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Scream Girl Scream

Susannah Screaming by Carolyn Weston

A Netgalley Review

The book from which the TV programme and film ‘Streets of San Francisco’ was derived

I find it interesting that really apart from the occasional mention of triplicate copies and typewriters, how easily this book translates into a modern story. Well crafted stories can stand the test of time, and this is well crafted.

It is a police procedural set, obviously, in San Francisco, around the 1960s with the Haight Ashbury area just setting up shop and parties that take place in strangely decorated homes with funny cigarettes and a distinct lack of forensics – apart from Haight-Ashbury_street,_San_Franciscofingerprints and maybe saliva.

We have the now, common, police partners with different personalities and reactions to crime and criminal behaviours.

We have corruption, bullying and some drugs and guns of course, this being the USA. And little understanding of the hippy scene with its tolerances for what was then considered deviant behaviours by the police and other members of society. Much of it centred around the art and music world. And those wannabes who wanted to be part of this hip world but just a little too old and thus considered as not quite one of the scene.

As a well written story I must give it four and if it had been written today I would have given it more for getting the atmosphere of those times right! However, as it was actually written in this era it certainly echoed the sentiments and is worth reading as somewhat of a classic police procedural that set the target for those that followed.

 

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Sailing the High Seas on a Queen

On our recent trip to New York and Boston, we travelled  back across the Atlantic on the Grand Circle route – with the Queen Mary II.P1030499

Amazing how you can lose 3500 thousand or so people on a ship such that, except for lunch in the buffet or sitting in the theatre listening to a lecture, it appears (relatively) quiet. With nearly always a place to sit..but limited outlets for your phone or computer. There was a lot of entertainment including lectures, a knitting club, cinema and daily fitness classes plus a mile walk after breakfast round the deck. Think a Warners for adults heritage hotel (see the Art Deco interiors) but bigger with very few children and fewer electric scooters. Though I do confess, I ended up borrowing one of their wheelchairs as the distances were very long when you traversed from end to end in  search of the library at one end and the pool at another and so on…

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OUr cabin was initially a challange for the three of us bearing in mind that our daughter slept on a put-u-up sofa –  but enough space – just – needed to be kept tidy, though surprisingly, there were more wardrobes and crucially, more hangers than we had been offered at either hotel which was why we had kept all the hangers that had come back with our washing.

We had a full balcony – not obscured in any way but we never managed to sit on it, despite the three chairs – as the weather was never good enough. We were later told that we should have opted for a window room as this was the same size as the ones with balcony included.. things you learn.

Look how long a corridor was – from end to end of the Queen.

Whilst on board we opted for the Asian Tasting menu on one night which was pretty good and they did manage – just – to rustle up some tofu fror me though clearly this was a challenge for them.

Would we do it again?

Well, it was our first real long distance boat trip – as going up and down the Nile didn’t really count and we were only 60 people that time – and the answer is ‘no’. Not across the Atlantic as it got boring by the end of the trip – only one act in the theatre interested us, and we walked out of the one film that we hadn’t seen as it was so bad. I only once managed to grab a desk in the library – only about 8 of them – so failed to  write anything – the internet was extortionate and so we were out of circulation completely – which is both good and bad; and there are just so many books you can read, which is saying something from me as the weather was such we couldn’t outside much at all and so were stuck in the coffee bar – shame you cry – almost all the time.

Also, the shops stocked stuff we didn’t want to buy! So the only thing we came away with was a fridge magnet and a key ring. They totally failed to sell to us!

However, some – older – women mostly – loved it and not only travelled it both ways without getting off(!!) but also did it every year. Total luxury of course. Silver service for eating, with waiters changing three times a day and always immaculate and sparkling white; lots of staff and dedicated room stewards; and generally speaking everyone was friendly and helpful.

I think we will cruise again, but stick to the rivers – smaller boats and more to see out of the portholes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Classroom antics and Southern prejudice

Girl meets Class

by

Karin Gillespie

A Netgalley Review

 

Teaching in deprived areas is very much a challenge to a newly qualified teacher, and add to that, teaching those with educational difficulties and the challenge is doubled. How can I be sure this is true? Well. Because my first and second teaching posts were in areas that were far from middle-class, clean and salubrious. Rather I was teaching in schools where the children came from difficult home backgrounds.

I can justify this statement as in my second school I went on a training course so that I learnt to teach classes in baby and child-care to our many pregnant or new made mothers – it was a very popular class with regular attendance!

And in my first job I home tutored a young pregnant pupil, so young mothers were common in both areas – even though they were in different towns.

Additionally, in my first school I taught the class of pupils who needed life skills rather than history or geography. Lessons were about filling in forms and calculating change and making out shopping lists. And yes, I have been threatened by a pupil, who then went onto to punch the teacher who came to rescue me. So this story really resonated with my own experience- except that my experience was perhaps even more distressing – though the pupils’ homes I visited were largely in better condition.

In my second school, I found that the way to get the large lads reading was to provide them with comics. Today, I guess they would be the comic books that are popular or even computer games where they are required to read and type. Play to what interests them and also play games in class that are slyly educational whilst also being fun.

So, from the point of view of someone who has experienced the same situation, the book resonated.

Of course, teaching experience aside, the book is a light frothy chick read. With enough romance to satisfy.

What was however, disturbing, was the description of racial discrimination and prejudice that apparently still exists in Southern US States. To still have private clubs where black people are denied membership but are the majority of employees reinforces what we see on TV about the number of black males who are shot for no apparent reason other than their race and the fact that the police have guns available to them. To hear about the racial slurs that people in inter-racial relationships are called, and that they would be shunned by certain sections of the population was very distressing. It just reinforces our perceptions that Southern US can be a backward uncivilised area and somewhere you would not want to live. Weather aside of course – which would also be a real no-no.

So, is the book good? Well, there are some interesting social and cultural issues that are introduced in a light way but are there for us to notice – if we can. For this reason alone, I would recommend this book. But it is also a romance and a description of the coming of adulthood and adult behaviour of a spoiled child and adolescent with emotional difficulties and issues in relating to others. All of which are hidden in an easy flowing style and text.

So 4 stars for content and dealing with important issues within the story.

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Canaries out of work

The Major’s Faux Fiancée

by

Erica Ridley

A Netgalley review

This author is definitely the successor to Georgette Heyer in writing Regency romances but with a soupcon of sex.

There is a well portrayed female who takes up ‘causes’ but actually doesn’t quite understand the full consequences or the complete reasons behind the sad stories, but rather follows and champions those who shout the loudest eg about income tax.

Additionally she was naive about how to achieve successful societal change – not realising that you need power and influence. She knew that she, as a women writing letters, would not be considered so rather she gave herself male names to sign her letters. But a sheltered clergyman’s daughter of that time did not have a full education about politics and economics, and did not realise what was really needed – and this was brought out later in the story.

I would have appreciated a little explanation, for the uninformed reader, as why these issues had arisen. I knew some of them. For instance home weavers’ jobs had seriously declined due to the automation of weaving in mills, and that income tax had been needed to pay for the Napoleonic Wars. But what was the problem with the Davy Lamp? Other than that canaries were no longer required?

So off I trotted to the Internet to find out about the Davy Lamp.davy lamp

I knew that the Davy Lamp was used in coal mines to detect the presence of gases which could harm the miners. The gas that was detected  was methane and tended to occur in small pockets as the mines grew deeper.

The final design was very simple: a basic lamp with a wire gauze chimney enclosing the flame. The holes let light pass through, but the metal of the gauze absorbs the heat.  The lamp is safe to use because the flame can’t heat enough flammable gas to cause an explosion, although the flame itself will change colour. [http://www.rigb.org/our-history/iconic-objects/iconic-objects-list/davy-lamp]

Once the lamp was put into production, deaths in mining decreased dramatically, however, deeper mines could then be dug which increased the danger although but not as much as before. One can only assume that the complaints were coming from miners who had to then dig further into the mines, but the lamps were not faulty nor directly at fault.

There were also the protests about income tax.  This was a result of the changes that had been implemented in the late 18th century. Previously, tax was paid on land and everyone who had land whether gentry or tradespeople or innkeepers all [aid it. Additionally indirect tax was paid in the form of excise duties – custom duties we would think of them now or VAT. Household necessities such as salt, candles, soap etc were all taxed as were luxury items such as horses, silk, wines etc. These excise duties varied according to the need for money by the Govt and during the Napolenic wars of course, many items could not be shipped into the UK legally – hence the increase in smuggling during this period.

With the coming of war and the ideas of Adam Smith, taxes were rationalised and new taxes introduced. There was some protest but as corruption was also dealt with revenue for the Govt increased until 1793 when the first Napoleonic war started. To pay for this war higher taxes were required. An inheritance tax and an income tax were introduced and were very unpopular as you can imagine. It was considered intrusive and impolite to know what people were earning – and it is still not something people in Britain are happy to share with others – but after a time it was realised that the war needed financing and it became a sign of support and patriotic duty to pay the taxes.

I give this 3 stars with the potential for 4 r even 5 if these real historical issues are properly discussed rather than alluded to and requiring the reader to enquire further.

 

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Time Travel Romances: adding an element of je ne sais quoi?

Time Travel Romances: The Big  Book of time travel romances with 9 authors.

Sarah Woodbury: After Cilmeri series

Well who doesn’t love a good romance and add in an element of a different time in order that a hunky hero can be extracted from that time – see Outlander’s popularity both as a book series and TV series – and the scene is set…

Yes, I am great Outlander fan and am still working my way through Season 1 on the TV – not quite as I remember the books but I’ll forgive them. Interesting choice of actors for the leads – Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan  – clearly not going for well known though they use the more well-known in smaller parts. I am not really sure about all the muscles on Sam but that just emphasises what is expected of a time travel hero. He has in fact ousted David Tennant – who is perhaps more the thinking woman’s hero style? – as the top actor for women – the heartthrob of the moment. The good thing about these 2 actors is that Sam is genuinely Scottish and so the accent is good and also they actually use Scotland and Culloden Moor and so on for the settings. Expect to get a lot more tourists following their story from Inverness  to castles to moors..

So I bought a collection of books all about time travel and haven’t yet got further than the first book in the collection. That is because the first book lured me into buying 9 more! Yes 9 books in this series – about Wales in the medieval period and the book in the collection was a prequel. I was actually very glad that I came across the prequel first as it set the scene very well indeed.  Again, I am sure it will encourage tourists and vote this series as the next to be televised after Outlander – has a wonderful storyline that even brings in Arthurian legend so ideal TV fodder.

This series of books by Sarah Woodbury about Wales in the time of Edward I of England – 1239-1307, posits an alternative history. Remember that at this time the Barons were rather feisty and were forever in rebellion against their king(s) as they wanted more power over their lands, less taxes, and more land generally.  Wales at this time was not easy under an English king and there were 2 rebellions – 1276 and 1282. The second rebellion led to Wales being completely conquered by the English, the building of some very fancy castles and English people being settled into new towns and villages to ‘subdue’ any further ideas that Wales could be different. The Welsh language declined in use as a result and the English heir to the throne became the Prince of Wales and received the monies and land etc from this Principality which was then recognised as a separate entity with its own laws.Carreg_Cennen_Cast_2622615b cardiff

Many of the issues that bedevilled the English throne came from the Marcher  Lords – these were Anglo-Norman  nobles appointed to guard the Welsh borders with a strong sense of their own independence from the English Crown.  The Earls of Chester, Gloucester, Hereford, Pembroke and Shrewsbury were the Marcher lords. They were originally established as earldoms after the Norman Conquest with a great rights and privileges that other nobles did not possess. Marcher lords were tricksy – they often deceived and spoke carefully, letting few actually know their ral intent – Machiavelli would have approved. Their overall intent to increase their power – even down to trying to take the English (or Scottish) crown if they could. Alliances were fluid and each mman considered themselves first even before family. Counsins fought each other and brothers too, sons and fathers were often on different sides. Sometimes even the women joined in and raised armies – which of course, they then had to find a man to lead as there was very little real power for women at this time. The Marches – or borders of Wales were effectively a frontier country with violence an everyday occurrence – the Welsh, as with the Scots, did not want to be governed by the English and made their feelings known.

So these books imagine we are back in the time of Llywelyn ap Gruffiudd who was the prince of Gwynedd the major last remaining territory in Wales. A number of people appear to have a genetic predisposition to time travel   ie it runs in families, and travel to and fro the modern world, beginning with Meg, and the world of Llywelyn.   The prequel story stops just before the what-if history starts with Llywelyn about to have a change in his future which will impact the future of Wales and England and in due course, even Scotland.

The strength of these stories are three fold. 1. They are set in medieval romantic Wales 1284Wales, with, as far as I can tell, accurate descriptions of life as it would have been there, and set in the wonderful countryside of Wales, damp and rainy notwithstanding; 2. Each chapter is told through the eyes of a different character, and as you progress through the books, each book relates the story of a different pair of characters and their interactions with the others; and finally 3. The historical events are real but set within the story and therefore with a twist. There were Welsh rebellions, but in our world they failed, in theirs they don’t; in our world the king was always Edward and he was asked to ‘interfere’ or intervene in the Scottish succession, in their world it was David but still the King of England who intervened.

Do I recommend them? Of course… after all I have spent a lot of money in buying all 9 books…

However, having looked at the abstracts from the author’s other books, I shall leave her other series for a while – after all I can’t afford to keep buying sets of 9 books every few weeks or days in this case!  I think I need to go back to the box set I originally bought and read some more of them!

 

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