Books/book review/fiction/crime fiction

Can you read and write? I can.

Redemption Road

by Lisa Ballatyne

A NetGalley Review

A small baby – Margaret aka Molly – is adopted, and is loved and happy. But she has a real father who didn’t know what had happened to her – he was also in prison – but he knows her name is Peggy and has it tattooed on his chest.

George has not had a happy life and one major issue has been his illiteracy. The origins of this illiteracy began at school where the nuns who taught him believed that being left-handed was a sign of the devil –  the Devil is normally portrayed as being left-handed in pictures and other images –  and forced him to write with his right hand. This was a very common belief up until not very long ago – see below for other beliefs about being left-handed:

  • In the seventeenth century it was thought that the Devil baptised his followers with his left-hand and there are many references in superstitions to the “left-hand side” being associated with evil. As an example, in France it was held that witches greet Satan “avec le bras gauche” or with the left hand. It is also considered that we can only see ghosts if we look over our left shoulder and that the Devil watches us over the left shoulder. Evil spirits lurk over the left shoulder – throw salt over this shoulder to ward them off. In Roman times, salt was a very valuable commodity, giving rise to the word “salary” and was considered a form of money at the time. If salt was spilled, that was considered very bad luck, that could only be avoided by throwing some of the spilled salt over your left shoulder to placate the devil. Joan of Arc (burned at the stake in 1431 for being a heretic and a witch) was not necessarily left-handed, she may have been depicted in this way to make her seem evil.
  • Getting out of bed with the left foot first means that you will have a bad day and be bad tempered . i.e. getting out of bed the wrong side.
  • A ringing in the right ear means that someone is praising you. In the left ear it means that someone is cursing or maligning you.
  • An itchy right palm means that you will receive money. An itchy left palm means you will have to give money.
  • Wedding rings worn on the third finger of the left hand originated with the Greeks and Romans, who wore them to fend of evil associated with the left-hand The Romans originally considered the left to be the lucky side and used for augury. However, they later changed back to the Greek methods and favoured the right-hand side.
  • The right hand often symbolises ‘male’ while the left hand is ‘female’.
  • If you hear the sound of a cuckoo from the right it will be a lucky year. If the sound comes from the left it will be unlucky.
  • The Meru people of Kenya believed that the left-hand of their holy man has such evil power that he had to keep it hidden for the safety of others.
  • If your right eye twitches you will see a friend, if it’s your left eye that twitches you’ll see an enemy.
  • When dressmaking it’s believed to be bad luck to sew the left-hand sleeve onto a garment before the right sleeve.
  • When leaving to go on a journey, if your right foot itches you’re bound to have a good journey. If your left foot itches it will end in sorrow.
  • It is thought to be bad luck to pass a drink to another person with your left-hand or anti-clockwise around a table. -( See more at:

Additionally, most pens and other common utensils are intended for right-handed people and the type of writing that can be undertaken by left-handed people is not as neat. Western writing runs from left to right. A left-handed person has to ‘crab’ their hand in order to write without smudging the ink.

Left-handed children learning to write often write back to front (‘mirror’ writing). This is a natural inclination, not a sign of dyslexia, and will resolve given time, practice and encouragement. (

Yet many right-handed people don’t write neatly either – I remember having my knuckles rapped by a ruler because my writing wasn’t neat so imagine being left handed in these situations.

But for the father no such encouragement was given at school. He remains unable to read and write and believes he has a learning difficulty and is not very bright. This has led him to life of crime as he couldn’t get employment otherwise.

It is still very poorly understood why some 10% of the population is left-handed but it does seem to run in families and thus is could be inherited. It is more common in males than females.

So in this book, the father comes out of prison and wants to meet his child and to learn about her and perhaps be involved in her life. But this is where everything goes wrong.

As she grows up Margaret doesn’t remember her real father and her meeting with him, and the events that followed. She suffered from traumatic amnesia (psychogenic or dissasociative) and bad nightmares. The event clearly affected her badly – but why?

The father finds Molly – as he knows her – and attempts to talk to her but ends up taking her on a journey.

This is a significant journey for both of them but for a small child traumatic and it is very slowly that Margaret remembers about being Molly and integrates her life experiences.

I thought this was an interesting story and enjoyed reading it. 4 stars.

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Books/book review/Fantasy/travel

Bibury is trouts and tourists

Elsker Saga: the Prophesy of Ragnarok by ST Bende

Well ST Bende may well have lived in Norway but I’m not at all sure she actually visited England – especially Bibury and London.

Now I can speak from real life experience as I have visited and stayed in Bibury, the Cotswolds and surrounds many times, and live in London, so here goes with the errors in the book – which irritated.

Bibury is in the Cotswolds near Cirencester. It isn’t a town, not even a village. Just a few weavers’ cottages from the 17th century, some pubs and one being particularly nice we have stopped at a time or two, and a mill which is also a tea room and shop. It is basically a tourist stop.

There is no pond but the River Colne runs through it and alongside the road which has a nice pavement and sitting areas where you sit to watch the brown trout swimming in amazingly clear water. There is also a trout farm by the way. But the river is clear and you can see the gravel bottom. You then walk around the river across the bridges and through a water meadow path. You can also visit the weavers’ cottages if one is open. The cottages were built with a very large loft space for weaving in good light. Wool of course as this was the source of the wealth originally of this area – now it is tourists! These cottages are made of cobblestone, but cobblestone is not a common building material in England, look rather to brick and flint. There is no pond. 23 bibury uk - Bibury is trouts and tourists arlington row bibury - Bibury is trouts and tourists

Oh and a cobblestone patio would be very uneven to sit on and rather uncomfortable – tables would rock – we do still have cobbles in many places, even London alleys and small streets.

Yew – well I have never heard of a yew hedge being called a dale – a dale is a valley as in Swaledale, but a hundred years for a yew hedge is young. They can live for 4-600 hundred years on average but some are dated to the 10th Century and the Fortingall Yew – which again I have visited – in Perthshire, is thought to be approximately 2000(!) years old. They are frequently clipped into fantastical shapes – or used to delineate gardens within gardens. They don’t like to be waterlogged, so Bibury would not be a good place for one.yew loggia a - Bibury is trouts and tourists

And then there is London. She has clearly been watching old films. New York is grey and grimy, London is clean! It may not be white  – I doubt if Cardiff is white either – but it has been cleaned up since the Victorian era and no, we don’t have smog anymore – that was caused by coal fires and we don’t have them anymore either in of london skyline - Bibury is trouts and tourists

Then we come to discussions about Cardiff University. Here I am not sure whether she used US terminology to help her readers or just was unfamiliar with the UK university system. So here goes with reality – from a university lecturer…

There are 3 years to a UK UG degree. Not 4. It would be only in the second semester of year one or during year two that an exchange student could attend from abroad. There is no such thing as a sophomore, underclass/upperclassman, senior. Just year 1, 2 or 3 students. Nor do they take term papers. They may well have to take an end of semester exam or to write an end of semester essay. 2 semesters per year unless you are in Oxford or Cambridge.

And does moss smell? Well some moss smells of cannabis! Yes that’s true, but mainly it just smells earthy and not much at that unless you have a whole lawn of it…

So having got my irritation out of the way, what about the book? Well I did look up Nehalem also as it was such a strange name and it is a real place. on the river Nehalem in Tillamook County, Oregan by Nehalem Bay. Established in 1889 it now has (2013) a population of 267 people…nehalem - Bibury is trouts and tourists

In this book we have a fairly traditional base story – see Barbara Cartland where the mousy heroine scoops the hottie who was never before seen to be interested in any girl. the naive 18/19 who is from the backwoods interests a person who is several hundreds of years old. hmmm.

But the heroine has a secret. And we find that despite her naivety and her age she will play a crucial part – that she has been born to do – in the future of our worlds.

Despite this it was not high drama or the best style of writing but fairly much the traditional Mills and Boon style. With so many mistakes in it about the UK it was also aiming at a US audience who wouldn’t know better. Hint to US authors – use the internet better if you are going to use real place names. There were just too many pre or mis-conceptions of how the world works in the UK.

It would also take around 2 hours plus to drive to Bibury from Cardiff – through terrible traffic on the M4 – a notorious traffic jam of a road especially in this part of the world. Everyone goes to the Cotswolds if the weather is good… And as for the Slaughters… yes there are really villages with these names and pretty they are too wit a stream running through the middle where kids paddle.

Oh – I forgot – 2.5 stars for this book.

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

Eating in Boston USA: Part 1

On our recent trip to the US we stayed in Boston for five days. Now we had to eat – breakfast too, so where did we go and what did we eat?

We had breakfast several times in The Thinking Cup by the park. This was a great place – used regularly by locals for both eat-in and take-out. It served Stumptown Roasters’ coffee. This is a small (ish) coffee roasterie with ethical values – producing excellent coffee.p1030341 - Eating in Boston USA: Part 1

Whilst in Boston we visited Cambridge (yes there’s one of every town in the US it seems) where Harvard is situated. On a lovely day we wandered the streets and shops. The houses are beautifulp1030367 - Eating in Boston USA: Part 1 and so are many of the buildings in this area. And as for the jewellery shops with their hand-made silver – well. I did succumb and bought some earrings. We would especially recommend the Brattle Street and Church Street Cambridge Artists’ Co-operative for handicrafts.

So what about food in Cambridge? well we went to Burwicks Chocolatieres  where we were subjected to an Austrian style cake shop! Oh dear – the different types of hot chocolate that were available not to mention the creamy chocolate cakes! you could choose which type of chocolate you wanted from single origin eg Peruvian, to multi mixed.

p1030363 - Eating in Boston USA: Part 1We also ate at the Clover Food Lounge. This is a student run vegetarian cafe where you can have a light lunch. For our evening meal we went to the Russel House Tavern which is a bistro pub and very good.

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Burnt Edges blogpost

Burnt Edges Large - Burnt Edges blogpost

As I have said in my review (see later post) this is a really tough topic to write about and of course we all wonder how did the author come up with the storyline? Where did she learn all this? Well Dana is very open about this and below she tells us how the story originated with her family.

Writing Through The Pain

When people read my book, Burnt Edges, they have two reactions:

“Whoa, this is tough to read,” or, “How did you write about this without going into a depression?”

Writing about abuse is difficult—whether it is your own or someone else’s. In my case, the story is about my mother and the abuse she suffered as a child from both parents. And it’s the worst kind of abuse you can imagine: incest. Not to say that any other forms of abuse aren’t awful. Abuse is horrific. No matter what form it takes.

To answer the question how did I write about it without letting it drag me under is more difficult than I can articulate. It DID drag me under, and for most of my life. Writing about it was the final act of healing for me. As I wrote the more difficult scenes I had to take breaks. It was important to step away and clear my head. And I’m not done writing about it either. There is another book I’m working on now that follows the story from another perspective.

Since I did not experience the abuse, I had to understand it in order to make it real.

The way I made it authentic was by interviewing my mom. She was very open and willing to talk to me about the details. Because of this, I wasn’t afraid to ask questions that seemed awkward or difficult. The book became a way for me to understand my mother in a deeper way. And I learned a lot.

See, abuse doesn’t just affect the victim. It affects everyone the victim comes into contact for the rest of his or her life. It seeps into the crevices of the victims’ DNA and becomes a part of who they are and who they will be so when that person tries to form relationships, the abuse is there. That is the story I am telling about my mother’s life and my life.

I was lucky that my mom was so open to this process and wasn’t afraid of allowing me to tell her part of the story that inevitably weaved into mine. She still suffers from the effects of the abuse but has come a long way from where she used to be, we both have. I have gone from feeling responsible for saving her to resentful and angry to finally accepting who she is and how she deals with life.

Writing this story is difficult but it is the best thing I’ve ever done to help both me and my mom move on.

Unpacking Baggage

I’ve been hiding behind busy-ness. Do you ever do that? There is something nagging at you that you KNOW you need to address or do but you hide. You hide because you know it’s time to unpack the baggage again and you don’t want to do it.

I need to unpack some heavy baggage. I started to do it but then it got too intense so I stopped. Unpacking my baggage means finishing my second novel which delves deeper into the original story from my first novel Burnt Edges. The first one was hard to write but easier in terms of the baggage because it wasn’t my story. This next novel is my story and it means digging into emotional baggage.

This is going to be a painful process because I’ve stuffed the content way down a dark hole that’s been covered up by the denial of every day life. It’s so much easier to schedule things, check email, clean the house, or look busy. Riffling around the baggage only brings up memories linked to my sense of worth reminding me that I wasn’t enough to make a difference. Memories that remind me I’m a fraud, a fake, a poser. I play the parts that I think people want me to play so I can take the attention off my gaping wounds pulsing, aching to be healed. Yet that initial step of recognizing the wounds is just too intense. I’d rather slap on a plastic bandage and pretend that it will go away. It doesn’t. It just festers until I am forced to face it again.

Because I can’t come right out a say it, I must tell the story. Like Maya Angelou once said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” The agony has gotten too hard for me to handle any more so I will write it. I will finish it and let the pain wash over me praying for the moment of liberation that comes after the fire.


So we see how it is Dana’s way of working through her pain that gives her the story to write. Such honesty and truthful writing surely tells in the veracity that it must give to her books. Read and you shall learn.

BurntEdgesEbook - Burnt Edges blogpost


Title: Burnt Edges

Author: Dana Leipold

Publisher: Booktrope

Publication Date: June 2015

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Familiar abuse or an uncertain future? Which would you choose?

This is Laurel Lee Page’s dilemma when she is faced with an unplanned pregnancy at nineteen. Born into a broken family, guilt and shame are all she has ever known. No matter what she does or whom she meets, Laurel appears to be living a condemned life.

However, she is determined to find independence and freedom in spite of her family’s legacy of hatred and self-contempt.

Set in Southern California during the tumultuous 1960’s, Burnt Edges is a contemporary novel based on true events that prove strength can emerge in the most horrific of circumstances.


leipold1 - Burnt Edges blogpostAUTHOR BIO:
Dana Leipold is an author and member of the Association of Independent Authors. Her debut novel, Burnt Edges, depicts the unwavering resilience of a young woman in the face of family violence and abuse.
She has self-published two other books: a collection of limericks in Dr. Seuss-style for adults entitled, Stupid Poetry: The Ultimate Collection of Sublime and Ridiculous Poems, and a non-fiction book entitled, The Power of Writing Well: Write Well. Change the World.

Leipold lives with her husband and two children in the San Francisco Bay Area.



final - Burnt Edges blogpost
This tour was organized by Good Tales Book Tours!

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Music is my Muse

Guest Blog Post – Music is my Muse music - Music is my Muse

Ali Parker

 Everyone has a muse, and where mine has always been good to me, she requires one thing – MUSIC! I listen to music all the time and a variety of it at that. I try to keep it to piano music while I’m actually writing just because I start singing and lose my place. BUT, the minute I’m plotting or scoping out a new character for further development – the good stuff comes into play. I have a few of my favorites right now that I listen to.


In the End – Linkin Park

All of Me – John Legend

Stay with Me – Sam Smith

Counting Stars – OneRepublic

Battle Scars – Lupe Fiasco & Guy Sebastian

I Knew You Were Trouble – Taylor Swift

Broken – Seether featuring Amy Lee

Clarity – Zedd featuring Foxes

Don’t Wake Me Up – Chris Brown

Glowing – Nikki Williams


Why does music work? Music, like art opens up our minds to the possibility of creating something new. The brilliance of the song-writer, the decadence of the singer’s voice and the movement of the music pull our hearts and open our minds. That’s my music is and will always be my favorite and probably ONLY muse. I’m faithful to her…. What’s your muse?

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