolf pack – werewolves and their hunters. And unusual and unexpected emotions.

  1. A Ghostly gift by Angie Fox

Just shows what a mistake can lead to – a whole new life and career.

  1. Love Singer by Mimi Strong

World of the faes and special abilities and just what they can be used for rather unexpectedly.

  1. Lord of Misrule by JS Hope

(Vol 1) Reporters . Venice. Saturnalia and its real original meaning?

  1. Blood Deep: Vegas Vampires Book 1 by Jessa Slade

Fae courts and the Iron’ age that fae so dislike mean that fae cannot move into the human world. Yet a vampire may be able to help them. Reluctantly. Conspiracy theorists and human reporters.

  1. A Cold Winter’s Bite by Dawn Michelle

Hunting in the winter – just what do they hunt? And what do they then do with the prey? And who are they anyway?

  1. Dangerous Distraction by Lola St Vil

Part of  the Guardians series. Fallen angels and hearts encased in crystal. Angels that hunt those who have fallen.

  1. Breaking the Stag by Jessica Ryan

Elk shifters and herds and behaving like an animal.

Well we have some new Shape Shifters in amongst these books. We have an elk herd – who behave just like all elk and seem to have forgotten that they are part human. They have sex in human form but only at rutting season – there’s a new one – and don’t have long term mates. They operate exactly like elk in that the males keep together in a bachelor herd and the females together rear the young. The males fight other elks in the elk way with antlers and use the female herd as a harem mating with several at once and spreading their genes about. However, due probably to a lack of new genetic material, the number of youngster being born has dropped very low indeed. Which may encourage the elk-like behaviour – in the eyes of the males anyway. And as the females can only conceive once a year…

We also have caribou shifters and very new one on me – a polar bear shifter – who has difficulty in finding another shifter in the same form – especially as he is not living in the normal polar bear environment! He is very surly as well he might be, being very lonely and somewhat shunned by shifters in other forms.

We have several bear shifters – who tend to be very hairy when in human form – ughh – long beards and hairy chests etc -vampires and wolves of course and a rabbit shifter who actually teams up with the wolves to help them with a problem. Very timid female shifter as you might imagine, especially when meeting wolves!

 

 

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Crack that fire: Load that ticket!

Firecracker

by Gar Anthony Haywood

A Review for Netgalley

This was a really interesting story with many twists and turns and even though all the references to ‘tight ends’ and other American Football terms passed me by I understood enough to know that people who can throw far are of value just as are people who battle their way out of scrums or run very fast.

It also brought home the ‘rapper’ life style that so many young men aspire to. The pretence of being really tough. The need to wear baseball caps on backwards. The need to wear certain clothes and be tattooed and so on, that seems to signify success to those who have used their body rather than their brains to escape poverty. And how easy it therefore is to scam these people and to bully them and encourage them to spend way above their means when they really don’t understand the value of saving as they have never before had any money to save let alone spend. We hear so often of these football stars ending up broke as their managers failed to invest wisely, sometimes because it was deliberate as a way to line their own pockets, or sometimes because the people in charge of the money are not capable – through lack of education for instance. Many of these suddenly immensely rich young men spend all their money on entertaining their friends from their old home areas as well which doesn’t help matters.

In this story we have the conflict between a young man who carelessly impregnates several women and pays his way out of trouble. But he then encounters a savvy young women who, whilst she unfortunately also falls pregnant, knows better and can manage against the odds to make things work in her favour.

Las Vegas and gambling and bodyguards with heart and faith are part of the story too as well as very nasty young man who is a wannabe ‘gangsta’ but plays the part with gusto.

A good story that kept me interested until the end.

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