Books/book review/fiction/Romance/crime fiction

Blood and Knives = Red

Red Hourglass


Scarlett Risque

Red is the blood that drops from her fingers – as red as her name is Scarlet.

Sharp are the knives she uses to cut the flesh – snip and swish and slide and slink, but always in. Knives are a motive, a tool, an obsession.hourglass shapes - Blood and Knives = Red

Yet for a time she can overcome her programming, a programming that began when a ‘mother’ appeared for a lost, hungry and despairing homeless teenager. A mother who provided a home; sisters; love; and a  reason to live. A mother who sheltered, taught and programmed obedience into all her girls (daughters). To disobey a request / order was to be killed by a sister, and even the thought of disobedience was anathema.

So what ‘tasks’ did Mother want her daughters to do? Well each tasks was given a rationale that it would  , the economy, the local businesses, or the local residents. To defeat the large and powerful on behalf of the small and lowly and weak. A compelling reason to kill? To murder? She argued it well and they believed. They had to believe for this is what she trained them, educated them, for.

Each daughter specialising in differing skills but for Red it was the knife and she always obeyed until she met someone she didn’t want to kill.

This book highlights the problems of homelessness and the abuse of young girls that leads them to want to join a ‘family’ aka a gang, that will love and support them. The same psychology that keeps gangs together and enables an end justifies the means attitude.

A gang leader influences and controls the members, sometimes through intimidation and always through manipulation of the emotions that enables to continue their control.

Each leader will have a special ‘second’ in command who ensures that the will of the leader is carried out (Mother’s biological daughter). They will also dominate the lower ranks. Pack instinct and the desire to conform and be accepted and love by the pack keeps each member motivated to remain within the gang.

It is clever in this book to use the girls as assassins and gang members as it is often, erroneously, thought that female gangs are less violent than male. In the right circumstances they can be just as dangerous and violent or more so.

I enjoyed this book more as a story of female gangs and how girls can be programmed into violence, than the romantic relationship aspects. I quite understand why the relationship had a sado-masochistic element as a result of Red’s programming but I did not see it as a relationship that would last once lust had been fulfilled. I was not convinced by the ending or the exploration of Red’s emotions.

The author says that The Hourglass series is a sociopolitical discourse about capitalism and how top down decisions affects the lives of ordinary people. I am fascinated with financial centers and major property acquisition players. My approach is unique as I do not state the obvious but let the reader decide what is obvious to them.

I saw this element in the rationale behind the assassinations but felt that it could have been brought out more – the ending did not emphasise this enough.

Thinking back over the writing style and general story-telling, I would not read another in this series.

3 stars.

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Just how do you catch a member of the aristocracy?

The Viscount’s Xmas Temptation


Erica Ridley

If you can manage a Duke’s household- surely you can find yourself a husband in two weeks?

After all managing to triple your dowry in three years must surely make you eligible to someone?

But you need (want?) a title for your children, so no barons or viscounts. No going down the nobility hierarchy and marrying beneath you when your father was a Duke and your brother is too. chart of social hierarchy of england - Just how do you catch a member of the aristocracy?

And you don’t want to be bored so you need occupation – suitable of course – so you need to find a way to meet the eligible men, and the answer of course is a ball. To be organised within 11 days no less.

And instead of a memory palace, there is a memory pantry. Items are filed under the letters of the alphabet and then associated with items in the pantry eg F would give you flour and you would associate flour with whatever you were trying to remember, something light and white and powdery probably.

And just when was the wet t-shirt invented? Clearly 1815 – masked balls with dampened muslin dresses to make them transparent!

And remember the lack of underwear as we know it… especially at night when bosoms were frequently on show – often to an extreme…

muslin dress - Just how do you catch a member of the aristocracy?

If you want know something more about muslin dresses then go to: where there is a good article/s explaining the cloth and dresses etc.

And has a good article explaining undergarments and what type of dress was worn when.

I liked this book and the heroine – she really appealed to me. An independent minded person with a mind that was incredibly organised (mine isn’t but I would refer you back to my discussion of memory palaces last year) and who knew what she wanted and how to go about getting it.

4 stars.



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Books/book review/Fantasy/fiction

The cat has 9 lives

Homunculus and the Cat


Nathan Croft

A NetGalley Review

This author has been steeped in legends, myths and folklore and has used all their knowledge to astound the reader with the breadth of disciplines involved n this story.

I thought I was quite widely read about fantasy and folklore, myths etc and all the afterlifes and hells – after all I had researched Greek myths for one book review, and I had read the series of books about Hell. But the references here baffled me and thus I had to bookmark page after page of things to work out what they were – which of course meant that I couldn’t understand the story as these items were quite crucial to the story-line. And if I was baffled in lots of places, then without being too egotistic, I suspect a large numbers of readers, except those in a very closely knit community of fantasists would be also. This greatly limits the audience for this book and means that I would initially have given it 1 star.

The average reader would either have to continue reading only understanding a part of what was read; or stop and look things up, which greatly interrupts the story.

However, for those people familiar with all these myths, folklore, fantasy worlds, there may well be a 2 or even a 3 star ranking available. I just couldn’t tell. I was not the intended audience it seems. PS, there is a wonderful page on Wikipedia which lists legendary creatures or myth, folklore and fairytales by classification.

So here are the items that I didn’t know about but needed to – and what I found out about them. But don’t take my word that I got it all right as I looked these things up after reading the book, and thus they are not in context.

  1. Orichalcam: a metal mentioned in the story of Atlantis as per the Critias of Plato. It is magenta coloured. Interestingly, some was recovered in January 2015 in a ship that sank 2,600 years ago off Sicily. In the ship, the ingots were found to be an alloy of copper and zinc and small amounts of nickel andiron. The question arise then as to whether this really was oricahum?
  2. Chakram: a throwing disk originating in India. Can be boomerang in type.
  3. Hekatonkheire: a giant god of storms and hurricanes in the Geek myths. 100 hands. There were 3 of them according to this myth, brothers of the Elder Cyclops and Elder Titans and offspring of Gaia and Uranus.
  4. Ennedi: is a plateau in Chad, Africa, reputedly to have a living sabertooth tiger.
  5. Czerno bog: no such bog. However, Czerno is a village within Poland. It is very small with a population of around
  6. Rod: I have no idea here but it could refer to the Rod of Asclepius or staff, which is associated with medicine and healing.
  7. Sun Wukong: a warrior magician in the form of a monkey, hatched from a stone egg according to Chinese myths – not an afterlife place.
  8. Marduk: He was a late generation god from Mesopotamia and patron deity of Bablyon city. He was later considerd to be head of the Babylonian pantheon of gods
  9. Inanna: again old Babylonian. The Sumerian goddess of love, fertility and warfare.
  10. Turritella: medium sized sea snails with tightly coiled shells, looking like a cone.
  11. Atargatis: she was the chief goddess of northern Syria – fertility but also responsible for protection and well-being. Sometime described as a mermaid- goddess but this may be an incorrect / mis-identification of the shrine. But fish were sacred to her. As were doves, as fish were symbolic of the fertility and life of the sea.
  12. Shikome: see number 17 below.
  13. Annwyn: was the Otherworld in Welsh mythology. Ruld by Arawn or Gwyn ap Nudd – a world of delights and eternal youth and health and food.
  14. Fusang: Chinese entity or mythological mulberry tree of life or a mysterious land to the East
  15. Cynnamolgus or should it be Cynomolgus: a crab-eating macaque; or the mythical Aritotle’s cinnamon eating bird which were giant birds. Their eat or made their nests from cinnamon sticks.
  16. Hippogriff: front quarters of an eagle and the hindquarters of a horse.
  17. Yomotsu-shikome: aka ‘ugly woman of the underworld’ in Japanese, was a hag sent by Izanami to pursue her living husband for shaming her. There may be 8 such hags. Japanese mythology combines the Shinto pantheon with several kami or gods.
  18. Yomotsu-hisame: an alternative spelling for the hags of Yomi
  19. Yomi: being an underworld of Japanese mythology
  20. Izamagi: seems to be incorrectly spelled – should be Izanagi? A deity born of the 7 divine generations in Japanese mythology – ‘the male who invites’. The first male to be born and who create the world with his sister Izanami.
  21. Manticore: Persian myth aka ‘man-eater’. Also in Greek myths as a creature of multiple parts – lion, humans, scorpion tail.
  22. Stheno: a gorgon sister of Medusa and Euryale – see 23. Eldest of the sisters and parents being Phorcys and Ceto.
  23. Euryale: see 22.

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Can you Fix a Psychopath?

Fixed in Fear

By T.E. Woods

Review for

NetGalley and Alibi

Now this book set me wondering – psychopaths – are they born or are they made? Can PTSD cause a person to become a psychopath?

And then there is the whole issue of revenge killing. Do we really believe in an eye for an eye? And you kill one of mine and I’ll kill one of yours? If so, then we can expect far more of the scenes such as recently in Paris and the US and even in the London where the cry comes – ‘This is for what you have done in Syria’. With France declaring that they were at war with so-called ISIS as a result of the Paris bombings and shootings.

So I read with great relief and empathy the article by Caitlin Moran in The Times Magazine. She muses on what you tell your children about the terrorist attacks. How you explain what is happening and why. And why we should, here in London at any rate, and in most if not all of the Western World, not be afraid. And why? Because we have lived through worse.

She lived through the IRA bombings as did I in the UK. Where they bombed busy shopping centres, where they bombed Regent’s Street and where there were no waste bins in case they hid a bomb, and where your briefcase or sports bag or even shopping carrier, if left unattended in a train station, was blown up by a nifty robot. As was your car if left in a route of importance –  I remember watching out of our office window as the police did just that when we were expecting the Queen to pass by our block. Even now, we get plenty of warnings about not leaving our baggage unattended or telling staff of a ‘suspicious package’, and even when they regularly stopped trains as someone had done just that – usually a shopping bag someone had forgotten. I remember this on one train when the American tourists in our carriage were having kittens and we were very blasé as it happened so often to us.

This doesn’t change anything. You are far more likely to die on the loo than being killed by a bomb or a bullet even in a country where there are 88.8 guns per 100 people such as in the US. See the table on the most common cause of death.

causes of death - Can you Fix a Psychopath?

As Caitlin Moran says, there are certain things that cause psychopaths (back t that word) who want to kill: an unhappy combination of humiliation, bereavement, and fear. She believes that terrorists are psychopaths who simply want to kill and their purpose in life is to find a reason that they can use to justify that want.

Fear can be weaponised, she said, some people want us to be afraid and scared and angry and that can turn us into terrorists too.  And so the war continues.

SO I did my research and it seems that there is some conflict as to how you can become psychopath and just what is the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath. psychopath - Can you Fix a Psychopath?

diffs psycho - Can you Fix a Psychopath?

The four Pillars are:

1.People with Anti-social Personality disorder whether psychopath or sociopath have a great deal of pride. They demand respect and they will ensure that they get it, whatever it may take. They believe that they are better than anyone else, and others should treat them as such. Rules of society and norms are not for them to respect. They are above them.

  1. They are spiteful. They have low tolerance and this can lead to outbursts of aggression or violence. They find a little irritation a major nuisance.
  2. These are sex addicts with high levels of testosterone – which also increases aggression. They need the sexual experiences even if they receive little satisfaction from them and cannot have relationships without sexual intimacy.
  3. They are self-centred, self-absorbed, and very selfish. Everything they do has a benefit to them. They lack emotional sensitivity or empathy and always bored and seeking stimulation though risk or excitement. They don’t care about others or what others need.

For a Psychopath all these attributes are very high but pride and lust are the highest with insensitivity to others coming next and anger being the least prevalent in them.

So we come to the book. Is the Fixer either a psychopath or a sociopath?

I noted a number of interesting points in this book and the first the one about body memory. The concept that trauma is retained in muscle memory. The body of an abuse victim will remember to cower or protect itself when triggering circumstances occur. Interesting as I have just started watching Bone and flesh on Amazon and the girl, who is clearly a victim of familial sexual abuse immediately turns and hits a man with a bottle when he touches her without her seeing. An instinctive behaviour or a muscle memory? More likely the latter I should think.  According to we do indeed have a ‘mind’ in our muscle that retains moves – in my own case I often move into Tai Chi poses because I learnt it for so many hears when undertaking a gym workout. My legs remember this shaping. And n addition we have the idea that instinct tells us to behave in certain ways under certain circumstances. The Police Chief says a running animal always turns right when trying to escape. This is muscle memory. However, it can also be conditioned in by past experience so here I am not sure of the accuracy of this statement. But it is an interesting thought. Turning left requires the instinct to be over-ridden and thus the brain has to come into action was her theory.

I also looked up the village/town that the murders took place – and yes, it is a real place in the States. Enumclaw is a city in King County, Washington, United States. The population was 10,669 at the 2010 census.

The Enumclaw Plateau, on which the city resides, was formed by a volcanic mudflow (lahar) from Mount Rainier approximately 5,700 years ago.

The name Enumclaw is derived from a Salish Native American term that translates as “place of evil spirits”, apparently referring to Enumclaw Mountain, located about 6 miles (9.7 km) to the north, and referring either to some evil incident that occurred there or to the frequent powerful windstorms that affect the region. Native American mythology tells the story of two Pacific Northwest Native American brothers – Enumclaw and Kapoonis – whose father turned them into thunder and lightning respectively. The City of Enumclaw says the name means “thundering noise” [Wikipedia]

I was also interested in the idea of each religion have a ritual for forgiveness and the Professor having drawn up a grid. This is just the sort of thing that I would do… as a Jew I like the idea that you only confess sins that have offended God, and that if you have offended a person you confess that to them. This makes society operate well I think. What is also interesting of course, is that the 3 Abrahamic religions have such similarities in their rituals about forgiveness and other religious practices. Which of course, brings us back to why are we fighting each other? Perhaps it is that very similarity that we fight in order to define ourselves as different?

So these are some of the very interesting points that I picked up from the book regardless of the story. The Fixer has come out of her ‘retirement’ and tries to over-ride her innate instinct to act as a psychopath and give an eye for an eye but her instinct to help in circumstance where something unjust has happened still operate.

Is this book as good as the previous ones in the series? I think by a hair margin not quite. It is getting difficult to find a scenario under which she will operate in her role as a Fixer. And so I needed to find interest in elements that were not perhaps as key to the story-line. I will still give it 4 stars though, as I do intend to read the series as it continues. I am not yet bored by her, and the story-telling is good stylistically and contains a lot of interesting ideas.






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