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Classroom antics and Southern prejudice

Girl meets Class


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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Books/book review/fiction/Romance/net galley/Random and interesting items

Canaries out of work

The Major’s Faux Fiancée


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. []

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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Books/book review/Fantasy/Romance/wars

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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Food and eating/Tea and Cake/Random and interesting items/travel

Boston USA: eating and tourist traps

OK so we went to Boston and ate and toured some more. We ate at the:

  • Gourmet Dumpling House
  • La Galeria in Salem Street, which is a traditional Italian;
  • Xingh Xingh which is Vietnamese and we highly recommend the fresh vegetable spring rolls and the tofu caramelised in a pot. the rice ends up stuck to the bottom of the pot and is crispy and crunchy and caramelised!
  • Mare – an  upmarket Oyster and Fish bar.
  • Boston Tea Party cafe – beware – the traditional clam chowder is made with pork fat.

Now we decided to do the traditional tour of the coast and see some villages/small towns. So we hired a car and set off to Plymouth. we ate a hearty breakfast at the Roadhouse which seemed to be cowboy themed with a central bar for alcohol and very large portions of steak for breakfast…. After wandering around for a bit we drove down the road and eventually decided we needed lunch – at the Blue Plate diner. This was in a hamlet really but was full of very friendly people.P1030371 P1030377 P1030379 P1030380 P1030384 P1030385

Off we went to Providence which is very cute town indeed, with lots of very cute doggies and owners… BUT, a warning here, in Season they can have upwards of 80,000 visitors a day.. yes I got the noughts right. However, we were there before they opened up some of the shops and the beach – which isn’t cleared until June 2nd – the Season then continuing until around 1st September. It is quite Disney-like and difficult to access the beach.

As the town wasn’t really open yet when we visited we had to go back to Plymouth for our evening meal which we ate at the Bangkok Thai.

We also visited Concorde where in the Market and Cafe (which didn’t have any type of market) we had the world’s largest iced coffees for $4 and a very delicious mocha raspberry muffin. There were some nice artisan shops there with the jewellery being locally made but often pricey.

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Books/book review/fiction/net galley/crime fiction

Bucket List? What’s Yours?

Scheduled to Die

By Alan Cupp

NetGalley Review

4 stars

You have a time to die – set by someone-else – what do you do?

This is a PI Carter Mays Series, Number 2.

When stalking gets out of line- the good pick-up line comes into play and stalking becomes something much more sinister.

There is a circle of criminal behaviour – they tend to operate within areas of familiarity.  A geographic profiler will analyse the crimes committed and can discover this circle of familiarity by certain signatures which identify which criminal has caused these acts. It lets us know the likely place of living of the criminal and/or where they work and socialise, and sometimes what they may work at. An understanding of the spatial pattern of a crime series and the characteristics of the crime sites can tell investigators other useful information, such as whether the crime was opportunistic and the degree of offender familiarity with the crime location.

The criminal profiler’s job is to create a psychological profile of a criminal suspect, which can then be used to help catch the suspect. This is done by examining evidence from the crime, interviewing witnesses and victims, and analyzing crime scenes. Information gleaned from these investigations can then be used to help the profiler determine a pattern of criminal behaviour, which hopefully can be used to find out more about the suspect.

“It’s a combination of analyzing the physical and behavioral evidence, reconstructing a crime from the beginning to the end and coming up with the most scientific determination possible with the information available.”
– The Profiler by Pat Brown

In this book it was difficult to work out the circle of familiarity and as to whether or not these crimes were opportunistic. But he chose single women away from their home and work, and as a sociopath who was charming and apparently trustworthy, would pick them up in bars and so on, and then announce “You are the one I have chosen to kill. What will you do with the days you have left to live?”

He felt that now these women would experience “true” life – you know when you will die (and not from an illness which will inhibit your action) and so your perspective on life will change. Do you go through your bucket list and see how much you can achieve and cross off? Do you buy everything you have ever wanted, designer clothes, yachts and so on, even though you know cannot pay for them, because you will be dead before the bill becomes due?

Or – Do you go to the police?

Going to the police is very disappointing to this sociopath and thus he terminates those women early. Those who go through their bucket list get longer – but he never tells you the exact date of your death..

So here we have the next victim going to a PI instead of the police – does this still count against her? And the PI is left to become the profiler and discover just what the victims had in common and how the sociopath made a living.


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