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Flying in the Sky?

A Witness Above

 

By  Andy Straka

 

A Netgalley review

 

These books just keep getting better.

So unless you really need to read all the back story, I don’t suggest you start here with the very first novel in this series.

I didn’t. and I’m really glad, I guessed all that was necessary from what was written in the book I did read. However, don’t let me stop you reading these books in order – it is often the best tactic .

This is an author who has learnt his trade as he has written and published.

His main character is fairly stock – especially in this first novel but with one great unusual characteristic – he flies hawks – taken from the author’s own passion. And in A Witness Above, we don’t hear enough about the hawks – for me. Which is why I prefer the later book which I have already reviewed (A Killing Sky on the 20th August on my blog: Tiggerrenewing).

So just 3 stars for this early novel, but then I find that authors with series generally fall into two categories:

  1. Those who start with a great bang and the subsequent books are more and more disappointing as they run out of storylines; or
  2. Those who start more modestly and improve steadily with each book written – their skills as story-tellers increase and they learn more about the 5 stages of classical story-telling and fit their characters better into them. This author falls into this category – I think.

 

 

 

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Why Tuesday is Best

Tuesday Falling

By

I. Williams

 

A NetGalley Review

 

This novel was written for me personally – I swear.

S/he [profile picture shows a male but…] has picked all my favourite topics to write about, from a feisty young woman who stands up for herself – and others – against immense odds and some real nasty villains, to hidden London. And the Internet and world of the Dark Net and coding and…And all in an easy, acceptable, riveting [and amusing] style, that makes a story compelling you to read until the very end.

Williams says s/he got the idea Whilst travelling the London Underground and spying an indy girl with stay away eyes and F you clothing I immediately wanted to write a book with her in. And so he did.

For me this book ticked so many issues including what it must be like to grow up in such an abandoned area of social environment, where lawlessness has ruled for a long time and where retribution is unknown. A world in which you believe you deserve what you get and thus don’t protest or protect yourself from harm. The baby mothers who are just children themselves but are needed for their homes for drug trafficking in ‘comfort’. What is clear from the various UK Governmental deprivation indices available, is that these deprivations tend to occur as clusters – ie social deprivations go alongside economic, health, physical environment and activity deprivations, and have a tendency also to cluster crime within these boundaries of deprivation. In London the deprived areas are also clustered around the areas where immigration is a key factor such as Hackney.

Within these deprived areas, housing is an issue as is skills and education with many children not completing their secondary schooling due to health or other factors which can then lead to criminal behaviours to obtain money or to maintain a social role and standing within the peer group. And thus we gain a culture of crime being an everyday, expected and anticipated occurrence with no attempt to live outside the criminal mentality.

This is the setting from which Tuesday appears on the street as a young abused child, homeless but with a razor sharp intelligence that enables her to learn fast and to plan strategies with the best generals – Sun Tzu would be proud of her. She benefits from the online culture of today to assist her in her plan. Her plan, that has every move calculated precisely with all the potential outcomes also factored in and thus responses also provided. Her plan to help those abused like herself turn the tables on the abusers – with ferocity and determination that astounds all who encounter them and her.

 

So I went through the novel bookmarking madly.

Firstly there are all the computing aspects – which not all of which I knew about, and I do try and keep reasonably up to date here. For those less techno-able I have collected a few and will now try and explain very briefly what they are about.

  • Open-source hacking: if you go to the Internet you can actually find articles about how to be a hacker. A hacker is not just the adolescents who break into NASA but also the people who create new ideas within the software world – crackers break, hackers don’t. hackers solve problems and build things and believe in mutual help to solve problems. Open source software is software that doesn’t belong to a company such as Microsoft but is created free to use. Thus an open source hacker is using free to use software to solve a problem. In this novel, Tuesday is often a cracker rather than a hacker as she uses the software to break connections etc.
  • Mirror protocols: a mirror is basically just that – a second site or set of protocols that mirror – replicate – the original site or protocol so that the instruction goes to both and thus can be intercepted before action.
  • Spirit-slide: this seems to be something quite difficult to find but seems to be related to mirroring and shielding and routing in programming and you need to be able to program in C++ to be able to do it!
  • Silk Road: Now I already knew about the Silk Road but it had been shut down by the police and FBI in 2014. It was basically an online illegal (and anonymous) sales site especially for drugs and guns but it seems that it was so popular that Diabolus Market (cannabis only) immediately went into business as the new Silk Road [https://www.cryptocoinsnews.com/good-bye-silk-road-2-0-welcome-silk-road-3-0/]
  • Dark Web: I had also heard about this – [http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/how-to/internet/what-is-dark-web-how-access-dark-web-deep-3593569/] this site explains the dark web as a series of web sites that are publically visibly – such as the Silk Road – but hide the IP addresses of the servers behind them. They are thus effectively anonymous and difficult to police. The Dark Web can be useful for legitimate uses such as when you live in a country that has banned external contact, you can do this through the Dark Web, but mainly it is for illegal activities.
  • The Deep Web: includes the Dark Web but also all user databases, webmail pages, registration required web forums, and the pages behind paywalls. This means that every page visible on the internet has maybe millions of Deep Web pages behind it which can be accessed.
  • The Dark Internet are further networks, databases or websites that cannot be reached over the internet and are proprietary, niche, or very private.
  • BMR – ebay for dark Webbers – Black Market Reloaded – another illegal sales site.
  • Interzone: which is described as –scuba-diving through a police sea – in the book is the place where the internet’s heavy users inhabit. They live through the use of digital media and physical presence is secondary to virtual presence.

“If the Interzone as William S. Burroghs anticipated it represents a transitional phase in between, the Internet would then be an interzone between real life and the virtual life that creates the illusion that what you see is what you get” [The Internet as an Interzone by Laura Borràs Castanyer, (University of Barcelona), p5 2011?]

 

The second major aspect of the book is all about Secret and Underground London – and there is so much of this favourite topic of mine in this novel, that I am going to give this its own post and take my readers through the places mentioned and some more they maybe also hadn’t heard about!

I really can’t believe myself here, but I’m going to give this novel, 7 stars out of 5!

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Margate by the Sea: an unexpected delight

We went to Margate to visit the new(ish, 2011) Turner Art Gallery and the Grayson Perry exhibition.

We were slightly disappointed by its architecture – not the shape but the colour – dull grey. Apparently when opened it was coloured by banners but not now and whilst the sun was shining – quite remarkable for this end of summer this year, we could envisage it being very dull indeed on a wet grey day by the sea.85-turner-contemporary

It is positioned right at one end of the huge series of bays that form the Margate sea front. By the harbour wall of what was once Meregate a small fishing village . it has been inhabited since probably pre-historic times and certainly the Romans lived there but constant invasions made life difficult during the 8th, 9th and 10th century.

Margate is situated on the coast of the Isle of Thanet, which of course, hasn’t been an island for a long time. But it was still an island when the Romans lived there and a bridge wasn’t built until the 1400s. In the 1700s you could still reach it by ferry, but the channel silted up and Reculver is now on dry(ish) land. The land still needs to be defended against the sea trying to gain its channel back and so there are sea defences all along the coastline.

Margate – which is on the outer edge and thus faces the English Channel, was part of the Cinque Ports through the control of Dover, but became independent from their control in 1857.

It is claimed to be one of, if not the first, coastal resort for sea bathing which greatly changed its status from a fishing (smuggling) harbour to a fashionable bathing town bringing with it not only boats carrying traffic down river from London but eventually also the railway. Turner lived in Margate for some years coming down by boat from London and then leaving by boat to cross the channel from there. Very convenient – and thus the Turner Gallery was built here.isle of thanet

However, after the flush of post war holidays in seaside resorts within Britain and then the holiday camps of Butlins  and Pontins etc decline in the 1970s, when cheap Spanish holidays came in for the masses, Margate declined.

I went to this area of coastline often as a child staying at Broadstairs, just along from Margate in a bed and breakfast establishment of which there were huge numbers. These high terraced houses are now in sad repair but, since 2011 and the Turner Gallery, some are being bought up and refurbished and becoming boutique hotels such as the Crescent Victoria where we stayed, just along from the Gallery.

The Isle of Thanet has a most amazing coastline. It is really all sand and yet more sand. Great depth of beaches that are shallow in slope so good for kiddie play which is why the area was so popular when I was a child. And now there is a seawater pool in the middle of one beach for safe swimming.

Margate is tatty round the edges but has some interesting areas around the Old Town where they seem to specialise in vintage clothes and furniture. We found two really nice places to eat – Harbour Café which did the most amazing chips; and the Ambrette which is a modern Indian – even does roast Sunday lunches with venison and other exotic meats. However, rather lacking in vegetarian food which was a shame. Still good reviews from the meat eaters – even some suggesting it is worth a Michelin Star!

And then of course there is the Shell Grotto. No visit to Margate is complete without a visit to this very interesting but unexplained and without know history, underground cavern.shell-grotto

Stories about when it was created range from the Phonoecians in very early history (yes they did trade with the UK) as a religious place – with an altar at the far end of these underground passageways. Or a Folly of course. Or something else entirely.

What is certain is that all the shells apart from 4 are English, it has been around a few hundred years and has been open since the 19th century to the public, and the shells have been added, altered etc at different times but some are clearly very old. Many of the patterns are symbolic eg A Tree of Life; A Corn Goddess; A Ganesha; A skeleton; A Perseus and so on….

Spooky as it is all underground and quite large – 104 feet.

What is a really nice thing to have is the Viking Trail. This is coastal path for bikes and pedestrians which is very smooth and wide and goes all around the island’s coast passing through Ramsgate and Broadstairs and Reculver too. It is 25 miles in length so you can run a marathon if you wish – but the one running when we were there did a figure of 8 and came back to its start!viking trail

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Hot and steamy and up in the hills – tea anyone?

The Tea Planter’s Wife

By

Dinah Jeffries

A NetGalley Review

The Tea Plantations owners and their way of life feels hot, steamy, immensely privileged, full of snide gossip and hidden secrets.

tea_plantation

We really feel the atmosphere of Ceylon before the Second World War, as it was then known, when we read this book.

 

According to the author it is set between 1925 and 1934 and all the events that happened to the Western world have their impact on Ceylon but often some time later as information was passed along much more slowly then.

sri-lanka-map

The author lived in Malaysia as a small child so she understands the culture of Ceylon as it might have been then and the issues surrounding skin colour and who it was correct to talk to, socialise with, and even marry. The same issues were of course reflected in India at this time – the whole of the old order of the British Empire was breaking down – and the differences in lifestyle became not only more obvious but more iniquitous. Unrest amongst the workers became more common and Ghandi was speaking in India and the concept of autonomy and self-rule were suddenly being discussed amongst the natives of all the British Empire.

And yet to fuel this Empire’s economy workers had been drafted from all parts of the Empire to work in different countries where they were regarded as third class citizens – perhaps not even citizens with rights even though they may have been born in the country in which they lived and worked. All of which gave fuel to the growing unrest.

Currently Sinhalese constitute the largest ethnic group in the country, with 74.88% of the total population. Sri Lankan Tamils are the second major ethnic group in the island, with a percentage of 11.2. Sri Lankan Moors comprise 9.2%.

Tamils of Indian origin were brought into the country as indentured labourers by British colonists to work on estate plantations. Nearly 50% of them were repatriated following independence in 1948. They are distinguished from the native Tamil population that has resided in Sri Lanka since ancient times.

There are also small ethnic groups such as the Burghers (of mixed European descent) and Malays from Southeast Asia. Moreover, there is a small population of Vedda people who are believed to be the original indigenous group to inhabit the island. [wikipedia]

This multi-ethnic  and multi-cultural country did not in fact achieve independence until 1948 – after the Second World War but a universal franchise was achieved in 1931. However, the Tamils were left as a minority in the Govt as a result of this – they later demanded 50% representations for the Sinhalese and 50% for other ethnic groups but they did not receive this and the Sinhalese dominated the legislature.

The result was the Sri Lankan Civil War which began in  1983, with intermittent insurgency by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (the LTTE, also known as the Tamil Tigers), an independent militant organisation which fought to create an independent state called Tamil Eelam in the north and the east of the island. After a 26-year military campaign, the Sri Lankan military defeated the Tamil Tigers in 2009.[Wikipedia]. Of course, the way in which the plantations had been run and the Govt were the root causes of this war.sri-lanka2

But the war had not started when this book was set although we begin to see the actions that began it through the treatment of the Tamil workers on the plantations.

There are also many secrets in the family histories of the plantation owners that they kept hidden away. Family blood lines were ‘cleaned’ up to represent the line they which they had rather than the one they really had. And these family secrets begin to destroy the wife of the title as her marriage comes under increasing strain.

I don’t usually read these type of books but was intrigues by the book description and the idea of a tea plantation. As they seem very foreign and very romantic and I could almost see myself being seduced enough by the idea to become a planter’s wife – almost – but it was a very isolated life, very remote, and very formal – which really isn’t me at all!

I did enjoy the book and would probably be tempted to read the next book by this author especially having read on her website it will likely be set in Vietnam. Far Eastern travel by book…and some fascinating periods of history too.

 

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Voodoo or Vodou or is it Vodu?

The Offering

by Desiree Bombenon

Voodoo or Vodou or is it Vodu? A syncretic religion which combines various thought and belief systems with different schools of thought on practice. It has spirits and gods and blood sacrifices – maybe or maybe not.big_bad_voodoo_by_exphrasis-d489rid

This novel is set on the Big island of Hawaii with a veritable TV cast of Hawaii-Mapcharacters – a naive and vulnerable teenager; a family split with a new boyfriend who was the father’s cop partner; a ‘mad’ villain looking to cleanse himself through a religious sacrifice; some billionaires who double as private investigators; and a gut instinct – which helps find the real path to the villain.

It has it all. And would make a great TV series if you could believe in the storyline.

To me, there was just too much and very reminiscent of the TV series with Jennifer and Jonathan Hart. [See more at: http://coffeetimeromance.com/CoffeeThoughts/13-private-detective-couples-in-books-and-film/#sthash.XqKdNetB.dpuf] or Macmillan and Wife.

A NetGalley Review

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