949 Books went yesterday!

Yesterday, as many of you would know, was my FREE BOOK day. It did really well, with 949 people snapping up the opportunity! Thank you, thank you, thank you, if that was you or someone you recommended it to! Truly!

If it was you (or your friend or mate or whatever), PLEASE will you fill out the automatic review on the last page of the ebook. You don’t even need to say a lot, as long as it is honest.

WHY REVIEW? I hear you ask.

The short answer is that until I can get 50 reviews, Amazon won’t promote my book or take me seriously and I slip away into the dark abyss, never to pop up again… truly. It is no longer about selling books as much as it is about honest reviews. My friends and family can’t do it as that isn’t fair and I am not prepared to buy reviews. Swapping them is also against the rules. So I rely 100% on the general public, who choose to buy a copy of my book, to write a review at the end.

So pleeeease, pretty pleeeeeease, if you downloaded my book yesterday, when you’ve done reading it, please pop up a quick review? Thanks awfully much! xxx

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To book a talk with me and discuss my schedule you can contact me on JPeaSmith@KingsRoadChronicles.com

Where you can find and follow Jennifer: 

@JPeaSmith
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Decimation Book Review!

Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 4.28.14 PM.pngDecimation by Richard T. Burke

I am so behind on my book reviews, but I just LOVED this book which I finished only a few moments ago and I can’t wait to share it with you. I won’t lie, I am just a little bit proud of myself for taking a chance on this book. I am stuck in bed at the moment and I needed some distraction and this book did the trick and oh so perfectly!

This is my 5 Star review:

“I bought this book because of my love of genetics and biochemistry, and the few lines I allowed myself to read of the synopsis had me intrigued. But once I picked it up I couldn’t put it down! Seriously! It is extremely clever, very well written, I love the characters, and there are so many times where the author could have tried to be too clever, but wisely chose not to. This made it feel far more real for me.

But above all, as a wheelchair user myself, I just loved the way this book deals with disability, wheelchair use, etc etc. Spot on!! “

Beneath The Skin by Kyla Stone.

img_9495I recently had the privilege of reading this book (out of my own free choice I might add, after reading her blurb) and I loved it. I did not think that I had any interest in the Young Adult (YA) genre after trying a few recently and not enjoy them at all, but this was refreshingly brilliant.
There is absolutely nothing fluffy about this book at all as it tackles some really deep and important issues like cutting and abuse. I don’t take either of these (or the other issues raised in the book) lightly and I don’t like reading about them unless the author is able to walk that fine line between giving enough detail to make the situation real without going so far as to trigger people or frighten them. I started reading another book about sexual abuse recently and I had to put it down after the first few chapters as the details were way too explicit. This book on the other hand was quite different. I know that we each have out own level of triggers and discomfort but I felt that Kyla did a great job.
I am not sure exactly where the exact line is but I think that Kyla treads it perfectly as she pulls the reader in to the emotions created in each situation without going overboard. There are no easy fixes or fairy God Mothers, and there are no short cuts. It is very raw and realistic. A really good read if you are interested in any of these issues or want to get inside and understand the complicated web that creates these messes.
BENEATH THE SKIN is available in print and ebook from Amazon. It is normally $4.99 but is on sale from today through the second of January for only 99c. 
Kyla Stone is the author and you can find her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.
 
Click here to sign up for her Email List for Sales and New Releases, in my opinion she is an author to watch 🙂
When I emailed her to ask if she had anything to add she replied that she would love people to read her book and to remind them that all reviews on Goodreads and Amazon much appreciated! 

Flooded!

screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-10-46-30-amSo a couple of months ago I came across this amazing young woman doing amazing things. That sounds like an ad, sorry, I didn’t mean it to, but most of you who know me know that I don’t plug anything I don’t believe in and that my thoughts and comments are very much my own. The books that I review I buy, ….and I buy because I choose to.

So back to this young lady, Victoria Griffin is her name, and she is bravely putting together an Anthology about Head Injuries, especially concussion, called Flooded. The story is hers to tell not mine, and next week I will be doing a post all about it, so I will leave it for then. For now I am super excited that her KickStarter launched today!! I have done quite a lot of research into what she is doing, and she appears to really have her head screwed on and know what she is doing.

The Writing Train did a post on her, the Kickstarter that went live today, and what she is doing and why, so if you want to know the details, and can’t wait till next week, then check them out. This is simply to say click on the links, back her if you can and would like to, and watch this space for more info next week (plus an update on how the whole thing is progressing 🙂 )

Book Review: TWO sons TOO many….

img_5783I have just finishing reading this book by Aidan McNally.

Honestly, I have never felt so conflicted about a book in my life! I have absolutely no idea how to rate it, as every number out of 5 stars feels wrong to me. If you are reading this then I assume that you want an honest answer and quite frankly a number is never going to sit right with this book.

If you want an honest, told-as-it-is, frank, raw, redemption story (of sorts) then this deserves full marks. If you want a well written, organised, well edited, flowing story, …then sadly forget it, as it fails completely on every count. Not just below par, but failed completely.

And yet I don’t feel that he earns a fail on this book either. I have no idea who he is or how he wrote this, but it plays out as if he is sitting there with a dictaphone and a beer, and just tells his truth as he knows it. Warts and all, sex scenes and all, blurring truths and mistakes and a few contradictions to make it a true “pub story”.

A middle of the road rating would be totally unfair, it is nothing middle of the road…

At times it is truly gripping, at others I really had to trudge through a bunch of boring repetitive stories which quite frankly, it doesn’t matter exactly where the truth lies. I expected a book about the loss of two sons, and I was truly moved by all the stories of Aidan’s upbringing and background. But in the middle third of the book there are stories that are basically repeats of the same thing over and over.

I know what it is like to make the same mistakes repeatedly, and I know what it is like to stupidly give someone you love a second, third and even hundredth chance when they “don’t deserve it”. But I think that he could have done well to have condensed some of the repetition and concentrated more on the overall picture of some of the stories.

I felt for this man, and somehow he had me hooked enough to speed read through the bad bits and keep going, …so I have to give him a ton of credit for that. I also have to give him a ton of credit for baring his heart and soul so rawly and so openly. And he deserves a medal for going so far out on a limb and making this book happen when he is clearly not a writer at all. If there is any doubting the facts in any of the stories in it, this book backs up his tenacity and “make-it-happen” attitude. At a very basic level the fact that he has written this book and published it and made it happen, in what appears to be only a few weeks (the story ends very soon before the book went live), shows that he is a survivor and a trooper and that he thinks outside the square.

The two main issues for me are firstly the terrible way that it is written, and secondly the focus of the book not being quite what it is presented to be.

Even the most basic sweep of editing would improve this book dramatically, … although having said that, my hesitation comes in the form of not wanting to lose the spirit of this man, the voice behind his story, and so a basic sweep is desperately needed. So is a deeper level of editing but it would take an expert to do that without losing who Aidan MacNally is.

The second problem (for me that is), is that there is way too much focus on some of the truly boring stuff, and no where near enough on the events that hook people into buying the book and hearing his story. I hate spoiling endings for people so I won’t say what happens, but the things that drew me to the book came very late in the story and while deeply moving and tragic, were relatively skimmed over and there are many unanswered questions which he opens up but doesn’t finish.

More importantly however is that at the very end of the book a completely different agenda appears and I felt as though this is more what he is asking his readers to hear. Yet there is no reference to that in the marketing. I felt as though I went into this with one agenda but that it suddenly switched to another at the end… I would have preferred to have a better understanding of what he was trying to do.

To finish, here are some more up sides: I think that the name is very clever, there are some subtle threads through the story which are encouraging and uplifting and remind me that there is still much good in human beings, and lastly there is something that Aidan manages to bring to the table that makes me simply want him to succeed …in life, in his final dilemma, and with his book. I feel that there is much potential here, but he needs a bit of a helping hand to make it great!

*Please note that this is not a sponsored review. As with all my reviews to date, I paid for the book and read it because I chose to 🙂

How to write a negative book review?

IMG_2074That heading has a question mark on the end because for me that is a question. I love reading (though I don’t read nearly as much as I would like to). I love sharing the books that I really enjoyed reading, am passionate about honestly saying what I thought …. but am also loathe to write anything bad. I have had the honour of proof reading about half a dozen books so far this year and while some of them I absolutely loved and REALLY hope that they do well, there are others which I really really really didn’t like and in fact could not finish.

It isn’t just that I would hate anyone to trash my books publicly that stops me from writing a bad review, it is also that I am keenly aware that we all have different tastes and I would hate to slam a book that I thought was awful when it could be the best book that someone else ever read. I find that books that I connect to “speak” to me one way or another, and recently I tried sooo hard to trudge through a book that meant the world to a friend, as it spoke deeply to her about a tragedy in her own life, but I could not for the life of me get past half way, even after multiple attempts.

Sure there is atrocious writing, … but there are also a ton of books that I just can’t connect with.

I would like to think that I am honest and truthful and I try not to even make small comments that aren’t actually true. If I tell you that I think you look lovely, I truly mean it. If I thank you for something it is because I truly appreciated it. I am not one to flatter, and I don’t like avoidance in any form, but if I don’t like your purple lipstick then I have no need to tell you that either. It could make your day, or your boyfriend might adore you in it, so who am I to ruin your day by telling you that you look ridiculous? It is after all only my opinion anyway, and I could be completely wrong. Maybe to everyone else in the world you look stunning?

How on earth does one remain gracious and kind when one has absolutely nothing positive to say about what I personally think is a dreadfully written book?? Please someone help me out here!

Thankfully the one I have just finished reading was AMAZING and I can’t wait to review it when it hits the shelves, so watch this space!

Review: “Who Killed Johnny Gill?”

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Time for another book review, this time by a newer author, Kathryn McMaster. I try to read books that are really diverse, and I also don’t like reading the back first, as for me they give away too much of the book. I am less interested in reading things because I know that I will like the topic, than I am about reading well written books. I have been known to walk into a library and take home 10 books that I like the look, the feel, the size, the font of, and even the picture on them, having read nothing at all about them. Then when I am home and comfy in my reading corner, I start at the top of the pile and if they haven’t grabbed me in an hour or so then I move onto the next book. I am sure that that is somewhat unfair, as I have also persisted with some books (usually on the recommendation of others with similar book taste) and was glad that I did. But I do prefer to not have to work hard well into the book in order to enjoy it. I love the journey more than anything but of course the topics really make a difference too, and I don’t enjoy repetitive topics.
So I guess that that means that if I review a book, then you can know that it is one that passes that first very important filter 🙂
I should say up front that I love true stories. I also love Historical Fiction … which is kind of the same, as the true parts are the History bits, and are what make it so interesting and the fictional characters are what bring the truth parts together. True crime, with History thrown in however, is always going to draw me, as the characters are also very true, and need to be to keep the facts right … but you still need to keep me past that first crucial hour or so.
Who Killed Johnny Gill” was an easy draw for me, and I was in from the beginning. I don’t want to spoil any of it so I won’t say what happens, but the things that really struck me were the way that Kathryn has clearly done her homework! For me, true crime stories are tricky and I am not sure that I would ever be brave enough to write one. You need to do your research and you need to do it really well! … I don’t want to be the one to check, but this book certainly feels as though every stone has been unturned.
The other thing that I felt Kathryn did really well was she made me feel empathy for the characters and I loved the way that she brought them all to life. I hope that if the real people were able to jump forward over a century and read this book about themselves, they would feel that they were portrayed well. They had depth and colour, which can be really hard to do when they lived so long ago. I kept wanting her to side with some of the characters, I wanted her to be biased towards the good guys and cold about the bad guys but she does a great job of remaining objective, sticking to the facts alone, and letting the reader come to their own conclusions, without coming across as cold or bland.
In the world of modern day CSI on almost every TV screen around the world, we can be so desensitised to truly horrendous crime, and forget that it happens every single day, to real life people, and not only now, but since time began. Humans have been murdering each other since Cain murdered Abel, and not just in anger and not just by knocking them on the head. Throughout the book I kept having to remind myself that this story really actually happened. And that it happened in such a way…
You will also enjoy this book if you are interested in the science behind the CSI of the day, the technical and physical tools and procedures of the day, and what the professionals had access to. “Who Killed Johnny Gill?” was a good read to the end 🙂

Book Review: The Poisonwood Bible

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 8.24.17 AM I’ve just finished the Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver and my review is very mixed. I personally love historical fiction that is well researched with really thought provoking and interesting topics ….i.e. for me, not politics (boring) or gangs (no one ever wins) or slavery (which breaks my heart too much for me to enjoy), and she does a really good job of both presenting her story and the background information that she presents.

It was a really interesting read for me because my Aunt and Uncle (only family on my Mum’s side) were missionaries in the exact same region for 10 years, and arrived only a decade after the Prices did. So many of the stories are exactly the same as those that I have heard all my life, right down to making peanut butter by smashing peanuts between rocks, and my youngest cousin was born in the village. I found it fascinating to learn soooo much more about the area and politics and so on, and I learnt a lot about the continent that I love and was born on, and it left me feeling terrible sad… but in a good congruent way. I knew bits and pieces so there were no shocks, but this really gave far more depths to some really serious issues.

On the flip side, while the characters in the book are fictitious and the dad is a complete lunatic, I have no doubt that as with all kinds of influential people in the world, many of them are complete fools and do the stupidest things in the name of God, country, family, etc and do soooo much damage!! Therefore coming from a family of missionaries and knowing how beautiful they can be and what amazingly good things many of them did and still do, but also knowing how stupid human beings can be, I spent a lot of time cringing through the book which is also good and congruent I guess.

It is a very long book and I love long books, but this one really dragged for me and I spent the last couple of weeks in bed without the mental strength to read such a deep and complicated book. The chapters alternate between 5 different characters, one of whom speaks only in riddles, so you have to keep thinking the whole time, and really be on the ball.

It’s thought provoking and impressive and beautiful and sad, but in my opinion it isn’t a holiday or recuperating book I don’t think. I love knowing how things turn out for people, even fictitious people, but the last 20% of the book felt like it really really dragged out and I found myself wishing for the end and determined to finish it as I knew that I would never give it another go just to know the ending. There is nothing worse than having three or four other books to read but having to plod through the one that you need to finish 😦

Book Review: Alexandra Fuller

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 1.58.05 PMI have just finished reading a bunch of books by the same author, (Alexandra Fuller), and I couldn’t put them down! There is no Trilogy or “order” to her books, which aren’t exactly in sequence, but I found it easier to read them in the order in which they were written. I first found “Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness”, and after reading just a few pages, I quickly realised that in the book she was referring a lot to things from her first book; “Don’t Let’s go to the Dog’s Tonight”. But I loved her writing style and knew that I was going to enjoy these, so decided that it was worth taking the risk and buying her first book as well (investing in two books that I had not yet read, by an author unknown to me felt a little risky!). But I promptly put the book down and bought the first one on Kindle to read straight away … I had already settled in to read for the night and so I didn’t want to wait!

Well it was a risk that paid off well and I wasn’t disappointed. I’m not sure that it is a book for everyone, but she is both bold and outspoken and says things as they are (in fact more so, she doesn’t just call a spade a spade, she calls it a “bloody shovel” (swear words and all!), and at the same time she leaves a lot to the imagination. If you are looking for detailed descriptions of gory nitty gritty then you won’t find them here, …yet her descriptions of her surroundings, her feelings, her experiences, through the eyes of a child, make you feel like you are there, and the details that she doesn’t give, are almost better off not said because you can easily fill them in much better for yourself.

She has an English and Scottish heritage (both by her lineage and her own birth), but she is also the second generation to be born in the UK yet be brought up in southern Africa. Her early life is a rich and yet heart breaking tale of one lived at the very raw edge of life, both for herself, her siblings, her parents, and all the people around her.

I don’t like knowing the plot of a book before I read it, so my reviews are much the same, but suffice to say that the first book is definitely the place to start if you have any interest in her stories which can best be described as memoirs. Because she wrote “Don’t Let’s go the the Dog’s Tonight” first, everything in it is fresh and new and it helps to know nothing (or very little) beforehand. The rest of her books however often refer to that first book, but other than that are self contained and can be read in any order. She pretty much refers to much of her life in all of them and my only criticism if I have to have one, is that the same stories can sometimes be repeated in more than one book, without any new insight, understanding or new detail or information.

The first book gives her story from a child’s perspective completely, and I found it easy to separate how she experiences life then, with what she now adds to each part of her story from an adult perspective. “Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness” tells the same story from her mother’s viewpoint and beautifully adds background, an adult perspective, and an understanding of how it was for her and why things happened that were otherwise confusing for Alexandra as a child. “Scribbling the Cat technically tells someone else’s story, but it is very much part of her own story as she goes back and explores what it would have been like for an adult to have lived and fought through the war in what was then Rhodesia, through her childhood. It gives a different perspective yet again, to what was going on even further afield of her life, but around her and affecting her childhood deeply.

I love history, but not so much in the numbers and dates, but rather in a sense of people and places and the rawness of human beings. I don’t much enjoy autobiographies or memories as such either, because sadly, not everyone who lives a fascinating or eventful life, or has an amazing story to tell, can tell it well! But this really struck a chord for me as her story is beautifully written, is made up of very raw, real, human beings, and it tells the history of the places she lived, in a way that was not too many lists or boring details, but a recounting of human cost and sacrifice.

The fact that she lived in countries that I have never been to but in many ways were very similar to my own, held huge interest for me, particularly as she was born less than two years after me, and so we share an era as well as a corner of the globe. I enjoyed learning more about the world around me, in one sense on my own door step yet just that little bit further away than the edge of my own country..

But I think that the biggest thing for me, was that without actually ever saying so, she tackles and exposes what it is like to live through long term trauma.

In the last decade the world has been opened up to the reality of incredible abuse stories. Time and time again they pop up, and on levels that many of us cannot begin to comprehend. How can this be possible? How can these things happen without anyone seeing or hearing or knowing something? These stories need to be told, and the world needs to know what is happening under their noses. But just because not all trauma is as bad as those massive horrendous human tragedies, that we must lose sight of the every day people who are also suffering. This book is not one of those massive stories, rather it is one of consistent trauma, and is a huge reminder how it is so easy to miss, growing up with everyone simply doing the best they can or know how, coping with life and tragedy and hard work, that little people get lost and broken and fall through the cracks.

In Gregory Jantz book “Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse“, he says:

 

“Emotional [trauma] is harder to spot and easier to deny. But just as physical and sexual abuse have signposts to mark their presence, emotional abuse too, …. has common traits…”. “Damage can be done in a one time traumatic event… or be a consistent low level pattern over a period of time” … and that “repetition obscures the severity”.

These books of Alexandra Fullers are very much a watershed. An unpacking of what has been unresolved and an airing the family dirty washing “as is”, without making excuses, justifying or protecting anyone or anything, or laying blame either. Alexandra does an amazing job of saying it simply how she experienced it, and does not come across as bitter or angry.

And to me anyway, these books are a huge reminder that not all abuse, neglect, or trauma, is dramatic, unspeakable, Gob-smackingly terrifying, purposeful or deliberate. That it is way too often simply an outcome, a fallout, a set of terrible circumstances, or a lack of awareness, help or understanding … but that the impact is just as severe!